Interesting counterblast in the Guardian last week to the puffing and posing that goes with the announcement of the World University Rankings.
'Imagine a newspaper decided to create a table ranking the world's cities,' suggests Malcolm Grant of UCL. 'It would be a nonsensical exercise.' There's no such thing as an ideal university, he says, and trying to compare a university in one country with that in another is ridiculous. Even within countries, universities vary massively. For example, the research income for a science or medical university are going to be much greater than for one focused on the humanities or social sciences, but that doesn't mean that the research of one is 'better' than that of the other. Even using citations is dangerous: Grant points out the example of one of the recent sets of rankings that concluded that Egypt's Alexandria University trumped both Stanford and Harvard for their influential research measured by impact.
'Global rankings have afforded annual light entertainment, but they are now seriously overreaching themselves,' he concludes. 'They do a disservice if they influence student choice, or come to be treated as a performance measure by the leaders of hugely diverse institutions.'