Every year, university managers (and, if the truth were told, many of the academics who work in universities) eagerly await the results of the various ranking agencies that have grown up in the last two decades. There is now a wide range of ranking systems published each year. University strategies are built around them, very significant resources dedicated to support those strategies, and organisational structures remodelled in pursuit of the objective of moving institutions closer to the top of whichever is the preferred ranking.
A recent paper, one of whose authors (Ralph Kuncl) discusses the issue in InsideHigherEd, argues that ‘small movements up or down in the rankings are more or less irrelevant. For most universities in the top 40, any movement of two spots or less should be considered noise’ and that for colleges outside the top 40, ‘moves up or down of four spots should be thought of as noise, too.’
Kuncl also examines the resources that would have to be dedicated to move universities up the scale and his conclusions make interesting reading, especially for politicians who make having more of their national universities at the top of the rankings as a policy objective and also for university managers who proclaim a place right at the top of the rankings as their institution’s strategic objective.
The piece, with a link to the full paper in Research in Higher Education, can be found here: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/06/03/what-would-it-really-take-be-us-news-top-20#sthash.gGktbQDQ.dpbs