They point out that despite ongoing criticism of methodologies, rankings are informing and influencing policymaking, academic behaviour, stakeholder opinions – and our collective understanding of science. National pre-eminence is no longer sufficient.
They discuss alternatives to this reputation race, such as the ‘civic university’ with a strong public mission. They also address the idea of a ‘world-class system’ focused on collective benefits. Such a system – in contrast to global rankings – emphasises mission differentiation, enabling universities to complement each other and maximise capacity beyond their individual capabilities.
The paper concludes that the conflict between the national and global that rankings have exposed has not been resolved, but there are responses developing that go some way to mitigating the excesses of this tension.
Global science, national research, and the question of university rankings is published by Palgrave Communications in Nature.