Is this the future for UK university sport?

Some US universities spend a LOT on sport

A recent Bloomberg report on US universities expenditure on sport highlights the huge amounts spent by Rutgers, which tops the list of spending:

Like most of Rutgers University’s almost 30,000 undergraduates, Matt Cordeiro has never put on shoulder pads and played football on a Saturday before a sea of scarlet-clad fans.

Yet Rutgers athletic teams cost him almost $1,000 this year, the most among schools competing in the top category of college football. The total includes mandatory student fees and university funding of the money-losing sports program, both of which rose more than 40 percent in five years. That’s enough to buy meals for more than a month, or books for a semester, or student health insurance for almost a year.

Rutgers funneled $28.5 million from the university budget and student fees into sports, the most among 54 U.S. public universities in the biggest football conferences, based on data compiled by Bloomberg for the fiscal year ended last June. It was at least the second straight year at the top of the list for the state university of New Jersey, despite cost-cutting after lawmakers and faculty protested that academics were losing out.

These really are frighteningly large figures. Indeed the scale of sport in general in US universities is just so much grander than in the UK it really is difficult to comprehend. How long though before we see this kind of calculation and league table appearing in the UK?


Commencement v Graduation

Some similarities but quite a few differences too


It’s that time of year again. Well, almost. It’s commencement season in the USA and will be graduation season in the UK in about six weeks or so. A couple of years ago I blogged on the issue of US v UK graduation experiences (and used the same picture too), noting that whereas in the UK it was common for multiple ceremonies to take place over a week (or two) and feature individual handshaking, in the US commencement tends to be a big bang event, often held in a stadium with everyone present being deemed to have graduated by the person officiating. An even older post on a report of a Harvard graduation offers a contrasting view of the nature of the collective experience.

I was reminded of both of these pieces by an enlightening story in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the level of organisation required for commencement. And the additional effort required when the commencement speaker is particularly prominent (and Presidential). However, I especially liked these details about the grouping of commencement professionals, the novel ideas for improving attendance (not usually a problem in the UK) and the really rather strange rituals at Rutgers:

In early February, 300 commencement professionals and vendors gathered at the University of Texas at Austin for the 12th annual meeting of Naaco (say NAKE-oh), as the group is usually called.

In a session on commencement participation, Brian Anderson, a sales manager for the graduation-products vendor Jostens Inc., said graduates who most often skip their commencements say they do so because the ceremonies are too long or and their families aren’t attending. He asked his listeners to describe what their campuses had done to make their ceremonies more attractive. Among the solutions: low-cost overnight campus housing for family members, events like lobster bakes and riverboat cruises, and graduation scholarships for distance-ed students to offset their travel costs.

Christopher R. Retzko, manager of special events and programs at Rutgers University at New Brunswick, said his institution had revamped its universitywide ceremony “to give everyone the permission to have fun.” Rutgers, he said, has what may be the world’s loudest commencement.

Not shaped like a pill. Sadly

The faculty and students of each separate school are equipped with noisemakers that symbolize their group: Last year graduates of the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences rattled green cowbells. The School of Communication carried megaphones. This year the School of Pharmacy will blow pill-shaped whistles. At the end of the ceremony, each school takes turns rising en masse and cutting loose with its noisemakers.

I’m not sure we’ll be following this lead.

More distinctive provision: new course on Beyonce

Responding to market demand?

A recent report suggests that a US university is to offer a class on Beyonce.

Beyonce is many things: singer, dancer, living pop icon, wife, mother, and namesake of a new breed of horsefly. She is also the subject of a new course being taught at Rutgers University, “Politicizing Beyonce.”

Taught by lecturer and doctoral student Kevin Allred, he tells Focus that “this isn’t a course about Beyoncé’s political engagement or how many times she performed during President Obama’s inauguration weekend.”

A post last year summarised the latest position in the provision of bonkers degrees and earlier items covered similar ground including a zombie course at the University of Baltimore and a course covering Lady Gaga. Also we previously looked here at the launch of an MA in Beatles Studies and the offer of a degree in Northern Studies as well as offering a podcast on “bonkers or niche” degrees. Most recently there was, shockingly, an MA in horror and transgression at Derby. So, this is simply another one in a fine tradition.

Back to Beyoncé:

The university’s news site gives this description: “The performer’s music and career are used as lenses to explore American race, gender, and sexual politics… Course topics include the extent of Beyonce’s control over her own aesthetic, whether her often half-naked body is empowered or stereotypical, and her more racy performances as her alter ego, Sasha Fierce.”

Fuller details can be found at the Rutgers site for those minded to enrol. It’s this kind of market responsiveness that will become the hallmark of the successful university of the future.