Brian Leiter on Ranking Universities

Academic Ethics: To Rank or Not to Rank?
Brian Leiter
The Chronicle of Higher Education
July 12, 2017

QS recently released its World University Rankings for 2018. QS stands for "Quacquarelli and Symonds" but I like to joke that "Quirky Silliness" is a more apt description of the list, given the results.

In the two academic fields I know best — law and philosophy — there is no "world" scholarly enterprise, and so the rankings are entirely driven by the proportion of respondents from different regions of the world, plus the halo effect of university name recognition. (I have heard similar things from colleagues in other fields.) QS does not, however, disclose the geographic distribution of its survey respondents, so the extent of the distorting effect cannot be determined.

QS is merely one player in a new industry of ranking universities on a global scale. Times Higher Education, in Britain, now produces its own rankings. A third list, the ShanghaiRankings, was started by a university in Shanghai but is now independent. Each list has problems, but QS stands out for its dubious business practices.

Brian Leiter