A study of the relationship between global rankings and national higher education initiatives and global rankings has been published in Humanities and Social Sciences Communications by Congbin Guo, Peking University, Jiaqui Wu, China Agricultural University, and Tizhen Hu, Peking University.
The article notes that several countries, including Germany, Russia, China, South Korea, India, Poland, Saudi Arabia, and Japan, have started programmes with the intention of improving higher education and research performance.
The study is based on a Staggered Difference in Differences Model and used data from the Shanghai Rankings (ARWU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was found that higher education initiatives led to significant improvement in the rankings and that universities that participated did better than those that did not. Change was greater in the ARWU than in the QS rankings.
The authors suggest that initiatives have a significant effect on teaching and research quality but that there is a lesser effect on research of the highest quality which is not so responsive to increased investment. The impact of such initiatives was much greater in the Asia-Pacific region than in Europe.
In conclusion, higher education initiatives have generally had a positive impact on performance in the two global rankings. It would, however, be advisable for governments and universities to avoid over-emphasis on short-term objectives.