The QS Subject analyzes participating institutions in 51 areas of knowledge, divided into five broad areas: arts and humanities, life and clinical sciences, natural sciences, engineering and technology, and applied social and social sciences.
The performance of state universities in São Paulo in the 2021 edition of the QS Subject was analyzed in a report that can be consulted on the Metricas project website. This analysis will examine the areas of knowledge in which universities have improved their positioning and in which this positioning was lower than that observed in 2022. Finally, the indicators that were decisive in these changes will be analyzed.
The QS Subject ranking examines four indicators with variable weighting: a) the result of a survey on academic reputation; b) the result of a survey on the institution’s reputation with employers; c) the number of citations per article (citation rate); and d) a variant of the Hirsch index that considers a period of five years. This indicator aims to measure highly cited productivity as h articles with h citations. This methodology gives greater weight to highly productive research groups, a dimension that is not adequately represented when using only the average citation rate.
Recommendations for course coordinators who want to improve their position in this ranking
- The areas of knowledge that improved their position did it through enhancing their academic reputation scores – this is best done by considering the following aspects in departmental planning:
- Postgraduate mobility – sending your postgraduates abroad and receiving significant numbers of postgraduates promotes the institution’s research culture.
- Undergraduate mobility programs to both send and receive students.
- Production of online teaching resources (in Portuguese and English), including but not limited to short courses, specialisation courses, micro-credentials, online seminars and webinars.
- Hosting of academic events, online and presential, such as international conferences, summer schools, São Paulo Advanced Study Schools supported by FAPESP.
- Tracking graduates who remain in academia, encouraging ongoing engagement with the department.
- The scores for employer reputation fell in almost all areas of knowledge this year. In order to strengthen our bonds with society, departmental leaders could consider the following types of action:
- Incorporating diverse stakeholders in planning, research, teaching and evaluation exercises. This includes business leaders, alumni, civil society and other relevant stakeholders.
- Fostering greater integration of students during their study – encouraging a sense of institutional identity that lasts a lifetime. More details will follow in subsequent technical notes.
- Tracking graduates into the workplace, engaging with them in surveys and feedback, as well as offering them advantages for their status as alumni of the department.
- Build more integrated teaching opportunities at undergraduate level with relevant employers – whether with cultural institutions, theatres, galleries and museums for arts and humanities subjects, or engineering and technology firms for engineering subjects. Effective communication and integration will help to raise awareness of the university and build graduate employment skills.
- Citations and H-Index have less of an influence on this ranking, in general, but some areas of knowledge at some institutions can benefit from concentrating on this. Typically, if the area of knowledge is outside the top 300 of the ranking, then gains in position can be made easily. If this is part of the strategy, the following should be considered:
- For citations, prioritising quality and rigor of research instead of volume of research in evaluations should be a priority. Avoid setting targets in terms of numbers of articles.
- Increasing the availability of research leads to increasing the citation rate – encourage researchers to public in open access journals and encourage them to use social media to promote it as part of a publication strategy. This strategy might also include lay summaries, and video abstracts.
- H Index measures the presence of large numbers of highly cited articles. This is best achieved by encouraging the formation of high impact research groups and centres.
USP’s performance this year was mixed – there were 6 areas that rose by more than 10 positions, while there were also 7 that fell by more than 10 positions.
Areas that improved their position
|Accounting and finance||92=||101-150||33||71.6||76.9||59.8||59.5||70.8|
|Sports related subjects||49=||51-100||26||69.1||69.8||87.4||86.1||74.5|
|Life and medical sciences||61||74=||13||82.1||75.6||74.4||70.6||85.1||77.9|
|Accounting and finance||7.0||-1.4||6.6||7.0|
|Sports related subjects||-2.1||-4.3||-0.8||-4.1|
|Life and medical sciences||-1.1||-4.2||3.2||-4.2||0.1|
The biggest increase in performance in individual subjects was in electrical engineering, which increased substantially in all indicators except for the employer reputation indicator. In all other indicators, this area experienced large increases in score, even though the overall increase in position was relatively small.
The employer reputation indicator suffered a decrease in almost all subjects this year, except for medicine. This is of course possibly explained by lower institutional visibility for areas that were not directly engaged in combatting the pandemic.
Looking at the four indicators in an aggregated way, we can say that, among subjects that increased their position, they move increased in the academic reputation indicator. Almost all of them had reduced scores in employer reputation, and these scores were consistently lower than 2021. H index had the greatest and interquartile range of scores of the four, suggesting that it is significantly more volatile than the other indicators, but also is not especially determinant of performance in the ranking as a whole. “Citations” has a lower IQR and range, it is a more consistent indicator to target for performance in this ranking.
Subjects that lost position
|Business and management||97=||90=||-7||65.5||75.4||74.3||87.1||71.5|
|Engineering and technology||96=||86=||-10||78.2||75.2||76.7||73.6||78.0||76.7|
|Social sciences and management||74=||52=||-22||78.1||74.5||75.1||66.3||57.3||74.9|
|Politics and international studies||51-100||50||-25||71.7||78.2||75.0||67.8|
|Business and management||0.7||-1.4||3.4||0.6||0.3|
|Engineering and technology||1.9||-4.9||1.9||0.9||0.0|
|Social sciences and management||-0.9||-5.9||-2.4||0.9||-3.0|
|Politics and international studies||12.4||3.3||16.1||3.7|
Interestingly, there were six areas that actually improved their scores despite losing position on this year’s ranking. In the case of mechanical and chemical engineering, the increases were significant and similar to those of electrical engineering. This shows that in this case, the relative position of these subjects does not match the overall performance. Politics and international studies performed well in all indicators but still lost position in the ranking.
Employer reputation was also a serious challenge for all areas of knowledge, but this did not seem to have a strong influence on whether an area of knowledge rose or fell in the ranking.
Compared to the areas of knowledge that rose, the only main difference that explained the different performance was academic reputation. Rising areas of knowledge increased their scores by 3.1 on average, compared to 1.7 for falling institutions. for employer reputation, citations and H index, the rising areas actually scored less on average than the areas of knowledge that fell.
Areas of knowledge that increase their positioning did it through improving their academic reputation score. Areas of knowledge should look to increase their internationalisation of research results. They should also consider increasing the visibility of research results though open access publication. Monitoring of graduates who go on to study or work at other institutions should also be considered a priority. Employer reputation fell for almost all areas of knowledge this year, and so should be seen as a priority.
Areas that improved their position
Unicamp have improved their position quite notably in many areas. Chemistry and chemical engineering have improved their position by six places each – this is not wholly surprising given that many of the publications in chemical engineering are also registered as chemistry on Scopus. Mathematics has improved significantly in position, as have electrical engineering and life and medical sciences.
|Life and medical sciences||180||216=||36||76.1||70.0||73.7||50.0||65.6||68.7|
|Life and medical sciences||-1.7||-1.6||3.3||1.8||0.8|
For the areas of knowledge that rose most, the biggest increases were in academic reputation. There were also notable increases in both citations per paper and H index for materials science, electrical engineering and chemical engineering.
Academic reputation was not the largest total factor for the areas of success at Unicamp – the mean change is lower than it was for H index or citations. It was, however, the most consistent factor in the areas of knowledge that increased their position, with a much higher median change – 2.4 compared to -0.1 or 1.7, respectively. This means that two areas that increased their scores by a lot in 2022 skew the data.
Areas in Unicamp that lost position in 2022
|Engineering and technology||139=||134=||-5||77.5||69.8||79.7||67.6||76.7||74.3|
|Arts and Humanities||154=||135=||-19||76.8||70.6||63.3||51.3||31.7||70.4|
|Social sciences and management||199=||162||-37||71.8||67.7||76.0||57.7||45.3||68.5|
Despite the areas of improvement, Unicamp lost significant position in arts and humanities and social sciences, as well as mechanical engineering, and two of its greatest strengths – dentistry and petroleum engineering.
|Engineering and technology||3.2||-2.5||0.6||1.9||1.2|
|arts and humanities||0.9||-3.1||-2.3||-1.6||-1.7|
|Social sciences and management||0.0||-2.6||-2.4||0.3||-2.1|
Mechanical engineering appears to be an anomaly in this section, given that it improved its indicator scores in all four indicators, and its overall score by 6 points, and still lost position. This suggests growing competition in the top of the ranking, rather than any real fall in performance.
The areas of knowledge that lost position mostly lost them as a result of a drop in citations. While the H index seems to have fallen most, this is mostly explained by the fall in the score for dentistry. This means, that in order to protect and reinforce positions in this ranking, areas of knowledge should prioritise the number of citations per paper, especially given that larger drops in position were related to larger falls in this indicator, rather than any other factor.
|Business and management||351-400||401-450||50||44.7||66.7||79.7||75.9|
|Life and medical sciences||279=||323=||44||73.4||65.5||65.5||45.2||60.6||64.1|
Unesp experienced significant success this year in moving up into the top 300 for life and medical sciences, with a large increase in position. Natural sciences also increased in position. Languages and business both moved up a group, as did medicine and biological sciences, and materials science and electrical engineering. It should be noted that the areas of growth appear to have come in thematically linked pairs, suggesting complementary areas of knowledge growing in symbiosis.
|Business and management||3.5||2.4||5.1||0.0|
|Life and medical sciences||-0.3||0.2||3.9||1.8||1.8|
The area of knowledge that has had the biggest increase in terms of performance is materials science. This increase was successful in terms of academic reputation, and in citations and H index. Where this area has been most successful, by a long distance, is in improving its score in employer reputation. In a year where almost all employer reputation scores fell, and the second largest rise was 2.4, materials science rose by 41 points. This increase should be studied as an example to promote to other engineering and technology subjects.
The greatest increases for Unesp’s areas of knowledge came in citations. Unlike USP and Unicamp, whose biggest gains were in academic reputation, it seems that Unesp has found it easier to raise its citations per paper.
Subjects that lost position
|Engineering and technology||308=||304||-4||68.8||64.9||77.1||63.4||59.9||67.0|
|Social sciences and management||357=||340=||-17||64.0||65.9||73.9||54.0||34.1||63.1|
|arts and humanities||327=||304=||-23||67.5||68.8||55.8||44.2||27.6||63.1|
By contrast, there are fewer areas that showed significant decline in position this year. Only engineering, dentistry, social sciences, arts and humanities and archaeology went down in position.
|Engineering and technology||5.7||-0.8||2.1||5.7||2.1|
|Social sciences and management||1.3||-1.5||-3.6||6.0||-1.0|
|arts and humanities||2.1||-1.5||-0.1||-1.3||-0.3|
Most of the decreases in indicator score were relatively small, except for larger declines in employer reputation and H index for dentistry.
Among the subjects that declined, we can see that on average, academic reputation and H index improved, but employer reputation declined notably, and citations a little less. In order to protect ranking position, Unesp should look to improve employer reputation scores.
This year, the performance of state universities in São Paulo was relatively stable. In general terms, there were more advances in areas of knowledge than losses. In the reputation indicator, along with the employer reputation indicator, there is a notable drop in performance this year. Therefore, the relationship with external society must be a priority for universities. Academic reputation with peers and the external community remains by far the biggest determinant of performance on the QS Subject.