Success in university rankings

The University of Helsinki places in the 50–100 range in nearly all of the most important rankings. There are between 18 000 and 23 000 universities in the world, depending on what qualifies as a university. This means the University of Helsinki places within the top 0.5% of the world's universities.

On this page, we showcase the University of Helsinki's success in university rankings, starting with the generic rankings, followed by specialised rankings. Lastly, we delve into what the university rankings are based on.

Helsingin yliopisto kuuluu maailman parhaiden yliopistojen joukkoon

International university rankings evaluate the amount and impact of research conducted at institutions of higher education, the quality of teaching, the reputation of the institutions in question among researchers and employers as well as the extent of their international outlook. In a university ranking the evaluation is often condensed to one or a few scores.

When evaluating research, the rankings typically measure only the number and citations of English-language publications, making it difficult for universities from non-English-speaking countries to reach the top positions. Despite their shortcomings, rankings have a significant impact on the international reputation and public image of universities. The University of Helsinki also monitors its performance in different rankings and seeks to improve it.

Uni­versity of Helsinki ranking positions in the most prominent university rankings

There are between 18 000 and 23 000 universities in the world. The University of Helsinki places on average among the top 100 – or top 0.5 % – universities in the world.

This graph shows the ranking positions of the University of Helsinki during the last five years, on a global scale. The years associated with the rankings in the graph represent the publication year of each ranking (some rankings use the following year).

 

The top positions in university rankings among European universities are usually held by the British universities Cambridge, Oxford, and University College London. Of the European universities with another primary language than English, the best placed one is often the Swiss university of technology ETH Zurich.

There are approximately 4 000 universities in Europe. The University of Helsinki places on average among the top 30 – or top 1 % – of the European universities. 

Uni­versity of Helsinki ranking po­s­i­tions among European universities

This graph shows the ranking positions of the University of Helsinki during the last five years, on a European scale. The years associated with the rankings in the graph represent the publication year of each ranking.

Only a few Nordic universities have reached the top 100. The University of Helsinki is usually among the top four with the Karoliska Institutet, the University of Copenhagen and the Aarhus University

University of Helsinki ranking positions among Nordic universities

This graph shows the ranking positions of the University of Helsinki during the last five years, on a Nordic scale. The years associated with the rankings in the graph represent the publication year of each ranking.

In all of the most important rankings, the University of Helsinki holds the first position in Finland.

University of Helsinki ranking positions among Finnish universities

This graph shows the ranking positions of the University of Helsinki during the last five years, on a Finnish scale. The years associated with the rankings in the graph represent the publication year of each ranking.

 

Times Higher Education's THE University Impact Rankings is a specialised ranking, which measures how well universities promote sustainable development through their activities and carry out their third mission, societal impact. It is based on the goals of sustainable development defined by the UN in 2016. The ranking was first published in 2019.

University of Helsinki success in THE University Impact Rankings

In 2019, the University of Helsinki was ranked 15th in the world for impact. The excellent ranking position draws especially upon great impact in four of the ranking's indicators:

  • Sustainable Cities and Communities: 4
  • Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions: 6
  • Partnership for the Goals: 9
  • Climate Action: 11

The table below showcases the University of Helsinki's ranking results in THE University Impact Rankings compared to universities on four different scales: globally, in Europe, in the Nordic Countries, and in Finland.

The oldest and most well-known university ranking is the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), published annually since 2003. Other famous rankings include the Times Higher Education World University Ranking, the QS World University Ranking,  the National Taiwan University Ranking and US News Best Global Universities Ranking. All in all, there are around a dozen global rankings using different source material and methodologies.

University rankings differ from each other in terms of both source material and methodology. In addition to the generic rankings, there are several global specialised rankings. Among the most important of these is the THE Global University Employability ranking, which measures which universities the recruiters at top companies in different countries think are the best at preparing students for the workplace. In this ranking, which has been published since 2012, the University of Helsinki has improved its rank nearly every year. In 2018, the University of Helsinki was ranked 48th, and second among the Nordic countries.

The Shanghai Ranking (ARWU)

Published by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University since 2003.

The Shanghai ranking is quite stable, and the positions of universities tend to change slowly. The University of Helsinki's strongest suit in the Shanghai ranking is research citations.

Several regional and field of science specific versions of the Shanghai ranking are also released every year.

The indicators and weights used to calculate the ranking are:

30% Nobel and Fields awards

Points for awards in the Shanghai ranking are granted based on two indicators:

  • 20% staff of an institution winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals
  • 10% alumni of an institution winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals

The University of Helsinki still benefits from A.I. Virtanen’s Nobel prize in 1945 and Lars Ahlfors’ Fields Medal in 1936. Ahlfors’ points are being awarded to the University of Helsinki from 2017 onwards. Previously they were mistakenly allocated to Harvard.

The University of Helsinki also gains points for being the university where Bengt Holmström completed his Bachelor’s degree. Most of the points for his Nobel prize go to Harvard, since that is where he worked when he was awarded his Nobel prize.

The award indicators represent the universities' historical reputation and fame. They are also meant to compensate for the fact that the Shanghai ranking doesn't include a separate indicator for reputation, unlike the THE and QS rankings for instance.

20% Research citations

The number of times other research refers to a publication indicates how significant it is. Citations for research publications from different universities are collected from the Clarivate Analytics (formerly Thomson Reuters) Web of Science and the Elsevier Scopus databases.

The Shanghai ranking uses the Web of Science database.

Research in languages other than English is underrepresented in these databases. Nevertheless, citations are the University of Helsinki’s strong suit in all of the rankings.

20% Highly cited researchers

The top 1% of researchers in each field are listed in the Clarivate Analytics list of highly cited researchers. The top 1 % of researchers in 22 different fields makes the list.

The list of highly cited researchers is constantly in flux. If a researcher switches universities, the original university loses the points. 

20% Number of publications in Nature and Science

Nature and Science are among the world’s most famous scientific journals and authorities in the natural and medical sciences.

10% All previous elements in relation to the number of academic staff

The intention of this criterion is to even out the impact of the size differences among the universities. This criterion also assumes that every teacher conducts research of the highest possible quality.

You can read more about the methodology on the Shanghai ranking website.

QS Ranking

Was previously a part of the Times Higher Education ranking, and split off in 2010. Published by the Quacquarelli Symonds company.

The indicators and weights used to calculate the ranking are:

50% Reputation

In the reputation survey, employers and researchers from other universities are asked about their opinions on various universities.

Points for reputation in the QS ranking are granted based on two indicators:

  • 40% reputation in a survey directed at researchers
  • 10% reputation in a survey directed at employers

20% Citations

The QS ranking uses the Scopus database for calculating citations. In 2015, the methodology and point allocation were changed in a way that was not beneficial for the University of Helsinki.

20% Ratio of students to teachers

Even though the University of Helsinki has more students than the American top universities, the University of Helsinki tends to fare well in this criterion.

10% internationalism

Points for internationalism in the QS ranking are granted based on two indicators:

  • 5% ratio of international staff
  • 5% ratio of international students

You can read more about the methodology on the QS ranking website.

THE ranking (Times Higher Education)

Published by Times Higher Education, a commercial magazine. Published in its current format since 2010.

The indicators and weights used to calculate the ranking are:

30% Teaching

Points for teaching in the THE ranking are granted based on five sub-criteria:

  • 15% Teaching reputation (reputation of the university's teaching calculated by the results of a survey to researchers)
  • 6% Ratio of number of doctorates awarded to number of academic staff
  • 4.5% Ratio of number of staff to number of students
  • 2.25% Ratio of doctorates to bachelor's degrees
  • 2.25% Institutional income

30 % Research

Points for research in the THE ranking are granted based on three sub-criteria:

  • 18% Research reputation (reputation of the university's research calculated by the results of a survey to researchers)
  • 6% Research income
  • 6% Research productivity

30 % Research citations

In 2015, Times Higher Education switched to using Scopus as its ranking database, which had a favourable impact on the University of Helsinki’s ranking. Scopus features slightly more humanities and social sciences than the Web of Science database of Clarivate Analytics.

7,5 % internationalism

Points for internationalism in the THE ranking are granted based on three sub-criteria:

  • 2.5% ratio of international students
  • 2.5% ratio of international academic staff
  • 2.5% number of international collaborative publications

2,5 % Research income from the private sector (industry income)

Research income gained from the private sector in relation to the number of academic staff. Universities specialising in technology, economics and medicine tend to fare better in this area than a general university such as the University of Helsinki.

You can read more about the methodology on the QS-ranking website.

The Taiwan ranking

Published by the National Taiwan University since 2007.

The Taiwan ranking is based solely on bibliometric measurements of research, unlike Shanghai, THE and QS. A diverse selection of indicators/criteria is the strength of the Taiwan ranking, making it especially good for comparing research focused universities.

The strong suits of the University of Helsinki in the Taiwan ranking are citation numbers during the last 11 years and the H-index. Due to the diversity of indicators, the ranking is quite stable and universities tend to move up and down the list quite slowly.

The indicators and weights used to calculate the ranking are:

45% Research citations

Points for research citations in the Taiwan ranking are granted for four indicators:

  • 15% number of citations during the last 11 years
  • 10% number of citations during the last 2 years
  • 10% average number of citations in the last 11 years
  • 10% H-index during the last 2 years

The H-index is a quantitative indicator that enables the simultaneous evaluation of a researcher's productivity in terms of publishing articles and the significance of his or her publications. The h-index is database-specific, which means it can differ from database to database.

25% Number of research articles

Points for research articles in the Taiwan ranking are granted for two indicators:

  • 15% number of research articles during the last year
  • 10% number of research articles during the last 11 years

15% Highly cited articles

Based on the InCites’ Essential Science Indicators database, which includes approximately 11,500 key journals from various fields of science. It highlights the most-cited 1% article for each year from the past 11 years

15% Articles published in influential journals

Points are granted for the number of articles published in so called "high-impact journals" during the last year. The impact of the journals has been determined with the InCites’ Journal Citation Reports tool. It relates the number of citations for articles published in each journal to the total number of published articles. Journals which are in the top 5% of their field are considered to have high impact.

You can read more about the methodology on the Taiwan ranking website.

US News ranking

The US News Best Global Universities Ranking is the newest of important global rankings. It was first published in 2014.

The indicators and weights used to calculate the ranking are:

50 % Research citations

Points for research citations in the US News ranking are granted for six indicators:

  • 12.5% Number of publications among the most cited ten per cent
  • 10% Percentage of total publications among the most cited ten per cent
  • 10% Normalised citation impact
  • 7.5% Total citations (normalised)
  • 5% Number of highly cited papers, i.e. those among the top 1 per cent most cited in their respective field
  • Percentage of total publications that are among the top 1 percent most highly cited papers 5%

25% Reputation

Points for reputation in the US News ranking are granted for two indicators:

  • Global research reputation 12.5%
  • Regional research reputation 12.5%

15% Number of publications

  • 10% Articles
  • 2.5% Books
  • 2.5% Conference publications

10% Internationalisation

  • 5 % ratio of international collaborative publications to the total number of publications at the university
  • 5 % ratio of international collaborative publications to the global total number of international collaborative publications

You can read more about the methodology on the US News ranking website.

More about rankings

  • Recipe for a ranking, an article in the Yliopisto magazine 08/2017.
  • The contact person at the University of Helsinki in all ranking-related matters is Markku Javanainen.