I’m happy to see the long-awaited publication of a book chapter on national approaches to university rankings in Central Asia, Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), and Latin America in the volume Global University Rankings and the Politics of Knowledge, edited by Michelle Stack.
Our chapter, co-authored with Creso Sá, Nadiia Kachynska and Magdalena Martinez, reviews the evolution of national university rankings and identifies trends across three world regions. As you might have guessed, I am responsible for the Central Asia part!
For the section on Central Asia, I give the briefest of overviews of higher education in the region, introduce English reading authors to the concept of the ‘world education space’ (мировое образовательное пространство), and discuss three patterns in the growth of national rankings:
First, governments are in control. All the rankings tools that currently exist are state-run and state-financed. This is in contrast to other countries where, for example, newspapers and private companies have also established rankings.
Second, it’s not only universities that are ranked. A notable example comes from Kazakhstan, which has established an anti-corruption ranking. It seems to have caught the editor’s eye as an unusual way of deploying rankings.
Third, smaller higher education systems have so far escaped what Rajani Naidoo has beautifully called the competition fetish. In other words: there aren’t any university rankings in Tajikistan or Turkmenistan. Not yet, anyway.
That is not to say that size of system is the only reason that rankings haven’t been set up in these countries; there may well be other factors at play. But we also found this in CEE and Latin America so it did seem to have some purchase as an explanation.
Across the regions, however, the tendency is very clearly towards (more) university rankings. Based on our study, we expect rankings to proliferate, particularly when linked to large-scale higher education reforms. The direction of such reforms is likely to embrace globalized ideas such as privatization, competition, and quality assurance.
If your interest has been piqued and you want to know more about rankings in these three regions, read our chapter! To make things even easier, the whole book is available open access so you can enjoy not only ours but the other excellent contributions to this highly topical and important new volume:
Mild health warning: our chapter was written in 2018/19 (books can take a while to get published, especially edited volumes) so some of the data may already be a little dated, especially in fast-moving Uzbekistan.