Do university rankings really indicate quality?

In a new article, Professor Ellen Hazelkorn looks at the choices of indicators used by university rankings and asks if they can really tell us much about a university’s quality.

She points out that there is no such thing as objective ranking. The weightings reflect the value-judgements of the rankers, rather than any internationally accepted measure of quality.

Governments and universities are turning to rankings to help provide strategic guidance. But Professor Hazelkorn warns that global rankings can encourage universities, and governments, to adopt indicators chosen by commercial companies for their own purposes.

Problems inevitably occur when ranking indicators are not aligned with a university’s core mission.

Professor Hazelkorn argues that there is a need to go beyond direct ‘tangible’ impact to include a much broader range of parameters, appropriate to a university’s mission and region. These could include, for example, graduate attributes, innovation and contribution to public policy.

Global Rankings and Lessons for HSE is published in Higher Education in Russia and Beyond.