QS Stars Methodology: How To Choose A University In The UK

In the pursuit of higher education excellence, the choice of a university plays a pivotal role in shaping one’s academic journey. In the United Kingdom, renowned for its many prestigious institutions, making an informed decision can be a daunting task. Enter the QS Stars Methodology, a comprehensive evaluation system designed to help prospective students navigate this crucial choice. In this article, we delve into the intricacies of the methodology, unveiling the key criteria and insights it offers to those seeking the ideal university experience in the UK.

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Table of Contents

What is QS Stars?

QS Stars is an insightful rating system designed to offer a comprehensive evaluation of educational institutions. It empowers you to pinpoint the universities that excel in specific areas of your interest, such as programme excellence, state-of-the-art facilities, graduate employability, social responsibility, inclusivity, and more.

Recognising the diversity among universities, this system employs a multifaceted assessment approach that acknowledges their unique strengths. Moreover, it understands that every student seeks something different, and not even the highest-ranked institutions can cater to everyone’s needs.

When you turn to QS Stars in your quest for the perfect academic programme, you gain valuable insights into which universities shine in a wide array of criteria. This invaluable resource enables you to align your passions and priorities with universities that excel in the areas that matter most to you.

Difference between QS Stars and QS Ranking

The key difference between QS Stars and the QS World University Ranking lies in their purpose and methodology:


    • QS Rankings: QS World University Rankings and other QS rankings primarily focus on providing a global ranking of universities based on specific criteria. These rankings are often used to assess the overall prestige and academic reputation of universities worldwide.
    • QS Stars: QS Stars, on the other hand, is not a global ranking but a comprehensive evaluation system that assesses universities on a broader range of criteria, including teaching quality, research output, employability of graduates, facilities, social responsibility, inclusiveness, and more. It is designed to help prospective students make more informed decisions about which university aligns with their specific needs and interests.


    • QS Rankings: QS Rankings typically emphasise factors like academic reputation, research output, international diversity, faculty-to-student ratio, and other research-focused indicators. These rankings tend to heavily weight research-related aspects.
    • QS Stars: QS Stars use a more diverse set of criteria that encompass various aspects of university life, including teaching, employability, facilities, and community engagement. It provides a detailed, multi-dimensional view of universities, offering ratings in specific categories rather than a single overall ranking.

QS Stars Methodology

QS Stars, a distinctive approach to evaluating universities, focuses on providing ratings rather than rankings. This methodology is built upon several critical categories that assess universal, core strengths of universities, including aspects that are often overlooked in other ranking systems.

Core Criteria: Building Blocks of a University

QS Stars begins by examining the fundamental characteristics that define a university’s identity, whether it operates on a global, domestic, or local scale.

  1. Research: This category evaluates research quality among academics, productivity (including the number of research papers published), citations (the recognition and referencing of research papers by peers), and prestigious awards such as Nobel Prizes or Fields Medals.

  2. Academic Development: Here, the focus shifts to the institution’s efforts to enhance the student learning experience outside of the classroom. This includes the availability of academic learning centres for students and opportunities for teaching and research assistantships.

  3. Teaching: Recognising the pivotal role of universities in nurturing future academics and leaders, this category assesses teaching quality through student feedback, further study rates, and the student-faculty ratio.

  4. Employability: Beyond academic strength, graduate employability measures the ‘work-readiness’ of graduates, encompassing their ability to work effectively in diverse teams, deliver presentations, and manage projects. Indicators include employer surveys, graduate employment rates, and careers service support.

  5. Internationalisation: This category evaluates the extent of internationalisation at the university, considering factors like the proportion of international students and staff, the presence of exchange programmes, the diversity of nationalities among students, international partnerships, and the availability of religious facilities.

Advanced Criteria: Advancing to Excellence

The Advanced Criteria categories focus on areas that universities can target to advance their performance and recognition, building upon a solid foundation in the core criteria. Universities can select two of the four available categories that best highlight their strengths:

  1. Social Responsibility: Measures the university’s commitment to societal obligations, including investments in the local community, charity work, disaster relief, regional human capital development, and environmental awareness.

  2. Innovation: Highlights the university’s contributions to the economy, society, and culture through its activities and findings.

  3. Arts & Culture: Evaluates the university’s cultural impact, considering indicators like the number of concerts, exhibitions, cultural awards, and overall cultural investment.

  4. Inclusiveness: Examines the accessibility of the university to students, including aspects like scholarships, disability access, gender balance, and outreach to low-income communities.

  5. Environmental Impact: Recognising the importance of environmental responsibility, this category assesses a university’s positive impact on the environment.

Learning Environment: Enhancing the Student Experience

The Learning Environment categories assess the student experience within the university environment, whether physical or online.

  1. Facilities: Evaluates university infrastructure, including sports, IT, library, and medical facilities, as well as the availability of student societies.


  1. Online Learning: Assesses various aspects of online learning, including student services, technology, faculty engagement, student interaction, commitment to online education, and the university’s online reputation.

Specialist Criteria: Recognising Excellence

In the Specialist Criteria categories, QS Stars takes a closer look at an institution’s specialist areas, highlighting outstanding programmes.

  1. Subject Ranking: Recognises universities with exceptional expertise in specific subject areas, whether they are specialist institutions or comprehensive universities excelling in particular fields.


  1. Programme Strength: Offers an alternate approach for universities without broad or narrow field rankings in the QS World University Ranking by Subject. This category caters to institutions with outstanding programmes, similar to the methodology for QS Stars for Business Schools.

QS Stars Ratings Explained

  • QS Stars bestows universities with ratings ranging from One to Five Plus Stars, which are determined by their performance across a minimum of seven categories selected from the following range: Research, Teaching, Employability, Internationalisation, Academic Development, Facilities, Online Learning, Innovation, Arts and Culture, Inclusiveness, Social Responsibility, Environmental Impact, and Specialist Criteria.

Five Plus Stars: Outstanding

  • A university with a Five Stars Plus Rating is not only considered world-class but also an elite destination that top students and faculty worldwide aspire to be a part of. This prestigious rating signifies excellence in all assessed categories. These institutions are equipped with advanced technology to enhance students’ training and preparation, resulting in nearly 100% employment rates upon graduation. 
  • Graduates from these universities are sought after by the most reputable global organisations, often industry leaders. They attract a diverse international student body due to their exceptional teaching methods and top-notch facilities, which contribute to the holistic development of students. 

Five Stars: Excellent

  •  Universities with a five star rating are typically world class in most aspects of the institution. This includes cutting-edge facilities and impactful research projects.

Four Stars: Very Good

  •  Institutions in this category have solidified their reputation internationally, often providing the students with advanced facilities around the campus as well. 

Three Stars: Good 

  •  Such institutions have a good national reputation and possibly even international recognition. They have established international education standards and are growing in terms of research. 

Two Stars: Moderate

  •  Such institutions have achieved a certain level of reputation and goodwill domestically, and have begun to undertake research activities. 

One Star: Satisfactory

  • Such institutions have established all the key requirements to provide students with quality education services. 

Why should you use QS Stars?

  1. Comprehensive Evaluation: QS Stars provides a more comprehensive evaluation of universities compared to QS Rankings. While rankings focus primarily on quantitative data like research output and academic reputation, QS Stars assesses a broader range of factors. As a result, students gain a more holistic view of a university’s strengths and weaknesses.

  2. In-Depth Information: QS Stars offers detailed information about various aspects of university life. This wealth of data helps students make informed decisions about where to study. 

  3. Transparency: QS Stars provides a transparent breakdown of how universities perform in different areas. This transparency allows students to see precisely where a university excels and where it may have room for improvement. This knowledge helps students make choices that align with their academic and personal goals.

  4. Focus on Employability: QS Stars places a strong emphasis on employability, which is crucial for students seeking not only quality education but also opportunities for career growth. Students can assess how universities prepare graduates for the job market, including factors like internships, industry partnerships, and alumni success.

  5. Diversity and Inclusivity: QS Stars evaluates universities on their inclusivity and commitment to diversity. This aspect is essential for students who value a multicultural and inclusive learning environment.

  6. Alignment with Personal Goals: QS Stars allows students to align their choice of university with their personal goals and preferences. Whether they prioritise research opportunities, career prospects, campus facilities, or community engagement, they can find universities that match their aspirations.

  7. Customised Decision-Making: QS Stars empowers students to customise their decision-making process. They can weigh the importance of different factors based on their individual priorities, ensuring that they select a university that aligns with their unique needs and ambitions.

Best Universities in the UK

Here are the top universities in the UK based on the QS Stars ranking:

StarsUniversity Name
5 ⭐Loughborough University
5 ⭐University of Glasgow
5 ⭐University of Bristol
5 ⭐Newcastle University
5 ⭐Lancaster University
5 ⭐University of Dundee
5 ⭐Coventry University
5 ⭐Bangor University
5 ⭐De Montfort University
5 ⭐University of Lincoln
5 ⭐Leeds Beckett University
5 ⭐The University of Law
5 ⭐University of Stirling
5 ⭐University of Huddersfield
5 ⭐University of Portsmouth
5 ⭐Nottingham Trent University
5 ⭐Sheffield Hallam University
4 ⭐University of Central Lancashire
4 ⭐University College Birmingham
4 ⭐Staffordshire University
4 ⭐University of Sunderland
4 ⭐University of Wolverhampton

Frequently Asked Questions

QS Stars is a rating system that evaluates universities across various aspects of their performance, including teaching quality, employability, facilities, inclusivity, and more. It provides a comprehensive view of a university’s strengths and weaknesses beyond just rankings, which primarily focus on research and academic reputation.

QS Stars offers a more holistic assessment of universities, helping you make a well-informed decision. It provides detailed insights into areas like teaching, employability, and diversity, allowing you to align your choice with your personal goals and priorities.

QS Stars uses a robust methodology and data collection process, involving both universities and independent assessors. While no rating system is perfect, QS Stars is a reputable source of information that can guide your decision-making process. It’s always a good idea to complement it with other sources and personal research.

No, not all universities participate in QS Stars. Participation is voluntary, and universities choose to undergo the assessment process. Therefore, while QS Stars covers a substantial number of institutions worldwide, it may not include every university.

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