10 uncomfortable truths about the con that is University rankings

Donald Clark, Donald Clark Plan B, Sept 19, 2015
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I rarely report university rankings (or pretty much any rankings) in this newsletter, and any time I do, I add a hearty note of scepticism. Donald Clark outlines the reasons why they should be dismissed as pretty much irrelevant, especially for students. "Aimed firmly at parents and students, they bait and switch. The hook is baited with data on research and facilities, then the message switched to make it look like the teaching experience you’ll pay for." Worse, the rankings are actually lobbying devices - organizations rank universities based on their priorities, and universities line up (for some unknown reason) to do their bidding. But, of course, it's a rigged game you can never win: "Reputation scores feature in lots of the rankings. You go out and ask people what they think; academics, publishers, employers etc. Of course, given that most of the people asked are from the highly ranked Universities, there’s an obvious skew in the data."

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