We analyzed 1,457,000 student interviews to identify the trends and influences driving university recruitment across the world. Which university’s students are the strongest in key developer skills and why?
How we evaluated student skills
To better understand how university students perform in key skill areas, we analyzed over 1M student attempts on HackerRank assessments. These assessments, administered by employers as a part of their tech hiring processes for both full time positions and internships, were taken by students at 409 unique universities, spanning a total of 176 countries.
Using data from those HackerRank assessments, we identified the 4 key technical skills employers need most in interns and new grads: problem solving, language proficiency, data structures knowledge, and computer science (CS) fundamentals. Using data from the 1M+ student attempts on HackerRank assessments, we assessed student performance across each of the 4 dimensions (more on that in our methodology).
While traditional rankings like Times Higher Education evaluate based on university-centric data points like research and teaching, in this analysis, we evaluated universities based on student performance. Why? Because the strength of a university’s program isn’t a surefire indicator of its graduates’ skills. By ranking universities based on student skills, we aim to highlight universities that are producing students with the technical skills employers need.
Here’s what we found:
Most skilled universities by region
Coastal US universities excel in the Americas
UC Berkeley made appearances across all skills—but US programs like Stanford, MIT, and Princeton didn’t appear in the leaderboard (though they were included in our analysis).
UC Berkeley ranked across 4 out of the 4 key technical skills. Despite its strengths, UC Berkeley did not earn a spot amongst Computer Science (CS) program rankings in Times Higher Education in 2019.
So what makes UC Berkeley’s developers strong? It likely comes down to a combination of its CS curriculum and prominent developer culture. Through their academics, they emphasize “large interdisciplinary real-world system projects” as a core component of its program. Outside of class, they’re able to participate in their robust developer community through a wide variety of clubs.
And university recruiters have taken notice. Data shows that 246 unique employers have targeted UC Berkeley for technical talent via HackerRank, making them the most popular school for university tech talent sourcing in the world. And they’re hiring them, too—UC Berkeley reports that 79% of its CS graduates are employed upon graduation.
Indian Institutes of Technology lead the Asia-Pacific landscape
The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are a system of 23 independent, but interconnected public universities spread across India. From Kanpur, to Madras, and beyond, they specialize in creating curriculums that focus on engineering and technology. And when it comes to skills, they dominate the majority of the Asia-Pacific landscape.
Two universities appeared from outside of the IIT system: Banaras Hindu University and Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT). VIT fared particularly well, securing a first-place ranking across 2 of the 4 key skills.
Unlike the IIT system, VIT is a private university based in Vellore. Their educational program focuses on “futuristic technical education” disseminated through 27 unique undergraduate programs. It’s a drastic shift from their reception via Times Higher Education, which places their CS program in the #501-600 ranking globally.
VIT has a strong foothold in the Asia-Pacific region, likely due to its robust offerings in Computer Science. While other top schools in the region, like IIT Guwahati, offer a CS major, VIT has doubled down on their CS offerings, with 6 distinct majors that cover a variety of specialties within CS. Specialized majors like “Computer Science and Engineering & Business Systems” and “Computer Science and Engineering with Specialization in IoT” may give students an upper hand in learning practical (vs. academic) applications of coding concepts.
Imperial College London establishes stronghold in EMEA
When it comes to EMEA, Imperial College London (Imperial) was the only university to secure a ranking across all skills.
Imperial is highly regarded on top CS program lists (such as Times Higher Education, which ranks it as the #11 CS program in the world). With a heavy educational focus on science and engineering across the university, Imperial’s CS program focuses on helping students learn through “an emphasis on practical work,” including a variety of group and individual projects that emphasize “transferable problem solving skills, rather than the teaching of specific technologies.” Unlike its peers in the EMEA rankings, Imperial is unique in that it has a high volume of international students—56%, to be exact.
Ranking amongst #501-600 in the Times Higher Education top CS program list, Bilkent University (Turkey) is lesser known amongst university recruiters. In fact, Bilkent University was targeted by only 18 unique companies via HackerRank. When compared to more popular university targets—like Imperial, for example, who was visited by 39 unique employers over the same time period—it’s clear they may be underutilized in the university recruiting landscape, especially given their strengths in Data Structures Knowledge and CS Fundamentals.
Key takeaways for university recruiters
University reputation isn’t a reliable proxy for student skills
In our analysis, student performance didn’t always align with university reputation. Take Bilkent University, for example, which was ranked in the bottom 100 universities in the Times Higher Education CS rankings. But their students were the 1st in the EMEA region for CS fundamentals, and 3rd for data structures knowledge.
That’s because traditional university ranking lists focus on the university programs themselves—not the skills of the students that attend them. In that, their methodologies focus on factors like teaching, citations, and research. In other words, traditional rankings focus on factors that would help them appeal to potential students.
But those factors aren’t as important for university recruiters. They don’t want to choose target schools based on the strength of a university’s research program; they want to choose them based on the skills and performance of its students. The best way to do that is to focus on proven student skills.
Hands-on learning breeds strong developers
Strong performers in our rankings—like UC Berkeley, VIT, and Imperial—build their curriculums around teaching practical skills. From UC Berkeley’s emphasis on real-world projects, to VIT’s variety of specialty CS programs, to Imperial’s emphasis on skills over technologies, the highest performing universities aimed to give students hands-on development experience.
And that aligns with what we know about student developers. Even those pursuing a degree lean on hands-on, independent learning to learn to code. The opportunity to focus on hands-on projects—instead of research and theory alone—makes for stronger technical skills.
Between January 2017 and June 2019, HackerRank reviewed 1,457,000 assessment attempts made by university students, including 409 universities from 176 different countries. We included universities with only statistically significant volumes of attempts, including (but not limited to) universities like Stanford University, Harvard University, Yale University, Princeton University, and more. From this data, we established a performance-based University ranking for different skills and languages.
But how can you rank based on scores across different tests, especially since one test might be more challenging than the other? We computed a normalized “weighted score” which takes into account the question difficulty, the weightage that a question has in the test and by discounting questions that do not have a significant number of attempts.
For each skill and language within a university, we then identified the “top students” based on the university size, and score distribution. The final university rankings are a function of the “median weighted score” of these students and the actual count of students that qualify as top students.
Interested in learning more about the skills that make a strong new grad developer? See more here: