Trends in Higher Education Rankings

By Diego Castro and Marina Tomàs Folch.

Published by The International Journal of Learning in Higher Education

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: February 10, 2015 $US5.00

This paper examines the research that has been conducted into university rankings. University rankings set out to establish a hierarchy of institutions of higher education (IHE), based on benchmarks and indicators that attempt to assess the quality of education, research, and other features of academic activity, in order to provide information and guidance to students, the public, and to society at large. The objectives of our research are: 1) to characterise the scientific production that makes up the sample of selected articles concerning higher education rankings; 2) to analyse the specialised literature related to the use of criteria in higher education rankings; 3) to describe the impact of rankings on higher education. It offers a systematic review of the scientific literature concerning university rankings from 2000-2013. In total, twenty-eight articles were reviewed. In this study the systematic review, has been chosen because it facilitates a comparison of the various conceptual perspectives of rankings in higher education by specifically delimiting conceptualisation and analysing the indicators; it also enables us to analyse the impact of rankings on the way universities operate. The analysis derived from these reviews highlights a number of factors: increasing interest in the topic among the scientific community; the emergence of new rankings; greater sophistication of criteria used; growing awareness of the impact the visibility of rankings is having on both social and academic spheres. The systems of comparison between universities worldwide provide information that is useful to stakeholders and helps to improve institutions of higher education. However, the problem may arise when such information is used improperly. The results show that an evolution has been observed in the criteria used by the principal higher education rankings. This evolution has manifested itself in various ways: the use of a combination of indicators, sophistication of criteria, and use of mathematic formulae with the aim of enhancing the potential for comparison and information.

Keywords: Higher Education, Rankings, Systematic Review

The International Journal of Learning in Higher Education, Volume 21, Issue 3-4, February 2015, pp.1-12. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: February 10, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 828.980KB)).

Diego Castro

Junior Professor, Department Applied Pedagogy, Universitat Autònoma de Barceloan, Bellaterra, Catalunya, Spain

Marina Tomàs Folch

Professor, Department Applied Pedagogy, Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain