The institutionalization of rankings: managing status anxiety in an increasingly marketized environment

Locke, William (2011). The institutionalization of rankings: managing status anxiety in an increasingly marketized environment. In: Shin, Jung Cheol and Toutkoushian, Robert K. eds. University Rankings: Theoretical Basis, Methodology and Impacts on Global Higher Education. The Changing Academy - The Changing Academic Proffesion in International Comparative Perspective (3). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, pp. 201–228.



This chapter is part of a larger effort to understand how higher education institutions (HEIs) as organizations are responding to marketization, and how this influences intra-institutional relations, organizational cultures, and management styles (Locke and Botas 2009; Locke 2010). A recent study for the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) by the author and colleagues concluded that institutional rankings were being used for a broader range of purposes than originally intended, and bestowed with more meaning than the data alone may bear (Locke 2008). The study found, in particular, that higher education institutions in England were strongly influenced by rankings in both their strategic decision-making and more routine management processes. Case study institutions reported increasing reference to the rankings by prospective students and their families and by academics seeking job opportunities. Other studies have highlighted their use by employers in the marketing of graduate jobs and the selection of candidates (Morley and Aynsley 2007). Yet, analysis of three UK national tables and two world rankings confirmed they largely reflected institutional reputation and resources rather than the quality or performance of institutions.

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