Higher Education in the 21st Century – Diversity of Missions: Abstract by Professor Ellen Hazelkorn

 

Professor Ellen Hazelkorn, Higher Education Policy Research Unit (HEPRU) @ CSER, Director, and Dean, DIT Faculty of Applied Arts
The intensification of the battle for knowledge production, innovation and outputs has significantly elevated the popularity and notoriety of league tables and ranking systems (LTRS). Despite questions being raised about their technical and methodological accuracy, the general conclusion is that policy makers need to get involved lest ‘important public interest’ issues are ignored (Dill and Soo, 2005) and the higher education sector must ‘learn to live with them or at the very least how to play the league table game’ (Bowden, 2000).

This paper will present some results from an international survey of HE leaders and senior managers, conducted in association with the OECD’s Programme for Institutional Management of Higher Education (IMHE) and the International Association of Universities (IAU). Evidence suggests that many HEIs are making strategic choices and operational decisions to improve their ‘positioning’ because they believe a high rank will bestow benefits and advantages, including the best students and faculty, funding and prestige – and all the accoutrements that follow. Institutional leaders and policymakers regularly refer to national and worldwide rankings in speeches, policy strategies, mission statements and publicity material in order to help define policy or influence students, stakeholders and public opinion.

What are the implications of such decisions and actions on higher education, and institutional mission and strategy? Because all institutions are usually measured against a single set of metrics, to what extent do LTRS emphasise a ‘one size fits all’ model of institution?