Higher Education Reform

Which University Rankings Should You Trust?

May 26, 2016 1949

In an animated presentation from her new book, Global University Rankings and the Mediatization of Higher Education, our blogger Michelle L. Stack takes a student-focused approach to answer the question, “Which university rankings should you trust?”

There are at least 12 university rankings that claim to be global, and in this video Stack focuses on the big three — the Times Higher Education, QS, and the Academic Ranking of World Universities. She asks what does being a “top-ranked” university mean to students? And who decides this ranking anyway? Sometimes a ranking is just a proxy for how much money a university spends divided by the number of students. And sometimes universities game rejection rates — a a high rejection rate suggests an elite institution — to encourage students to apply just so those same students can get denied. And the rankings don’t measure other things, such as student debt, student poverty or the frequency of sexual violence on campus, all things that might matter more to students than the prestige of the future alma mater.


Michelle Stack is associate professor in the Department of Educational Studies at the University of British Columbia, Canada. Her research centers on the role of media and market logics in the transformation of education; media education; and media-academic communication aimed at expanding public debate about what a good education is. Prior to becoming an academic Michelle was a communications director and policy consultant. Michelle can also be found on twitter at @MichelleLStack

View all posts by Michelle L. Stack

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