Abstract: To provide users insight into the value and limits of world university rankings, a comparative analysis is conducted of 5 ranking systems: ARWU, Leiden, THE, QS and U-Multirank. It links these systems with one another at the level of individual institutions, and analyses the overlap in institutional coverage, geographical coverage, how indicators are calculated from raw data, the skewness of indicator distributions, and statistical correlations between indicators. Four secondary analyses are presented investigating national academic systems and selected pairs of indicators. It is argued that current systems are still one-dimensional in the sense that they provide finalized, seemingly unrelated indicator values rather than offering a data set and tools to observe patterns in multi-faceted data. By systematically comparing different systems, more insight is provided into how their institutional coverage, rating methods, the selection of indicators and their normalizations influence the ranking positions of given institutions.
[arxiv.org, last revised 5 December]