All members should have received information about the newly completed World 100 ranking influencer research project: “THE RANKING INFLUENCERS: How academics and employers determine the best universities”.

In our most comprehensive research project yet, a clear sense has emerged of what academics in particular think about world university rankings and the factors that they consider when taking part in the reputation surveys which form an important part of many of the league tables.

If you haven’t had a chance to digest the full report yet, the Executive Summary and infographic are helpful in synthesising the key findings.

Two things, in particular, struck me whilst reading the research; first, the extent to which academics recognised that the rankings, however much they may be decried, have become a firm part of the higher education system.  A high proportion of those we interviewed face-to-face recalled having been asked to fill in a reputation survey themselves.  And there was wide recognition that they use the rankings when thinking about which universities to nominate beyond their generally narrow range of institutions with which they are actively familiar.

Second, I was reminded that, whilst we communicators and marketeers think we are very familiar with everything to do with rankings, it is very much worth re-familiarising ourselves with the particular methodologies of each survey to understand the influence that reputation has on the results. (The report contains a handy methodology table for each of THEQS, and US News Best Global Universities).

A firm conclusion of the ranking influencer research is that universities who don’t already have a rankings strategy need to think hard about developing one; and those who do can take some key lessons from the findings, particularly around supporting their academics as ambassadors for their institution.

Some in senior positions in universities still baulk at the idea of engaging with rankings; but they are here to stay, and are undoubtedly used by some of our key influencing audiences- including increasingly by governments around the world.

We’ll have much more about rankings in this newsletter in the future – although not TOO much. Finding better ways to measure and influence reputation will be a key focus for the World 100 Reputation Network.