ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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University Ranking Season Is Here

A bunch of international ranking systems to evaluate universities exist today across the world. Flaws and generalisations persist in all of them, but railing against them will not make them go away. Competition, the need to benchmark and the inevitable logic of globalisation make them a lasting part of the academic landscape of the 21st century. The challenge is to understand the nuances and uses - and misuses - of the rankings.

With the arrival of the new academic year in much of the world, the rankings season must be under way. The major inter national rankings have appeared in recent months – the Academic Ranking of World Universities ([ARWU] the “Shanghai Rankings”), the QS World University Rankings, and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (THE). Two important US rankings have also been published – the US News & World Report’s America’s Best College Rankings, and the much delayed National Research Council’s Assessment of Research Doctorate Programmes. These are but a few of the rankings available on national or regional post-secondary institutions. For example, the European Union is currently sponsoring a major rankings project. In Germany, the Center for Higher Education Development has formulated an innovative approach to rankings of German universities. The list can be extended. This discussion will provide some comments on each of these rankings and on the current debate on rankings generally.

If rankings did not exist, someone would invent them. They are an inevitable result of mass higher education, and of competition and commercialisation in postsecondary education worldwide. Potential customers (students and their families) want to learn which of many higher educa-tion options to choose – the most relevant and most advantageous. Rankings provide some answers to these questions.

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