Document Type



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



Publication Details

European journal of education, Vol. 49, Issue 1. March 2014.


Ten years have passed since the Shanghai JiaoTong University first published the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) in 2003. Followed shortly thereafter by the Times Higher Education QSTop University Ranking (THE-QS) in 2004, the arrival of rankings has been a game-changer for higher education and research, intensifying cross-national comparisons. They immediately attracted the attention of policymakers and the academy, challenging perceived wisdom about the status and reputation, as well as quality and performance, of higher education institutions (HEIs1).The Irish Minister for Education and Science, speaking in his capacity as President of the European Council, echoed the concerns of many political and academic leaders: Last year the Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s Institute of Education ranked the world’s top 500 universities on academic and research performance. For the European Union, the news is not all that good.The study shows that 35 of the top 50 Universities in the world are American . . . (Dempsey, 2004). Almost ten years later, at the launch of Europe 2020, unease was just as palpable: Europe is no longer setting the pace in the global race for knowledge and talent, while emerging economies are rapidly increasing their investment in higher education (Europa, 2011, p. 2). The arrival of global rankings coincided with a Zeitgeist of modernising higher education, and ideological and public support for markets; their continuing influence is a manifestation of the intensification of global competitiveness and their visibly multi-polar character.