The growing influence of global rankings drives higher education institutions (HEIs) across the globe to conform to the indicators and implement changes to obtain world-class status. We examine why HEIs in similar institutional environments are structured and processed differently on the ranking issue with different outcomes. By employing a qualitative method, we engaged in a 44-month study period from September 2015 to April 2019. The main data sources were interviews with 75 informants from among the various stakeholders at the Indonesian Top 11 AHEIs (autonomous HEIs) and other available secondary data. The findings show that the factors driving the change initiatives in Indonesian universities can be categorised into institutional and market pressures, respectively. Our findings also indicate that changes to obtain world-class status are highly driven by external stakeholders for the Indonesian AHEIs outside the World University Ranking (WUR) Top 500, while the AHEIs which have entered the Top 500 highly are influenced by the internal stakeholders. We conclude that different stakeholders and pressures determine the differences of change process as well as the outcomes. Therefore, these findings suggest that pressures from external stakeholders are needed for the changes among AHEIs with low-level WUR, while pressures from internal stakeholders are needed to maintain and increase the ranking among high level WUR.