Handbook on Globalization and Higher Education
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Handbook on Globalization and Higher Education

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Edited by Roger King, Simon Marginson and Rajani Naidoo

Higher education has entered centre-stage in the context of the knowledge economy and has been deployed in the search for economic competitiveness and social development. Against this backdrop, this highly illuminating Handbook explores worldwide convergences and divergences in national higher education systems resulting from increased global co-operation and competition.
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Chapter 29: Measuring World-class Excellence and the Global Obsession with Rankings

Ellen Hazelkorn

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29 Measuring world-class excellence and the global obsession with rankings1 Ellen Hazelkorn PUTTING RANKINGS INTO CONTEXT The obsession with global rankings has reached almost fever pitch in recent years. Politicians, university leaders, students, business leaders and media headline-writers alike monitor rankings; conferences on rankings are held around the world, attracting delegates from many countries; hundreds of academic and newspaper articles and opinion pieces, blogs and commentary have been published; and many governments and higher education institutions (HEIs) have redrafted their strategies to conform to the indicators identified by rankings. The language of rankings has entered public discourse and impregnated policy documents and statements drafted by a wide array of international, national, regional and local stakeholders. What began as a consumer-oriented guide for students and parents has been transformed into a rapidly expanding global intelligence information business. By 2011 there will be 10 different global rankings, and over 50 national rankings. Few corners of the globe appear immune from the frenzy that university rankings have created. Published by, inter alia, government and accreditation agencies, higher education, research and commercial organizations, and the popular media, rankings have become ubiquitous. The number of different rankings has risen sharply and, arguably inevitably, since 2003 for four main interrelated reasons. First, it is now widely recognized that knowledge is the cornerstone of economic growth and national security; it is the new crude oil. This has driven the transformation of economies and the basis of wealth production from those based on productivity and efficiency to those...

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