University ranking as social exclusion

Sarah S. Amsler, Chris H. Bolsmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article we explore the dual role of global university rankings in the creation of a new, knowledge-identified, transnational capitalist class and in facilitating new forms of social exclusion.We examine how and why the practice of ranking universities has become widely defined by national and international organisations as an important instrument of political and economic policy. We consider how the development of university rankings into a global business combining social research, marketing and public relations, as a tangible policy tool that narrowly redefines the social purposes of higher education itself. Finally, it looks at how the influence of rankings on national funding for teaching and research constrains wider public debate about the meaning of ‘good’ and meaningful education in the UK and other national contexts, particularly by shifting the debate away from democratic publics upward into the elite networked institutions of global capital. We conclude by arguing that, rather than regarding world university rankings as a means to establish criteria of educational value, the practice may be understood as an exclusionary one that furthers the alignment of higher education with neoliberal rationalities at both national and global levels.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-301
Number of pages9
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology of Education
Issue number2
Early online date21 Feb 2012
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012


  • exclusion
  • higher education
  • knowledge society
  • neoliberalism
  • transnational capitalist class
  • university rankings


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