The Question of World University Rankings, Or: On the Challenges Facing Contemporary Higher Education Systems


  • Ivana Gačanović Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade



globalization, universities, scientometry, ranking, anthropology of education, anthropology of science, methodology


In the context of the interrelatedness of the general methodology of science and the methodology of ethnology and anthropology, on the one hand, and the subject of research of the anthropology of science and the anthropology of education, on the other, as exemplified by the current European and Serbian university reforms, the paper considers one of the fundamental consequences of globalization – the increasing need to compare things on a global level. Comparison often involves the reduction of phenomena to just a few features, preferably those that are easily quantifiable. The increasingly popular, and politically increasingly relevant, world unversity rankings are a case in point. By highlighting the phenomenon of the reduction of comparison to competition and the rehabilitation of positivism, the paper explores the way in which the reduction of criteria for „quality control“ and „determining the excellence“ of institutions of higher education through their ranking leads to the possibly irreversible reconceptualization of the concept of higher education, i.e. of the parameters that define it.


Download data is not yet available.


Cooper, Paul. 2004. The gift of education: an anthropological perspective on the commoditization of learning. Anthropology Today 20(6): 5–9.

Cooper, Paul. 2007. Knowing your ‘Lemons’: Quality Uncertainty in UK Higher Education. Quality in Higher Education 13(1): 19-29.

Delanty, Gerard. 2003. Ideologies of the Knowledge Society and the Cultural Contradictions of Higher Education. Policy Futures in Education 1(1): 71-82.

Derek, Bok. 2005. Univerziteti na tržištu. Beograd: Clio.

Douglas, Jacqueline and Alex Douglas. 2006. Evaluating teaching quality. Quality in Higher Education 12(1): 3–13.

Evans, Lewis. 1997. The Quest for Quality in Universities. Agenda 4(4): 399-406.

Florian, Răzvan V. 2007. Irreproducibility of the results of the Shanghai academic ranking of world universities. Scientometrics 72(1): 25-32.

Gačanović, Ivana. 2009. Antropološke perspektive o/u kulturi revizije. Antropologija 8: 82-97.

Griffith, A. and K. Rask. 2007. The Influence of the US News and World Report Collegiate Rankings on the Matriculation Decision of High-Ability Students: 1995-2004. Economics of Education Review 26(2): 244-55.

Hazelkorn, Ellena. 2009a. Impact of Global Rankings on Higher Education Research and the Production of Knowledge. UNESCO Forum on Higher Education, Research and Knowledge, Occasional Paper No. 15: 1-14. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Dostupno na: 0018/001816/181653e.pdf

Hazelkorn, Ellena. 2009b. Rankings and the (re)Construction of Knowledge. Centre for Social and Educational Research. Dostupno na: =1005&context=cseroth

Holmes, Richard. 2006. The THES University Rankings: Are They Really World Class?. Asian Journal of University Education 2(1): 1-14. Dostupno na:

Kornbrot, Diana Eugenie. 2007. Misleading ‘quality’ measures in Higher Education: problems from combining diverse indicators that include subjective ratings and academic performance and costs. Radical Statstics 94: 48-63.

Kovačević, Ivan. 2008. Odnos države prema humanističkim naukama u Srbiji početkom XX veka: Citatometrija kao pokušaj ubistva srpske antropologije. Etnoantropološki problemi 3(2): 27-43.

Kovačević, Ivan. 2009. O ćurkama, pilićima i citatnim indeksima. Antropologija 8: 9-31.

Liessmann, Konrad Paul. 2008. Teorija neobrazovanosti: Zablude društva znanja. Zagreb: Naklada Jesenski i Turk.

Milenković, Miloš. 2009. O brojanju i merenju (drugih) ljudi (za novac). Antropologija 8: 33-52.

Myers, Luke and Jonathan Robe. 2009. College rankings: History, Criticism and Reform. A Report from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, Washington, DC. Dostupno na: _Rankings _History.pdf

Roberts, Andy. 2002. A Principled Complementarity of Method: In Defence of Methodological Eclecticism and the Qualitative-Quantitative Debate. The Qualitative Report 7(3). Dostupno na:

Shore, Cris and Susan Wright. 1999. Audit Culture and Anthropology: Neo-Liberalism in British Higher Education. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 5 (4): 557-75.

Shore, Cris and Susan Wright. 2000. “Coercive accountability: the rise of audit culture and higher education”. In M. Strathern (ed.) Audit cultures: anthropological studies in accountability, ethics and the academy, 57– 89. London: Routledge.

Stella, Antony and David Woodhouse. 2006. Ranking of Higher Education Institutions. AUQA Occasional Publication: 1-26. Dostupno na:

Strathern, Marylin. 2000. The Tyranny of Transparency. British Educational Research Journal 26(3): 309-321.

Webster, David S. 1992. „Reputational Rankings of Colleges, Universities and Individual Disciplines and Fields of Stduy, From Their Beginnings to the Present”. In Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research Vol. 8, ed. J. C. Smart, 234-304. New York: Agathon Press.




How to Cite

Gačanović, Ivana. 2010. “The Question of World University Rankings, Or: On the Challenges Facing Contemporary Higher Education Systems”. Etnoantropološki Problemi / Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 5 (2):185-204.

Most read articles by the same author(s)