ESEP 13:65-71 (2014)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esep00135

The mismeasure of higher education? The corrosive effect of university rankings

David Robinson*

Senior Advisor, Education International, 5 blvd du Roi Albert II, 1210 Brussels, Belgium
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: This paper examines the limitations and biases of world university rankings and asks what drivers explain their ongoing proliferation and popularity. It is argued that rankings are having a corrosive effect on higher education systems, institutions and staff by encouraging policy reforms at the governmental level and a reallocation of resources at the institutional level that may improve standings in the rankings but do not necessarily enhance quality research and teaching. Global rankings are linked to the rise of an international market in higher education, particularly with respect to international students. The author argues that what is at stake in the debate over university rankings is fundamentally whether higher education is to be thought of as having intrinsic value, or whether it is defined narrowly in instrumentalist and consumerist terms.


KEY WORDS: University rankings · Quality assurance · Assessment of higher education · Learning outcomes · Performance indicators


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Cite this article as: Robinson D (2014) The mismeasure of higher education? The corrosive effect of university rankings. Ethics Sci Environ Polit 13:65-71. https://doi.org/10.3354/esep00135

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