QS Ranking at SZIU - A Joint Initiative

During the past years the significance of various rankings for universities has increased so more and more higher education institutions start including the strengthening of their ranking positions in their strategies. Szent Istvan University (SZIU) has already been in the prestigious rankings conducted by the British Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), namely in QS World University Rankings By Subject Agriculture and Fisheries since 2018.  This year SZIU has also been ranked in QS World University Rankings 2021 for the first time, which compares the best universities in the world regardless of their educational and research profile. This is a significant step forward for the university since only seven other Hungarian universities have managed to do the same.

SZIU International Relations Centre staff talked to Sami Sader and Dr. László Máthé in connection with this achievement since their initiative and work contributed greatly to the success. The following article is the summary of this discussion.

Sami Sader has been a student at SZIU’s Mechanical Engineering Doctoral School since 2016, he had his doctoral dissertation defence this May, his field of research is total quality management and Industry 4.0. Prior to his PhD studies at SZIU, he worked at An-Najah National University in Palestine for twelve years, he was working for the university’s quality assurance office which was responsible to enhance the university position at different international and local rankings.  His tasks included improving quality policies at the academic, administrative and scientific research levels.

Dr. László Máthé is currently an associate professor at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. He was previously the international coordinator of the faculty. His field of education and research are terramechanics, examination of vehicles moving on terrain and utilization of 3D printing technology for building agricultural facilities.

In March 2018, Dr. Samir Zaien, master instructor at SZIU, organized a lecture on various ranking options that was attended by several international SZIU PhD students, Dr. László Máthé, Dr. Zsuzsanna Tarr, head of the International Relations Centre, and her colleagues. At this event Sami Sader shared his useful experience with QS World University Rankings and suggested that SZIU contact the company as soon as possible in order to get into the company’s database. He also provided contact information to the company. As he explained in his presentation, the fact that a given university is present in various rankings and what position it can achieve have a huge effect on the choice of prospective international students. In addition to the recruitment of new students, another benefit of successful participation is that the recognition of the university’s degrees and diplomas will also be higher, which will be a great help for the graduates in the labour market. Ranking positions also serve as a good tool for benchmarking Hungarian universities. Sami Sader mentioned the applicants for the Stipendium Hungaricum scholarship as an example. These applicants usually compare Hungarian universities based on their ranking results because most of them do not know much about Hungarian higher education.

The presentation was so convincing that an ad hoc team (Sami Sader, Dr. László Máthé, Dr. Zsuzsanna Tarr) came together again in order to prepare SZIU’s participation in QS Rankings.

This mainly required the provision of statistical data and the declaration of intent of the institution, as well as the aggregation of the data according to the QS methodology. This task was taken over by Dr. László Máthé, he contacted the management of the university, collected, formatted and uploaded the necessary material to the QS surface. As a result, SZIU was included in the QS World University Rankings By Subject 2018 in the field of agricultural and forestry sciences. In this category, the results of our university are constantly improving, currently SZIU is among the 151-200 best universities providing agricultural and forestry science training. This ranking has been led by our partner university Wageningen University & Research since 2016. In 2019, SZIU was also included in one of QS’s area-based rankings, “QS University Rankings: Emerging Europe and Central Asia”. This ranking has been led by Lomonosov University since 2016, while SZIU is currently ranked the 110th.

The most prestigious kinds of rankings are the ones where all universities in the database are evaluated according to the same criteria not taking into account any special factors (discipline, region, labour market etc.). At QS, this is the QS World University Rankings list, where the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been ranked the first for eight years (!). In the QS World University Rankings 2021, SZIU was included for the first time, and was ranked among the top 801-1000 universities. As Sami Sader said, the structural transformation of our university will inevitably change our indicators as well, and based on his experience, such changes imply a higher level of the challenge. However, he also added that he sees more opportunities where we could still improve our metrics. He is ready to provide SZIU with a summary of his suggestions, for which we thank him very much in advance. He highlighted that the ranking is part of the international strategy, which is specifically addressed by the Quality Assurance Department.

SZIU is currently listed in two other renowned university rankings, the Shanghai Ranking’s Global Ranking of Academic Subjects and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Maintaining and improving the ranking positions achieved is a constant challenge for HEIs, particularly for a university facing transformation. At the same time, it cannot be ignored that improving ranking positions increase the university's reputation, ability to attract students and resources, so in the long run it is worth providing resources in this area.

Sami Sader is going to return home to his family and teach at a Palestinian Higher Education institution. We hope that a good cooperation will develop between SZIU and Palestinian HEIs due to his future activity and the mutual benefit from each other’s best practices. We appreciate his help he provided to SZIU and wish him further success in his career.