I often wondered why higher education institutions became implicated in media-business rankings. The major rankings that I analysed for my book, Global University Rankings and the Mediatization of Higher Education, use indicators that tell us more about the wealth of an institution than the quality of students’ educational experience. Rankings have been part of a seismic shift in determining the mission of universities, a shift in who and what is seen as showing evidence of excellence. They play a pivotal role in the dramatic increase in higher education institutions’ spend on marketing and public relations.
I started to write my book on rankings two years ago, and since that time the number of issues plaguing institutions – including top-ranked HEIs – seems only to be increasing. In the US, 157 colleges are under federal investigation for their handling of sexual assault. Too often students report academic leadership being more concerned about the institution’s reputation than the safety of students. But how an institution attempts to deal with systemic violence is not included in determining whether a university is excellent at a world-class level.