Transparency instruments: classifications, rankings and the search for institutional profiles

The current rankings are confronted with strong methodological criticism regarding a whole set of aspects. But a more fundamental problem of rankings is so far only very limitedly addressed. This is the epistemological problem of the choice of indicators: what are the basic criteria on which a selection of indicators in a ranking tool can be based?

I will argue that an ‘objective’ selection of indicators does not exist and that therefore all rankings should be ‘user-driven’. It should be left to the various categories of users and stakeholders to decide which indicators will be applied to construct particular rankings.

Using this perspective, two new transparency tools in higher education will be presented: U-Map, the European higher education classification tool, and U-Multirank, the new global multidimensional ranking instrument. Both new transparency instruments imply a completely new way of designing and displaying the profiles of higher education institutions.

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