World-Class or World-Ranked Universities? Performativity and Nobel Laureates in Peace and Literature


  • Brian Denman Seniour Lecturer, University of New England (past President of Australia and New Zealand Comparative and International Education Society (ANZCIES), past Secretary General of World Council of Comparative Education Societies (WCCES))



Global University Rankings, Research Quantums, Quality Higher Education


It is erroneous to draw too many conclusions about global university rankings. Making a university’s reputation rest on the subjective judgement of senior academics and over-reliance on interpreting and utilising secondary data from bibliometrics and peer assessments have created an enmeshed culture of performativity and over-emphasis on productivity. This trend has exacerbated unhealthy competition and mistrust within the academic community and also discord outside its walls. Surely if universities are to provide service and thrive with the advancement of knowledge as a primary objective, it is important to address the methods, concepts, and representation necessary to move from an emphasis on quality assurance to an emphasis on quality enhancement.

This overview offers an analysis of the practice of international ranking. US News and World Report Best Global Universities Rankings, the Times Supplement World University Rankings, and the Shanghai Jiao Tong University Academic Ranking of World Universities are analysed. While the presence of Nobel laureates in the hard sciences has been seized upon for a number of years as quantifiable evidence of producing world-class university education, Nobel laureates in peace and literature have been absent from such rankings. Moreover, rankings have been based on employment rather than university affiliation. Previously unused secondary data from institutions where Nobel peace and literature laureates completed their terminal degrees are presented. The purpose has been to determine whether including peace and literature laureates might modify rankings. A caveat: since the presence of awarded Nobel laureates affiliated at various institutions results in the institutions receiving additional ranking credit in the hard sciences of physics, chemistry, medicine, and economic sciences, this additional credit is not recognised in the approach used in this study. Among other things, this study suggests that if educational history were used in assembling the rankings as opposed to one’s university affiliation, conclusions might be very different.


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How to Cite

Denman, B. (2018). World-Class or World-Ranked Universities? Performativity and Nobel Laureates in Peace and Literature. Nordic Journal of Comparative and International Education (NJCIE), 1(2).