There is little doubt that the top performing universities have already added this latest branding to their websites, or that Hong Kong SAR will have proudly announced it has three universities in the top 5 while Japan has 2.
QS.com Asian University Rankings is a spin-out from the QS World University Rankings published since 2005. Last year, when the 2008 QS World University Rankings was launched, GlobalHigherEd posted an entry asking: “Was this a niche industry in formation?” This was in reference to strict copyright rules invoked – that ‘the list’ of decreasing ‘worldclassness’ could not be displayed, retransmitted, published or broadcast – as well as acknowledgment that rankings and associated activities can enable the building of firms such as QS Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd.
Seems like there are ‘niches within niches within….niches’ emerging in this game of deepening and extending the status economy in global higher education. According to the QS Intelligence website:
Interest in rankings amongst Asian institutions is amongst the strongest in the world – leading to Asia being the first of a number of regional exercises QS plans to initiate.
The narrower the geographic focus of a ranking, the richer the available data can potentially be – the US News & World Report draws on 18 indicators, the Joong Ang Ilbo ranking in Korea on over 30. It is both appropriate and crucial then that the range of indicators used at a regional level differs from that used globally.
The objectives of each exercise are slightly different – whilst a global ranking seeks to identify truly world class universities, contributing to the global progress of science, society and scholarship, a regional ranking should adapt to the realities of the region in question.
Sure, the ‘regional niche’ allows QS.com to package and sell new products to Asian and other universities, as well as information to prospective students about who is regarded as ‘the best’.
However, the QS.com Asian University Rankings does more work than just that. The ranking process and product places ‘Asian universities’ into direct competition with each other, it reinforces a very particular definition of ‘Asia’ and therefore Asian regionalism, and it services an imagined emerging Asian regional education space.
All this, whilst appearing to level the playing field by invoking regional sentiments.