World Class Universities, Rankings and the Global Space of International Students

Mikael Börjesson, Uppsala University
Pablo Lillo Cea, Uppsala University

The notion of the ‘World Class University’ suggests that this category of university operates on a global rather than a national level. The rankings that have made this notion recognised are global in their scope, ranking universities on a worldwide scale, and feed an audience from north to south, east to west. The very idea of ranking universities on such a scale, it is argued here, must be understood in relation to the increasing internationalisation and marketisation of higher education and the creation of a global market for higher education. Drawing on the theoretical framework developed by Pierre Bourdieu and collaborators, this contribution links together the notion of the ‘World Class University’, international university rankings and the global space of international student flows by performing statistical analyses on publicly available quantitative data. Findings show that out of the three most distinctive poles of the space, the dominance of the Pacific pole (with the US as the main country of destination and Asian countries as the most important suppliers of students), characterized by being the most oriented towards market logics, is further enhanced by international rankings. US universities dominate these to such a degree that the ‘World Class University’ has become synonymous with the American research university. Although the competition has sharpened, the standing of the US, the Western world in general and the English language as the mean of instruction is not yet truly challenged.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 45. Education, Discrimination and Social Stratification