You Cannot Judge a Book by Its Cover: The Problems with Journal Rankings

Alan Sangster* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


Journal rankings lists have impacted and are impacting accounting educators and accounting education researchers around the world. Nowhere is the impact positive. It ranges from slight constraints on academic freedom to admonition, censure, reduced research allowances, non-promotion, non-short-listing for jobs, increased teaching loads, and re-designation as a non-researcher, all because the chosen research specialism of someone who was vocationally motivated to become a teacher of accounting is, ironically, accounting education. University managers believe that these journal ranking lists show that accounting faculty publish top-quality research on accounting regulation, financial markets, business finance, auditing, international accounting, management accounting, taxation, accounting in society, and more, but not on what they do in their ‘day job’ – teaching accounting. These same managers also believe that the journal ranking lists indicate that accounting faculty do not publish top-quality research in accounting history and accounting systems. And they also believe that journal ranking lists show that accounting faculty write top-quality research in education, history, and systems, but only if they publish it in specialist journals that do not have the word ‘accounting’ in their title, or in mainstream journals that do. Tarring everyone with the same brush because of the journal in which they publish is inequitable. We would not allow it in other walks of life. It is time the discrimination ended.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-186
Number of pages12
JournalAccounting Education
Issue number3
Early online date30 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

I would like to thank Joan Ballantine, Edgard Cornacchione, Paul de Lange, Barbara Flood, Nick McGuigan, Pru Marriott, and Greg Stoner for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper. The views expressed are, however, my own.


  • academic freedom
  • bullying
  • discrimination
  • Journal rankings
  • mis-management


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