Globalising or assimilating? Exploring the contemporary function of regionalised global university rankings in Latin America

Stephen Darwin, Malba Barahona

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Global university rankings (GUR) have become increasingly influential as a proxy measure of higher education quality. The more recent development of regionalised forms of rankings has increased their global reach, drawing a greatly expanded range of institutions into their orbit. As a result, regionalised GUR have developed an increasing potential power to shape social perceptions, institutional actions, and everyday academic practices. In this paper, the perceived impact of regionalised forms of GUR is analysed from the perspective of Latin American higher education. Based on a critical meta-synthesis framed by a glonacal heuristic (Marginson and Rhoades, Higher Education 43:281–309, 2002), the tensions arising around the application of regionalised forms of global rankings are mapped. Specifically, the impact of rankings on conceptions of the mission of universities is foregrounded. The meta-synthesis identifies three primary tensions around the regional application of GUR in Latin American contexts: how conceptions of regional higher education quality are most effectively developed, how the local university is imagined under the weight of global expectations, and the relativised value of local agency in assessing quality outcomes. The findings suggest that GUR have created strong fissures in Latin American higher education regarding the missions of institutions, particularly in confronting the powerful hegemonies of the epistemologies of the Global North imposing themselves on Latin American higher education. The paper concludes that the stratification and social anxiety caused by the regional applications of GUR may not be necessarily productive in encouraging regional institutional diversity or in enhancing the local relevance of higher education.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHigher Education
StateAccepted/In press - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Global ranking
  • Higher education quality
  • Latin America
  • University accreditation
  • University rankings


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