Even the education industry faces fierce competition due to globalization, and students who want the best in higher education research the findings of the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU).

It used to be that well to do American families sent their children abroad to attend colleges and universities, but the rising cost of attending American colleges and universities has made studying abroad a possibility for a growing number of students. The United States has held the gold standard in higher education for a number of years now, and today’s students must weigh the perks of attending highly ranked, expensive American schools against enrolling in quality academic programs from lesser known schools abroad.

The ARWU uses a specific set of criteria in its ranking system, and here are the primary ones that are used to rank the world’s top universities.

Education Quality

Education quality is one of the highest weighted criteria that ARWU uses for its picks of the best universities on earth. While many education publishers like Times Higher Education and U.S. News and World Reports use this type of criteria, ARWU defines education quality of universities uniquely by how many Nobel Laureates and Fields Medal winners that are produced by the schools. Nobel prizes are awarded in five different academic disciplines that include physics, chemistry, literature, economic sciences and medicine. Mathematics is not a subject covered by the Nobel prize system, but the Fields Medal, which is awarded every four years, honors outstanding achievements in the discipline. Subsequently, using these international awards for the purpose of ranking universities offers an even playing field for schools that may excel in one discipline over another.

Faculty Quality

Top tier universities employ faculty members who are academic experts in their chosen fields. These instructors normally have real world experience and can engage their students to learn subjects with the same level of passion that they possess. Since university professors greatly impact the educational experiences of students, ARWU uses the quality of a school’s faculty as a key criteria for its international ranking system. Schools are considered top quality when they have high numbers of faculty members who win Nobel prizes and Fields Medals. Besides these awards, universities that employ faculty members whose research is highly cited are considered top tier among their peers; this indicator is based on the list of highly cited researchers that Thomson Reuters periodically publishes.

Research Output and Reputation

A school’s reputation for quality research output attracts future students as well as valuable industry and government contacts. ARWU has made the quality and quantity of research that is conducted by a universities’ students and faculty members a criteria for school ranking. Top schools according to the ARWU ranking have a number of publications indexed within the Social Science and Science Citation Indices. These schools also have numerous publications in Nature and Science.

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Students find that there are a number of advantages to attending universities in other countries. Besides cheaper tuition rates, they often gain access to degree programs that include experiential learning in emerging markets, unparalleled global networking and diverse faculty members who teach from a global perspective. However, American universities dominate in the published rankings, and ambitious students who have targeted some of the world’s leading companies for employment should consider attending the top schools that are evaluated by the Academic Ranking of World Universities and other reputable education publishers.