RAE results predictor?

Predicting RAE outcomes before the submission


Interesting RAE pre-results (by 13 months) commentary in The Guardian

According to a league table based on research impact, PhD numbers and income – which was drawn up by Evidence for EducationGuardian.co.uk – the frontrunners will remain the big research players, known as the “golden diamond”: Imperial and University College London, Oxbridge and Manchester universities. All five do well in terms of the impact of the research papers their academics have published, the income they get from research and the numbers of PhDs who completed between 2002 and 2006. These are the so called “metrics” that will be used to rank university research in the future.

(Aside: since when has it been a “golden diamond”? Isn’t it really a pentagon? And the inclusion of Manchester would actually require it to be an octagon according to the table below)

The league table is also published here and institutions are ranked according to an average score of each of the variables.

The variables are:

    – Impact and papers – describes how many times more than the world average (unique to subject area) the papers have been cited between 2002 and 2006 in peer-reviewed journals

    – Research grant and contract income, 2002-06

    – Number of PhDs completed 2002-06

Key research metrics for UK HEIs 2002-06
University rankings which emerge under this methodology (see here for detailed results):

    1 Oxford
    2 Cambridge
    3 Imperial College
    4 UCL
    5 Edinburgh
    6 King’s College London
    7 Birmingham
    8 Manchester
    9 Glasgow
    10 Bristol
    11 Southampton
    12 Sheffield
    13 Leeds
    14 Cardiff
    15 Nottingham
    16 Newcastle
    17 Liverpool
    18 Durham
    19 Queen Mary, London
    20 Leicester

Not another transcendental university

That’s all we need

Not entirely clear from the Guardian story exactly how the “Invincible Donovan University” will qualify for the award of the university title but guess these things will just kind of happen:

donovan lynch

Donovan claimed that the practice of transcendental meditation would enhance the learning experience. “It will be a normal university but will also be very, very different because of its potential that will be unfolding because of an extraordinary technique which I learnt when I was in India with the Beatles in 1968,” he said. “It’s called transcendental meditation and it has been applied for many years in different educational programmes with astounding results.”

Sounds like he’s already gearing up for the QAA visit. Mellow.

His partner in peace, David Lynch, should be a help there too. Can’t believe they were given serious air time on the Today programme to promote this.

Closing Oxbridge?

Not quite.

But in a recent entertaining debate in the US, it was proposed that three members of the Ivy league – Harvard, Yale and Princeton – be shut down altogether. A fanciful notion but it clearly gave rise to lots of deep-seated prejudice – largely from those who weren’t admitted in the past it would seem.

U of Ox

A similar proposition here in relation to Oxford and Cambridge (with all of their resources being distributed across the Russell Group, presumably) would attract even more enthusiastic (if misguided) support would be my guess.

Understanding a little more about WP

An important new report on some of the biggest challenges in widening participation.

The report focuses on areas with the lowest HE progression rates: between 8% and 13% of 18- and 19-year-olds in these constituencies pursue a higher education course at a university or further education college, compared with 33% nationally.

The argument is about “embedding” partnerships according to HEFCE:

Universities and colleges need to continue to develop a strong understanding of the wider communities in which they operate in order to develop more focused and relevant interventions which will reach young people from lower social class backgrounds, according to a report published today. The report, Young participation in Higher Education in the Parliamentary constituencies of Birmingham Hodge Hill, Bristol South, Nottingham North and Sheffield Brightside, commissioned by HEFCE in 2005 consolidates the findings of four in-depth case studies which aimed to explore the factors that might lie behind the very low rates of young participation in higher education in those parliamentary constituencies.

The summary report highlights the need for universities and colleges to consider how their strategies to widen participation can be embedded directly within the educational provision for the constituencies in which they operate. While acknowledging that higher education institutions (HEIs) cannot tackle all the issues facing these communities in isolation, the report recommends that institutions do need to have a strong, sustainable presence in low participation neighbourhoods and consider ‘ways in which they can make significant and measurable contributions to the social, educational and economic transformation of these areas’.

See also detailed piece in the Guardian.

Challenging stuff.

Degree classifications: just too good to lose

The final report of the group on measuring and recording student achievement has been published.

The report (available from UUK) basically accepts that changing the traditional degree classification system is just too darn difficult and that we can only get round it by adding a new and improved transcript (with a new name – HEAR) to provide lots of extra info.

Professor Bob Burgess, Chair of the Measuring and Recording Student Achievement Steering Group which produced the report, and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, said: “The report presents a strong case for change. The UK honours degree is a robust and highly-valued qualification, but the degree classification system needs updating. The continued use of overall judgements such as upper second and lower second actively inhibits the use of wider information about students. Graduates deserve more than simply a single number to sum up their academic work when they leave university.


“During the consultation we listened carefully to the views of a range of stakeholders. As a result, the report recommends a four-year development and testing phase for a new transcript system as part of a ‘Higher Education Achievement Report’. Such a system will contain a wider range of information than the current academic transcript and will capture more fully than now the strengths and weaknesses of the student’s performance. As we explore and develop a new system, it is anticipated that alternatives to the existing honours degree classification will be explored.”

Not the finest example of progressive thinking from UK universities. What proportion of students have to get a 2:1 before we change the system? Will anyone go it alone?

Another interesting league table

Presented by the Aspen Institute and with the intriguing title of ‘Beyond Grey Pinstripes’.

This table offers an alternative ranking of business schools which focuses on integration of corporate social responsibility issues. And Nottingham University Business School (deservedly) does rather well.

Princeton downgrades

Princeton resorts to norm-referencing

From the Chronicle, September 18, 2007

Princeton Gives Top Marks to Its 3-Year-Old Policy to Control Grade Inflation

It’s harder to be a straight-A student at Princeton University than it was three years ago, according to Nancy W. Malkiel, dean of the college. In a faculty meeting on Monday, Ms. Malkiel announced that, in the three years since Princeton set a policy to clamp down on grade inflation, the percentage of A’s earned by undergraduates had declined across most disciplines. The policy established a common grading standard and limited the proportion of A grades (including A+, A, and A-) to 35 percent in every undergraduate course, and 55 percent for independent projects completed by juniors and seniors.


The trend in A grades continued a pattern noted in 2005, a year after the policy was adopted. From 2004 to 2007, only 40.6 percent of undergraduate grades were A’s, compared with 47 percent in the period from 2001 to 2004. In the humanities, A grades declined about 10 percentage points, from 55.5 percent in the 2001-4 period to 45.9 percent for 2004-7. Social-science A’s were only 37.6 percent of the total for 2004-7, compared with 43.3 percent in the preceding three-year period. The smallest percentage-point decline occurred in the natural sciences, where A grades declined from 37.2 percent in 2001-4 to 35.7 percent in 2004-7.

It’s not entirely clear why the problem was felt to be so bad or why it was wrong for the brightest students to achieve exceptionally good grades. It might be that the new approach encourages unhealthy behaviour among the student body as they seek to make the cut.

According to the article, the changes have not had any negative effect on employment rates though. So that’s alright then.

5% “cheat on UCAS forms”

Large number of UCAS cheats

But to what end?! Anyway, UCAS is going to scan all personal statements this time around according to the BBC. We’ll see how many use the burnt pyjamas story next time (284 in the trial last year I think). So, we’ll find out when a personal statement is not actually a personal statement and then universities will have to decide what action to take. Will we really turn away 1 in 20 applicants?

Admissions issues

From the Chronicle:

Investigation Uncovers Admissions Scandal at Prestigious University in Uganda, by WACHIRA KIGOTHO

Makerere University, in Uganda, one of the most prestigious universities in Africa, may revoke more than 200 degrees awarded in the past four years after an internal investigation discovered that the students had been enrolled without any evidence that they had met admissions criteria. The scandal, which was described in a report presented last month by an internal committee charged with investigating academic fraud, involved what the university calls “mature” students — those over 25 who do not have high school diplomas. Such applicants are required to pass a proficiency test to enter the university, and the committee found evidence that the results of those tests had been altered to allow test takers with failing scores to be admitted.

So, not great news for the Harvard of Africa. But it seems the blame lies with the administration:

The report blames the registrar’s department, which is responsible for admissions, for lack of internal-control mechanisms to curb serious academic fraud.

It just seems astounding that such a state of affairs could go on for over four years.

In-house Facebook?

According to Business Week, this is what the big companies are now doing, ie providing an internal social networking alternative.

water cooler

By luring employees into a network, companies hope to leverage their skills and contacts. But they also hope that all that collaboration will cut out time that’s now spent mailing documents and e-mailing comments.

A bit optimistic perhaps. Seems questionable whether such homegrown facebook alternatives will actually provide a substitute for the real thing or just an additional channel. And how comprehensive is Sharepoint in any case?