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Alexandros Baltzis, Giorgos Aggelopoulos

Conference Quality Assurance and Quality Management: Governance and Good Practices
Quality Assurance Unit (MODIP) Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Under the auspices of the Hellenic Quality Assurance and Accreditation Agency (H.Q.A.A.)
Thessaloniki (Greece), September 20-21, 2012

Presentation video (from 4:40:53 - in Greek)



Objective: The international university ranking lists as reported in the public discourse in Greece, fuel arguments for making important decisions about higher education. This paper detects the main principles of these lists and their methodological problems. It also analyzes their reconstruction by the mass media to highlight the ways that the issues on the universities reform are included in their agenda influencing the public debate, as well as the attitudes of various fragments of the academic community, and contributing to the reorganization of the higher education system.

Methods: The most publicized ranking systems and their basic methodological problems were analyzed, considering the relevant literature and research. The ways in which these rankings were presented in the public discourse during the last two years have been analyzed, focusing on the daily and weekly press. The quantitative and qualitative methods of content and critical discourse analysis were employed, and indicators for impartiality and integrity of presentation were measured. Indicators for infotainment – and more specifically the type and the tone of writing about the Greek universities and the global rankings – were also measured.

Results: The findings show that the discourse on the international rankings that appear regularly in the Greek press is biased and incomplete. Features of infotainment are also found in the reporting and news about global university rankings. The findings indicate clearly the political and ideological functions of this discourse as well as the necessity to distinguish between quality assurance and assessment of the education and research processes on the one hand and the hierarchical rankings on the other. They also show the severe negative consequences that the unreserved adoption of these rankings may have for both the strategic plans of the academic institutions and the policy on the higher education. The analysis of the findings shows also that the discourse on the global rankings in the Greek press cultivates systematically positive stereotypes about hierarchical classifications, commercial rankings and competition in the academic field while it produces and reproduces negative stereotypes about the Greek Universities, suggesting the idea that the academic field is not a field where questioning flourishes, knowledge and innovation are produced, but a field of fierce competition without rules that generates winners and losers. Finally, the paper discusses the contribution of the findings in the debate on the assessment and quality assurance in the academic institutions and the need to reflect on what “success” and “failure” might mean in the global commercial university rankings.