From University Rankings to Benchmarking

There are an increasing number of national and international rankings of higher education institutions. Recently, the ranking of universities in the world has attracted much debate and controversy. In particular, the credibility and reliability of some of the methodologies used to arrive at these rankings has been a major source of concern. Although rankings are important for students, research institutions, industry and academics, the ranking systems have flaws and biases. The university rankings have a signalling effect to the market in terms of public perception on the quality of higher education provided by universities. Perceptions generated from ranking of universities can shape or determine the legitimacy of an institution as well as the public perception on the quality of education provided by that institution. However, there are a number of the challenges posed by university ranking. First, the danger of ranking systems, especially in universities in developed countries, is that they may lead to redesigning of strategy to improve in the rankings rather than to do what's right for the local setting. Secondly, ranking universities with different backgrounds in terms of history, areas of focus, missions and vision is faulty. Each of the universities possesses unique attributes that need to be strengthened for quality higher education. Thirdly, a further critique of the ranking systems is that they are designed to say who is better than who, rather than how good you are and whether you have improved or regressed.

Benchmarking among universities is a better approach to enhancing quality and overall university performance. Benchmarking is more of a learning process structured so as to enable universities engaging in the process to compare their services/activities/products wholesomely in order to identify their comparative strengths and weaknesses as a basis for self improvement and/or self-regulation.

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