Production of university ranking lists has become a cottage industry. The global picture drawn from such comparisons shows clearly that Europe's higher education system is losing ground compared with its competitor, that of the United States. The growing number of university ranking lists are based on a multitude of methodological approaches, making comparisons between them extremely difficult. Detailed analysis of three international such lists, using elements also from some others, shows that this analytical 'industry' is still far from maturity. Nonetheless, the growing gap between North America and Europe in this field cannot be questioned. If this is really so, the higher-education element in Europe's competitiveness strategy needs to be made a key issue in the Lisbon Programme.
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