This article aims to illustrate how universities can use indicators extracted from rankings and combine them with ad-hoc indicators in order to better understand their potential, help define strategy and track their progress. The article starts by looking at the world of football rankings and indicators, which provides an excellent prism to question university rankings, both in terms of methodology and function. The second part illustrates the importance of interpretation and the reasons for which indicators and rankings often mean something very different from what appears at first sight. The third part provides a few case studies of how institutions can use indicators to go beyond rankings. The article is built around examples and illustrates the reasons for which universities should be proactive in their approach to rankings. We show that they should (a) never use aggregate rankings beyond communication purposes (and ideally not even for this purpose), (b) select indicators that best reflect specific aspects of their mission that they want to measure and (c) interpret the meaning of each indicator with a healthy dose of scepticism. We conclude that if these three rules are respected then the individual indicators published by ranking agencies provide key benchmarks for universities wishing to gain strategic insights.
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