About university rankings

Image: Guillaume Meurice


All of this done by ourselves, turning our colleagues into competitors and our institutions into adversaries

Through conversations with colleagues in everyday life, groups and social networks, a contradiction caused me discomfort arising from a problem that seems not to be being noticed by my peers at universities. Recently, in e-mails, facebook, whatsapp and also on instagram, fellow researchers shared the ranking academic at THE (Times Higher Education) with the top 20 universities in Latin America. However, instead of clarifying how such a ranking, propagated the league table as an advertisement for the universities where they work. It is in this act of socialization of rankings where my restlessness resides.

About this nuisance, I did a quick research on the evaluation criteria of the main rankings international Higher Education. During the research, I noticed an important fact, the World Bank (WB) indicates as a parameter three groups that carry out academic rankings, which are the main references in the field: the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), the Evaluation and Accreditation Council of the Taiwan Higher Education (HEEACT) and Times Higher Education (THE). The three rankings have similarities in their metrics, such as: number of publications by researchers in major international journals and the number of citations of these publications per researcher, and overall number of citations by academic institution.

In this coincidence, we find another phenomenon, the oligopoly of scientific publishers, since, of the five main evaluation criteria of each ranking, three consist of the coefficients of publications and citations in the main global journals, which belong to six publishers: Reed-Elsevier, Thomson Reuters, Wolter Kluwer, Springer Nature, Wiley-Blackwell and Sage Publishing.

These publishers maintain hegemony in the branch of the scientific publishing industry, because they hold 237 of the international journals that we classify as Qualis A1 (78,55% of the total). In addition, these publishers charge publication fees ranging from US$ 100 to US$ 5.000 (US dollars), totaling, in these six groups alone, in 2020, revenues of more than US$ 20 billion. Interestingly, they are centennial publishers, as five of these six date back to the XNUMXth century.

Briefly, the rankings shared by Brazilian professors and researchers on social networks are influenced by the World Bank and measure the scientific capacity of institutions through coefficients derived from publications in journals by publicly traded groups on international stock exchanges.

Having said that, is it necessary to ask what are the consequences of uncritically socializing such rankings? Increased competition among peers; greater competition between institutions; constitution of a market; greater search for funding for research from the private sector; greater academic productivism; more illness among science workers; greater adoption by public state universities of the logic of the market.

All of this done by ourselves, turning our colleagues into competitors and our institutions into adversaries. Movement diametrically opposed to that of political criticism of this rationality strengthened and implemented by CAPES since the mid-1990s, apparently now consolidated and institutionalized. Let's post and disseminate the result of our work and avoid being confused by our own epiphany.

*João dos Reis Silva Junior He is a professor at the Department of Education at the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar).


The site the earth is round exists thanks to our readers and supporters. Help us keep this idea going.
Click here and find how

See this link for all articles


  • About artificial ignoranceEugenio Bucci 15/06/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Today, ignorance is not an uninhabited house, devoid of ideas, but a building full of disjointed nonsense, a goo of heavy density that occupies every space
  • Franz Kafka, libertarian spiritFranz Kafka, libertarian spirit 13/06/2024 By MICHAEL LÖWY: Notes on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the Czech writer
  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • Impasses and solutions for the political momentjose dirceu 12/06/2024 By JOSÉ DIRCEU: The development program must be the basis of a political commitment from the democratic front
  • Strengthen PROIFESclassroom 54mf 15/06/2024 By GIL VICENTE REIS DE FIGUEIREDO: The attempt to cancel PROIFES and, at the same time, turn a blind eye to the errors of ANDES management is a disservice to the construction of a new representation scenario
  • Introduction to “Capital” by Karl Marxred triangular culture 02/06/2024 By ELEUTÉRIO FS PRADO: Commentary on the book by Michael Heinrich
  • Hélio Pellegrino, 100 years oldHelio Pellegrino 14/06/2024 By FERNANDA CANAVÊZ & FERNANDA PACHECO-FERREIRA: In the vast elaboration of the psychoanalyst and writer, there is still an aspect little explored: the class struggle in psychoanalysis
  • The strike at federal Universities and Institutescorridor glazing 01/06/2024 By ROBERTO LEHER: The government disconnects from its effective social base by removing those who fought against Jair Bolsonaro from the political table
  • Volodymyr Zelensky's trapstar wars 15/06/2024 By HUGO DIONÍSIO: Whether Zelensky gets his glass full – the US entry into the war – or his glass half full – Europe’s entry into the war – either solution is devastating for our lives
  • PEC-65: independence or patrimonialism in the Central Bank?Campos Neto Trojan Horse 17/06/2024 By PEDRO PAULO ZAHLUTH BASTOS: What Roberto Campos Neto proposes is the constitutional amendment of free lunch for the future elite of the Central Bank