Chapter 18: The impact and influence of rankings on the quality, performance andaccountability agenda
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The current phase of rankings began in 2003 with the launch of the Academic Rankings of World Universities. It reflected the intensification of globalization and global competition, and strengthening of an international higher education market. Global rankings were a game-changer, placing higher education within a wider comparative and international framework. As a result, they attracted the attention of policymakers and the academy around the world. The choice of indicators has defined what constitutes quality; the multi-annual publication has become a visible measure of global competitiveness and its increasing multi-polarity; the ‘Top 100’ has transformed ‘world-class’ into a strategy, a language and a topic of study. A profound transformation has occurred within higher education systems and institutions around the world. But perhaps one of the least examined aspects of rankings has been their influence in helping define and structure the academic and policy discourse about quality, performance and accountability. This chapter looks at the rise of rankings, and wider spill-over for conceptions of quality, performance and accountability. It considers the range of other tools being developed,and alternatives to rankings by governments, agencies, HE and others.

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