http://chronicle.com/img/subscribe_11_2011.jpgBy Ellen Hazelkorn. The main global rankings of universities have been published recently and with them, the predictable news headlines. However, over the years, the headlines have taken on a more geopolitical edge: An opinion article in The Wall Street Journal asks “Can U.S. Universities Stay on Top?” Public Affairs Ireland claims, “Irish Universities Lose Ground in World Rankings.” ABS-CBN News in the Philippines says, “Budget Cuts Blamed for Low University Rankings.” And The Telegraph celebrates, “British Universities on the Rise.”
It seems clear that it’s not just university “insiders,” as my colleague Michael Bastedo suggests, who are interested in the rankings. National competitiveness and a country’s ability to attract investment and talent are now bound up in the prestige associated with global rankings.
The pervasive focus on the top 100 can obscure the changing geography of academic activity. While major structural inequalities exist between developed economies and the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), the inequity depends on what is being measured. Many countries in the developed world are experiencing a severe crisis of public and private debt, but Brazil’s development bank has a balance sheet four times that of the World Bank, and China and India are both investing heavily. More...