Last week, EUA published a new report on rankings ‘Rankings in Institutional Strategies and Processes: Impact or Illusion?‘ (RISP) where the project examines in detail how rankings are used for institutional development across Europe. This report directly follows up on two earlier EUA reports on rankings that had primary focus on analyzing the methodology of rankings. Earlier this year, NIFU also published a report on the Nordic countries, where focus was on a comprehensive deconstruction of the rankings to identify what assures success, and to examine the impact of rankings on the leadership of research intensive universities in the Nordic region.
Data for the EUA report was gathered in various forms. An online survey was sent out to all EUA members (about 850). The survey yielded responses from 171 institutions in 39 countries, with a broad coverage of various European countries. 90% of the respondents came from instituions who are part of a ranking. Folloing up on the survey, a total of 48 meetings were conducted through six site visits to understand in more detail how instituions work with rankings, and a roundtable was organised with 25 participants from 18 European countries to create an arena for peer learning and sharing of experiences.
The main conclusion from this project is that rankings indeed do have an effect on institutional behaviour, but that this effect varies. 60% of those who answered in the survey replied that rankings are used in their institutional strategies – but the specific kind of use varied from examining certain indicators to using them in a comprehensive manner. Furthermore, it is highlighted that as many as 39% report that the results of rankings “to inform strategic, organisational, managerial or academic actions, and another third of respondents were planning to do so”. Unsurprisingly, rankings were widely used in marketing, but the respondents had also reported use in “the revision of university policies, the prioritisation of some research areas, recruitment criteria, resource allocation, revision of formal procedures, and the creation of departments or programme”.