Document Type



Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence

Publication Details

Higher Education Management and Policy, vol 21 no. 1 (2009)


Global rankings are creating a furore wherever or whenever they are published or mentioned. They have become a barometer of global competition measuring the knowledge-producing and talent-catching capacity of higher education institutions. These developments are injecting a new competitive dynamic into higher education, nationally and globally, and encouraging a debate about its role and purpose. As such, politicians regularly refer to them as a measure of their nation’s economic strength and aspirations, universities use them to help set or define targets mapping their performance against the various metrics, while academics use rankings to bolster their own professional reputation and status. Based on an international survey (2006) and extensive interviews in Germany, Australia and Japan (2008), this paper provides a comparative analysis of the impact and influence of rankings on higher education and stakeholders, and describes institutional experiences and responses. It then explores how rankings are influencing national policy and shaping institutional decision making and behaviour. Some changes form part of the broader modernisation agenda, improving performance and public accountability, while others are viewed as perverse. Their experiences illustrate that policy does matter.