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Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics

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ESEP 13:131-139 (2014)  -  DOI:

Framing the university ranking game: actors, motivations, and actions

James A. Dearden1,*, Rajdeep Grewal2, Gary L. Lilien2

1Department of Economics, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA 18015, USA
2Department of Marketing, Smeal College of Business, Penn State University, University Park, PA 16802 USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Any formulation of the university ranking game involves the perspectives of the 3 key actors: (1) graduating high-school students, (2) universities, and (3) ranking publications. These university rankings are developed and maintained by for-profit publications or magazines, which must balance 2 potentially conflicting motives: (1) to provide students with information to help them decide which university to attend and (2) to increase the revenues of the publication. The actions of the students involve their decision on which universities to apply to and which university to attend among those they are admitted to. The universities seek to attract the best students and seek to improve their ranking to do so. We frame these diverse motives and the ensuing actions of these 3 sets of actors as the university ranking game and discuss the potential inefficiencies in the game and the possibility for unethical behavior by publications and universities.

KEY WORDS: University rankings · Assessment of higher education · University admissions and matriculation decisions · Game theory

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Cite this article as: Dearden JA, Grewal R, Lilien GL (2014) Framing the university ranking game: actors, motivations, and actions. Ethics Sci Environ Polit 13:131-139.

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