A Meta-analysis of International University Rankings: What do they Tell us?

By Michael Herriman.

Published by Journal of the World Universities Forum

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The recent worldwide rankings of universities have been controversial in respect of the indicators chosen to judge universities, and for perceived disciplinary, linguistic and national biases. Each ranking has chosen different indicators and compilation methods make its judgment. Consequently there is wide variation in the scores of individual universities below the top fifth or sixth ranked in each table. Rankings across years show losses and gains in the performance of individual universities that appear hard to account for as occurring in a period of just twelve months. This study analyzes data from the widely acknowledged ranking systems up to the most recent (2010) tables in an attempt to amplify and clarify the indicators that might be thought relevant to the process of ranking. An indicator used across all rankings is citations. An analysis shows that ranking on citations is inconclusive and quite disputable. A few institutions only show some consistency of rank. Uncertainty will remain until the question of the purpose and use of such tables is adequately addressed.

Keywords: University Rankings, Best Universities, Top Universities

Journal of the World Universities Forum, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp.85-106. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 840.900KB).

Prof. Michael Herriman

Professor of English Language, Faculty of Foreign Languages, Nagoya University of Commerce, Nisshin, Aichi, Japan

I teach English communication in an undergraduate and graduate program with 1,000 students. I am also in charge of all English language testing. Prior to this I was director of the English language centre at the University of Western Australia and coordinator of the Masters and PhD programs in Applied Linguistics. I did my PhD at Cornell university. My academic interests have been international and I have held visiting professorships at universities in England, Canada, Russia, Germany and Holland. I have also conducted research in Thailand and China. My main research has been in language acquisition, language testing, language policies and academic writing by university students. This latter work was funded by an Australian Research Council grant.

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