Global University Rankings and the Quest for National Sovereignty
Global rankings entered the field of higher education (HE) 15 years ago. They encourage universities to compete with each other in research and education both nationally and internationally. It has been argued that they impose a uniform model of an Anglo-Saxon research university on universities worldwide. We might then ask how and why global university rankings have become an indicator of quality of education even in HE systems in which the authorities emphasize the principle of ‘sovereign’ decision-making and the incompatibility of their values with those of the Western world. This paper studies this paradox in the case of Russia. How and why have these ‘global’ rankings become a guide for the authorities to reform the field of HE? For instance, Russia is on the one hand pushing ahead with its 5-100 programme: the plan for at least five of Russia’s universities to rank in the top 100 world universities according to global HE rankings. How is this squared with Russia’s broader policy discourse, which calls for strengthening sovereignty and stresses Russia’s uniqueness? The paper seeks to answer these questions by analysing interviews, documents and media materials both at the national and institutional level.