This study examines the ways in which different research perspectives have tended to problematize global university rankings (GURs). An analytical framework is applied to help articulate four distinct research discourses that have been applied to GURs. The framework distinguishes research problems which are locally defined and ‘emergent’ from those which are ‘a priori’ and seek to test data against established bodies of knowledge. The analysis in this paper considers the contribution made from studies framed by these contrasting perspectives. The paper considers the extent to which different research approaches align with or challenge the dominant discourses within higher education internationally. The analysis shows how the research perspective adopted relates to the nature of policy and practice responses proposed; both in terms of the audience(s) they are addressed to; and the extent to which policy and practice solutions are structural and systemic or social practice oriented. The paper highlights some of the implications of the prevailing research orientation for the trajectory of GUR development.
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The ‘Academic Ranking of World Universities’ launched in 2003 and the Times Higher Education Supplement’s ‘World University Rankings’ launched in 2004.
These include the UNESCO backed ‘International rankings expert group’; the OECD ‘Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes' project; and the EU funded ‘U-Multirank’ project.
Academic search complete, JSTROR, web of science on web of knowledge.
But, rather, some specialist professional ranking or ranking method applied to different subject matter.
The majority being in the Times Higher Education Supplement, but also other press including the Washington Post, the Telegraph and the Guardian.
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See Table 1.
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O’Connell, C. Research discourses surrounding global university rankings: exploring the relationship with policy and practice recommendations. High Educ 65, 709–723 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-012-9572-x
- Global university rankings
- Research frameworks
- Policy and practice implications