Motivation: Our university has asked us to provide contacts for possible referees for our university for the QS ranking; apparently this "find your own reviewers" system has a 40% weight in that ranking. I find the whole system flawed and open to gaming, and I am considering participating in some sort of boycott.

It is a widespread opinion that academic rankings are harmful, so I was wondering if there is any ongoing boycott that I could participate to.

For instance, mathematicians have boycotted Elsevier in the past, refusing to publish, review, and/or take editorial roles in journals from that publisher. If there is an organized movement like that for refusing to take part in academic rankings, I would be interested in a pointer.

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    It's not clear what kind of boycott would be possible: if you (a university) don't play the game, I suspect that the rankings will come out anyway, simply with your university at a lower ranking. You won't care, but others will. Jan 12, 2022 at 9:41
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    @MassimoOrtolano A large enough boycott would undermine the credibility of those rankings; I consider this as a desirable outcome. Jan 12, 2022 at 15:20
  • I resent it's disdain for the humanities subjects and dislike it's favoritism for stem fields. According to it the school that teaches a person how to fix a Xerox machine is a much better gauge of academic success than the school that train the people who teach your daughter how to draw.
    – Neil Meyer
    Jan 12, 2022 at 19:34
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    I was at a university that gamed the median class size statistic by making several sections of 19 students each, and dumping the rest in an enormous class. I protested because on average this results in more students having a worse experience, but they claimed it was good because they would put the "best" instructor on the big section. Jan 12, 2022 at 20:04
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    @NickMatteo that sounds like a pretty effective way to undermine the credibility of the the ranking system. If the students complain you can tell them it's a performance piece on the perils of naive evaluations.
    – Clumsy cat
    Jan 13, 2022 at 14:24

1 Answer 1


There have been boycotts at university level, but not boycotts of the kind you're thinking of.

Example as happened at Syracuse University, which led to a rankings slide before they decided to care again.

Edit: here's another example of a boycott at university level by several Indian Institutes of Technology.

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    Universities that are boycotting US News ranking can sometimes be found at the bottom of the rankings with a note saying there is missing data. Jan 12, 2022 at 15:02
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    Oxford, Cambridge, KCL, and a few more student unions successfully boycott NSS rankings since 2017.
    – krassowski
    Jan 22, 2022 at 0:22

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