Report on University Rankings from South African

The Council on Higher Education, located in Pretoria, South Africa, has published a report on university rankings, which Sioux McKenna researched and drafted.

The report focuses on five rankings: the Shanghai Rankings, the QS World University Rankings, Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings, Webometrics, and the National Taiwan University Rankings. Other ranking systems are also noted.

The report notes that THE and QS are at the centre of a multi-million-dollar data processing industry and argue that the scientific foundations of global rankings are very shaky. Their methodology is far from transparent, and they impose a single model of higher education on a complex and very diverse reality.

Furthermore, global rankings are essentially neoliberal and neocolonial and discriminate against institutions that lack medical schools, emphasise teaching rather than research, or focus on social or community impact. There are also many cases of universities following inappropriate policies to manipulate the system to their advantage.

The report concludes that rankings “are ubiquitous, but they are based on poor science and pit institutions against each other in ways that do harm to the sector as a whole.”  Universities should criticise the rankings industry, but that critique “needs to be accompanied by far deeper questions as to the purposes of higher education and how it might be safeguarded from the degrading effects of industries milking the sector for profits.*

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