22 SES 11 F JS, Digital Scholarship, Metrics and Reputation
Joint Paper Session NW 12 and NW 22
The impact of university ranking has been felt since the appearance of international rankings in 2003/2004. Since then, several rankings have been published regularly and discussed in the media in order to inform public opinion, student decisions, university strategies and government policies. This combination of results and news produces effects that deserve to be considered; two examples follow. Firstly, international rankings are widely criticised by scientists and experts, especially regarding methodological matters, and this attention received in political decision-making and in the media attracts even more attention to them (Daraio, Bonaccorsi & Simar, 2015). Another effect is that higher-status universities’ rankings contribute, firstly, to disseminating this information and, secondly, to establishing structures and mechanisms of corporate governance between them (Flórez-Parra, López & López, 2014), creating clusters of well-placed universities. These two examples should make us aware that the rankings produce unforeseen effects and that their media power exceeds their quality and utility.
Universities use this information for different purposes. On the one hand, the classifications allow them to make comparisons, increasing competitiveness and perceiving it as a wake-up call in some cases. This raises the need for strategic education policy decisions (Hazelkorn, Loukkola & Zhang, 2014; Kehm, 2014) at various levels: global, institutional and national (Vladimirovich & Nikolayevna, 2013). On the other hand, the fact of belonging to a university located in the highest positions of the rankings is becoming in many aspects a requirement to be considered in university procedures and decision-making even backed by national policies. Some examples of this are observed in specific cases such as the eligibility of institutions for the establishment of bilateral agreements or the recognition of university degrees (European University Association, 2013). Classifications also play a decisive role in influencing economic aspects, such as the price of tuition fees (Tofallis, 2012). Despite this, universities and governments are already making decisions based on them. But what are the objectives of the rankings?
The main objectives of university rankings are to produce a list of the best universities, to establish comparisons between them and to show students the best options for their studies. Patterns of behaviour are produced in the students and managers; students and their families can consider the results published in these rankings in order to select the best university to develop their studies, and universities make a huge effort to try to improve or maintain their position.
Because of the publication and impact of rankings in the media, universities develop specific strategies to reach the highest rank by, for example, improving the teacher/student ratio, engaging prestigious visiting professors of international universities, and promoting student mobility. The effects of rankings also affect the management of universities, particularly regarding the remuneration of high-ranking university officials, as well as justifying the need for possible resources to reach top positions on the lists (European University Association, 2013).
In short, students, administrations and universities are already making decisions based on the information provided by the rankings. These decisions reinforce the universities that appear in the highest positions, setting them up as models for the others to follow, whereas the other universities receive annual criticism instead of help to improve.
Assuming the unavoidable existence of these rankings and their media impact, what are their effects upon, and the options available to a university?
- Firstly, because of the ranking system’s weaknesses and threats, it does not seem to be a useful scenario for universities overall, but what strengths and opportunities do they have?
- Secondly, what are the consequences of this differentiation of universities and what are the universities’ options for action in relation to the results?
Climent, V., Michavila, F., & Ripollés, M. (Eds.). (2013). Los rankings universitarios, mitos y realidades [University rankings, myths and realities]. Madrid: Editorial Tecnos. Daraio, C., Bonaccorsi, A., & Simar, L. (2015). Ranking and university performance: A conditional multidimensional approach. European Journal of Operational Research, 244, 918-930. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejor.2015.02.005 European University Association (2013). Global University Rankings and their impact. Report II. Belgium: European University Association. Flórez-Parra, J. M., López, M. V., & López A. M. (2014). El gobierno corporativo de las Universidades: Estudio de las 100 primeras Universidades del ranking de Shanghái. Revista de Educación, 364, 170-196. doi: 10.4438/1988-592X-RE-2014-364-259 Hazelkorn, E, Loukkola, T., & Zhang T. (2014). Rankings in Institutional Strategies and Processes: Impact or Illusion? Belgium: European University Association. Kaycheng, S. (2015). What the Overall doesn’t tell about world university rankings: examples from ARWU, QSWUR, and THEWUR in 2013. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 37(3), 1-13. doi: 10.1080/1360080X.2015.1035523 Kehm, B. M. (2014). Global University Rankings – Impacts and Unintended Side Effects. European Journal of Education, 49(1), 102-112. doi: 10.1111/ejed.12064 Lauder, A., Sari, R. F., Suwartha, N., & Tjahjono, G. (2015). Critical review of a global campus sustainability ranking: GreenMetric. Journal of Cleaner Production, 108, 852-863. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.02.080 Lynch, K. (2014). Control by numbers: new managerialism and ranking in higher education. Critical Studies in Education, 56(2), 1-18. doi: 10.1080/17508487.2014.949811 Margison, S. (2014). University Rankings and Social Science. European Journal of Education, 49(1), 45-59. doi: 10.1111/ejed.12061 O´Connell, C. (2013). Research discourses surrounding global university rankings: exploring the relationship with policy and practice recommendations. Higher Education, 65, 709-723. doi: 10.1007/s10734-012-9572-x Olcay, G. A., & Bulu, M. (in press). Is measuring the knowledge creation of universities possible?: A review of university rankings. Technological Forecasting Social Change. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.techfore.2016.03.029 Tofallis, C. (2012). A different approach to university rankings. Higher Education, 63, 1-18. doi: 10.1007/s10734-011-9417-z Vladimirovich, N., & Nikolayevna, I. (2013). University rankings as a tool to enhance competitiveness, clustering and transnational governance of higher education in the context of globalization. Middle-East Journal of Scientific Research, 16(3), 357-361. doi: 10.5829/idosi.mejsr.2013.16.03.11689
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