The second survey-based research project conducted by the World 100, this research project looks at the relationship between changes in rankings and reputation as a whole. It aimed to examine to what extent would a rise or fall impact on other reputational matters, such as success in faculty recruitment, student recruitment, international partnerships or media coverage? The main objectives were to discover how a rise or fall in rank is managed and how it impacts upon the institution’s reputation.

The universities involved in the research were those in the top 200 world rankings in the past three years as measured by the two world rankings – the World Academic Rankings of Universities (ARWU), conducted by Shanghai Jiao Tong University and launched in 2003, or the World University Rankings, conducted by The Times Higher Education (THE) and partner QS in 2004. The rankings use different methodologies and metrics with the main difference being that the THE attempts to measure reputation, as well as statistical data, whereas the SJT just looks at statistical data.

In total, 268 institutions were eligible to take part. The survey launched in late 2009 and sought to gather the opinions of leaders (VC, President etc.), directors of communications/external relations and international directors (or similarly named equivalent – e.g. PVC for international relations) of these top global universities. There were 49 valid responses to the survey. Of those who chose to describe their role, the majority were Directors of Communications, or similar, followed by academic leaders.

Senior university leaders were asked:

  • Their ranking preference
  • The reasons for this preference
  • Thoughts on causes of ranking changes
  • Plans and preparation for ranking results
  • The best ways to measure reputation
  • Suggestions for better ways to measure reputation
  • If their university used rankings as part of institutional strategies
  • If their university used rankings as key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • The impact of a decline in the rankings
  • The impact of an improvement in the rankings
  • National versus international impact due to changes in rankings

A few key findings

A key quality metric, global rankings play a role in shaping institutional reputation

The final version of the report from the research, Rise and Fall: Managing reputation associated with significant world ranking change, was published in July 2010. Members of the W100 Network can access the report from the news and resources page.

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