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Posts Tagged ‘University Quality’

How Professors spend their time

March 15, 2010 Leave a comment

University Rankings – QS are back (March 2010 Newsletter)

March 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Full press release here.

QS Rankings & Global Higher Education Trends

March 2010

Welcome to the first edition of the QS Rankings & Global Higher Education Trends newsletter, a monthly bulletin that will focus on the hotly debated topic of university league tables and performance evaluations, as well as other topics that feature highly on the agenda of international educators.

In this month’s edition:
QS launches the new research round for the  QS World University Rankings™ 2010
(formerly known as THE-QS World University Rankings 2004-2009);
Martin Ince, former editor of the World University Rankings at THE and member of the QS Rankings expert advisory board, takes a look at the project of the European Commission on global rankings; while QS managing director, Nunzio Quacquarelli says competition in the rankings sector is a good thing.

We hope you will enjoy the read, and forward the newsletter on to colleagues and friends.

The Team at QS

QS World University Rankings™ launches 2010 research

QS Quacquarelli Symonds, the research and information specialists behind the QS World University Rankings™, have launched the new research round for the 2010 rankings, in association with partners including US News & World Report and Scopus, the Elsevier database that supplies bibliometric data.

QS World University Rankings™ launches 2010 research

Read more…

Innovation Taskforce Report – released, with some relevant extra links

March 11, 2010 1 comment

Download the report here: Department of Taoiseach – Innovation Taskforce.

[Update: Innovation Alliance website here.]

Some reportage here.

Some scepticism from Michael Hennigan  here.

Welcoming comments by Patrick Cunningham (Chief Scientific Advisor) here.

Irish Economy post and comment here.

Farmleigh progress post and comment here.

Two key pieces from the report:

What are the key elements of an Innovation Ecosystem?
To make innovation work for us we have to develop an ecosystem in which each element, and each interaction, supports innovation across the economy and society.
The key elements in such an ecosystem are:
entrepreneurs and enterprises (indigenous and foreign-owned);
investment in research and development;
the education system, in particular, higher education institutions;
finance, in particular risk capital;
the tax and regulatory environment;
public policy and institutions.

and

What do we need to do to make this happen?
Build on our Investment to date in research and development
Current economic difficulties should not be allowed diminish the level of investment which we believe is necessary or inhibit the return on investments already made.
Therefore we must:
Deliver on the investment framework set out in the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation (SSTI) 2006-13 and achieve the goal in the renewed Programme for Government of investing 3% of GDP in R&D by committing to investment in an updated SSTI for the 2014-2020 period.
Ensure greater and more co-ordinated public research investment, leveraging of more private sector investment and channelling this investment into agreed areas of national priority.

[The urgently and long-awaited] Innovation taskforce says 120,000 jobs can be created – The Irish Times – Wed, Mar 10, 2010

March 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Innovation taskforce says 120,000 jobs can be created – The Irish Times – Wed, Mar 10, 2010.

There’s going to be lots on this over the next few days, and deservedly so. However, this is a strategy to transform the economy and it will take a decade or more to see the effects of it. There will have to be step-changes in how we do things in the Irish economy, and the same old solutions proffered from the past will have to be set aside. Are our politicians the equal of this challenge? The change required is of a similar order to that of Donough O’Malley’s ‘free education’ initiative: the social, economic and political consequences of that decision were not felt for a decade or more afterward. Will we hear some maverick economists saying we shouldn’t attempt this knowledge-generation and innovation-driven transformation of the economy?

Some quotes:

Significantly, it also commits the Government to investing at least 3 per cent of gross domestic product in research and development until 2020. The Government had made no firm commitment to research spending beyond 2013.

This  national target for R n D has to be supported and implemented. It is not just the voice of the self-interested looking to support some investment in research: the simple truth is that we can’t remain rich and stupid for long.

Some other points:

** New moves to develop and market Ireland as an International Innovation Services Centre offering global IP management, licensing and trading services.

** Transformation in the scale and nature of the Irish venture capital environment by attracting top-tier venture financing to Ireland so as to successfully scale innovative companies.

As noted here previously,

The path from university research to innovation is much more complicated, unpredictable, uncontrollable and non-linear than anyone would expect. See this post on the process at Cambridge University; see this superb article from the Financial Times on science, technology and innovation as wealth and employment generators; see this post on tapping the riches of science, which analyses the US experience of turning university research into wealth and jobs; and this post on remandating the IFSC and this post on re-engineering incentives in the Irish economy toward research and innovation.

We need nothing less than the rapid evolution of a new research and innovation ecosystem, where university research plays its part, but is not expected to play a part that there is no evidence it can play. Universities are not good at near-market research – this is properly the purview of companies that can make the decisions, based on their market information, about what their customers want (because they have price signals!). [Universities , however, can and should provide ‘soft research’ services where possible and appropriate to industry (perhaps through spin-outs, as the link to Cambridge above shows. ]

And – enough with the reports! Let’s see action.

NYRblog – Britain: The Disgrace of the Universities – The New York Review of Books

NYRblog – Britain: The Disgrace of the Universities – The New York Review of Books.

Very interesting post from the NYRB on the cutbacks in universities in the UK (and King’s College, London, in particular).

Some quotes:

The cuts are not intended to stop with the first victims. All other members of the arts and humanities faculty at King’s are being forced to reapply for their jobs. When the evaluation is finished, around twenty-two of them will have been voted off the island. Even the official statements make clear that these faculty members will be let go not because they have ceased to do basic research or teach effectively, but because their fields aren’t fashionable and don’t spin money. When criticized, the principal of King’s, Rick Trainor, complained that foreign professors don’t appreciate the financial problems that he faces. He’s wrong. All of us face drastic new financial pressures

and

Are academic salaries really the main source of the pressure on the principal? Vague official documents couched in management jargon are hard to decode. The novelist and art historian Iain Pears notes that King’s has assembled in recent years an “executive team with all the managerial bling of a fully-fledged multi-national, complete with two executive officers and a Chief information officer.” The college spent £33.5 million on administrative costs in 2009, and is actively recruiting more senior managers now. These figures do not evince a passion for thrift. Moreover, the head of arts and humanities proposes to appoint several new members of staff even as others are dismissed. Management probably does want to save money—but it definitely wants to install its own priorities and its own people, regardless of the human and intellectual cost.

and

Universities become great by investing for the long term. You choose the best scholars and teachers you can and give them the resources and the time to think problems through. Sometimes a lecturer turns out to be Malcolm Bradbury’s fluent, shallow, vicious History Man; sometimes he or she turns out to be Michael Baxandall. No one knows quite why this happens. We do know, though, that turning the university into The Office will produce a lot more History Men than scholars such as Baxandall.

Read the whole post via the link at the top.

University Rankings – Editorial and Article in Nature

Nature carries an important editorial on university rankings – The ratings game:  Nature.

A quote:

Fortunately, a new generation of ranking systems has begun to address some of these issues (see page 16). These systems make an effort to be more multidimensional, comparing universities less on single, aggregate numbers, and more on specific aspects such as research, teaching, and regional and industrial engagement. They have also moved towards comparing like institutions with like, instead of lumping together massively funded universities such as Harvard in the same list as smaller institutions that may be excellent in their own ways. And, perhaps most importantly, they have begun a long-overdue shift from the publication of simple tables to publishing the databases that support the tables, so that users can do online queries to compare organizations by criteria that are relevant to them.

It also carries an an excellent article by Declan Butler which indicates that there is to be yet another ranking system:

Comparing like with like is the cornerstone of a European Commission effort to create a global database of universities — the Multi-dimensional Global ranking of Universities (U-Multirank). A pilot project involving 150 universities will be launched in the coming months by a group of German, Dutch, Belgian and French research centres that specialize in research and education metrics, known as the Consortium for Higher Education and Research Performance Assessment.

The ‘positive manifold’ analysis awaits!

Tom Cotter on grade inflation – today’s Irish Times

Via the Irish Times

Madam, – The reports by your Education Editor, Seán Flynn (Front page and Home News) on grade inflation are disconcerting, but, as an educator on the front line of the education system, I am not surprised. The reasons for the observed grade inflations are rooted in the education and examining patterns laid down at Junior and Leaving Cert levels and then extended into third level.

Our students learn by rote and are then examined in a formula metric way that simply measures their ability to remember facts. The more this is practised, the better the grades are going to get as both student and examiner master the system which changes little from year to year.

We neither encourage nor test creativity by the way we teach and examine. The result of this is that we produce students who have high grades because they can remember facts, but who are unable to think critically or carry out analysis when they go out into the real world.

Employers are clearly picking up on this deficiency which should not be there if our grades were an accurate reflection of a student’s overall intellectual ability. In addition to teaching students the “facts” we also need to teach them to think and be creative and then allow them to express this creativity in an examination situation. By doing this we will be able to produce more rounded and better-educated students and the current grade inflation will correct itself. – Yours, etc,

THOMAS G COTTER, BSc, DPhil, MRIA,

Prof of Biochemistry,

University College Cork,

Cork.

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· Madam, – The reports by your Education Editor, Seán Flynn (Front page and Home News) on grade inflation are disconcerting, but, as an educator on the front line of the education system, I am not surprised. The reasons for the observed grade inflations are rooted in the education and examining patterns laid down at Junior and Leaving Cert levels and then extended into third level.

Our students learn by rote and are then examined in a formula metric way that simply measures their ability to remember facts. The more this is practised, the better the grades are going to get as both student and examiner master the system which changes little from year to year.

We neither encourage nor test creativity by the way we teach and examine. The result of this is that we produce students who have high grades because they can remember facts, but who are unable to think critically or carry out analysis when they go out into the real world.

Employers are clearly picking up on this deficiency which should not be there if our grades were an accurate reflection of a student’s overall intellectual ability. In addition to teaching students the “facts” we also need to teach them to think and be creative and then allow them to express this creativity in an examination situation. By doing this we will be able to produce more rounded and better-educated students and the current grade inflation will correct itself. – Yours, etc,

THOMAS G COTTER, BSc,

DPhil, MRIA,

Prof of Biochemistry,

University College Cork,

Cork.

Measurement bias in university rankings: University Ranking Watch

via University Ranking Watch.

There have been many comments on this blog about the lack of basic attention to measurement theory where the construction of rankings for university quality is concerned. A previous post here asked

How long  can it be before someone conducts an inter-correlational analysis to see to what extent all of the differing ranking systems are actually measuring the same thing? This kind of statistical meta-analysis using all of the data from the various ranking systems [from relative web presence to citation measures to student employment to student satisfaction to grants gained to patents published to spin-outs started  to teaching quality assurance to research assessment, etc., etc.] should reveal a statistical ‘positive manifold’ (i.e. they are all highly inter-correlated), if they are actually measuring the same thing.

Here is a partial comparative analysis, for Cambridge University and for France. Money quotes:

The national bias of the Paris Mines ranking is indisputable. There the top French institution is in sixth place. In the most recent THE-QS rankings the top French institution was 38th, in the Russian RaTER rankinigs 36th, in the Shanghai Aacademic Ranking of World Universities 40th, in the Taiwan rankings 88th and in Webometrics 129th.

and

The old THE- QS rankings were pretty obviously biased in favour of British universities. Last year it had Cambridge in second place. The Shanghai rankings put it in 4th place, although that will not be sustained as the impact of old Nobel winners fades. In the Paris Mines ranking it was 7th, in the Russian rankings 8th, in the Taiwan rankings 15th, in Webometrics 22nd , in Scimargo 34th and in the Leiden green index (the size-independent, field-normalized average impact) 37th.

Not a proper statistical analysis, obviously, but these examples of huge inter-ranking variability have to be a major cause of concern.

Invest in education and R [and] D – Barrett – The Irish Times – Tue, Feb 09, 2010

February 9, 2010 Leave a comment

How often does this need to be said?

IRELAND IS distinctly average, and average is no longer good enough, according to former Intel chairman Craig Barrett.

The man credited with bringing Intel to Ireland over 20 years ago was addressing the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin last night.

A crowd of 600, the highest in the history of the academy according to its president Prof Nicholas Canny, heard Dr Barrett deconstruct the notion that Ireland could recreate its Celtic Tiger economy simply by cutting its costs.

Competitiveness in the modern world, he stated, was a function of three concepts – smart people, smart ideas and the right environment. The rapid emergence of players such as China, India, Latin America and eastern Europe on the world economic stage meant countries with high standards of living, like Ireland, must concentrate its efforts on high value-added jobs.

via Invest in education and RD – Barrett – The Irish Times – Tue, Feb 09, 2010.

The Post – Set our universities free

January 25, 2010 Leave a comment

via The Post.

An article by Charles Larkin and Brian Lucey School of Business, Trinity College Dublin

Some quotes:

Hardly a week goes by without a government spokesman discussing an aspect of the ‘smart economy’. In the public (and perhaps government) mind, this is equated with technology. But a truly ‘smart’ economy is not based on technology, but on flexibility – especially mental flexibility.

Developing this should be the primary focus of the higher education sector. However, a set of interlinked issues render it unable to do this.

Irish higher education suffers from a conflict of mission statements. It is expected to deliver on innovation, education, social enrichment, economic growth, public health and improved lifestyles. Though research suggests that all of these – and more – arise from higher education, the effect varies across individuals and disciplines. The context is further complicated by the regional imperative.

and

Freedom must also, of course, mean freedom to fail. If a university were unable to deliver on required educational outcomes, then it ultimately would be required to fold or to be subsumed by another more successful university – and mechanisms need to be created to deal with the fall-out if it happens.

and

Freedom should be extended to faculty wages. At present, within narrow bands, the best are paid the same as the worst, the most active the same as the least. Universities must be able to set wages based on the demand for the faculty and on the excellence or otherwise of its job performance.

See the post: https://irishscience.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/call-for-fewer-universities-in-ireland-the-irish-times-fri-jan-22-2010/ below which makes some similar points.