International rankings of universities are big business and big news. These systems order universities on the basis of a variety of criteria such as student to staff ratio, income from industry, and reputation as captured through public surveys.
Universities around the world use their rankings as marketing material and parents and prospective students make life choices on the basis of them.
But the methodology underpinning the Quacquarelli Symonds and Times Higher Education ranking systems and others like them would be unlikely to pass as a third year student’s research project. And yet high-status universities around the world spend time and money competing in this extravaganza rather than pointing out that the Emperor is wearing no clothes.
Why would they when the rankings reinforce their position as institutions of choice for those who can afford their fees?
As a researcher of higher education, I find it worrying that we’re held captive