Global University Rankings: Determining the Distance Between Asia and 'Superpower Status' in Higher Education

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  • Miguel Antonio Lim
This chapter aims to contribute to the understanding of the dynamics of international university rankings and how they reflect the rise in prestige of Asian higher education institutions. It will use the case of the higher education sector of China, the home country of one of the principal global rankings, the Academic Ranking of World Universities by Shanghai Jiaotong University, to explore the dynamics between rankers, public policy makers and higher education institutions in the context of advancing towards greater competitiveness in the global knowledge economy.

The question of whether Asia is the next higher education superpower seems like a foregone conclusion. As Asian economies expand, many assume that their climb upwards from labour-intensive to more knowledge-intensive production is also assured. At the heart of many public policies to support this transition is support for higher value research and development taking place in the region’s top universities. However, while public policy makers strive to implement these policies, the arbiters as to whether Asia is climbing the ladder of world-class higher education excellence are, in fact, a small number of organisations which produce the well-publicized international university rankings. University rankings are not immodestly described by their makers as ‘exceptionally powerful’ (Baty, 2012). These rankings are invoked as markers of a country’s competitiveness in the knowledge economy. Governments concerned about the reputation of their education sectors are anxious to ensure, sometimes making this an explicit target, that their national 'champions' appear at the top of these rankings. While this is true of many governments, the Chinese government is a notable exception, preferring instead a national policy of creating World-Class Universities without reference to international rankings.

Yet while many Asian universities are rising in these ranking tables, improvement has not been equal across different countries. If anything, the representation of Asian universities among the top global institutions has been much lower than what their growing economic weight would suggest. The perception of quality in higher education appears to be heavily tilted towards the incumbents, based almost exclusively in the West and largely in the Anglosphere. This matters because higher rankings lead to greater international visibility and a greater ability to attract the international talent needed to produce world-class research. By understanding the trajectory of Asian universities in these rankings and their responses to these rankings, we attempt to offer an answer as to whether Asia is slated to become the next higher education superpower.

TitelAsia: The Next Higher Education Superpower
RedaktørerRajika Bhandari, Alessia Lefebure
Antal sider15
UdgivelsesstedNew York
ForlagInstitute of International Education
ISBN (trykt)9780872063754
StatusUdgivet - 2015
SerietitelGlobal Education Research Reports series

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