Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Editorial | Open Access

Editorial: Quantifying Higher Education: Governing Universities and Academics by Numbers

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Abstract:  Over the past decades, ‘governing by numbers’ has taken a flight in the higher education sector. Performance-based budgeting and quality assurance schemes orient universities to new objectives, while rankings have globalised the metrified observation of higher education at large. Where previously no indicators existed, they are being introduced; where indicators already existed, they are being standardised for purposes of comparison. This thematic issue aims to work towards a more comprehensive understanding of the growing diversity of quantification-based instruments in higher education sectors in three European countries. The effects of quantification are noticed at all levels of the higher education system, from policy makers at the top of the regulatory pyramid down to students and academic staff. Yet even quantifiers outside of the regulatory system, such as ranking and metrics organisations, may have an important bearing on the operation of the university organisation and the sector at large. Thus, an entire governance landscape emerges in which actors at various levels turn to numbers for guidance. The articles in this thematic issue analyse the life cycle of such numbers, from their origins, through to their production and finally, their consequences. This editorial outlines the central questions and overarching issues addressed by the thematic issue and introduces its various contributions.

Keywords:  comparative policy studies; higher education governance; managerialism; performance indicators; quantification; regulation



© Maarten Hillebrandt, Michael Huber. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.