In the era of globalization, accountability, and benchmarking, university rankings have achieved a kind of iconic status. The major ones—the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU, or the “Shanghai rankings”), the QS (Quacquarelli Symonds Limited) World University Rankings, and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (THE)—are newsworthy across the world. In this nation, the US News & World Report's influential and widely criticized ranking of America's colleges and universities, now in its 17th year, creates media buzz every year—who is “up” and who is “down”? Indeed, most of the national rankings are sponsored by magazines or other media outlets: US News in the United States, Maclean's in Canada, Der Spiegel in Germany, the Asahi Shimbun in Japand, the Good University Guide in the United Kingdom, Perspektywy in Poland, and numerous others worldwide.
Philip G. Altbach is Monan professor of higher education and director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College.