, Volume 85, Issue 1, pp 295-299

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Too much noise in the Times Higher Education rankings

  • Fred L. BooksteinAffiliated withDepartment for Anthropology, University of ViennaDepartment of Statistics, University of Washington Email author 
  • , Horst SeidlerAffiliated withDepartment for Anthropology, University of Vienna
  • , Martin FiederAffiliated withDepartment for Anthropology, University of Vienna
  • , Georg WincklerAffiliated withRectorate of the University of Vienna


Several individual indicators from the Times Higher Education Survey (THES) data base—the overall score, the reported staff-to-student ratio, and the peer ratings—demonstrate unacceptably high fluctuation from year to year. The inappropriateness of the summary tabulations for assessing the majority of the “top 200” universities would be apparent purely for reason of this obvious statistical instability regardless of other grounds of criticism. There are far too many anomalies in the change scores of the various indices for them to be of use in the course of university management.


Times Higher Education ranking Rankings Statistical noise