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WSU and rankings

An increasing number of organizations produce rankings of post-secondary institutions. Initially, these were focused on leading national research institutions and powered by publicly available data (e.g., Nobel laureates, citations). A second wave expanded the pool of institutions considered from a few hundred to over two thousand (of perhaps 26,000 total), at the same time moving the focus from relative research capacity among institutions to general suitability for prospective students by expanding metrics to include broader academic performance, either by broad peer surveys or by collecting practically comparable data across many institutions.

Below we list several of the major ranking schemes, with brief descriptions of their methodologies, strengths, and weaknesses, and WSU’s performance. 

Global rankings

Academic Ranking Logo

Originated by Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 2009, ARWU is now published by Shanghai Ranking Consultancy annually, expected in mid-August. More than 2,500 institutions are ranked, and the top 1,000 are published. WSU is currently in the top 16% of those ranked. ARWU also publishes a Global Ranking of Academic Subjects, including over 1,800 institutions in five broad fields and 54 subjects. 


CWUR is an educational consultancy based in Ras al Khaimah (UAE); they have published rankings since 2012, most recently ranking almost 20,000 institutions and publishing the top 2000. WSU is currently in the top 1.5% of those ranked. CWUR also publishes rankings by subject, purely based on publications and citations in important journals for the field, in the 277 disciplines identified using Clarivate’s data set. 


Leiden has ranked institutions since 2006 on bibliometric standards but refuses to impose a particular ranking model, instead providing Clarivate data on publications, number of most cited works, and proportion of most cited works, plus some measures of collaboration and diversity. Rankings noted are the default (publications), but individual results will vary.

NTU Logo

NTU first published annual ranking results in 2007, focused on combining long- and short-term measures of impact in journal articles, most recently ranking 1,510 institutions and publishing the top 1,000. WSU is currently in the top quartile, and in the top 20% when adjusted for faculty size. We use NTU results as a proxy for ranking by citation. They use SCI/SSCI abstracted data.

QS Logo

QS is an educational services provider based in Britain. Their ranking, usually published in June, is half reputation surveys, part citations, plus student/faculty/ international ratios. QS ranked more than 2,400 institutions and published rankings for over 1,400. WSU is currently in the top 19% of those ranked.

THE Logo

Times Higher Ed is a British periodical that has produced a series of annual surveys since 2004, their primary line being the WUR, which currently ranks 2,345 institutions and publishes the top 1,800. Their ranking is 1/3 reputation surveys, several collected metrics of teaching and research quality, citation impact, and international outlook. WSU currently is in the top 15% of those ranked. The expected release is mid-October. 


USNWR comes late to world rankings, so has had to alter its domestic methodology to compete. They combine reputation and bibliometric data from Clarivate in 13 indicators. They rank 2,165 schools (289 in the US). WSU is currently in the top 15% of those ranked, and the top 100 institutions in the US.

Washington State University – national rankings summary

OrganizationForbesNicheU.S. News Best Colleges – National UniversitiesWSJ/THE College RankingsWashington Monthly
Methodology components20% Alumni Salary
15% Debt
15% Graduation Rate
15% Forbes American Leaders List
15% Return on Investment
10% Retention Rate
10% Academic Success
Quality of Professors
Student Life
Local Area
26% Graduation and Retention
15% Faculty Resources
20% Undergraduate Academic Reputation
13% Financial Resources
10% Graduation Rate Performance
5% Graduate Indebtedness
11% Social Mobility
30% Resources
20% Engagement
40% Outcomes
10% Environment
33.3% Social Mobility
33.3% Research
33.3% Community and National Service
Latest ranking#191
Previous ranking#231

National rankings

Forbes Logo

Forbes’ rankings highlight institutions for the best value of education, including an education at a great price, higher earners after graduation, and graduates who become successful entrepreneurs and influential leaders.

NSF Logo

HERD is an annual survey, under the auspices of the National Science Foundation since the early 1990s. It is not a world ranking, has no direct reputation component, and is not about rank. It is the standard place to identify American universities doing significant R&D, either by discipline or by the source of funding, as measured by expenditure. Data is submitted by institutions in late January for the previous fiscal year, and typically published the following November. Roughly 650 institutions are ranked; WSU is currently in the top 12%.

Niche Logo

Niche ranks best colleges on academic, admissions, financial, and student life data collected from the U.S. Department of Education as well as student and alumni reviews. In their surveys, they ask questions about everything from residence halls to food to faculty, safety, and diversity. We included Niche because it employs an atypical ranking methodology with significant weight on student surveys.

WSJ and THE logo

The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education (WSJ/THE) College Rankings are based on 15 performance indicators:

  1. Finance per student (11%)
  2. Faculty per student (11%)
  3. Research papers per faculty (8%)
  4. Student engagement (7%)
  5. Student recommendation (6%)
  6. Interaction with teachers and students (4%)
  7. Number of accredited programs (3%)
  8. Graduation rate (11%)
  9. Value added to graduate salary (12%)
  10. Debt after graduation (7%)
  11. Academic reputation (10%)
  12. Proportion of international students (2%)
  13. Student diversity (3%) 
  14. Student inclusion (2%)
  15. Staff diversity (3%)

Washington Monthly Logo

Washington Monthly’s annual College Guide and Rankings rates schools based on what they do for the country. They rank four-year schools (national universities, liberal arts colleges, baccalaureate colleges, and master’s universities) based on their contribution to the public good in three broad categories: social mobility, research, and providing opportunities for public service.


U.S. News states, “Students and their families should have as much information as possible about the comparative merits of the educational programs at America’s colleges and universities.” The data U.S. News gathers on colleges and the rankings of the schools are collected from universities. They also include a proprietary scoring of peer assessment. Each school’s rank within its group of peer institutions is based on the same set of quality measures.

Read more about WSU’s rankings with U.S. News & World Report.