Latent Variable Analysis

A New Approach to University Ranking

Published in: Higher Education in Europe, v. 30, no. 2, July 2005, p. 147-165

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2004

by Cassandra M. Guarino, Greg Ridgeway, Marc Chun, Richard Buddin

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This study applies a Bayesian latent variable analysis to the task of determining rankings of universities in the UK and US, on the basis of a set of quality-related measures. It estimates the degree of uncertainty in the rankings and permits the assessment of statistically significant differences across universities. It also provides a methodology for determining the weighting of various measures that is based on the patterns embedded in the data and compares the latent variable rankings with traditional weight-and-sum rankings. Overall, the methodology contributes to a better understanding of ranking efforts and illustrates the need for caution in interpreting distinctions published in traditional ranking systems.

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