Video game scholarships

League of Legends becomes a varsity sport

League_of_legends_logo_transparent

Inside Higher Ed has a story about an Illinois university which has decided to make ‘League of Legends’ a varsity sport and award a number of scholarships to boot:

In the latest blow to the nerd-jock distinction, an Illinois university has added video games to its varsity sports lineup.Robert Morris University-Illinois, a 7,000-student private institution with its main campus in Chicago, announced this month that it would incorporate eSports – organized video-game competitions – into its athletic program. Starting in September, League of Legends players will join hockey goalies, quarterbacks and point guards as varsity athletes at the Chicago campus. The university is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.League of Legends is an online multiplayer battle-arena video game. More than 27 million people play it each day, according to Riot Games, which developed the game.The Chicago-based university, which has no affiliation with Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, is the first institution in the country to assign varsity status to a video game.The university plans to offer between 45 and 50 athletic scholarships to incoming gamers, said Kurt Melcher, the university’s associate athletic director. The scholarships will pay for 50 percent of tuition and 50 percent of room and board for members of the League of Legends team.

I must admit I’m not familiar with this particular game but it does seem rather exciting:

whatislol-intro

League of Legends is a fast-paced, competitive online game that blends the speed and intensity of an RTS with RPG elements. Two teams of powerful champions, each with a unique design and playstyle, battle head-to-head across multiple battlefields and game modes. With an ever-expanding roster of champions, frequent updates and a thriving tournament scene, League of Legends offers endless replayability for players of every skill level.

Still not sure that this quite fits with university sports environment or that video games count as sport. Or indeed that the university will find any other university to play against.

Singalonga Higher Ed

Lyrical challenges at the University of Utah

 

Inside Higher Ed has a diverting piece on the changes being made to the University of Utah’s ‘fight song’ to address some of the lyrical challenges of the original:

The line “our coeds are the fairest” will be replaced with “our students are the finest” and the line “no other gang of college men” will now be “no rival band of college fans.” A further complication is that the song has been called “A Utah Man.” From now on it will be called “A Utah Man/Fan.

 

The Official Athletic Site of the University of Utah has the original lyrics in full:

 

VERSE
I am a Utah man, sir, and I live across the green.
Our gang, it is the jolliest that you have ever seen.
Our coeds are the fairest and each one’s a shining star.
Our yell, you hear it ringing through the mountains near and far.

utah-logoCHORUS
Who am I, sir? A Utah man am I A Utah man, sir, and will be till I die; Ki!Yi!
We’re up to snuff; we never bluff,
We’re game for any fuss,
No other gang of college men
dare meet us in the muss.
So fill your lungs and sing it out and
shout it to the sky,
We’ll fight for dear old Crimson,
for a Utah man am I.

VERSE
And when we prom the avenue, all lined up in a row,
And arm in arm and step in time as down the street we go.
No matter if a freshman green, or in a senior’s gown,
The people all admit we are the warmest gang in town.

CHORUS

VERSE
We may not live forever on this jolly good old sphere,
But while we do we’ll live a life of merriment and cheer,
And when our college days are o’er and night is drawing nigh,
With parting breath we’ll sing that song:
“A Utah Man Am I”.

 
It’s rather quaint in a way but probably needs to be retired rather than edited in this way. I must admit though to being intrigued by the idea of a university having a ‘fight song’. I can understand football teams having songs (see for example this classic which is in a similar vein to the Utah song) but universities?

Anyway, it seems this kind of thing is not as unusual as I had thought as Mike Ratcliffe (@mike_rat) kindly pointed out with this wonderful extract from the Leeds University Song Book from 1922:

Leeds song

 

More recently we have the following, a song produced a few years ago about ‘The student learning experience at Nottingham University’. Not a fight song but certainly offensive in parts:

Any other university songs?

Betting the farm

A very big gamble

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an extraordinary piece about how one investment manager gambled away $13.1 Million of her university’s money:
cash pile

Over a series of three contracts, Ms. Prizevoits signed over more than $8-million of the 96-year-old university’s money in 2008 to a Florida-based company called Betts and Gambles Global Equities LLC, to invest in collateralized-mortgage obligations. The founder of the company, federal-court documents state, instead spent part of the money on a Ferrari, a Maserati, and real estate.B y 2010, Ms. Prizevoits had become suspicious of the investments she had made with Betts and Gambles, documents state. Even so, she made another questionable investment on behalf of Ball State, sending $5-million to a California company, Blackhawk Wealth Solutions Inc., to invest in fixed-income securities called Treasury Strips. Much of that money flowed to another company, and was then used to buy a series of real-estate properties in the Bronx, N.Y.

Really does seem bizarre that anyone would do this and that they would manage to gamble away quite so much money without anyone noticing.

I would have thought through that the name of the company might have been a pointer to the problems to come: “Betts and Gambles Global Equities” should at least have raised an alarm bell?

The luxury gap

Dormitories v apartments

I wrote some time ago here about the advent of extremely luxurious student accommodation in the US. This was linked to anxieties about students having it all just too easy. Certainly the trend in the UK has been away from shared rooms and bathrooms and towards individual en suite rooms and studio apartments in new complexes with gyms and social spaces.

Now @insidehighered has an essay which argues that colleges are better with old-style dormitories than apartment-like facilities:
LoyolaMD_Dorm

Apartment-style dorm rooms are the Hot New Thing at some colleges nowadays. Single rooms instead of doubles or even quads, exterior doors instead of crowded hallways, private bathrooms instead of gang showers and those icky shared toilets, even mini-kitchens instead of the noisy dining hall – all have an undeniable appeal for incoming freshmen looking to maximize the more adult features of undergraduate life.Many contemporary students grew up with their own bedrooms, and perhaps even their own bathrooms, and may recoil from sharing their personal spaces with that mysterious stranger, the roommate or hallmate. So colleges and universities, particularly sensitive to the preferences of full-pay students, are starting to move away from traditional long-hallway dorms to more individualized rooms, some with generous amenities. Prospective students seem to love the idea.

But, the argument runs, essentially this is not good for the students or their personal and academic development. The shared experience of this kind of residential life makes making friends a lot easier and provides students with a supportive environment when they most need it, at the start of their university life.

I think it’s a persuasive argument but a difficult sell to potential students. The line that it may be old, traditional and lower spec accommodation but it’s good for you is not necessarily the best pitch to applicants. Especially if this is the alternative:

Too much luxury?

Too much luxury?

But for many institutions (and students) there may not be much choice.

Real or Fake Universities: the results

 Real or fake universities? The votes are in

 

universitybanner

Definitely fake

 

Most of the following list of institutions are from the US and the UK but there are a few from other countries too. Five of these are fake but all the other ones are real. Did you manage to identify the five HE fraudsters?

IHere’s your last chance to have a go at the poll:

So the results are below.

Are you sure?

OK, then you can have a look at the top 10:

 

The Top 10

The Top 10

 

But I guess you will be wanting to know the real from the fake ones then.

Tricky.

There were five definite fakes. And, I’m slightly ashamed to admit, one which has necessitated a stewards’ enquiry.

Four of the definite fakes appear in the top 10.

They are as follows:

  • Watermouth University (You’ll find it in Bradbury’s The History Man.)
  • Rooney University (A university named after one of England’s finest footballers? I think not.)
  • Rummidge University (From the David Lodge trilogy Changing Places, Small World and Nice Work.)
  • Euphoric State University (Also a David Lodge creation appearing in the same novels.)

And then from near the bottom of the poll, spotted by hardly anyone:

  • DuPont University (which appears in Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons.)

Then we run into a bit of a problem. The improbably named University of Hip-Hop, which topped the poll of likely fakes, does actually exist. However, it is possible that it is not actually a real university either by the common sense definition or by virtue of being likely to earn a place on the HEFCE Register of Higher Education providers. It may even just be a blog and does not actually appear on the highly inclusive UK Register of Learning Providers.

Anyway, here are the staff and students of said institution so it must be real:

 

This really is the University of Hip Hop

This really is the University of Hip Hop

So, apologies for leading anyone up the garden path. But at least we all now know how difficult identifying fake providers is…

Graduation Fails

It’s that time of year again

I’ve previously commented on graduation matters here but omitted to mention one particular challenge of the season: pronouncing graduands’ names.

Our Deans work very hard on this and it really is not a task I envy them. But now there is a possible solution. The Chronicle of Higher Education has a piece on a start-up business designed to address this most distinctive of higher education problems:

What''s in a name?

What”s in a name?

Stanford University, whose students gave us the modern search engine, the modern sneaker company, and the modern method of money transfer, is finally tackling a native challenge: commencement. At graduation ceremonies over the past weekend, eight departments at the university used a web-based service that allows students to record their names before commencement for the benefit of whoever reads aloud the list of graduates.

Dubbed NameCoach, the start-up was founded last year by students at—where else?—Stanford. Universities using the service send a link to graduates, who are directed to a web page where they can record their names as they want them pronounced. Nervous deans can then review them at their leisure.

Praveen Shanbhag, who graduated from Stanford this year with a doctorate in philosophy, thought of the idea for NameCoach after a particularly brutal reading of his sister’s name at her 2010 undergraduate commencement. Mr. Shanbhag said the mangling clouded an otherwise happy day for the family. “It kind of tinged it with a sense of alienation and invisibility,” he says. He points to recent research on name mispronunciation as evidence of the psychological and societal damage such incidents can cause.

It’s a simple and rather neat idea and you can see on the demo page quite clearly how it works.

It might turn out to be really helpful. But it still depends on Deans getting it right on the day and there are all sorts of reasons things can go a little bit wrong with one or two pronunciations. But on the whole our Deans do a fantastic job and there is not a lot of butchering.

Even bigger fail

But name errors are sometimes the least of the problems on stage. In many years of daft behaviour by graduands I’ve not seen anything quite as splendidly dumb as this student’s failed backflip attempt during Davenport’s graduation ceremony:

 

It’s not uncommon to see a celebratory gesture or two as students make their way across the stage at college and university commencement ceremonies.

But on Sunday, the antics of one Davenport University student didn’t work out quite as planned.

After walking across the stage and shaking hands with university administrators, Robert Jeffrey Blank removed his cap, planted his feet in place and attempted a backflip.

It didn’t go well.

Blank failed to rotate quick enough, and appeared to land face first on the stage, drawing a gasp from the audience. He didn’t appear to suffer any serious injuries, though, as he can be seen quickly getting up and walking off stage.

 

Let’s hope we don’t see too many more of these. Or indeed this striking example of a typo on a Degree Certificate:

Crazy College, crazy spelling

Crazy School, crazy spelling

(this one via Inside Higher Ed)

Universities: real or fake?

 Real or fake universities? You decide

I’ve written here before about Monsters U and Sim U

Monsters University FB Posters 1.jpg

…and also, there is the very convincing University of Antarctica

 

universitybannerElaborate creations all of them.

So, are you smart enough to get a job with the BIS Higher Education Governance Team? Can you tell real from fake universities? The following list contains a number of top drawer institutions. Most are from the US and the UK but there are a few from other countries too. Five of these are fake but all the other ones are real. Can you identify the five fakes?

(Don’t wast time Googling them – life’s too short and will provide the answers in due course.)

Pointless eh?

 

Big bucks for students with big ideas

A big prize for University of Pennsylvania graduates

The Philadelphia Enquirer has a good story about an initiative at the University of Pennsylvania for graduates who want to change the world:

Graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a strong desire to change the world and an excellent plan for how to do it?A new Penn program may fund you.Penn president Amy Gutmann has created “engagement prizes” of up to $150,000 – $50,000 for living expenses and $100,000 for project execution – for students with the most promising plans to improve local, national, or global conditions in the year after their graduation.”We want to maximize the encouragement we can give our students who do well by doing good in the world,” Gutmann said Tuesday.

Money for something

Money for something

It’s perhaps not an entirely novel idea but the scale of it is impressive:

While other schools offer prizes, Penn’s effort appears to offer more money..”I don’t know of anything that’s even close to that big,” said Jeffrey Selingo, author of College Unbound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students and a contributing editor to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Gutmann said she wanted to create a prize on the order of the prestigious Rhodes or Marshall scholarships, and offer it in a way that gets an entire senior class from an elite university focused on civic engagement and innovative thinking. She said she knew of no other university that had created such a prize.”We want this to be something that isn’t their second or third choice, but their first choice,” Gutmann said. “I think this is going to create a cadre of students who are committed to civic engagement.”Colleges large and small increasingly are looking for ways to tie what students learn in the classroom to the real world, Selingo said. Davidson College in North Carolina, for example, offers paid “impact fellowships” to recent graduates who work with nonprofit organizations on critical health, education, and environmental issues.Penn’s new prize will pay for up to three projects per year; students can apply individually or in groups of up to three.

So, will we see UK universities trying something like this? Lots already offer small awards to current students to support good works or charitable endeavours but I’m not aware of anything on this scale. The award could be a game changer for Penn but will other students or unsuccessful competitors be resentful about the size of the pot? We’ll have to see but if they do make a real difference with the prize then we can expect that lots of others will be following suit.

When is a campus not a campus?

The QAA has published a report which takes issue with UK international branch campus definition

The United Arab Emirates has many international Branch Campuses including some from the UK. A recent post here commented that branch campuses, including the University of Nottingham’s campuses in Malaysia and China, were a major part of international activity.

Others have branch campuses too (and aren't subject to the QAA)

Others have branch campuses too (and aren’t subject to the QAA)

 

The QAA overview report has fuller details on each of the UK universities inspected. The report covers 11 UK institutions but notes there are 37 campuses in total in the UAE, more than in any other country.

Distribution of the 37 branch campuses in UAE

Distribution of the 37 branch campuses in UAE

It seems that everyone with a branch campus also claims to be a global operation:

All the institutions considered in the TNE review of UAE had global aspirations. In many cases, the word global appears in their mission statements or the strap-lines on their websites. On the other hand, there was some evidence that institutions had not fully considered the organisational consequences of the global offering. In some cases heads of the UAE centres were physically located at the UK campus, even where the UAE operation was developing beyond the scale of an administrative campus. One of the branch campuses, otherwise highly successful in organisational terms, had only an indirect line into the governance and management of the university at large.

So perhaps some way to go there.

The student numbers set out in the report show that there is actually some variety in the UK university provision in UAE:

Student numbers UAE

Student numbers UAE

However, probably the most interesting aspect of the report is picked up in a report in the Times Higher Education which covers the warning in the QAA report over the definition of UK international branch campuses there:

UK universities must be careful not to mislead students about their “international branch campuses”, which are often little more than an office and teaching rooms, the standards watchdog has warned.In its first report on transnational education offered by UK universities in the United Arab Emirates, the Quality Assurance Agency says that only two of the 11 institutions listed as UK branch campuses would meet the definition of a “campus”.“Only two providers, Heriot-Watt and Middlesex, are readily recognisable as branch campuses [offering] the range of facilities a student would expect of a campus in the UK,” according to the Review of UK Transnational Education in United Arab Emirates, published on 4 June.For instance, the University of Exeter’s campus in Dubai comprises an office and a small self-service library, with teaching rooms hired when required, the QAA says.The University of Strathclyde’s Business School, which runs MBAs in Dubai, had no rooms of its own, using spaces within another higher education institution.

So, there really are some definitional problems here. A couple of offices or some rented teaching rooms in another institution do not a campus make. It will be interesting to see if the universities concerned change their descriptions of their activities following this report.

Sino-Foreign Unity

Inauguration of Sino-foreign Cooperative Universities Union

Sino-foreign universities are still small in number. Since the establishment of the first Sino-foreign institution, the University of Nottingham Ningbo China, a decade ago, the number has grown though and npw six have come together to establish the Sino-foreign Cooperative University Union and Presidents Forum.

The event was a chance for the leaders of the six joint venture universities from across China to come together with representatives of the local and national government to witness the formation of the Union and participate in the inaugural forum.

University of Nottingham Ningbo China

University of Nottingham Ningbo China

The six international collaborative universities are Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, the University of Nottingham Ningbo China, New York University Shanghai, Duke Kunshan University, Wenzhou-Kean University and the Chinese University of Hong Kong Shenzhen.

The inaugural meeting of Sino-foreign Cooperative Universities Union was hosted by XJTLU and a press release provided more information on the event:

Speaking during the morning’s Presidential Forum, Professor Youmin Xi, Executive President of XJTLU, welcomed the distinguished guests and highlighted the importance of the Union of Sino-foreign Cooperative Universities not only for its members but also for Chinese higher education. “It is time for us [the Union] to redefine education,” explained President Xi, citing the competitive advantages of student centered learning, innovative administrative structure and lack of historical burdens as the reasons why universities such as XJTLU will become leaders of the next generation of international higher education institutes.

XJTLU, host of the event

XJTLU, host of the event

Throughout the morning, senior representatives from the Union followed President Xi in giving speeches and introductions about their institutions to the audience. Members were then encouraged to raise questions and share ideas with one another in order to enhance the understanding of the issues faced by Sino-foreign Universities in China today.Professor Weiqi Shen, Vice-President of University of Nottingham Ningbo China, further developed the principles which set Sino-foreign Cooperative Universities apart from others in China, highlighting “high quality, openness, ‘hybrid vigor’ and legitimacy” in particular.

In the afternoon the Forum was joined by a senior delegation from the national Ministry of Education MoE, who travelled from Beijing to participate in the event. The Presidents listened to a speech given by Mr. Jianjun Cen, Director of International Cooperation and Communion Department of MoE who spoke about the important of the Union and the positive effects they hoped it would have on wider education in China.

The Union of Sino-foreign Universities intends to continue to explore issues of common concern by sharing experiences and best practices, and to find feasible solutions to these issues. It is intended to enhance communication among members but also to enable members to influence higher education development in China. Although the members are at different stages of development, together they are in a distinctive and potentiallly influential position. It will be interesting to see how the new Union develops.

International branch campuses: over-exposed?

 Are there too many branch campus headlines? Not quite.

A recent piece in University World News suggested that there was just too much attention given to international branch campuses rather than other forms of international activity:

International branch campuses receive a lot of attention for their motivations, successes and failures. In addition, some recent big-name endeavours like New York University Shanghai and Yale-NUS College in Singapore add to the perception that more institutions are building overseas campuses.

In reality, branch campuses form only a small proportion of the internationalisation activities and models of transnational education engaged in by institutions.

For example the United Kingdom, which has been promoting transnational education as part of its national strategy, reports that only 3% of its 600,000 students studying wholly overseas for a UK qualification in 2012-13 were enrolled in an overseas campus of a UK higher education institution.

In contrast, one out of five students pursued a UK degree through a distance learning programme.

If the goal of the global engagement strategy of a higher education institution is to be truly ‘global’ and to ‘engage’ learners from many countries in a cost-effective, controllable and flexible manner, then online and open learning cannot be ignored.

A recent report shows that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, is shaping its internationalisation future around its prior initiative like OpenCourseWare and now edX.

It forecasts a future where education will be unbundled and degrees will be disaggregated “into smaller credential units such as course credentials, sequence credentials, and even badges” with the possibility that “the credentialing entity may be different from the institution that offers the course”.

Leaving aside the tedious unbundling rhetoric it is right to observe that internationalisation is a multifaceted strategy for any university and there is much more to being a global university than just branch campuses. However, there are many such campuses around the world of many different kinds.

For example, the University of Nottingham’s Malaysia Campus (UNMC) is home to some 5,000 students and over 450 staff, located at the edge of Kuala Lumpur in a breathtakingly beautiful setting and the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) campus houses over 6,000 students and over 400 staff). Both campuses are larger than a good number of UK HE institutions and are already, despite their relative youth (UNMC became the first overseas campus of any UK university some 14 years ago and UNNC was founded in 2004), they are already punching significantly above their weight in both research and teaching in their host countries.

University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

OBHE, in its most recent report, identifies some 200 or so branch campuses around the world with another 37 at least in the pipeline. It is likely that many more have been initiated since this report was published.

However, very few of these are of the scale, breadth or depth of the Nottingham developments and many are much smaller scale operations with teaching delivered in rented office accommodation by staff who fly in for a few weeks before flying back home again.

The reality is that despite their scale and success these campuses really do not get much attention. Rather the nascent developments of NYU in Abu Dhabi and Duke University in China seem to grab all the headlines despite their small scale. (Not that I’m at all cross about that.) This does therefore give a rather misleading impression of international branch campus activity.

Britain’s global university

Nottingham actually has three international campuses at present; as well as those in China and Malaysia there is the original campus in the UK which is also strikingly international with over 9,000 international students from 150+ countries. The international ethos is embraced in all that we do and is strongly articulated in the University’s mission:

At the University of Nottingham we are committed to providing a truly international education, inspiring our students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around our campuses in the UK, China and Malaysia. Our purpose is to improve life for individuals and societies worldwide. By bold innovation and excellence in all that we do, we make both knowledge and discoveries matter.

Campus at University of Nottingham Ningbo China

Campus at University of Nottingham Ningbo China

Our academic staff on all campuses are international in composition (25% are international) and outlook too. More than one in five of our undergraduates undertakes international mobility. 17% of published research outputs are internationally co-authored and 37% of our research funding is obtained internationally. We have strategic partnerships with other leading universities in over 25 countries and one of the largest scholarship programmes for students from the developing world. And we do distance learning and offer a number of MOOCs too.

So, there is a lot more to an international university than just branch campuses but, in context, it is clear that serious international campus activity can be a key component of a global strategy for a university. If only they got a bit more attention.

 

 

Ranking systemically

The new U21 systems ranking

Following on from last year’s second league table, U21 has now published its 2014 Rankings report, which is intended to give an overview and ranking of higher education systems across the world. The full report gives much more information about the rankings but in summary:

The widened definition of Connectivity has seen an improvement in the rankings for several Asian countries, and a decline for several Eastern European countries. Overall, though, the leaders in Connectivity are Switzerland, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Environment is topped by New Zealand and the Netherlands.

Resource levels are highest in Denmark, followed by Canada, Sweden and the United Sates. The biggest change since the 2013 rankings has been a fall of five places by Bulgaria, Hungary and the Russian Federation occasioned by relative declines in government expenditure. On Output measures, the top five countries are the same as in 2013: the United States is again clearly first followed by the United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden and Finland. Among the top eight countries for Output, all but two (the United Kingdom and Australia) are in the top eight for Resources.

Our main ranking compares a country’s performance against the best in the world on each measure. In our auxiliary ranking, countries are scored on how they perform on each of the 24 measures relative to countries at similar stages of economic development as measured by GDP per capita. This produces marked changes in ranking. China (becomes ninth), India (becomes 23rd) and South Africa (becomes 17th) all improve their overall ranking by at least 25 places, although the three top-ranked countries are Sweden, Finland and Denmark. A noticeable feature is that several lower income countries show very marked improvements in the Connectivity ranking (the top two are now South Africa and Thailand, and Indonesia becomes seventh), an activity that is likely to be most beneficial to economic growth.

 

962013 thumbnail

The 2014 Rankings report retains the core methodology of the previous rankings with a minor amendment to the connectivity indicator:

24 desirable attributes are grouped under four broad headings: Resources, Environment, Connectivity and Output. The Resources component covers government expenditure, total expenditure, and R&D expenditure in tertiary institutions. The Environment module comprises a quantitative index of the policy and regulatory environment, the gender balance of students and academic staff, and a data quality variable. The Connectivity component has been extended by including measures of interaction with business and industry, in addition to numbers of international students, research articles written with international collaborators and web-based connectivity. Nine Output variables are included that cover research output and its impact, the presence of world-class universities, participation rates and the qualifications of the workforce. The appropriateness of training is measured by relative unemployment rates.

The overall country ranking is a weighted average of each module. The improvement in the scope of the Connectivity module has led us to increase the weight on this component from 15 to 20 per cent and to lower the weight on the Resources component by five percentage points. The weights used in the 2014 rankings are: Resources (20%), Environment (20%), Connectivity (20%) and Output (40%). The widened definition of Connectivity has seen an improvement in the rankings for several Asian countries, and a decline for several Eastern European countries. Overall, though, the leaders in Connectivity are Switzerland, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Environment is topped by New Zealand and the Netherlands.

The top 20 is as follows. As might be expected it is fairly stable with little change since last year:

1 United States (1)
2 Sweden (2)
3 Canada (4)
3 Denmark (5)152_140410 - 2014 Rankings Publication - Draft 2_Page_01
5 Finland (6)
6 Switzerland (3)
7 Netherlands (7)
8 United Kingdom (10)
9 Australia (8)
10 Singapore (9)
11 Norway (11)
12 Austria (11)
13 Belgium (13)
14 Germany (15)
15 Hong Kong SAR (16)
16 New Zealand (14)
17 Ireland (18)
18 France (16)
19 Israel (19)
20 Japan (-)

The top 10 countries are the same as in the 2012 and 2013 Rankings but with some minor swaps and the UK charging up the table from 10th to 8th and Switzerland sliding dramatically from 3rd to 6th.

It remains a distinctive and perhaps less controversial method of ranking.

 

 

A New Student Services Role?

Does every University need a Course Concierge?

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently had a piece about the development of the idea of the ‘Course Concierge’. The label seems to have been assigned to Paul Neill title who is director of the core curriculum at the University of Nevada at Reno, by the students there. He’s the one they contact when they can’t get into a class they need and sorts it out for them:

A few years ago, officials at the university decided that they had to do more to reduce the hassles of registering for courses. They imagined a kind of registration czar, someone who could communicate well with faculty members but who had the authority of an administrator. Mr. Neill, a faculty member who works in the provost’s office, fit the bill.

Someone else's student services centre

Some other institution’s student services centre

Soon Nevada was promoting Mr. Neill as the course concierge, the man advisers and students could turn to when stuck. Each semester, he helps 50 to 60 students solve their scheduling problems, working one on one with those who need a particular course to graduate, or who have trouble getting into classes they must take in a sequence. Often he creates a spot in a class that’s full, or steers students to suitable alternatives.

“In the past, it was often left up to the student and the professor to see who could get in where,” Mr. Neill says. “It was very informal.”

Even in times of plenty, students often learn a tough lesson when they register for courses: You can’t always get what you want. In this era of budget cuts, however, students on some campuses have scrambled to get not only the courses they would like but also those they need for their majors and to satisfy core requirements.

 

Whilst in many ways it seems like a solution to a problem more likely to be encountered on US campuses, the idea of providing additional assistance to students in this way is an interesting one. A contact of last resort on course matters might be a really valuable addition to student services offerings.

Really not sure about the title though.

Mobilising the humanities

Humanities – helping to meet global development challenges

I was pleased to be present at the launch of this study which was conducted by Ipsos on behalf of the British Council. It was launched on 1st May at Going Global 2014, the British Council’s annual conference for leaders in higher education which took place in Miami. You can find the Report, Mobilising the humanities, here.

map-global-connections

 

This study explores, through the eyes of international development organisations, the role of the Humanities in seeking solutions to global development challenges. The study found that all development programmes, even the most technical, need ‘humanising’. An education in the humanities helps develop a base of knowledge and key skills in four main areas of development:

  • Critical/analytical thinking
  • Flexibility and tolerance for ambiguity
  • Communication and negotiation
  • Local knowledge

MobilOther findings included that a Humanities education develops the needed knowledge and skills but experience is important too for those playing these important development roles. In addition, the report concluded that organisations face challenges in finding the right people with the right skills and also faced private sector competition too.

Whilst it is pretty difficult to argue with much of this and it is all very laudable and indeed credible, I would have a concern that there is an element of preaching to the converted here. Moreover, although there are detailed findings to be published, a small number of interviews with a selection of leaders in development agencies is perhaps not the most robust evidence base in support of the argument. However, all good stuff nevertheless.

 

More from Going Global in Miami soon.

Students behaving badly

Crimes and misdemeanours at university

I was greatly taken by this list of fineable offences for 18th-century students at Harvard:

Offense #19, “Cutting off the lead,” seems to refer to the lead on the college building’s roof. Lead was once used for roofing material (especially for more expensively-constructed buildings), and such buildings suffered from the depradations of thieves who would steal the lead and sell it. It’s unclear, in this case, whether the students were cutting off lead for profit or for simple mischief.

 

Students have always behaved badly. Not all of them and not all of the time but universities have often felt the need to seek to constrain the worst excesses and this list from Harvard is typical although clearly very much of its time. (See also True Crime on Campus…)

A previous post here looked at regulations in Oxford and Uzbekistan, in the 16th Century and more recently.

In 1584 at Oxford University, statutes were approved to prevent disorder among the student body. These regulations also contain references to specific degree requirements including attendance at lectures on Aristotle and an instruction not to play football. (Sylvester, D (1970), Educational Documents, 800-1816, London: Methuen pp151-153.)

These days universities around the world tend to have more comprehensive requirements (but perhaps more supportive of sporting activity). See for example the University of Nottingham Code of Discipline for Students.

An interesting development of this has been reported by the Chronicle which noted that Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Higher and Secondary Education issued a ‘code of conduct’ for students, covering such matters as how they should shake hands with professors and the proper time to visit the toilet during classes.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (quoted by the Chronicle) described the code, “Ethical Rules for Higher Education Institutions,” as an attempt by an authoritarian government to keep its youth population in line:

The ministry is requiring that its pedantic “Ethical Rules for Higher Education Institutions” be signed by every university student and professor in the country.

“These rules are being introduced to form and retain, as well as defend, the ethical integrity of members of higher educational institutions,” the document says. It promises to “prevent the decay of students…and defend them from alcoholism and drug addiction, as well as the threats of religious extremism and mass culture.”

(It’s good to see that someone is still fighting that last battle, particularly after Rutgers University paid Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” $32,000 to lecture its students in March 2011. Snooki got $2,000 more than Toni Morrison, the Nobel Prize-winning author who for $30,000 delivered the keynote address at Rutgers’ commencement ceremony in May 2011.)

 

This is the kind of thing which Harvard used to have to put up with

This is the kind of thing which Harvard used to have to put up with

Notwithstanding the lofty language of the prologue, many of the new guidelines read like a rather poor joke, the work of ministry officials with an acutely sardonic sense of humor. Article 3.8 stipulates that “members of a higher education institution, when moving, should take the right side. It is recommended to greet each other in the following way: students first greet professors; men first greet women; younger students first greet older students. Shaking hands is excluded from this rule, since elders should reach out to shake first.”

And as if that weren’t enough:

“It is prohibited to post on the Internet materials that are not in line with national values or related to the internal problems of higher educational institutions,” the rules say, before going on to note that they “categorically ban publishing, saving, or distribution via computers of different materials not related to a higher education institution.”

And just when you thought things could not get any worse: “Don’t walk around a university campus with no reason,” the rulebook advises.

So, it really does feel like a bit of a homage to Harvard. Unfortunately it is the Harvard of over 200 years ago rather than today.