Apparently a school’s move up or down a position or two in international annual college rankings doesn’t really much affect people’s opinions of that school. According to an article by David Wheeler in the Chronicle of Higher Education:
A new survey of 49 of the top-ranked 137 universities found that those institutions noticed little or no impact on their reputation within their home countries from either a rise or a fall in the rankings.
But the institutions did notice that a rise in the rankings often increased the number of applications coming from international students. A rankings rise also helped in attracting academic employees and made it easier to form international partnerships. All told, rankings increases appeared to have more of an international influence on reputation than on a university’s standing at home.
This is perhaps not terribly surprising. People know their local universities pretty well. No international ranking will change public opinion too quickly.
The survey looked at the Times Higher Education annual university rankings and the Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s Institute of Higher Education, which puts out its Academic Ranking of World Universities every year.