Chapter 7: Global Rankings and Regulating the World-class University
INTRODUCTION In the previous chapters we have examined the role of league tables as a source of private regulatory authority for universities. That is, whatever reservations universities may have about them, university ratings nonetheless are regarded as highly significant market factors and exert considerable influence over university behaviour and actions. Particularly, the standardizing consequences of the criteria used in the institutional rankings for determining the ‘best’ universities are often criticized by newcomers or those institutions established in the lower levels of the hierarchies as outdated and conventional (‘Oxbridge-focused’) in an age of diversity and widening social participation in higher education. League tables appear to be able to make public policy in ways at variance with important governmental objectives, although reinforcing others, and ministers send mixed messages about how they are regarded. They have no wish to embroil themselves in the controversies and antagonisms that the rankings can engender, but may incorporate such assessments into their own funding and regulatory approaches. In the increasing tendency around the globe for governments to encourage world-class research-based universities in their higher education systems as a source of comparative economic and status advantage, there is increasing public policy focus on the global university rankings, and the institutional characteristics of those in the top echelons, as providing a guide and a set of goals for achieving world-class standing. So far we have tended to focus on national league tables and their consequences for universities, particularly in Chapter 6, and mostly these are produced by publishers. Yet...
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