The Best Colleges Methodology

While there are many rankings of international universities, college rankings usually refer to those that are most influential like US NewsTimes Higher Education, and the ShanghaiRanking (ARWU). We spend a good amount of time cautioning against using this factor as a major criterion. All ranking systems have different strengths, weaknesses, and biases. A school that is on one list may not appear at all on another. Further, not all schools are eligible for the rankings which rely on research and Ph.D. programs heavily. If we ever reference this factor in our materials it’s because we realize it’s such a major part of the American mindset.

While the domestic US News rankings have their issues, their Global Rankings are truly flawed. The most important limitation to note is that, while there are a number of quality indicators US News uses in ranking US schools, their international rankings look exclusively at factors around research (such as global research reputation, number of publications, number of books published, number of citations, percentage of total publications that are among the 10 percent most cited, etc.).

If you need insight on why the college rankings system is truly flawed or a refresher on the increasing number of college rankings scandals in the US, here’s a gloomy summary. We also dive deep into the topic on our podcast, explaining why ‘Best Colleges’ doesn’t mean anything in other rankings, as well as how to avoid the pitfalls of college rankings.

So what do traditional rankings tell you about your educational experience? Nothing. Further, since the rankings are based solely on research related factors, small schools, specialized schools, and schools with an emphasis on applied and practical knowledge will not be eligible for these rankings, even though many of these schools have excellent and reputable programs.

The New Way to Rank Schools

We are sometimes asked if college in Europe is as “good” as in the US. People assume a high degree of educational quality in the states simply because of the standard ratings, which are more-or-less unrelated to the educational experience or outcomes of the students. Honestly, the fact that our college graduates test only as high school grads from the Netherlands and Finland is quite telling…

This is why we’ve created a new kind of Ranking system, authored exclusively by Beyond the States, focusing primarily on school and program factors that really matter to international students seeking a degree in Europe:

  • Availability of English-taught degrees.
  • Affordability for international students.
  • Employability record and economic mobility.
  • Availability of study abroad and internship opportunities .
  • Student life quality for international students.
  • International student supports in place.
  • Strong student reviews.
  • International exposure.

Shaping a top 10 list of anything is risky and difficult, especially when there are, as is true in our case, so many good options. But in this case we are looking for exceptional schools that have many and/or established English-taught programs on offer, which is often indicative of their strength of international student support and resources. Given that affordability is one of the most critical factors for US students exploring college in Europe, our ranked schools have low-cost tuition, even for international students. Because students want to ensure they’ll have a smooth transition to employment after their degree, the schools on our list must impress with their employability record, and in tandem offer many and varied internship and study abroad opportunities. And naturally we factor in the degree to which these locations are livable, dynamic and safe for international students, but they are often much more than that and offer breathtaking history and beauty.

All in all, the schools on our Ranked lists made it there because they seem to come up again and again for us, either when we’re creating Best Fit Lists or as features for our Programs of the Month, or they generally appeal to a large number of our members and international students. And there’s a reason for this – they uniquely, consistently meet the criteria above we’ve carefully devised after years of experience in the field of English-taught degrees in Europe.