Evaluation, Indicators, and Rankings

Because universities have a key place in the knowledge production system, it is relevant to understand the evaluation of universities. Particularly, it is important to review what indicators are used to evaluate academic research and whether there are indicators related to research networks and research collaboration (Godin and Gingras, 2000).

The university evaluation is both external and internal. Externally, some terms may be used to approximate meanings, such as assessment, review, audit, (or) accreditation, values, and quality.

As regards Clark (1983), higher education systems are subject to a greater or lesser degree than the three main forces—academia, state, and market—that define three types of systems: systems influenced by an academic oligarchy, systems where the state has greater weight, and systems more turned to market. Evaluation turns out to position itselfamong these three points of tension: expert judgment, performance indicators for assessment, and evaluation of the market. Multiple actors and stakeholders in university evaluation have diverse values for quality and diverse evaluation methods (Brennan, 2008). The academic perspective gives preference to peer review and managerial audit, pedagogical evaluation is associated with student feedback, relevance-centered evaluation draws attention to social expectations by using performance indicators, and consumerism is linked to competitive behavior and is market oriented (see Table 5.1).

Rankings fit a variety of purposes. A part of the rationale for rankings advocates that society and, more specifically, those who finance higher education want to and should get to know which academic institutions are the best. University can use the rankings and indicators to improve institutional performance and, specifically, increase the research, both individually and as groups and research networks. From this perspective, we consider rankings as a source ofindicators. The same indicators are seen in various rankings, both global and national levels.

We know that the global rankings of universities can be well-established influences over the behavior of different stakeholders. Thus, the use of rankings should be weighted according to the defined objectives and the choice of desired global positioning (Alperin, 2013; Hazelkorn, 2014; Marope et al., 2013). Higher education leaders know that high rank enhances visibility, which leads to some higher education institutions developing recruitment strategies, knowledge production strategies, and marketing strategies.

Table 5.1 Values and quality assessment



Common method (example)



Subject: knowledge and curricula Organizational: policies and procedures

Peer review Audit


Professional roles: skills and competencies

Student feedback


Graduates: standards and learning outcomes

Performance indicators


“Customers”: experiences and satisfactions

“Information” from student surveys

Source: Brennan (2008)

In the next section, we will try to look at rankings in its positivity, not forgetting the dilemmas of their misuse and adverse effects.

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