Higher Education

, Volume 49, Issue 4, pp 495–533 | Cite as

Academic quality, league tables, and public policy: A cross-national analysis of university ranking systems

  • David D. DillEmail author
  • Maarja Soo


The global expansion of access to higher education has increased demand for information on academic quality and has led to the development of university ranking systems or league tables in many countries of the world. A recent UNESCO/CEPES conference on higher education indicators concluded that cross-national research on these ranking systems could make an important contribution to improving the international market for higher education. The comparison and analysis of national university ranking systems can help address a number of important policy questions. First, is there an emerging international consensus on the measurement of academic quality as reflected in these ranking systems? Second, what impact are the different ranking systems having on university and academic behavior in their respective countries? Finally, are there important public interests that are thus far not reflected in these rankings? If so, is there a needed and appropriate role for public policy in the development and distribution of university ranking systems and what might that role be? This paper explores these questions through a comparative analysis of university rankings in Australia, Canada, the UK, and the US.


academic quality higher education policy league tables organizational report cards university rankings 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Program on Public Policy for Academic Quality (PPAQ), Department of Public PolicyUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

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