University rankings – a game of snakes and ladders

Gary Barron, University Affairs, Nov 12, 2014
Commentary by Stephen Downes

As I always say when the issue of university (or school, or reseacher, etc) ranking comes up: the purpose of university rankings is not to rank universities. It is to define a set of criteria that are deemed valuable by the ranking agency, and to encourage universities to embrace these criteria by means of shaming those who don't with 'lower' rankings. The differences in rankings described in the current article reflect the differences in the criteria deemed important by the respective ranking agencies. One ranking agency deems 'reputation' to be more important. Another deems publications in natural sciences, medicine and related fields as more important. Neither agency's ranking are relevant as anything other than a lobbying instrument, which is how they should be treated.

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