The budget cuts and enrollment limits faced by California's public colleges have led to increased recruiting (and increased enrollment) of California students at out-of-state colleges, The Los Angeles Times reported. Washington State University enrolled 132 Californians in the fall of 2011, double the figure from a year before. The University of Oregon now has 1,000 Californians, twice the level of five years ago. At college fairs in the state, out-of-state colleges stress their ability to provide small classes, and enough open spots in classes that students can graduate in four years.
The College Board is being criticized by admissions officers and others over a pilot program that will test an August administration of the SAT this summer -- but only for participants in a program for gifted and talented students with a $4,500 price tag. So critics are deriding the program as a "rich kids SAT." Many students have requested an opportunity to take the SAT in August, when they might not be dealing with schoolwork, so the complaint isn't about trying out the idea, but doing so in only one setting. A statement from the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (a frequent critic of the College Board) notes questions raised by a private college counselor in a letter to College Board officials: "Why is a summer test being made available only to kids whose parents can pay close to $5000 in tuition and fees? Do not College Board annual reports already demonstrate that students from the highest socio-economic backgrounds significantly out-score other demographic groups on the SAT? Why are other students who are preparing for the SAT over the summer also not allowed to take an August test? How does the College Board justify making all these students wait until October?"
Matt Lisk, executive director of the SAT Program, issued this statement: "This program was announced publicly nearly two months ago. In response to the many requests from students, parents, and educators to consider a summer SAT administration, the College Board will be conducting a pilot SAT administration in August 2012 to begin evaluating the feasibility of a summer test administration. Because of the obvious differences in the logistics of testing in the summer due to school and faculty schedules, a pilot program such as this is the only sound way to work through any potential operational challenges before considering an expansion to millions of students and thousands of sites. This year's pilot is being conducted in collaboration with the not-for-profit National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT). If successful, we will examine the expansion of the scope of the summer SAT administration to additional locations in the near future."
It was a rare spectacle: a senior administrator of a leading international university, speaking at a conference of peers, issued a public "thank you" to those who compile university rankings. The rankers – me included -- more typically face criticism of the power and influence we wield.
But Chen Hong, director of the office of overseas promotion at China's Tsinghua University, told the World 100 Reputation Network conference in Washington in May: "We should thank those organizations who publish these indicators. At least we can find something for comparison and benchmark our own performance."
Reflecting the approach that my magazine, Times Higher Education (THE), has taken to disaggregate the overall composite ranking scores in our publications, she explained: "What is useful for us is the detailed indicators within those rankings. We can find out comparable data, benchmarking various universities and use them for planning."
Indeed, there is growing evidence that global rankings – controversial as they are – can offer real utility. But those of us who rank must also be outspoken about the abuses, not just the uses, of our output.
There is no doubt that global rankings can be misused.
It was reported recently, for example, that a $165 million Russian Global Education program would see up to 2,000 Russian students each year offered “very generous” funding to attend institutions around the world – but that qualification for the generous scholarships will be dependent on the students attending an institution in the top 300 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Brazil’s hugely ambitious Science Without Borders scholarship program to send 100,000 Brazilian students overseas similarly links the scholarships to THE-ranked institutions.
While such schemes offer a welcome endorsement of the rigor of THE’s rankings data (provided by Thomson Reuters) and its ranking methodology, speaking as the (rather flattered) editor of the THE rankings I'd still suggest that they are ill-advised.
Global university ranking tables are inherently crude, as they reduce universities to a single composite score. Such rigid adherence to the rankings tables risks missing the many pockets of excellence in narrower subject areas not captured by institutionwide rankings, or in areas of university performance, such as knowledge transfer, that are simply not captured well by any ranking.
One of the great strengths of global higher education its extraordinarily rich diversity, which can never be captured by the THE World University Rankings, which deliberately seek only to compare those research-intensive institutions competing in a global marketplace and which include less than 1 percent of the world’s higher education institutions.
In this context, a new declaration from a consortium of Latin American university rectors agreed in Mexico City last week must be welcomed as a sensible and helpful contribution to the rankings debate. The declaration, agreed at a two-day conference at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, entitled "Latin American Universities and the International Rankings: Impact, Scope and Limits," noted with concern that "a large proportion of decision makers and the public view these classification systems as offering an exhaustive and objective measure of the quality of the institutions."
The rectors’ concern is of course well-placed – no ranking can ever be objective, as they all reflect the subjective decisions of their creators as to which indicators to use, and what weighting to give them. Those of us who rank need to work with governments and policy makers to make sure that they are as aware of what rankings do not -- and can never -- capture, as much as what they can, and to encourage them to dig deeper than the composite scores that can mask real excellence in specific fields or areas of performance. That is why I was delighted to be in Mexico City last week to joint the debate.
The meeting, which drew together rectors and senior officials from 65 universities in 14 Latin American countries, issued a call to policy makers to "avoid using the results of the rankings as elements in evaluating the institution’s performance, in designing higher education policy, in determining the amount of finance for institutions and in implementing incentives and rewards for institutions and academic personnel."
I would – to a large extent -- agree. Responsibly and transparently compiled rankings like THE’s can of course have a very useful role in allowing institutions, like Tsingua and many, many others, to benchmark their performance, to help them plan their strategic direction. They can help governments to better understand some of the modern policy challenges of mass higher education in the knowledge economy, and to compare the performance of their very best research-led institutions to those of rival nations. The rankings can help industry to identify potential investment opportunities and help faculty member make career and collaboration decisions.
But they should inform decisions -- never drive decisions.
The Mexico declaration said: "We understand the importance of comparisons and measurements at an international level, but we cannot sacrifice our fundamental responsibilities in order to implement superficial strategies designed to improve our standings in the rankings."
Some institutional leaders are not as sensible as those in Latin America.
Speaking at the same Washington conference where Chen Hong gave thanks to the rankers, Pauline van der Meer Mohr, president of the executive board at Erasmus University, Rotterdam, confirmed frankly that proposals for a merger between her institution and Dutch counterparts the University of Leiden and the Delft University of Technology were “all about the rankings.”
The three Dutch institutions calculated, she explained, that merged as one, they would make the top 25 of world rankings, while separately they languish lower down the leagues. "Why would you do it if it doesn't do anything for the rankings?" she asked.
But the merger did not take place. It was dropped because of a mix of political unease, fierce alumni loyalty to the existing “brands,” and an “angry” response from research staff. Researchers at all three institutions, van de Meer Mohr admitted, had asked: "You are not going to merge universities just to play the rankings game?" To do so, they had concluded, would be "ridiculous."
I believe that those Dutch academics were quite right.
Phil Baty is editor of Times Higher Education rankings.
High schoolers who make overnight visits to colleges they are considering are engaging in potentially dangerous or illegal behavior, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Center for Adolescent Research and Education at Susquehanna University and the group Students Against Destructive Decisions. A survey of more than 1,000 teens who said they had been on an overnight college visit found that:
16 percent reported drinking alcohol on the visit.
17 percent had sex or engaged in "intimate sexual behavior" during the trip.
5 percent reported using drugs other than alcohol.
Robert J. Birgeneau, the chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley, on Thursday issued a statement opposing a proposed state constitutional amendment that would limit out-of-state (including international) enrollment to 10 percent -- roughly twice the limit Berkeley uses. "Our policy of increasing non-resident undergraduate enrollment to 20 percent of our student body is crucial to ensuring a predictable and reliable revenue stream and maintaining affordability for our California students while also enriching the educational experience for our students," Birgeneau wrote. "Students from other parts of the United States, and from around the world, are valuable members of the Cal community and it has been my long-held view that an increase in out-of-state and international undergraduate students is a critical educational goal at Berkeley. In addition to generating funds for educational support and financial aid, they also bring perspectives, experiences, and cultures to the campus, that benefit all students."
State Senator Michael Rubio, who proposed the amendment, said that he wanted to ensure that "California students get a fair shot at attending our University of California system -- and not be turned away simply because a wealthy student from the East Coast or abroad shows up with a checkbook in hand."
At the five most competitive colleges in the City University of New York, the combination of tougher admissions standards and the economic downturn has led to shifts in demographics, with the colleges attracting more students with high SAT scores, and more students who are white or are Asian than in the past, The New York Times reported. At these colleges, the percentage of freshmen with SAT scores of 1,200 or more has gone up 12 percent in 2001 to 16 percent in 2007 (before the recession) to 26 percent last fall. At the same time, the percentage of black students has fallen from 17 percent to 10 percent. CUNY officials said that the shift were an area of concern, but they noted that many students enter the college as community college transfers, and said that more black and Latino students are graduating than ever before.
Alleging false and misleading recruitment materials that overstated earnings expectations and understated the risk of unemployment, an advocacy group is calling for the resignation of a Rutgers University at Camden School of Law administrator. Law School Transparency, a policy organization working to reduce the cost of legal education, said associate dean Camille Andrews sent prospective students information that exaggerated the benefits of attending Rutgers-Camden. In addition to Andrews's resignation, Law School Transparency called for an investigation by the American Bar Association and asked the university to clarify the data in those materials to any prospective students who were contacted.
Dean Rayman Solomon is standing by Andrews. Solomon said the recruitment material was accurate but that he's "open to discussion" about the best way to reach prospective students going forward. The promotion in question targeted potential applicants who took the GMAT, not the LSAT, the typical law school admission test. The goal, Solomon said, was to reach a new audience and introduce the Rutgers-Camden program. Students could then go online to get more information.
"This was one letter saying are you interested, have you thought about it?" Solomon said. "This is not our entire marketing campaign. This is telling people that we have a program."
But were the numbers misleading?
"I don’t know how to respond," Solomon said. "If you have a hundred people, would four of them be misled? Would one be misled? Would 98 be misled? [It was] a piece that was designed to get people to think about something they hadn't thought about. This wasn’t the only information they could get about it."
The transparency group charged that:
Employment data for recent graduates excluded the 43 graduates (out of 242 total) who were unemployed without making that distinction clear.
The college claimed that “many” recent graduates had salaries of more than $130,000, while a Law School Transparency analysis suggested that only one to five recent grads were earning in that range.
Rutgers-Camden exaggerates the likelihood and value of receiving a judicial clerkship. That claim left Solomon "incensed," because he said New Jersey has an exceptional and competitive clerkship program, unlike some other states.
By contacting students who took the GMAT, Law School Transparency said Rutgers-Camden portrayed itself inaccurately as a "down-economy safe haven that leads to status and riches."
The dean didn't dispute any of Law School Transparency's figures, which came from the college, but disagreed with the analysis.
David Coleman, one of the chief architects of and advocates for the common core curricular standards under consideration by states nationwide, will become the next president of the College Board, The New York Times reported. The College Board is best known for the SAT and the Advanced Placement program, but Coleman said that he sees a broader mission for the organization, telling the Times that "the College Board is not just about measuring and testing, but designing high-quality curriculum.”
Georgian Court University is planning to announce today that it will become a completely coeducational institution. The Roman Catholic university in New Jersey currently admits men to its evening and graduate programs, but its residential undergraduate college has been for women only. Men will be able to enroll in undergraduate courses in the fall. In the fall of 2013, men will be able to live on campus. At that point, the university will also add men's athletic teams in cross country, soccer, basketball, and track and field.