QS World University Rankings are annual university rankings published by British Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). The publication is one of the three most influential and widely observed international university rankings, alongside the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and the Academic Ranking of World Universities. Since first being compiled in 2004, the rankings have expanded to feature more than 800 universities around the world, with far more (over 3,000) assessed. The rankings compare these top 800 universities across four broad areas of interest to prospective students: research, teaching, employability and international outlook. These four key areas are assessed using six indicators, each of which is given a different percentage weighting.
Among those indicators is the citations per faculty. This indicator aims to assess universities’ research output. A ‘citation’ means a piece of research being cited (referred to) within another piece of research. Generally, the more often a piece of research is cited by others, the more influential it is. So the more highly cited research papers a university publishes, the stronger its research output is considered. The total number of citations for a five-year period is divided by the number of academicians in a university to yield the score for this measure, which accounts for 20 per cent of a university’s possible score in the Rankings. QS has explained that it uses this approach, rather than the citations per paper preferred for other systems, because it reduces the effect of biomedical science on the overall picture. Instead QS attempts to measure the density of research-active staff at each institution. QS collects this information using Scopus, the world’s largest database of research abstracts and citations. The latest five complete years of data are used, and the total citation count is assessed in relation to the number of academic faculty members at the university, so that larger institutions don’t have an unfair advantage.
According to the 2014 data KAUST is ranked 12th world wide.