Edward Elgar has published the Research Handbook on University Rankings: Theory, Methodology, Influence and Impact, edited by Ellen Hazelkorn, Professor Emerita Dublin Technological University, and Georgiana Mihut, University of Warwick. The book contains a total of 37 chapters by well-known experts and emerging researchers plus a foreword by Philip Altbach.
The book covers a broad variety of topics relating to international rankings and it is likely to be the standard authority for some years to come although the price will mean that only institutions are going to buy it.
Altbach’s foreword summarises the attitude of many in the academic and research communities. It is critical of the “big three” global rankings, QS, THE and Shanghai, but in the end, it is resigned to their existence and pervasive influence.
Railing against the rankings will not make them go away; competition, the need to benchmark, and indeed the inevitable logic of globalization, make them a lasting part of the academic landscape of the 21st century. The challenge is to understand the nuances, uses, — and misuses – of the rankings.
Here, Altbach reveals a feature of the recent discourse on rankings, namely an excessive focus on the big three. There are many interesting and technically competent international rankings that barely get a mention in this volume. The Center for World University Rankings (CWUR) appears only twice in the entire book and the Russian Round University Rankings, the Taiwan National University Rankings, and the SCImago Institutional Rankings only once each.
That leads to another limitation. It is good to see that there are a few contributions from Hong Kong and Mainland China but there appear to be none from the whole of South Asia and only one from Africa South of the Sahara. This is a pity since the chapter by Damtew Teferra of the University of Kwazulu-Natal raises the important issue of the contradictions of national and global ranking priorities.
Even with these limitations the Handbook remains the most comprehensive and impressive work on global rankings to date.