If Ranking is the Disease, Is Benchmarking the Cure?

Preoccupations about university rankings reflect the general recognition that economic growth and global competitiveness are increasingly driven by knowledge and that universities play a key role in that context.  Indeed, tertiary education institutions have a critical role in supporting knowledge-driven economic growth strategies and the construction of democratic, socially cohesive societies.  Through the preparation of a skilled, productive and flexible labour force and the creation, application and dissemination of ideas and technologies, tertiary education helps countries become more globally competitive.

However, attempts to measure and analyze what works at the tertiary education level have emphasized so far the performance of individual institutions, for example in terms of the competitiveness of admissions, research output, and employability of graduates among other factors.  International rankings have focused on the relative standings of countries, using the position of their top universities as proxy of the performance of the entire tertiary education system.  While rankings may provide information about individual institutions in comparison to others, they do not capture adequately the diversity of missions of these institutions, and do not provide an appropriate measure of the overall strength of a country’s tertiary education system.  The presentation will explore the limitations of rankings as a measure of performance of tertiary education systems.  After looking at what institutional rankings actually measure, it will try to explain the difference between rankings and benchmarking methodologies and present the World Bank’s benchmarking tool under construction.

Back to top