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Rankings in Institutional Strategies and Processes (RISP) (2012-2015)

From 2012 – 2015, EUA worked on a project entitled ‘Rankings in Institutional Strategies and Processes’ (RISP), in partnership with the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), the French Rectors’ Conference (CPU) and the Academic Information Centre (AIC) in Latvia.

Background and concept

Universities worldwide are increasingly being confronted with ranking and classification initiatives both at national and international level. While many institutions have reservations about the methodologies used by the ranking compilers, there is a growing recognition that rankings and classifications are here to stay and many feel the need to respond. Recent research on institutional responses further shows that despite the widely acknowledged methodological shortcomings, rankings and classifications have a growing impact on institutional decision-making and actions. Shedding light on the ways in which universities respond to rankings and other transparency tools – consciously or unconsciously – would be the first step towards identifying opportunities for using rankings in beneficial ways for institutional development.

The RISP project was the first pan-European study of the impact and influence of rankings on European universities. The project aimed to build understanding on how rankings and similar transparency tools impact the development of institutional strategies and processes, and to propose recommendations on how they can be used to promote institutional development while also identifying potential pitfalls that the universities should avoid.

Project Publication

Rankings in Institutional Strategies and Processes: Impact or Illusion?
By Ellen Hazelkorn, Tia Loukkola and Thérèse Zhang 


The objectives of the project were:

  • to gain a deep understanding of the impact and influence of rankings and similar transparency tools on European higher education and institutional strategic decision-making;
  • to identify how HEIs can use rankings and similar transparency tools as a strategic tool to promote institutional development;
  • to provide input to the HE policy community on the potential effects of rankings on HE systems; and
  • to enhance European cooperation and sharing of good practices in the field.

Activities and timeline

The project objectives were achieved through the following activities:

  • an online survey (March-July 2013) among European universities and higher education institutions, on the influence of rankings on institutional strategic decision-making, policies and organisation; 
  • a series of site visits, in October-December 2013;
  • a roundtable in June 2014, with senior university managers and stakeholders selected through an open call for participation to provide comments and input as well as to benefit from peer-learning through sharing experiences;
  • a final publication, including policy recommendations, was released at the end of 2014. It is available in English and French and was launched at two events that also provided an opportunity for discussion, in Brussels (for the English version) and in Paris (for the French version).


For further information on the RISP project, please contact Tia Loukkola. Click here to download the RISP leaflet. 

With the support of the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Union

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European University Association (EUA)

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