2009 was the second set of results published by US News & World Report as the “World’s Best Universities” and they have just extended their list to an additional 200 universities. The Top 400 is now featured here – www.usnews.com/sections/education/worlds-best-universities
by Ben Sowter
An interesting piece on British language education over the weekend, took me completely by surprise http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/feb/07/anushka-asthana-french-language-education.
I had managed to completely miss the British government abandoning compulsory language education after 14 back in 2002. I know how many languages I would have taken to GCSE had I had the chance to choose, and much like the writer of this piece, I reflect on things wishing I had taken it a little more seriously. I now travel widely and find myself persistently apologizing for my lack of language skills, and everyon I meet, probably most of the readers of this blog are multi-lingual.
There are some deeper problems with British language education also – I was never taught French, in French and is French really the most pertinent language to be the natural second choice, whilst it may be the most helpful for casual trips to our neighbouring country, Spanish would seem more versatile, or Mandarin more business topical.
So with numbers having plummeted we have one more reason why the current and next batch of prospective university students will be even less open (or equipped) to take up international study opportunities.
by Ben Sowter
I can’t help but have a little admiration for Nicolas Sarkozy. Regardless of whether or not you agree with his positions – he at least seems prepared to actually do something. Not without a little resistance, however. There have been plenty of protests at all levels in response to his education reforms but the latest loosely represents a mutiny by the Grandes Ecoles as reported last month in The Telegraph – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/6941075/Nicolas-Sarkozy-faces-revolt-from-elite-French-colleges.html.
In a nutshell, the Grandes Ecoles are resisting an attempt to force them to take 30 percent to their intake from under-privileged backgrounds. On the one hand, the populist view is that such students are disadvantaged when faced with the extremely challenging entrance exams, on the other that standards will drop if entry requirements are relaxed.
Both views seem valid, but the key battleground may not be at university admissions age but earlier – with a view to driving standards, and aspirations, amongst more diverse students sooner. Or alternatively to focus on diverse entrants to the often expensive preparatory classes rather than the Ecoles themselves which appeared to be Sarkozy’s view just 14 months ago: http://www.javno.com/en-world/sarkozy-tackles-discrimination-in-french-education_215815
The results of the QS.com Asian University Rankings are finally here. You can view the full results and more detail on the methodology on http://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/asian-university-rankings but here are the Top 100 to get you started…
by Ben Sowter
It has been encouraging to see traffic on this fledgling blog spike today in anticipation of the QS.com Asian University Rankings due for publication tomorrow. It has been a very busy time responding to individual institutions and preparing our press campaign. The methodology is somehat different from the THE-QS World University Rankings, with a smaller number of countries we have been able to gather adequate data on a couple of additional indicators – the internationalisation area now features inbound and outbound exchange numbers; whilst the citations per faculty indicator has been split out into papers per faculty (productivity) and citations per paper (quality).
Additionally, the regional exercises emphasises the performance differences between institutions in the region – particularly in research measures where the presence of US institutions significantly compresses the scale.
All this means there may be a few small surprises tomorrow when the results are published. Results and more detail on the methodology will emerge initially through Chosun Ilbo (www.chosun.com), our partner in South Korea and will follow at 6.00AM GMT on our website – www.topuniversities.com.
I will try and find time later in the week to put together a more complete post looking at some of the results and some of the interesting contrasts between the results of this exercise and those of the world rankings. I also look forward to reading and responding to any comments about the methodology or results – we’re always interested in feedback and providing a balanced view.
by Ben Sowter
We are living in interesting times. The world is in economic chaos, we are under the persistent threat of terrorism and now there is also a pestilence. Those prone to drama could be forgiven for suggesting that the four horsemen are abroad.
Not a time to adopt the presidency of the United States then. Or is it?
Greatness is generally measured by one’s achievements and their contrast against those of our peers. Political achievement, like customer service or IT support is rarely observed when there is nothing to fix. Obama has come to power at a time when there is much to repair with his closest peer and predecessor having been arguably amongst the worst presidents in history (US News & World Report). With that backdrop in mind, it is perhaps no surprise that his first 100 days seem to have been broadly chalked up as a success.
But what is it all going to mean for higher education, both domestically and globally?
University rankings acknowledge the US to have a good lead but also suggest that this is being, albeit slowly, eroded. The strategies the US pursues are clearly both deeply influential on and closely scrutinized by the global higher education sector.
In late October last year, we ran a seminar circuit in North America visiting the University of Toronto, Boston University, Columbia University, UC San Diego, UC Berkeley and the University of Chicago. Predictably the topic was the background, methodology and results of the THE- QS World University Rankings. It was an exciting time to be in the US – I was in Chicago the weekend before Obama’s victory party – and I was trawling through the candidates’ manifestos to seek out references to higher education that might contextualise the content of our sessions. There was very little – higher education is clearly not much of a campaign gambit at present. Anything I could find was talking about widening participation, increasing diversity and provided fiscal support to enable more people from less-privileged backgrounds to make it to college or university – certainly an important agenda, but not necessarily one that gave much of a lead on support directly for the institutions to imporve their ability to educate and further their pursuit of basic science.
Still, it doesn’t take a tempered political analyst to recognise that what gets one elected can be different from what needs to be done, or indeed, what will maintain the support of the people.
It seems certain that, given his background and repeated rhetoric to this point, that Obama considers education one the central priorities of his administration, in his speech before Congress on February 24 he identified education as one of three pillars of long-term economic recovery and specifically stated, “our children will compete for jobs in a global economy that too many of our schools do not prepare them for”. It seems that the international exposure of future generations of American graduates and, ultimately, leaders is at the forefront of the President’s mind.
Perhaps, then, the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act, formerly known as the the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Act will now get the support it needs in Congress to be passed as law. With lofty goals to send 1 million US students (representing apporximately 50% of US college graduates) per year overseas for study abroad within 10 years, this would have a dramatic impact on the global higher education sector – particularly since the act is also focused on increasing diversity of both the people going and the destinations. (There is good infomation on the Act available on the NAFSA website)
According to the UNESCO Global Education Digest 48,329 students from the US studied overseas in 2006 – so the ambitions of the Simon legislation represent a dramatic change in pure numbers alone, but it is the side-effects that may prove even more interesting. US institutions will open themselves up to partnership with institutions around the world in a far more proactive way than ever before and whilst these partnerships will begin with exchange and study abroad it seems inevitable that many of them may evolve in to something more. There will also be an associated fiscal injection which, whilst it may be comparatively insignificant to the US institutions supplying the students, may be impactful at some of the institutions in developing countries that are the target.
The social implications for the US – and its international relationships – over the next 50 years could be revolutionary. Even if we ignore the growing numbers in the lead up to the target, the Act aims to send over 40 million American citizens out for study abroad in the next half-century – approaching 15% of their current population. Since only in the region of 20% of US citizens hold a passport (various source data available here), this represents a dramatic shift which can only have long term benefit for the US against the backdrop of globalisation.
It seems the whole world is watching this new President to see whether his walk will match his impressive talk. Universities and their stakeholders are no exception.
Some helpful fellow in Germany has plotted the location of the Top 100 universities in both the THE – QS World University Rankings and the Shanghai Jiao Tong exercise on a friendly, interactive Google map to be found here www.university-rankings.net
There are some interesting contrasts between the two maps even when only looking at the Top 100. THE-QS includes institutions in China and Singapore, is more generous towards Australasia, and whilst the picture looks similar in coastal US states, SJTU shows greater favour towards institutions in the Mid-West. Sadly the exercise is currently limited to the top 100 – it would be interesting to see the greater contrast further down the lists and, perhaps, to see how these compare with the results of other ranking exercises, both international and domestic.
The Reader’s Digest Trusted Brand Awards, which include a category for universities, have been announced for Singapore and Taiwan with a number of additional countries to follow. NUS and NTU feature for Singapore with National Taiwan University featured in Taiwan. Gold and Platinum levels are awarded. www.rdasiatrustedbrands.com
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