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Term Definition

Ranking and league tables are an established technique for displaying the comparative ranking of organizations in terms of their performance. They are meant to supply information to interested stakeholders, consumers, and policy-makers, alike on measurable differences in service quality of several similar providers. Even if somewhat controversial, especially concerning the methodological aspects, they are quite popular and seen as a useful instrument for public information, while also providing an additional incentive to quality improvement. 

Ranking/ league tables are generally published in the popular press and magazines, specialist journals and/or on the Internet. The ranking process starts with the collection of data from existing data sources, site visits, studies, and institutional research. Following collection, the type and quantity of variables are selected from the information gathered. Then, the indicators are standardized and weighted from the selected variables. Finally, the calculations are conducted and comparisons are made so that institutions are sorted into “ranking order”. Ranking/league tables make use, in the process of evaluation of institutions or programmes, of a range of different indicators. The results of ranking/league tables (the “scores” of each assessed institution) may thus vary from one case to another, depending on the number of indicators used or on the indicators themselves. Ranking indicators or criteria usually take into consideration scientific, pedagogic, administrative, and socio-economic aspects: student/staff ratio, A-level points (held by first-year students), teaching and research (as marks received in teaching and research assessments by individual departments), library and computer spending, drop out rate, satisfaction, study conditions, employment perspectives, etc.

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