Global rankings of higher education institutions strengthen the higher education system as a global system. They are part of a bigger power field of globalization composed by several, mutually reinforcing drivers of internationalization such as intensifying research collaboration, student mobility, or common qualification frameworks. However, globalization of higher education is far from uncontested. The world has not become flat in higher education. From a global point of view, higher education still is distributed very unequally, both with regard to access and qualification levels as with regard to (perceived) quality. By showing a specific view of the world, tuned towards the perceived centres of academic quality, global rankings make the world of higher education even more unequal and uneven than it already is. Global imbalances in higher education are not a residue of the past. As much as by forces of convergence, the global higher education system is shaped by forces of divergence that are driven by skills differentiation between countries and regions. Huge differences in the skills equivalent of qualifications are not to be seen as dysfunctional, but are the consequence of diverging skill needs. Institutions have to navigate their environment which is both shaped by global convergence and local divergence.
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