Beyond the Brian Cox effect

Extravagant claims about one person’s influence on Physics recruitment.

The Telegraph comments on the ‘Brian Cox effect’ and suggests that it has resulted in a surge in demand for physics:

A typical Physics academic

A typical Physics academic

Manchester has always been a popular choice for physics but the university admitted that a recent rise in applications had been partially driven by the attraction of Prof Cox, one of the department’s academics and presenter of television series such as Stargazing Live and Wonders of the Universe.

He currently teaches quantum mechanics and relativity to first year students.

It also reflects the increasing popularity of the subject nationally on the back of publicity surrounding the Large Hadron Collider at Cern.

Across Britain, the number of students taking degrees in physics has soared by 50 per cent in just eight years to reach more than 40,000 in 2011.

Of course such an impact does take time – it starts with the GCSE and then A level choices made at school before we even get to the university application stage. So whilst the latest surge in applications to Manchester and for Physics more broadly may well be attributable at least in part to Professor Cox, it is not the whole picture.

Here at the University of Nottingham we have witnessed a similar phenomenon.

Professor Martyn Poliakoff is a leading figure in the Periodic videos project and has arguably had a similar impact on Chemistry. See this recent video, which has been viewed over 2m times, for example:


So it’s not just about the Brian Cox effect. It’s also the Martyn Poliakoff phenomenon.


International Students in the USA (and Nottingham)

Interesting data on international students in the USA (and at the University of Nottingham)

The Institute of International Education has just released its ‘Open Doors’ report on international education in the USA. The press release give the headlines:

The 2012 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, released today, finds that the number of international students at colleges and universities in the United States increased by six percent to a record high of 764,495 in the 2011/12 academic year, while U.S. students studying abroad increased by one percent. This year, international exchanges in all 50 states contributed $22.7 billion to the U.S. economy. International education creates a positive economic and social impact for communities in the United States and around the world.

Open Doors is intended to provide helpful information on international education in the US:

Open Doors, supported by a grant from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, is a comprehensive information resource on international students and scholars studying or teaching at higher education institutions in the United States, and U.S. students studying abroad for academic credit at their home colleges or universities.

The report lists the leading institutions in the USA in terms of international student numbers:

Rank Institution City State Int’l Total
1 University of Southern California Los Angeles CA 9,269
2 University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign Champaign IL 8,997
3 New York University New York NY 8,660
4 Purdue University – Main Campus West Lafayette IN 8,563
5 Columbia University New York NY 8,024
6 University of California – Los Angeles Los Angeles CA 6,703
7 Northeastern University Boston MA 6,486
8 University of Michigan – Ann Arbor Ann Arbor MI 6,382
9 Michigan State University East Lansing MI 6,209
10 Ohio State University – Main Campus Columbus OH 6,142

What is most interesting about this data for me is that if the University of Nottingham UK (ie not including our campuses in Malaysia and China) were to be included in this table it would be at the top with, by our reckoning, 9,662 non-UK students enrolled in 2011/12. My guess is that Manchester and UCL would have even more than this.

Similar data for the UK can be found on the UKCISA website (which reports official HESA data) but note that the latest figures are for 2010/11. The US seems to be able to publish a little faster than we can. And of course we may find the numbers of international students in the UK declining in future as the full consequences of the Government’s immigration policies come into play.

A new world ranking of universities

What we’ve all been waiting for…

Yes, it’s another new world ranking. This time from the previously  unheard of Center for World University Rankings (CWUR) from Saudi Arabia. The website offers little information about the organisation but we do know that the US has the lion’s share of the top 100 places:

The distribution of top 100 institutions among countries is as follows: USA (58), England (7), France (5), Japan (5), Israel (4), Switzerland (4), Canada (3), Germany (3), Australia (2), Netherlands (2), Denmark (1), Finland (1), Italy (1), Norway (1), Scotland (1), South Korea (1), and Sweden (1).

The detailed methodology is also available on the CWUR website. Anyway, the Top 10 is as follows:

Top 10

  1. Harvard
  2. MIT
  3. Stanford
  4. Cambridge
  5. Caltech
  6. Princeton
  7. Oxford
  8. Yale
  9. Columbia
  10. Berkeley

And the UK placings in the Top 100 are:

4 Cambridge

7 Oxford

28 Imperial

31 UCL

60 Edinburgh

76 Manchester

97 Nottingham

98 Bristol

So, overall not that dissimilar from the SJTU Academic Ranking of World Universities or the QS table. Will it gain a niche in the rankings market? Time will tell but at first sight it doesn’t seem to be sufficiently distinctive to attract a major profile.

Not one of the most cited league tables

But a diverting ranking nevertheless…

I first picked up on this one over four years ago in a rather dismissive post. It’s an exciting league table which aims to reflect the contributions of universities to educating the world’s top chief executives. Produced by the Ecole des Mines de Paris, or MINES ParisTech as they seem to prefer these days, it sets out to be an “INTERNATIONAL PROFESSIONAL RANKING OF HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS”.

The latest edition of the MINES ParisTech league table is based on the achievement of graduates in the highest roles in the top companies and the methodology is pretty straightforward:

The academic career for qualification in higher education of “top executives” (subsequently referred to as CEOs) has been redefined and, for each person in question, a point has been awarded to each of the various institutions which contributed to their higher education.

(Note that where the individual studied at more than one institution, the point has been divided up amongst the contributors.)

The points awarded to each institution for all of the 500 CEOs are then added up, so as to classify the range of institutions having contributed to the graduate training of one or several CEOs of the 500 companies listed by Fortune Global 500. In 2010, the 500 companies of Fortune Global 500 were run by 508 people (eight companies had two leaders). We were able to obtain information on the higher education career of 487 of the 508 CEOs. For the other 21 (i.e. 4.1% of the total number), it was not possible to reconstitute any aspect of their academic career. For five CEOs, the assessment was only partial. Lastly, 13 CEOs had not pursued any higher education studies.

All clear and uncontroversial I would have thought

Sadly, MINES ParisTech itself falls just outside the top 20.

1 Harvard University

2 Tokyo University

3 Keio University

4 HEC (France)

5 Kyoto University

5 University of Oxford

7 Ecole Polytechnique

8 Waseda University

9 ENA (France)

10 Seoul National University

11 University of Pennsylvania

12 Columbia University

13 Stanford University

13 Tohoku University

13 University of Nottingham

16 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

17 Institute for Study of Politics – Paris

18 University St Gallen

19 University Sao Paulo

19 Northwestern University

The other UK showings are Cambridge at 30 and Sheffield, Manchester and Glasgow at 38. Over 100 universities are tied in 92nd place with 1 point each which does kind of undermine the lower end of the table somewhat. Good showing for Japanese universities though with four places in the top 10

Shanghai Jiao Tong World Ranking 2010

SJTU 2010 world university rankings have been published

Full table should be available at the SJTU site but it seems to be down at time of writing. Meantime, have the UK universities in top 100 courtesy of the Telegraph (where the story seems, slightly bizarrely, to argue that these results suggest UKHE doesn’t play well in China).

UK universities appear in the top 100 as follows (last year in brackets):

5 Cambridge (4)
10 Oxford (10)
21 UCL (21)
26 Imperial (26)
44 Manchester (41)
54 Edinburgh (53)
63 King’s London (65)
66 Bristol (61)
84 Nottingham (83)
88 Sheffield (81)
99 Birmingham (94)

So, roughly the same as last year. More to follow in due course.