The Intensification of Rankings Logic in an Increasingly Marketised Higher Education Environment
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Rankings and online comparison sites have both facilitated and shaped the marketisation of higher education in England, the UK as a whole and elsewhere. They have facilitated marketisation by introducing greater competition between and within higher education institutions. Ultimately, they accomplish the transformation of qualities into quantities, which is both required by, and a consequence of, the commodification and privatisation of higher education. Rankings have also helped to embed the logic of the market within organisational structures and processes and within the minds and practices of organisational members. In some ways, in a highly regulated UK higher education market, rankings became a substitute for more authentic market mechanisms. However, these processes have intensified with the transfer (in England) of the majority of the cost of study to students and the emergence of more sophisticated websites presenting detailed statistics that enable prospective students to compare courses and institutions on indicators such as modes of student assessment and employment outcomes. This article seeks to understand how different types of university and college are responding to this intensification of rankings logic amidst the further marketisation of higher education in the UK. It employs the concepts of internalisation and institutionalisation to analyse how these responses evolve and vary between institutions at different places in the rankings, but eschews a completely Foucauldian interpretation which, in the author's view, cannot fully explain the responses within institutions (and over time) to ‘data-driven technologies’.