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What’s the deal about international ranking?

In many parts of the world, university rankings are used by students and researchers to compare and select the universities where they want to be admitted or do research.

This practice is not so widespread among Danish students who typically use other platforms for choosing where to study. However, rankings may still be important for attracting international students, researchers and other academic staff to Danish universities.

Being able to attract scholars or students from other parts of the world can be considered as a sign of quality when Danish universities are selected among a global market for research and education. Also, it is in itself  valuable for universities to attract talent from around the world.

In addition, many educational actors, use university rankings to monitor research and educational quality, and more recently also sustainability. In many cases, ranking results are also used as management information in various degrees.

Important features to ranking

University rankings can seem complicated and unsatisfying to some people because rankings typically measure performance using quantitative parameters of varying scopes, which allows for benchmarking across the global university sector.

This condition leads to what you might call, an almost natural challenge of capturing ‘all there is’, as well as any differences caused by national context. This is nearly impossible when we try to measure different phenomenon in society.

It is also one of the main reasons why rankings are sometimes met with skepticism. Therefore, it is important to point out that rankings are far from, nor should it be, the only tool that is used when universities plan their future developments.

This means that each of the international rankings does not necessarily reflect the universities practice as a whole, but in their own way seeks to illuminate the universities' performance, within different areas using different indicators.

Ranking as a tool

All though the lacking nature of rankings is a well-known challenge, as described above, university rankings have nonetheless become a very significant and prestigious practice.

This especially because it allows the individual university to compare itself with other universities. For example, the universities that are the most similar or the most recognized universities.

As mentioned, the advantage of rankings is that they measure and compare the practices of different universities based on the same conditions. That way, rankings can provide insight into why another university is doing well, or conversely what it would take to reach a matching goal or level.

This knowledge of how one's own practices performs compared to others should therefore not be underestimated, as it can be valuable information for decision-making.

Ranking as a driving force

The value of international rankings has contributed to a growing awareness and interest in rankings both globally and nationally.

Many large and famous universities participate and follow the developments on various rankings. Therefore, the competition is particularly fierce on the rankings which many educational or political actors looks to.

In this way, international rankings have become important tools in the global sector of education and creates certain perspectives of both quality and sustainability. None the less rankings must be understood with the potential to be a driving force that, when used wisely, can contribute to a positive development in universities around the world, where universities learn from each other's success.

‘Wisely’ in this context meaning an underlying focus on the overall purpose of becoming, not the best in the world, but the best for the world.

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Last Updated 06.10.2023