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This test assesses your ability to write an essay expressing your views, supported by ideas from published sources.

Your essay will be assessed for

content originality and relevance of ideas, and appropriate use of source material

organisation overall structure, coherence and cohesion

language grammar and vocabulary

Notes and instructions


This booklet has 10 printed pages (excluding the cover page).


Read articles A to C analytically.


After reading the three articles, answer the following question in about 500 words.

Universities today are increasingly concerned with achieving high positions in global rankings. Do you think the effects of this pursuit are positive or negative for university faculty and students?

In your answer, you should draw mainly on your own knowledge, experiences and views and make references to the texts (with acknowledgement) to support your views.


Use your own words and do not copy from the text, except when you use a quotation to support your own ideas. Such quotations should be acknowledged and should not be overused.


To help you formulate and organise ideas for your essay, you are advised to plan your essay on page 5.


Write your essay on pages 6-10.

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ARTICLE A Impact of global rankings on higher education research and the production of knowledge

There is strong evidence that university rankings are having a profound impact on academic decision making and behaviour, with implications for the structure of systems and organization of institutions.

According to a number of studies published in 2007 and 2008, (e.g., Hazelkorn, 2007, 2008; Locke et al., 2008) higher education leaders around the world believe high-achieving students use rankings to shortlisttheir choice of universities, especially at the postgraduate level, and stakeholders use rankings to influence their own decisions about funding, sponsorship and graduate recruitment. Stakeholders clearly believe benefits flow from high ranking: by far and away the most important is reputational risk. Higher education leaders, caught between not wanting „to place public emphasis on their ranking … and privately trying to avoid slipping(Griffith and Rask, 2007), believe rankings are here to stayand they have no alternative but to take them into account because others do. Hence, they are taking university rankings very seriously and integrating them within their strategic planning processes.

In a research study conducted by Hazelkorn (2007), 63 per cent of respondents said they had taken strategic, organizational, managerial or academic action and were making significant changes while only 8 per cent said they had taken no action. This presents a remarkable change from the 20 per cent of United States university presidents who claimed they ignored rankings in 2002 (Levin, 2002).

Most significantly, rankings appear to be influencing priorities, including curriculum. However, the biggest changes are apparent in rebalancing teaching/research and undergraduate/ postgraduate activity, and re-focusing resource allocation towards those fields which are likely to be more productive, better performing, and more indicator sensitive. Regardless of the kind of higher education institution (HEI), the message is clear: research matters more now, not more than teaching necessarily but it matters more right now at this point in time.

Furthermore, rankings usually reward older and larger comprehensive institutions, particularly those with a medical school; this means that size does matter. Accordingly, institutional restructuring, particularly the reorganization of research which includes the creation of research institutes and graduate schools, is pervasive across higher education. As a result, many higher education institutions are expanding their capacity by recruiting international scholars and students, improving marketing and hence peer knowledge of the institution through expensive and extensive advertising, rewarding faculty and Ph.D. students who publish in highly cited journals and seeking to positively affect the staff-student ratio. Institutions everywhere are preoccupied with recruiting more high-achieving students, preferably at Ph.D. level who, like international scholars, will be assets in the reputation race.

Against this background, the arts, humanities and social sciences feel especially vulnerable. Professional disciplines, e.g. engineering, business and education, which do not have a strong tradition of peer-reviewed publications, are also under pressure. There is little doubt that HEIs are considering the costs associated with remaining in disciplines which are deemed less vital to their profile or which perform poorly on comparative indicators. Their choices

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are boosting the performance of strong areas and perhaps redistributing earned funds to weaker areas later, bringing weaker areas up to the level of the strong or closing weaker areas down.

Adapted from Hazelkorn, E. (2009). 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. Retrieved April 10, 2010, from

ARTICLE B To rank or to be ranked: The impact of global ranking in higher education

University rankings are used in many national systems to provide data supporting student choice making and, in some nations, to guide allocation of public funds as well as simply to feed public appetites for data on institutional status. However, a recurring difficulty is that no ranking or quality-assessment system has been able to generate data based on measures of the “value added” during the educational process, and few systems focus on teaching and learning at all (Dill & Soo, 2005, pp. 503, 505), though data in these areas would be most useful for prospective students.

Indicators such as the number of students selecting particular universities and research performance have become proxies for quality, yet these qualities drive the reputation of a higher education institution (HEI) more than they drive its educational program. There is no necessary connection whatsoever between the quality of teaching and learning and the quantity and quality of research. Dill and Soo (2005) remark that “empirical research… suggests that the correlation between research productivity and undergraduate instruction is very small and teaching and research appear to be more or less independent activities” (p. 507). As Altbach (2006) states, “There are, in fact, no widely accepted methods for measuring teaching quality, and assessing the impact of education on students is so far an unexplored area as well” (p. 2; see also Guarino, Ridgeway, Chun, & Buddin, 2005, p. 149). When criteria such as quality of research and popularity among applicants are adopted as the base of the holistic rankings of institutions for market purposes, the terms of inter- institutional competition are defined by credentials, not the formative role of higher education. It is as if studentsonly concern in going to university is the status of their degrees, not what they learn.

Globally, the fact is that essentially all of the current measures used to assess quality and construct university rankings enhance the stature of the large universities in the major English-speaking centres of science and scholarship, especially the United States and the United Kingdom (Altbach, 2006, p. 3). What is more open to debate is the extent to which the prestige fostered by rankings is grounded in real differences in HEI quality or whether it merely recycles the status order; whether ranking feeds into a process of continuous improvement in quality and student servicing or not; and whether there are downsides of rankings from the points of view of students, HEIs, systems or public interest.

Adapted from Marginson, S. and van de Wende, M. (2007). To rank or to be ranked: The impact of global ranking in higher education. Journal of Studies in International Education, 11(3/4), 306-329.

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ARTICLE C The costs and benefits of world-class universities

Putting too much stress on attaining world-class status may harm an individual university or an academic system. It may divert energy and resources from more important and perhaps more realistic goals. It may focus too much on building a research-oriented and elite university at the expense of expanding access or serving national needs. It may even set up unrealistic expectations that harm faculty morale and performance.

The concept of a world-class university reflects the norms and values of the worlds dominant research-oriented academic institutions especially those of the United States and the major western European countries. The idea is based on the German research university that came to dominate academic thinking at the end of nineteenth century, especially after the United States, Japan and other countries accepted the model.

Although all of the worlds universities essentially follow the Western tradition, the ideal of the world-class research university is a special variation of that tradition. The American sociologist David Riesman observed in the 1950s that U.S. universities were failing to achieve diverse academic goals because almost all were trying to become like Harvard, Berkeley and a few other key research-oriented institutions. The same criticism can be made now as universities around the world seem to be orienting themselves to this single academic ideal. Institutions and nations need to assess carefully their needs, resources, and long-term interests before launching into a campaign to build world-class institutions.

Universities operate in both national and global contexts. Obviously, the world-class idea falls into the global sphere. It assumes that a university is competing with the best academic institutions in the world and is aspiring to the pinnacle of excellence and recognition. National and even regional realities may differ. They relate to the need of the immediate society and economy, and imply responsiveness to local communities. In these contexts, the nature of academic performance and roles may differ from what is expected at institutions competing in the global realm. To label one sphere world class while relegating the others to the nether regions of the academic hierarchy is perhaps inevitable, but nonetheless unfortunate.

The debate about world-class higher education is important. Governments and academic planners are considering the topic in countries such as China, where several top universities are self-consciously trying to transform themselves into world-class institutions. Other countries, such as South Korea, are giving serious attention to the idea. Britain, traditionally the home of a number of top institutions, worries that it is losing its competitive edge.

The world-class debate has one important benefit it focuses attention on academic standards and improvement, the role of universities in society, and the way academic institutions fit into national and international systems of higher education. Striving for excellence is not a bad thing, and competition may spark improvement. Yet a sense of realism and sensitivity to the public good must also be factored into the equation. The fuzziness of the concept of a world- class university combined with the impossibility, so far at least, of measuring academic quality and accomplishment makes the struggle difficult. Indeed, it might well be that the innovative energies and resources of higher education should be focused on more realistic and useful goals.

Adapted from Altbach, P.G. (2004, Jan-Feb). The costs and benefits of world-class universities. Academe Online. Retrieved June 3, 2010, from

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