Chapter 32: The business of university rankings: the case of Times Higher Education
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This chapter examines the development of university ranking entrepreneurs. It illustrates how organisations develop business lines and products around university rankings. Although there are a number of publicly available university rankings and organisations that produce them, the three most widely referenced rankings are the Times Higher Education (THE), the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), and ‘Shanghai’ Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU). There are number of reasons for the prominence of these organisations. This chapter explores how a focus on cultivating audiences for products and services can result in an apparent ‘success’ relative to other rankers. The chapter draws principally on documents and publicly available material which outline how ranking organisations present their own historical development. The chapter briefly outlines the growth of the whole rankings sector and then focuses on developments around the THE rankings which, the chapter argues, has undergone the furthest transformation in terms of ‘industrialisation’. By investing in the capacity to gather data to produce different ranking tables, the organisation developed the ability re-present its datasets and datasets from third party sources and offer its own analyses as business products. The story of the THE shows the growing industrialisation of rankings. It captures the emergence of a range of services that are both directly based upon rankings data as well other services ‘associated’ with rankings. The former include data consulting and brand management services and the latter includes academic ‘summits’. The variety of rankers and their services highlights the increasing diversity of ranking audiences and the ways in which rankers cultivate the target ‘markets’.

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