Do university rankings contribute to transparency?

Locke, William (2008). Do university rankings contribute to transparency? In: CHE Symposium: Counting, measuring, estimating…a blessing or a curse for higher education institutions?, 19-20 Jun 2008, Berlin, Germany.



The paper outlines the findings of research into league tables (university rankings) and their impact on higher education institutions (HEIs) in England. It suggests that league tables fit well with the UK's hierarchy of institutions and the increased marketisation and consumerism of the higher education system.

However, university rankings are shown to largely reflect and reinforce reputation and tend to conceal quality, performance, added value, value for money, fitness for purpose etc (in other words, the very information that consumers of HE are looking for). HEIs in the UK are responding to university rankings and the individual indicators featured, but they are obscuring better measures of mission achievement and inducing perverse behaviour.

In effect, it is argued, league tables maintain and refine the hierarchy of HEIs, despite the abolition of the binary divide between universities and polytechnics in 1992 and the creation of new, so-called ‘teaching-only’, universities from the larger previously higher education colleges in 2004.

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