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Rickety numbers: Volatility of university rankings and policy implications

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Author Info

  • Saisana, Michaela
  • d'Hombres, Béatrice
  • Saltelli, Andrea

Abstract

The most popular world university rankings are routinely taken at face value by media and social actors. While these rankings are politically influential, they are sensitive to both the conceptual framework (the set of indicators) and the modelling choices made in their construction (e.g., weighting or type of aggregation). A robustness analysis, based on a multi-modelling approach, aims to test the validity of the inference about the rankings produced in the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) of Shanghai Jiao Tong University and those produced by the UK's Times Higher Education Supplement (THES). Conclusions are drawn on the reliability of individual university ranks and on relative country or macro regional performance (e.g., Europe versus USA versus China) in terms of the number of top performing institutions. We find that while university and country level statistical inferences are unsound, the inference on macro regions is more robust. The paper also aims to propose an alternative ranking which is more dependant on the framework than on the methodological choices.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Research Policy.

Volume (Year): 40 (2011)
Issue (Month): 1 (February)
Pages: 165-177

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Handle: RePEc:eee:respol:v:40:y:2011:i:1:p:165-177

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/respol

Related research

Keywords: University Ranking Composite indicator Uncertainty analysis Sensitivity analysis;

References

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  1. Acemoglu, Daron & Aghion, Philippe & Zilibotti, Fabrizio, 2002. "Distance to Frontier, Selection, and Economic Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 3467, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Laurens Cherchye & Knox Lovell & Wim Moesen & Tom Van Puyenbroeck, 2005. "One Market, One Number? A Composite Indicator Assessment of EU Internal Market Dynamics," Public Economics Working Paper Series ces0513, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Centrum voor Economische Studiën, Working Group Public Economics.
  3. Sapir, Andre & Aghion, Philippe & Bertola, Giuseppe & Hellwig, Martin & Pisani-Ferry, Jean & Rosati, Dariusz & Vinals, Jose & Wallace, Helen, 2004. "An Agenda for a Growing Europe: The Sapir Report," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199271498.
  4. Jacobs, Bas & van der Ploeg, Frederick, 2005. "Guide to Reform of Higher Education: A European Perspective," CEPR Discussion Papers 5327, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Billaut, Jean-Charles & Bouyssou, Denis & Vincke, Philippe, 2010. "Should you believe in the Shanghai ranking? An NCDM view," Economics Papers from University Paris Dauphine 123456789/2947, Paris Dauphine University.
  6. Philippe Aghion & Mathias Dewatripont & Caroline Hoxby & Andreu Mas-Colell & André Sapir, . "Higher aspirations: an agenda for reforming European universities," Blueprints, Bruegel, number 1, October.
  7. Giuseppe Nicoletti & Stefano Scarpetta & Olivier Boylaud, 2000. "Summary Indicators of Product Market Regulation with an Extension to Employment Protection Legislation," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 226, OECD Publishing.
  8. Andrea Saltelli, 2007. "Composite Indicators between Analysis and Advocacy," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 81(1), pages 65-77, March.
  9. Frederik Booysen, 2002. "An Overview and Evaluation of Composite Indices of Development," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 59(2), pages 115-151, August.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Athanassoglou, Stergios, 2013. "Multidimensional welfare rankings," MPRA Paper 51642, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Kenney, Martin & Patton, Donald, 2011. "Does inventor ownership encourage university research-derived entrepreneurship? A six university comparison," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(8), pages 1100-1112, October.
  3. Mathies, Charles & Slaughter, Sheila, 2013. "University trustees as channels between academe and industry: Toward an understanding of the executive science network," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(6), pages 1286-1300.

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