Is Life Too Easy on Campus?

Shouldn’t things be a little harder than this?

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece on the changing nature of student accommodation in the US.

It’s a wee bit like Broadgate Park

Residents at a new rental community in Orlando, Fla., lounge around a resort-style pool in private cabanas. They practice their golf swings at the putting green and meditate in a Zen garden. Videogamers sip complimentary coffee while playing “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” on a multiscreen television wall. Now, they’re facing final exams.

Welcome to University House, a $65 million private college dormitory that just opened near the University of Central Florida. Built by Inland American Communities Group, University House is one of the latest upscale communities sprouting up in college towns—including East Lansing, Mich., Tempe, Ariz., College Station, Texas, and others. Developers say that colleges provide a steady stream of new customers every year, and that students—and their parents—are willing to pay for luxury amenities.

This luxurious development in the US looks extreme but in the UK there have been many developments of high specification student accommodation in university towns and cities across the country. Many will have fond or not so fond recollections (or imaginings) of student life which is a bit more like this:

An end to the traditional student experience?

This is real student life

This example of Opal student accommodation in Leeds is not untypical:

This is actually in Leeds

This is actually in Leeds

This state of the art student residence has all en suite accommodation, with a choice of standard, deluxe or studio rooms. Standard and deluxe rooms are in cluster flats of 3,4 or 5 so living with your friends is not a problem!

In fact each student room comes with a pledge – apart from your low cost gym membership – there are no hidden charges. So you know when you come to stay at Opal 1 you can budget with confidence.

On site there is a splendid leisure centre with Jacuzzi, steam room and swimming pool, with up to the minute equipment available in the gym area. There is also a launderette and common room with Sky projection so you can watch your favourite show – or football match!!

Close to the city centre and the Universities, Opal 1 student accommodation is an obvious choice for students wishing to enjoy the nightlife Leeds has to offer.

And when you come back you will rest comfortably knowing that there is extensive CCTV coverage and 24/7 security on site for your protection

This kind of accommodation is seen as a good bet for property investors too, as the Independent reports:

Developers such as Vita Student have been quick to fill the gap for luxury student accommodation. The company is in the second phase of a £27m project at Tinlings in Liverpool – home to three leading universities. Vita is converting an existing building into 120 units, all fully managed, comprising self-contained studios and a smaller number of two-, three- and four-bedroom suites. Prices start from £60,450 with an assured annual return of 9 per cent for the first two years.

Similarly in Leeds, The Edge, an IconInc development, offers “hotel-standard” studio and one-bedroom apartments costing from £78,500, with facilities including a library, den, gym and concierge service and the same 9 per cent yield for two years to reel investors in.

So, perhaps not all students will enjoy putting greens or outdoor pools but there is certainly a better standard of accommodation available than the traditional Young Ones style shared student property. The key issue for many students though will be affordability – this kind of residence doesn’t always come cheap.

Does this make life just too easy for students then? Or offer too many distractions from academic study? Perhaps there is a possibility of students enjoying these home comforts too much. But surely it’s not unreasonable for students to hope for a decent standard of accommodation. And after all, the romantic rose-tinted view of parents of their time in grotty student bedsits is really just misplaced nostalgia – there’s really no reason why their children should have to put up with poor housing as a result.

Advertisements

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:

TOP INSTITUTIONS HOSTING INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS, 2011/12 
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.

Where will they go? Student Destinations – Global Agent Survey

The latest survey of international recruitment agent views

Given that I am currently at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus on a brief visit I thought I would focus on an international story. ICEF (an international market intelligence outfit) and i-graduate have just published their 2012 global survey of international student recruitment agents’ views on destination countries. The headline figures are probably what you would expectwith the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand all showing well. But there are two particularly interesting points in this table and the commentary with it:

Year-over-year, the most remarkable change among leading destination countries can be found in Canada. Since 2008, Canada has risen fully 15 percentage points in its perceived attractiveness among education agents. Compare that to the US (a gain of 5 percentage points since 2008), the UK (a loss of 7 percentage points), Australia (a loss of 1 percentage point), and New Zealand (a gain of 3 percentage points). In 2008, Canada was tied with Australia in third place; in 2012, it is tied with the UK in second. Asian agents in particular registered a great surge in how attractive they consider Canada.

The first is the rise and rise of Canada as a destination. It is really impressive and this perceived attractiveness has, I believe, been confirmed in international student recruitment data. The second is the UK’s decline over the past five years but its stability in the most recent two years when the government’s significantly anti-immigration stance has been most pronounced. The fear must be though that this will get worse in future as the impact of visa restrictions and the reputational fall-out from the London Met debacle bites.

It will be really interesting to see how this plays out in future.

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?

University requires a ‘personal lifestyle statement’ for all staff

Shorter University creates a stir

In the largely secular UK HE sector, we tend to escape this kind of controversy. Inside Higher Ed though has a report on what from a UK perspective looks like an extreme constraint on staff and students at Shorter University in the USA:

When Shorter University introduced four new faith statements in October, it took just five words — “premarital sex, adultery and homosexuality” — to start a controversy.

Those words are part of the university’s new “personal lifestyle statement,” which all employees must sign starting next year. The statement requires that faculty and staff be active members of a local church. It forbids drug use, drinking in public (including at “restaurants, concert venues, stadiums and sports facilities”), and any sex outside of heterosexual marriage. Since the Board of Trustees voted to approve the statement, a small but continuous uproar has broken out around the campus of 1,700 students in Rome, Ga., including protests, public criticism and threats from alumni to withdraw donations.

Faith statements or lifestyle requirements are not unusual at Christian colleges. But at Shorter, the statement is the clearest indicator of the impact of a court battle the university lost six years ago, when the college and the Georgia Baptist Convention went to the Georgia Supreme Court to determine who would control the college’s board of trustees and, ultimately, its direction. At the time, Baptist colleges around the country were breaking away from their state conventions. In some cases, disputes were about doctrine, such as policies on gay students and faculty. In other cases, including Shorter, they were about institutional control.

The statement itself can be downloaded from the University’s web pages and includes the following declaration:

I agree to adhere to and support the following principles (on or off the campus):
1. I will be loyal to the mission of Shorter University as a Christ-centered institution affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention.
2. I will not engage in the use, sale, possession, or production of illegal drugs.
3. I reject as acceptable all sexual activity not in agreement with the Bible, including, but not limited to, premarital sex, adultery, and homosexuality.
4. I will not use alcoholic beverages in the presence of students, and I will abstain from serving, from using, and from advocating the use of alcoholic beverages in public (e.g. in locations that are open to use by the general public, including as some examples restaurants, concert venues, stadiums, and sports facilities) and in settings in which students are present or are likely to be present. I will not attend any University sponsored event in which I have consumed alcohol within the last six hours. Neither will I promote or encourage the use of alcohol.

Really rather far-reaching.

Responding to the controversy, the University has published a statement to clarify matters:

As a Christian university, we view higher education as a ministry. Our faculty and staff are in positions of responsibility in relation to our students. Having an effective witness means that there are certain expectations that are made related to the personal behavior of our faculty and staff. Shorter expects faculty and staff to live a sexually moral life. That means fidelity in a biblical marriage between a man and a woman and abstinence outside of a biblical union.

Whilst this in many ways feels utterly wrong in the context of UK higher education and, even in faith based institutions in this country would seem extreme, it is perhaps not that far removed from where we are going in schools – a recent story in the Telegraph suggests that free schools and academies must promote marriage:

The schools will be made to sign up to strict new rules introduced by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, setting out what pupils must learn about sex and relationships.

Headteachers will be told that children must be “protected from inappropriate teaching materials and learn the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and for bringing up children”.

But the decision to spell out an explicit endorsement of marriage in the curriculum for tens of thousands of children is highly politically significant, and likely to be welcomed by Conservative traditionalists who have been concerned at a perceived failure by David Cameron’s Government to deliver on pledges to support married life.

So maybe we are closer to Shorter than we think. Although thankfully not in higher education.

Undergraduate exodus: more overblown predictions


UK students “switch to US universities”

According to BBC News, it seems that UK students are all switching to US universities.

Within four years, a quarter of sixth formers at a leading UK independent school will be heading for universities in the United States.

That’s the prediction of Anthony Seldon, head of Wellington College in Berkshire.

Dr Seldon, one of the UK’s leading head teachers, says that ambitious teenagers are looking further afield than ever before in their university choices.

The lure of well-funded US universities, with more broad-based course options, is proving increasingly attractive to youngsters in the UK, he says.

At a recent talk with pupils, he said that about 40% claimed to want to go to US universities, with the expectation that many of these will actually go on to enrol.

This surge in academic wanderlust reflects the experience of the Fulbright Commission, which promotes educational links between the US and UK.

The level of interest is “rising sharply” this year, says commission director Lauren Welch.

An earlier post noted the hype around potential departures for attractive European destinations (it’s usually Maastricht) versus the actual inflow. This piece looks like another version of the same thing. Yes, it’s undoubtedly true that some students will look for international opportunities and there will be more than ever before. This is good news for them and for the UK. But it’s also still the case that the numbers involved are tiny. Numbers may be up at Fulbright events but they are also way up at most university open days.

So, Wellington’s 6th Form is about 190 pupils which means that the prediction is that just under 50 will be leaving for the US. That’s really not going to make much of a dent in things.

Record Numbers of International Students in U.S.

A very good year

The US has a had a good year in terms of international student recruitment:

The number of foreign students attending American colleges hit an all-time high in 2008, capping three consecutive years of vigorous growth, according to new data from the Institute of International Education. Some 671,616 international students attended U.S. institutions in 2008-9, an increase of almost 8 percent from a year earlier. First-time-student enrollments grew even more robustly, by nearly 16 percent.

via The Chronicle of Higher Education.

UK remains second to the US in international student recruitment but the competition is clearly getting more and more fierce.

Princeton curbing grade inflation

Princeton has been tackling grade inflation

According to a news article from the University the proportion of A grades awarded has fallen from 47.9% in 2002-03 to 39.7% in 2008-09 following the introduction of a new grading policy:

The policy, adopted by the faculty in April 2004 to curb grade inflation across the University, sets an institution-wide expectation for the percentage of grades in the A range and provides clear guidelines on the meaning of letter grades. Grades have been coming down steadily since the policy was established.

princeton_university

“These results confirm once again that with clear intent and concerted effort, a university faculty can bring down the inflated grades that — left uncontrolled — devalue the educational achievements of American college students,” the committee’s statement said. “The Princeton faculty continues to make successful progress in its determined effort to restore educational content and meaning to the letter grades earned by the highest-achieving students in the United States.”

Interesting development this and shows what can be achieved with what sounds like a sensible and measured approach to tackling grade inflation.