The United Nations University in cooperation with the International Institute for Global Health has published a briefing paper by Tiffany Nassiri-Ansari and David McCoy entitled ‘World-class Universities? Interrogating the Biases and Coloniality of Global University Rankings.’
The paper discusses the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings and the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) and mentions the QS world rankings, the Shanghai public health subject rankings, and the THE and QS attempts to development rankings related to sustainable development.
The authors note that the upper levels of the THE and Shanghai rankings are dominated by Anglo-American universities as is the Shanghai Global Ranking of Academic Subjects (GRAS) ranking of public health programmes. They also note various flaws in ranking methodology including data quality, anglophone bias, the absence of measures of teaching quality, emphasis on research in science and technology, problems with composite indicators, and incentives to commercialisation and competition.
The most salient feature of the rankings, however, is that they “reflect a colonial hierarchy” that reflects the historical privilege of universities and societies in the global North. A number of improvements are suggested such as taking account of the social missions of universities, reducing bias, constructing rankings based on contributions to sustainability and equity, or the development of benchmarking systems. Alternatively, rankings might be abandoned altogether.