Global rankings at a local cost? The strategic pursuit of status and the third mission

Jenny J. Lee, Hillary Vance, Bjørn Stensaker, Sowmya Ghosh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


This study examined how hierarchical positions within the global field of higher education influence the selection of strategic priorities by universities in different parts of the world. The study particularly focused on universities’ commitment to third missions as reflected in their strategic plans and compared to their global rankings. The findings demonstrate that top globally ranked institutions are generally less explicit about their commitment to the third mission relating to their geographic setting compared to mid/low and unranked institutions. Meanwhile, unranked institutions most consistently exhibit strategies in contributing to the local economy, recognising their local challenges and environment, and working for the benefit of their local community. This study informs debates on the intention and extent of the public good and missions of universities in light of the increasing dependence on ranking schemes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)236-256
Number of pages21
JournalComparative Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2 2020


  • Strategic planning
  • international higher education
  • rankings
  • third mission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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