Another World Ranking: High Impact Universities

High Impact Universities: “it’s all about research impact”

Following the rash of recent world league table publications here is one that is based primarily on research. The rankings measure universities’ Research Performance Index or RPI. The table has been developed at the University of Western Australia and can be found here.

The Top 20 is:

1 Harvard University
2 Stanford University
4 University of California, Los Angeles
5 University of California, Berkeley
6 University of Michigan
7 University of Washington
8 University of Pennsylvania
9 Johns Hopkins University
10 University of California, San Diego
11 Columbia University
12 University of Minnesota
13 University of Cambridge
14 University of Toronto
15 University of Chicago
16 Cornell University
17 University of Oxford
18 University of Wisconsin, Madison
19 Yale University
20 Pennsylvania State University

The methodology is based on a “simple process” which delivers your RPI for each broad subject area/faculty

Step 1. calculate the g-index (a numerical measure of the quality and consistency of publication or research output) for each faculty of the particular university
Step 2. divide or normalize the g-index for each faculty by that of the highest globally performing faculty
Step 3. average or sum the normalized faculty indices to arrive at a final RPI value for a particular university

Comparisons with the recent Times Higher Education and QS tables show some major similarities, they are all US dominated, but also some marked differences, particularly for Cambridge, Oxford and Yale.

Zombie class begins at University of Baltimore

Yet more zombie nonsense

Entertainment news courtesy of LA Times – zombie class begins at the University of Baltimore:

Zombies are everywhere these days. Last year they hit the best-seller list in a bizarre mash-up with Jane Austen called “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” They have inspired math professors to devise statistical models for surviving a “zombie apocalypse.” This fall, they’ll star in the AMC TV series “The Walking Dead.”

And now, they’re the subject of a new course, otherwise known as English 333, at the University of Baltimore.

“Zombies are one of the most potent, direct reflections of what we’re thinking moment to moment in our culture,” Blumberg tells the class in explaining why they’re all here.

Students will watch 16 classic zombie films (including “Zombi 2,” in which a zombie fights a shark), read zombie comics and, as an alternative to a final research paper, have the chance to write scripts or draw storyboards for their ideal zombie flicks.

Jonathan Shorr, chair of the university’s school of communications design, wanted a rotation of “interesting, off-the-wall” courses for a new minor in pop culture. But when Blumberg pitched him a course about the walking dead, he says, “I hit the side of my monitor a couple times thinking, ‘Do I have this right? Did he say zombies?’ ”

The more he thought about it, however, the more intrigued Shorr became. Zombies have shown great resilience as a storytelling device and in this era of gloom and dread, their popularity is cresting. Maybe they would be a perfect hook to get students talking about sociology, literature and a bevy of other disciplines that can sound stuffy.

Yep, you’ve got to make these subjects accessible and relevant or no-one will want to study them.

Further previous discussion of what some, but certainly not me, have described as ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses can be found here.

The Independent also highlights 10 strange courses, including a Harry Potter course on offer at Durham University, and this, perhaps the best of the lot:

Trekkies everywhere will be beaming at the news that Georgetown University offers a course in ‘Philosophy and Star Trek’. Students can attempt to get their most pressing questions answered such as ‘Is time travel possible?’ and ‘Could we go back and kill our grandmothers?’.

Top drawer.

Everyone’s a winner? Betting on grades

Good grades? You bet

There has been some recent interest in a new service provided by a company called Ultrinsic which allows students to bet on the grades they will achieve. If you get the grade, you win. If you don’t, you lose.

Ultrinsic is a web-based college platform that provides incentives to students for academic achievement. Ultrinsic exclusively dedicates itself to motivating students to improve their grades.

To participate in Ultrinsic, all a student does is log into their account at the beginning of each semester and choose the course they are registered for.

Based on the student’s academic history, and the amount they choose to invest in their ability to reach that target grade, a cash reward will be calculated for the student. Therefore, any student can participate, no matter what end of the academic spectrum they fall into.

When the semester is over, the student sends in their official transcript and Ultrinsic will verify their win and credit their account with the winnings.

The student will have completed a semester of college, achieved the highest possible grades, and received a cash bonus. Can’t think of many better ways to conclude a semester than that!

Ultrinsic incentives are beneficial because they motivate students to succeed in school. Notwithstanding if the student won the incentive or not, if the student tried harder and improved their academic standings even slightly, the experience was well worth it.

Interesting. And from the Huffington post we have this quote from the originator:

CEO Steven Wolf insists this is not online gambling, which is technically illegal in the United States, because wagers with Ultrinsic involve skill. “The students have 100 percent control over it, over how they do. Other people’s stuff you bet on – your own stuff you invest in,” Wolf says. “Everything’s true about it, I’m just trying to say that the underlying concept is a little bit more than just making a bet – it’s actually an incentive.

How reassuring that this is, technically, not gambling. However it is, despite the pitch, primarily a vehicle for making money out of students. If betting on grades was the best way to improve student achievement then I suspect many universities would be using it as a matter of course.

Moreover, looking at the detail of the system there do seem to be some major security issues in the system for students and universities. In order to sign up you have to allow access to your official university student records. Do institutions really want third parties inspecting student data to determine whether or not to pay out on grades?

(Thanks to Paul Kennedy, Information Services at the University of Nottingham, for the suggestion.)

Vocational qualifications: ‘a great idea for other people’s children’

A new review of vocational qualifications

The BBC reports on Education Secretary Michael Gove’s announcement of an independent review of vocational qualifications for students aged 14 to 19 in England.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said the government wanted qualifications in practical subjects to be more “hands on”. The number of vocational qualifications taken has risen fast in recent years.

But critics say schools push weaker pupils to do courses of little benefit to them, to boost league table scores.

Professor Alison Wolf, an expert on education and skills from Kings’ College London, is to head the review. It will look at “ways to improve vocational education’s organisation and responsiveness to a changing labour market, and to ensure vocational education is progressing young people to the next stage,” the Department for Education said.

Professor Wolf is an obvious choice to lead this. In her fascinating 2002 book, Does Education Matter?, she has a lot to say (not much of it positive) about vocational qualifications and NVQs in particular which she observes pointedly are ‘a great idea for other people’s children’. Let’s hope we do better this time.

New THE World University Rankings 2010: UK positions

New THE World University Rankings 2010: UK positions

14 UK universities appear in the top 100, a few of them are new arrivals in this territory:

6= Cambridge
6= Oxford
9 Imperial College
22 University College London
40 University of Edinburgh
68= University of Bristol
77 King’s College London
79= University of Sussex
81= University of York
86 LSE
85 Durham University
87 University of Manchester
88 Royal Holloway
90= University of Southampton

And then in the next 100 there are 14 more:

103 St Andrews
120= Queen Mary
124= Lancaster University
128 University of Glasgow
137 University of Sheffield
145= University of Birmingham
149= University of Aberdeen
152= Birkbeck
152= Newcastle University
165= University of Liverpool
168= University of Leeds
174= University of East Anglia
174= University of Nottingham
184 University of Exeter

New 2010 Times Higher Education World University Rankings

2010 Times Higher Education World University Rankings

The new THE world rankings are out and available here. New method, new rankings and some pretty big changes in the top 200. However, to look at the top 20 you wouldn’t think there was an awful lot going on here (unless perhaps you were Cambridge). And Harvard is on top (unlike in the recent QS table where they were usurped by Cambridge).

1 Harvard University
2 California Institute of Technology
4 Stanford University
5 Princeton University
=6 University of Cambridge
=6 University of Oxford
8 University of California, Berkeley
9 Imperial College London
10 Yale University
11 University of California, Los Angeles
12 University of Chicago
13 Johns Hopkins University
14 Cornell University
=15 University of Michigan
=15 Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich
17 University of Toronto
18 Columbia University
19 University of Pennsylvania
20 Carnegie Mellon University

The bigger surprises come beyond the top 20 where UK universities generally seem to slip. Indeed, three Russell Group institutions fail to show at all in the top 200 (Warwick, Cardiff, Queen’s) whereas others do rather well (eg York, Sussex). The early press reporting on the table in the UK is generally leading on the poor showing of British institutions. More to follow on this.

True Crime on Campus §3

More true crime on campus

Some more diverting extracts from campus security reports:

0355 Report of a female Conference Delegate feeling unwell in Willoughby Hall Security attended the female stated she had drunk a large amount of a Caffeine based drink. An organiser from the Conference was contacted and asked to sit with the Delegate.

1215 Report of people ferreting on Lancroft Lane Sutton Bonington Campus. Security attended [and advised that] the people had the permission of the Farm Manager. The Farm Manager is to be asked to ensure that Security are made aware of such agreements.

1300 Report of people skating on the Lake under Trent Building. Security attended. However, no one was seen on the Ice.

17:55 Security observed a Student doing ‘handbrake turns’ in the Car Park near the South Lab at Sutton Bonington. Report to be sent to the Warden.

2325 Report that a picture had been taken off the wall at Hugh Stewart Hall by a Pirate. The Pirate had gone in the direction of the Mooch Bar. Security attended the Mooch where they found over 40 Pirates none of whom had the picture.

1255 Report of a person trapped in mud in the Lake adjacent to University Park. Security attended and after a search, a female was found stuck in the mud up to her waist. The Fire Service were called out they were able to extract the female from the mud. No explanation was given as to why she was in the mud.

2335 Report of a disturbance in Hall bar. Security attended a male who is not a Student complained that he had been involved in a short fight with two others who may have been Students. The incident started over an argument over a Cowboy hat one of the males was wearing. The two males were part of a large group on a Campus 14. The Police were not informed.

Sunday Times 2011 University League Table

Sunday Times League Table 2011

No radical changes here with the top four places remaining the same. LSE improves somewhat and York drops out of the top 10 but otherwise there isn’t a great deal of movement in the top 20 (although some welcome upward steps for the University of Nottingham):

(last year’s position in brackets)

1 (1) University of Oxford
2 (2) University of Cambridge
3 (3) Imperial College London
4 (4) University College London
5 (9) LSE
6 (7) Durham University
7 (5) University of St Andrews
8 (6) University of Warwick
9 (11) University of Bath
10 (13) King’s College London
11 (10) University of Bristol
12 (14) University of Nottingham
13 (8) University of York
14 (15=) University of Edinburgh
15 (18) University of Sheffield
16 (15=) Loughborough University
17 (17) University of Exeter
18= (20=) University of Birmingham
18= (12) University of Southampton
20 (24=) Newcastle University

Full details are available in the online Sunday Times Guide (subscription required). Lots of information here about the individual indicators and subject rankings too. There is also the DIY option – you can play about with weightings to influence the outcome yourself. You have to work quite hard to change the results significantly though.

QS World University Rankings 2010: UK results

QS World University Rankings 2010: UK results – good, bad or indifferent?

Following up the earlier post on the QS world top 20 it is interesting to note that, depending on your perspective, a goodly/pitiful number of UK universities appear in the QS top 100 as follows (last year in brackets):

1 Cambridge (2)
4 UCL (4)
6 Oxford (5=)
7 Imperial (5=)
21 King’s (23)
22 Edinburgh (20=)
27 Bristol (34)
30 Manchester (26)
53 Warwick (58)
59 Birmingham (66)
69 Sheffield (82)
73 Nottingham (91)
77 Glasgow (79)
80 LSE (67=)
81 Southampton (95=)
85 Leeds (99)
88 York (70=)
92 Durham (103=)
95 St Andrews (87=)

19 UK institutions in the top 100 is not bad, and, whilst the big story for QS remains Cambridge ousting Harvard in the top slot, there isn’t a huge amount of change here although the University of Nottingham and the University of Sheffield are relatively big climbers here.

QS World University Rankings Results 2010

QS World University Rankings Results 2010

The QS rankings have been published and join a crowded marketplace of world university league tables. Much excitement no doubt about Cambridge and Harvard swapping places but not clear what the real reasons for this might be. Remainder of top 20 is roughly the same:

Rank 2010 (2009 in brackets)

1 (2) University of Cambridge

2 (1) Harvard University

3 (3) Yale University

4 (4) UCL

5 (9) Massachusetts Institute of Technology

6 (5=) University of Oxford

7 (5=) Imperial College London

8 (7) University of Chicago

9 (10) California Institute of Technology

10 (8) Princeton University

11 (11) Columbia University

12 (12) University of Pennsylvania

13 (16) Stanford University

14 (14) Duke University

15 (19) University of Michigan

16 (15) Cornell University

17 (13) Johns Hopkins University

18 (20=) ETH Zurich

19 (18) McGill University

20 (17) Australian National University

Full details at QS World University Rankings Results 2010 website.

Consumer crackdown on ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses

“Consumer crackdown on ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses by showing future prospects”

Excited Daily Mail story on ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses:

Degree courses will be rated for teaching quality, salary prospects, tuition time and value for money under plans to unleash ‘consumer power’ on universities.

Poor quality ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses will be exposed on a website – similar to those used to select car insurance or electricity – allowing potential students to compare them.

The 16 statistics students most want to know about courses before making their applications were revealed in a report published yesterday by England’s higher education funding quango.

They include the proportion of graduates employed in professional or managerial jobs, their average salary, the quality of teaching on the course, weekly hours of teaching time and the quality of library and IT facilities.

All measures should be published ‘as a minimum’ for each degree course in the country in a web-based format that will allow comparisons, the report said.

A range of very different courses is helpfully compared:

Presumably the Mail expects that some of these courses would disappear if potential students were aware of this data.

The report in question, Understanding the information needs of users of public information about higher education, a report to HEFCE by Oakleigh Consulting and Staffordshire University, is available from HEFCE and is somewhat more sober than the Mail article would suggest.

It lists the top items of information potential students would wish to know about a university or course:

(The final two not listed above are the ‘Proportions of students at the university satisfied or very satisfied with the IT facilities’ and the ‘Maximum household income for eligibility for a bursary’.)

Essentially, it is argued that this data needs to be published on a consistent basis for every institution and course and this will help inform decision making. But all of the information is available at present, in one way or another, albeit not always in the most accessible form. And it seems, according to the HEFCE report, that prospective students, whilst they would like to have the data, simply aren’t prepared to look for it:

Less than half the sample had tried to look for 11 out of the 16 most highly ranked items. This is partly explained by participants’ estimate of the usefulness of the information. Those who rated the information ‘very useful’ were much more likely to look for it. However, a surprisingly large proportion (between a quarter and a half) of participants who rated items ‘very useful’ reported that they had not tried to find the information. A maximum of two-thirds of these reported that they had tried to look for information on student satisfaction and employability data. One possible explanation is that prospective students were unaware that these data might be accessible.

Another possible explanation is that the demand for information, and the need for a ‘consumer crackdown’ is somewhat overstated.