Concerns growing over ‘gaming’ in university rankings

Universities determined to rise up international rankings are increasingly ‘playing’ the methodology, Shaun Curtis of the University of Exeter in the UK told the “Worldviews 2013” conference last week. One way is to seek support from colleagues in other institutions who are answering rankings questionnaires, and another is to game the data. 

Some universities, said Curtis, who is director of ‘International Exeter’, were encouraging people to support their institutions in reputation surveys. Recently he received an email from a colleague at a partner university reminding him that a rankings questionnaire was on the horizon.

“The colleague listed the university’s achievements in recent years and the trajectory it had travelled – and a quite useful link to the questionnaire was given as well. There was no direct approach, but you could see what was happening.”

It was also possible to play the data. “I was amazed to see an advert from an Australian university that was looking to employ rankings managers on incredibly high salaries. And why did they want to do that? Basically, you can play the rankings game.

“Perhaps a university can rise up the rankings because they have world-class data crunchers.”

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