Report claims rankings can have positive effects

It seems that global rankings might not be entirely terrible

The Chronicle carries an item on a report suggesting, somewhat surprisingly, that there are some benefits arising from league tables.

The report, “Impact of College Rankings on Institutional Decision Making: Four Country Case Studies,” comments that more than 40 countries have rankings systems, which it describes as “entrenched.”

The report, which is based on interviews with people at more than 20 higher-education institutions in the four countries, seeks to determine what role rankings play on their campuses and to suggest lessons for American institutions. While criticizing the impact of rankings in ways that will be familiar to American readers — skewing priorities, warping hiring decisions, hurting disadvantaged students, and so forth — the interview subjects say that rankings can have positive effects.

Among them are better decision making based on data, better teaching and learning, prompt recognition and easy copying of model programs, and increased collaboration, not just competition, among peer institutions.

However, all require decisive action by institutions – steps which they should be undertaking in any case – and it is far from clear that these positives outweigh the many negatives.

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