Major findings are:
1. Trends in recent years demonstrate that the number of
global university rankings is likely to keep growing,
although they will become more specialised.
2. Policy makers and society at large often see global
university rankings as tools for university “transparency”,
although it might be difficult to argue the reverse – i.e.
that, were there no rankings, universities would be “nontransparent”.
3. The landscape of existing global university rankings is
• University rankings whose main purpose is to produce
league tables of top universities only – the Shanghai
Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU)
ranking, mainly based on research indicators; the Times
Higher Education (THE) ranking initially in cooperation
with Quacquarelli Symands (THE-QS), since 2010 THE in
cooperation with Thomson Reuters (THE-TR); and using
a different set of indicators; the Russian Reitor ranking,
• University rankings concerning research performance
only – with or without league tables − the Leiden
Ranking with no composite score, the Taiwan Higher
Education Accreditation Evaluation Council university
ranking (HEEACT) with a league table based on a
composite score, and the EU Assessment of University-
Based Research (AUBR) which is a research assessment
methodology targeted at transparency for various
purposes, rather than a ranking.
• University rankings and classifications using a number
of indicators with no intention of producing composite
scores or league tables – the original German Centre
of Higher Education Development (CHE) university
ranking was designed to help potential students choose
a university according to their requirements, the EU
U-Map classification to allow them to find and compare
universities with similar profiles, and the EU U-Multirank
ranking to compare the performance of universities in
various aspects of their activities.
• OECD is in the initial phases of its Assessment of Higher
Education Learning Outcomes (AHELO), which is
intended to benchmark universities according to the
actual learning outcomes demonstrated by students.
• Rankings of universities only according to their visibility
on the web – Webometrics.
4. Despite their many shortcomings, biases and flaws
‘rankings enjoy a high level of acceptance among
stakeholders and the wider public because of their
simplicity and consumer-type information’ (AUBR
Expert Group 2009). Thus, university rankings are not
going to disappear; indeed, the number of rankings is
expected to increase although they will become more
specialised (Marginson, 2011).