10 October 2014 | Report

Rankings in Institutional Strategies and Processes: Impact or Illusion?

Ellen Hazelkorn, Tia Loukkola and Thérèse Zhang

The publication “Rankings in Institutional Strategies and Processes (RISP): Impact or Illusion?” is the outcome of a 2.5 year EUA-led project, which has carried out the first pan-European study of the impact and influence of rankings on European higher education institutions. 


The study consisted of three steps, an online survey followed by a series of site visits to institutions and a roundtable with senior university managers and stakeholders. The online survey, which gathered responses from 171 higher education institutions in 39 European countries, confirmed that rankings have an impact on institutions and their activities albeit in a number of different ways.

The report demonstrated that the vast majority of respondents had set up processes and structures to monitor rankings performance and developments. Rankings have also had an influence on data collection and monitoring of performance within European universities. Approximately three quarters of respondents also said they used rankings to monitor the performance of other universities/institutions.

The report concludes that while the study has demonstrated that rankings can be an important ingredient in strategic planning, it is vital that each university stays “true” to its mission and should not let itself become “diverted or mesmerised” by rankings. For example, universities should not use rankings to inform resource allocation decisions.

It also notes that it will be important for institutions to improve their capacity to generate comprehensive, high-quality data and information to underpin strategic planning and decision-making so as to be able to provide meaningful, comparative information about institutional performance to the public.

The report ends with a series of questions that are designed to help university leaders in developing institutional responses with regard to rankings.

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