Riding the tiger of world university rankings in East Asia: Where are we heading?


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20 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The region’s universities are “riding a tiger” of university rankings in East Asian higher education, in a race to gain in the list of the world's top 100 universities. While this race impacts universities throughout the world, it takes on particular importance in East Asia due to the stage of university development and the needs of regional societies. The purposes of this paper are to: To examine the emergent global emphasis on world university ranking as a driver of change in higher education, To discuss how the world university rankings are impacting East Asian universities, To assess consequences for higher education in the region, To explore options for leading universities in a more meaningful direction in East Asia. Design/methodology/approach: This paper examines research and commentary on the impact of world university rankings on universities in East Asia. Findings: This paper proposes that the world university rankings have, over a relatively short period of time, had unanticipated but potentially insidious effects on higher education in East Asia. This paper proposes that the “tiger” is carrying most East Asian universities towards goals that may not reflect the aspirations of their societies, or the people that work and study in them. Yet, climbing off the “tiger” often feels just as risky as hanging on to its back. Instead of seeking to lay blame at any one party, the paper suggests that the problem is systemic in nature. Multiple parts of the system need to change in order to achieve effects in the distal parts (e.g. faculty, students, and society). Only leadership can bring about this type of change. The scholarly community must gain some degree of input and monitoring over the rules of the rankings game. Only by joining hands can university leaders in the region change the “Ranking Game” to reflect the reality and needs of university development and social contribution in East Asia. Only by cooperation can the region’s university leaders create reciprocal pressure on other parts of the system. In response to systemic problems, “I” may be powerless, but “we” are not. Originality/value: The originality and value of this paper lie in its aim to elevate underlying dissatisfaction with the rankings into a broader and more explicit debate over the direction in which East Asian universities are riding on the back of the tiger. Copyright © 2014 Australian Teacher Education Association.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)230-245
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


Hallinger, P. (2014). Riding the tiger of world university rankings in East Asia: Where are we heading? International Journal of Educational Management, 28(2), 230-245.


  • Higher education
  • Asia
  • Performance
  • Leadership rankings
  • Quality


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