Complicit reproductions in the Global South: Courting world class universities and global rankings

Jack T Lee, Rajani Naidoo

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract / Description of output

The proliferation of global rankings has led to vigorous debates about the dominance of world-class universities and the encroaching institutional isomorphism in higher education. Specifically, the narrow metrics of rankings celebrate STEM research and institutional reputation at the expense of the humanist roots of higher education: teaching, self-cultivation, and community engagement. This critique on global rankings faces an equally vocal demand that a country must develop world-class universities in order to remain economically competitive in the global era – an instrumental logic that attracts devotees in both advanced economies as well as developing economies. Ironically, policymakers in both contexts simultaneously lament the prevalence of rankings and calibrate strategies to promote success in league tables. Although rankings attract scrutiny in both higher education policymaking and research, the implications of these metrics on higher education in the Global South receive little attention. The discourse is largely focused on top and mid ranking institutions, which are often located in the Global North. In the Global South, global rankings and the concept of world-class universities act through subtle yet powerful mechanisms to shape the contours of higher education. For many institutions and states in the Global South, the fervour is less about creating a world-class university and more about establishing links with well ranked universities (domestically and internationally). Therefore, while the explicit goal is not to build a world-class university, policymakers are nevertheless complicit in reproducing the hegemony of global rankings. This chapter will examine the activities in which global rankings exert tremendous pressure on the Global South: curriculum development, student mobility, faculty recruitment, research partnerships, and strategic planning. In mapping out the mechanisms of reproduction, the goal is to highlight the pervasive influence of global rankings and the complicity in reproduction rather than paint a binary division between the global and local dimensions of higher education.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWorld Class Universities
Subtitle of host publicationA Contested Concept
EditorsSharon Rider, Michael A. Peters, Mats Hyvönen, Tina Besley
Place of PublicationSingapore
PublisherSpringer Singapore
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9789811575983
ISBN (Print)9789811575976
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021

Publication series

NameEvaluating Education: Normative Systems and Institutional Practices
ISSN (Print)2570-0251
ISSN (Electronic)2570-026X

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • higher education
  • Global South
  • universities
  • rankings
  • policy


Dive into the research topics of 'Complicit reproductions in the Global South: Courting world class universities and global rankings'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this