Document Type



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



Publication Details

Beitraege zur Hochschulforschung, vol.2, 2013

Available from the publishers


Ten years after the first global rankings appeared, it is clear that they have had an extraordinary impact on higher education. While there are fundamental questions about whether rankings measure either quality or what’s meaningful, they have succeeded in exposing higher education to international comparison. Moreso, because of the important role higher education plays as a driver of economic development, rankings have exposed both an information deficit and national competitiveness. Accordingly, both nations and institutions have sought to maximise their position vis-á-vis global rankings with positive and perverse effects. Their legacy is evident in the way rankings have become an implicit – and often explicit – reference point for policymaking and higher education decision-making, and have reinforced an evaluative state’s over-reliance on quantitative indicators to measure quality. They are embedded in popular discourse, and have informed the behaviour of many stakeholders, within and outside the academy. This paper reflects on three inter-related issues; i) considers the way rankings have heightened policy and investment interest in higher education, ii) discusses whether the modifications to rankings have resolved some of the questions about what they measure, and iii) looks at how rankings have influenced stakeholder behaviour. Finally, the paper reflects on what we have learned and some outstanding issues. ______________________________________________________