ESEP 13:167-176 (2014)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esep00132

World class universities and international rankings

David A. Turner

Faculty of Business and Society, University of South Wales, Pontypridd, CF37 1DL, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: This paper examines 2 of the major international university rankings, the Shanghai Jiao Tong University ranking and the Times Higher Education Supplement ranking, and asks why, when they use such different measures of performance, they produce such similar rankings. The author introduces Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) and shows how this can be an effective method for setting up a range of ranking systems. This is used to explore a number of key issues that are raised by league tables, including which indicators to select, and whether to treat them as inputs or outputs. The paper then examines the assumptions that would need to be incorporated into the DEA approach in order to produce a league table that is similar to the 2 extant examples. It concludes that the currently accepted league tables assume that costs are of no interest, and that high quality outputs are to be valued at any cost. This raises the question of whether such rankings are appropriate for an age of austerity, or whether value-for-money rankings might not be more appropriate.


KEY WORDS: University · Ranking · League tables · World class · Data Envelopment Analysis · DEA


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Cite this article as: Turner DA (2014) World class universities and international rankings. Ethics Sci Environ Polit 13:167-176. https://doi.org/10.3354/esep00132

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