Measuring productivity: Ranking papers

Measuring Productivity

Another ranking, this time it’s the 2010 Performance Ranking of Scientific Papers for World Universities, brought to you by the Higher Education and Evaluation Council of Taiwan.

So, essentially it’s just about the research as the criteria show:

The top 10:

1 Harvard
2 Stanford
3 Johns Hopkins
4 University of Washington
6 Berkeley
8 University of Michigan
9 Toronto
10 Oxford

What does this tell us that others don’t? Not a lot.

Twitter in Higher Education 2010

Report on the use of Twitter in Higher Education 2010

Interesting report on Twitter in HE which includes a survey on academic staff use.

Is Twitter a powerful learning tool or a colossal waste of time? It depends whom you ask. In its second annual survey on the popular micro-blogging technology, Faculty Focus found a great divide in how professors perceive Twitter, including whether it should be used in the classroom or is best reserved for networking with peers.

Of those who currently use Twitter, the most common activities include “to share information with peers” and “as a real-time news source.” Instructional uses, such as “to communicate with students” and “as a learning tool in the classroom” are less popular, although both activities saw increases over the previous year.

Non-users expressed concerns that Twitter creates poor writing skills and could be yet another classroom distraction. Many also noted that very few of their students use Twitter. Finally, a new trend that emerged this year centered on the belief that many feel they already have too many places to post messages or check for student questions/comments. As one professor put it, “I have no interest in adding yet another communication tool to my overloaded life.”

In addition, Times Higher Education has recently published a feature on social media use in UK HE:

The experts seem to be divided not only on social media’s future, but also on their present in terms of their use by academics, and the research that has been done has reached contradictory conclusions. A survey of UK institutions conducted by online consultants Jadu shows a high level of use among academics, with more than 70 per cent of respondents using social media in some way.

And includes this entertaining comment from someone slightly sceptical about the value of social media:

“You can’t get a degree on Facebook; you can’t get a degree from Twitter. Social media are forms of communication; they are no substitute for the university as the place where your curriculum is structured, where you learn. You don’t get a degree for reading books; you read books to get a degree. The same is true of social media.”

So, opinions divided then. No surprises there.

New directions for university careers services?

Recent report suggests changes to careers offer

A recent report based on work undertaken by Demos and published by Endsleigh, ‘Class of 2010’, calls for “a radical overhaul in the way that university careers services currently function”. The report recommends that careers services are turned into not-for-profit recruitment consultancies for their universities.

Setting this exciting proposition to one side for the moment, there is more interesting data about 2010 graduates in the report:

The research, carried out by leading think tank Demos over the past six months, examined the Class of 2010s’ aspirations and concerns on issues such as university life, the job market, family and community life, politics and the environment. Rising numbers of graduates are prioritizing commitments to care for their children and parents in their old age (a third of male graduates are willing to sacrifice their career in order to care full time for their children). Graduates are prioritizing work/life balance and social relevance of their job over starting salary. 89% of graduates rate climate change as an important global issue and a quarter of graduates would turn down a job offer if the employers environmental credentials weren’t up to scratch.

Certainly a surprise this as it is difficult, at the height of a recession, to imagine graduates turning down jobs on the basis they are concerned about some elements of a company’s environmental policy.

However, the other major point relates to the role of the university careers service and here we have some outstanding suggestions:

One of the key conclusions of the report proposes a role that universities and local businesses might be able to play in assisting graduates find work. The recommended change to the function of the careers service is expected to:

– Reduce the graduate skills gap and graduate unemployment

– Foster a closer relationship between the student and their careers service over the course of their degree

– Assist universities in raising additional funds that would be channeled into education and training activities as well as into small grants to encourage student and graduate enterprise

– Help the government’s localism agenda by encouraging graduates to live and work in a town or city close to their university

This does rather suggest that the authors have had only the most limited exposure to careers services. Indeed, reading the report it seems they have based their recommendations solely on the messages received from a small number of students and their own experiences. They should really have visited the University of Nottingham Centre for Career Development. A good university careers service does all of the things they recommend, investing significant time, effort and resource in order to address all of these points and, yes, they are not-for-profit agencies.

Ranking the Rankings

Auditing University Rankings

Interesting item in the Chronicle of Higher Education about a group seeking to challenge some of the weaknesses of league tables:

University rankings organizations could soon find themselves on the receiving end of the kinds of evaluations that have made them so newsworthy and influential. At a conference here last week for academics and institutions focused on rankings, the organizer unveiled a project that would effectively rank the rankers. The IREG Observatory on Academic Ranking and Excellence, which was created a few years ago to develop quality-control mechanisms for rankings, announced that a volunteer trial audit of two or three rankings will soon be under way.

There has “always been the idea that IREG could evolve into a quality assurance” body, said Gero Federkeil, who oversees the rankings of German institutions by the CHE Centre for Higher Education Development, which co-hosted last week’s conference. As rankings proliferate around the world, they are increasingly having a direct impact on the decisions of students, academic staff, institutions, and policy makers, but each of those groups differs in its use of rankings and the sophistication it brings to evaluating them.

It’s a thoroughly laudable intention. The question will be whether the group is really able to exert any influence over the league table compilers.

A particular problem for Italian universities

Family fiefdoms blamed for tainting Italian universities

According to a recent piece in the Independent, nepotism is a major problem in Italian higher education:

The decline of Italy’s universities, none of which currently appear in the world’s top 200, is a constant source of lament among the country’s chattering classes. But the reason for this sorry state is laid bare by new research that shows the extent of nepotism in higher education. The grip of family fiefdoms is being blamed for a nationwide brain drain.

The investigative magazine L’Espresso and the newspaper La Repubblica have revealed the astonishing degree to which lecturing jobs are kept in the family in Italy’s sclerotic higher education system. In Rome’s La Sapienza University, for example, a third of the teaching staff have close family members as fellow lecturers. Overall, the country’s higher institutions are 10 times more likely than other places of work to employ two or more members of the same family.

Whilst there are undoubtedly examples of family members working in the same institution in the UK, it is rarely suggested that appointments are based on anything other than merit. Once you have one in three academics working with family members though it is difficult to imagine normal business operating.

Ben Wildavsky follows up this theme in the Chronicle and there are a number of interesting comments in response to his take on this issue.

Browne report: the end of the QAA (and OFFA and OIA)

Beyond changes to higher education funding

Naturally, all of the attention today will be on the funding elements of the Browne report. However, one significant change which is unlikely to attract much comment will nevertheless carry major implications for universities. It is proposed to merge four agencies into one:

The higher education system is currently overseen by four bodies: HEFCE, QAA, OFFA and OIA. These will be replaced by a single Higher Education (HE) Council. It will take a more targeted approach to regulation, with greater autonomy for institutions.

The Council will be independent from Government and institutions. It will have five areas of responsibility:
• Investment – identifying and investing in high priority courses; evaluating value for money; dealing with the unexpected, with the primary aim of protecting students’ interests
• Quality – setting and enforcing minimum quality levels across the whole sector
• Equity of access – making sure that individual institutions and the sector as a whole make measurable progress on admitting qualified students from disadvantaged backgrounds
• Competition – ensuring that students get the benefits of more competition, by publishing an annual survey of charges, and looking after the interests of students when an institution is at risk
• Dispute resolution – students can ask the Council to adjudicate on a dispute that cannot be resolved within their institution and provide a decision which binds both sides
The HE Council will explain how it is investing taxpayers’ money, and safeguarding students’ investment in higher education, through an annual report to Parliament.

So, it looks like the end of the road for the QAA, OFFA and OIA.

True Crime on Campus §4

True Crime on Campus

Some more shocking reports from the front line of campus life for the 300th post on Registrarism:

2225 Report that persons unknown had thrown water through a bedroom window in Lenton and Wortley Hall wetting some clothes.

0410 Report of Students causing a disturbance outside Rutland Hall. Security attended and spoke to seven Students who were making a lot of noise and very drunk. The Students were asked to keep the noise down as other Students still had exams. The Students tried to bribe Security Officers with spaghetti before returning quietly to their Halls of residence.

2358 A Student requested the room fridge be removed from his room, as it smelt. Security attended and the fridge was removed. The Student stated the reason it smelt was that he had spilled milk in it. The Student is to contact the Hall Staff.

1645 Report of youths urinating and spitting on vehicles. The youths were also said to be swearing at passing Students. Security attended but the youths had left the area. On checking the CCTV, the youths were found to be a group of children the oldest around 7 years old, the youngest around 5 years old. The Police will be informed to see if they can recognise them and give advice to their parents.

1100 Report of a strange man walking around the Music School playing a Guitar. Security attended – no one matching that description was found.

1450 Report of two naked males with an inflatable sex doll outside the Portland Building. Security attended, the area was checked but no one of that description was found.

1450 Security were requested to Highfields Sports Ground where a football team were abusing the referee. Security attended and spoke to a team from Nottingham Trent University – they were told to calm down.