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  • Open Access
  • © 2020

World Class Universities

A Contested Concept

  • Integrates a broad array of conceptual, theoretical and empirical analyses of The World Class University from the humanities and social sciences

  • Pays specific attention to current and emerging educational competitiveness strategies in China and the Global South

  • Considers different ideals and concrete plans of action for achieving a higher education system that is truly world-class

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Softcover Book USD 84.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 59.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)

Table of contents (18 chapters)

  1. Front Matter

    Pages i-x
  2. Welcome to the World Class University: Introduction

    • Sharon Rider, Michael A. Peters, Mats Hyvönen, Tina Besley
    Pages 1-8Open Access
  3. What’s in a Word?

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 9-9
    2. Becoming World Class: What It Means and What It Does

      • Mats Benner
      Pages 25-40Open Access
    3. Three Notions of the Global

      • Sharon Rider
      Pages 41-55Open Access
  4. World-Class Around the World

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 57-57
    2. World Class at All Costs

      • Mats Hyvönen
      Pages 107-121Open Access
    3. The Paradox of the Global University

      • Mitchell L. Stevens, Sonia Giebel
      Pages 123-137Open Access
  5. Playing the World-Class Numbers Game

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 139-139
    2. World Class Universities, Rankings and the Global Space of International Students

      • Mikael Börjesson, Pablo Lillo Cea
      Pages 141-170Open Access
    3. The State Role in Excellent University Policies in the Era of Globalization: The Case of China

      • Fan-Hua Meng, Xiao-Ming Tian, Tien-Hui Chiang, Yi Cai
      Pages 197-217Open Access
  6. The Future of World-Class Universities

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 219-219
    2. The Marketingisation of Higher Education

      • Paul Gibbs
      Pages 221-233Open Access
    3. Spaces of Life: Transgressions in Conceptualising the World Class University

      • Sonja Arndt, Søren Smedegaard Bengtsen, Carl Mika, Rikke Toft Nørgård
      Pages 251-267Open Access

About this book

This open access book focuses on the dimensions of the discourse of 'The World Class University', its alleged characteristics, and its policy expressions. It offers a broad overview of the historical background and current trajectory of the world-class-university construct. It also deepens the theoretical discussion, and points a way forward out of present impasses resulting from the pervasive use and abuse of the notion of "world-class" and related terms in the discourse of quality assessment. The book includes approaches and results from fields of inquiry not otherwise prominent in Higher Education studies, including philosophy and media studies, as well as sociology, anthropology, educational theory.

The growing impact of global rankings and their strategic use in the restructuring of higher education systems to increase global competitiveness has led to a ‘reputation race’ and the emergence of the global discourse of world class universities. The discourse of world class universities has rapid uptake in East Asian countries, with China recently refining its strategy. This book provides insights into this process and its future development.


  • open access
  • higher education policy
  • global rankings and league tables
  • audit culture and the university
  • universities and liberal education
  • mediatization and the university
  • academic excellence and marketization
  • higher education and performance indicators
  • academic freedom
  • global educational competitiveness
  • world class university discourse
  • academic capitalism

Editors and Affiliations

  • Department of Philosophy, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

    Sharon Rider

  • Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China

    Michael A. Peters, Tina Besley

  • Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

    Mats Hyvönen

About the editors

Sharon Rider is Professor of Philosophy at Uppsala University, specializing on the cultural conditions for knowledge and rational agency. She was Vice Dean of the Faculty of Arts 2008-2014, and is currently Deputy Director of the Swedish Research Council-funded Engaging Vulnerability Program. Rider is on the Scientific Advisory Board for the Swedish International Cooperation Agency, and a member of the Royal Society of Humanities. In 2015, she was the first recipient of the HumTank award for significant contribution to the humanities. 

Michael A. Peters, FRSNZ is Distinguished Professor, Faculty of Education, Beijing Normal University, P.R. China and Emeritus Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, USA. He is editor-in-chief of Educational Philosophy and Theory and Beijing International Review of Education, and founding editor of six international journals. His interests are the intersections of philosophy, education and political economy and he has written over 100 books, including works on Wittgenstein, Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard. He was awarded honorary doctorates by State University of New York in 2012 and University of Aalborg in 2015. 

Mats Hyvönen is a Media and Communications scholar at Uppsala University and research coordinator for the Engaging Vulnerability Research Program. Specializing in media history, he is interested in the vulnerability of the public sphere and how media both feed and resist that vulnerability. Mats is currently conducting research on contemporary and historical links between journalism and academic scholarship.

Tina Besley is a Distinguished Professor, Faculty of Education at Beijing Normal University, P.R. China. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, UK; of the Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia, and the Association for Visual Pedagogies. Tina is deputy editor for Educational Philosophy and Theory, associate editor for the Beijing International Review of Education and is Project Manager for PESA Agora.  She is Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia Past President and Founding President of the Association for Visual Pedagogies. 

Bibliographic Information

Buying options

Softcover Book USD 84.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 59.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)