Contested concepts, similar practices : the quest for the global university

Ka Ho, Joshua MOK, Ian P. WEI

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


In the last decade or so, we have witnessed the emergence of the quest for ‘world-class’ university status as a movement not only in the West but also in the East. Despite controversy over the meaning and value of this status, no one can deny the fact that global university ranking exercises have become increasingly influential in shaping the lives of academics in general and the choices of students and parents in particular. While many university ViceChancellors and Presidents have declared that we should not entirely rely upon these ranking exercises or league tables as indicators of the academic standards of universities, we simply cannot ignore the growing impact of such global university rankings on how contemporary universities are managed. Realizing the importance of research and development in the knowledge-based economy, Mohrman et al. (2008) have rightly argued that an Emerging Global Model (EGM) is developing in response to the growing pressures to enhance the global competitiveness of universities across the world. Characterized by eight features, namely, global mission, research intensity, new roles for professors, diversified funding, advancing economic development and increasing knowledge production, worldwide recruitment, increasing complexity, and global collaboration with similar institutions, the worldwide reach of the EGM implies that nation-states have less influence on their universities than in the past. Although there may be disagreement about the extent to which state control of university governance has been diminished, in the last decade or so universities worldwide have undoubtedly experienced significant restructuring in order to concentrate resources to boost a selected few to become ‘world-class’ institutions, while many universities have had to struggle for additional funding by commercializing their ‘services’ or marketizing their ‘research outputs’. It is under such a financial regime that contemporary universities are pressured to compete for international benchmarking with the very best worldwide.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-438
Number of pages10
JournalHigher Education Policy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2008
Externally publishedYes


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