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Posts Tagged ‘university’

Cut state funding to universities. Let them stand alone | Terence Kealey – Times Online

March 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Cut state funding to universities. Let them stand alone | Terence Kealey – Times Online.

This could never even be thought of here, could it?

Wonderful news. The Government yesterday cut half a billion pounds from the money it gives to universities, a real term cut of 9.2 per cent. The Government needs only to cut a few more billion from the budget to guarantee the excellence of British higher education.

The myth is that higher education is a public good and that, in the absence of subsidies, only the occasional scion of an investment banker would attend university. But the reality — as shown by the surge in applications since the introduction of top up fees — is that higher education is a very private good indeed, whose benefits accrue almost solely to the student: over their careers graduates still earn £160,000 more on average than people with only A levels.

The problem is not that the Government funds universities per se but that the Government funds universities in ways that damage them. So the universities are not allowed to determine how many students to admit or charge the fees the market would bear. Both parameters are set by politicians. Imagine how good Sainsbury’s would be if a ministry of food determined its prices and the numbers of its customers.

[More on heads of university salary levels] University pay survey: hallowed halls of earning « Ninth Level Ireland

March 15, 2010 Leave a comment

University pay survey: hallowed halls of earning « Ninth Level Ireland.

To chart the dramatic rise of university management pay, we have combined two sets of figures from their accounts.

The first is a pay league of more than 150 vice-chancellors, including pension contributions: from £474,000 for the head of the London Business School, down to a relatively modest £122,000 for Michael Earley, principal of the Rose Bruford drama college in Sidcup. The second is of senior staff paid more than £100,000 a year, adjusted to reflect university sizes.

Eight appear in the top 20 of both lists: the London Business School, University College London, Liverpool, Imperial College London, Nottingham, Oxford, King’s College London and Bristol. On analysis of these eight, we discovered that the earnings of their vice-chancellor,the chief executive, have sometimes doubled or tripled over the past decade, vastly outpacing the 30% rise in inflation. The number of other top academics paid more than £100,000 has also mushroomed; some universities now have hundreds, and the overall total runs into thousands.

More via link above. Let’s not forget that the market for academics is international, not national. See this post on Peter sutherland’s remarks of January last where it was argued in response that:

The universities need to be set free to do what they do best, and decisions regarding staffing levels and salaries, institutional mergers and collaborations need to be managed by the individual universities themselves. We need competition within and between the universities, and we need universities to be allowed to compete, succeed and indeed fail. A willingness to manage failure is surely just as vital as a desire to nurture success.

Worryingly, as this post on Ireland After NAMAputs it, there is a massive disinvestment in our whole education system:

At the same time that billions of euro are being pumped into propping up the banking and property sectors, there is presently underway a massive disinvestment from the education system – core budgets are being drastically trimmed, staff are being cut, supports slashed, capital programmes terminated, research funds hacked, etc.  And this is despite the fact that the the OECD reports that Ireland, pre-the crash, was one of the lowest spenders per capita on research and development, and on education in general, with very large teacher-student ratios and weak support infrastructure (see paras 18 and 23; Tables 4 and 7; also see here).

Salaries soar for heads of British universities | Education | The Guardian

March 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Salaries soar for heads of British universities | Education | The Guardian.

Some quotes:

The income of thousands of the most senior British academics has soared over the past decade, far outstripping growth in average lecturers’ pay, according to a Guardian inquiry.

More than 80 university heads, generally known as vice-chancellors, now earn more than the prime minister, and some have seen their annual earnings double or even triple in 10 years. Some got 15% or 20% pay rises last year alone, compared with a 45.7% rise over 10 years for average higher education teaching professionals.

The hightest-paid VC gets £474,000, and 19 get more than £300,000, including employer pension contributions.

And

At Oxford, where the income of the VC – currently Prof Andrew Hamilton – has more than tripled since 1999 to its present £327,000, a spokesman defended the rises because Oxford was “the number one university in the country” and the biggest research provider.

Hamilton’s predecessor had succeeded in doubling research income and fundraising £770m, the university said.

Oxford has the highest-paid university employee in the country: the fund manager Sandra Robertson is paid £580,000 to manage its billion-pound endowments.

And in the US:

College President Salaries Continued to Climb
Some salaries increased by 15 percent before the economic crunch hit
By Kim Clark [Posted November 2, 2009]

In the year before the economy collapsed, the paychecks of private college presidents continued to climb, according to a new analysis by the Chronicle of Higher Education. The typical president of a private college got a raise of more than $26,000, or 6.5 percent, to bring the total pay package up to $358,746. Pay was higher and rose even faster at major private research universities: The median pay of $627,750 at those institutions represented a one-year jump of 15.5 percent. In addition, the Chronicle found that 85 of the 419 private colleges surveyed were paying at least one former employee more than $200,000.

International comparisons are interesting and revealing.

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.

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.

Comments on grade inflation – Google welcomes review of college’s ‘grade inflation’ – The Irish Times – Tue, Mar 02, 2010

March 2, 2010 2 comments

Google welcomes review of college’s ‘grade inflation’ – The Irish Times – Tue, Mar 02, 2010.

There’s been a lot of comment about grade inflation at second and third level over the past few days. A couple of points are worth making.

First, this is not a uniquely or peculiarly Irish phenomenon. The Economist has had a few stories on this over the years, including this post from an anonymous US Professor. At Harvard, Harvey Mansfield famously distinguishes between ‘ironic’ (or official transcript recorded) grades, and ‘true and serious’ grades, which are not reported on transcripts (see this article from the Harvard Crimson). It would be nice to see some comparative international analysis of this problem, and not just the usual national bout of self-flagellation that accompanies stories like this. A sensible place to start would be take the results of universities that are similarly placed to Irish universities from the UK (as they have a similar grading system), and look at the comparative similarities in grade distributions between the two countries. This blog provides a list of some issues and citations to the UK.

Second, modes of assessment have changed dramatically over the past years. There is much more continuous assessment (CA) than heretofore. With easy access to superb online research materials (figures, journals, textbooks, etc.), search engines, as well spell and grammar checks in word processing programmes, it is much easier for students to produce high-quality CA work than ever before. This inevitably leads to a high degree of range compression, as the standard of work produced will of necessity be very high. If these CA items are weighted highly in exams, then there will be an inevitable skewing of results. One purpose of exams is to discriminate in the statistical sense between individuals measured on a certain set of variables. It may well be that CA militates against this statistical discrimination because of simple and upward range compression.

Third, upward movements in grade to some extent reflect inputs. Students with greater than five hundred points in the Leaving Certificate should be expected to get very good degree results, unless somehow we expect university to degrade performance and capacity over time.

Fourth, why not turn this issue to opportunity? We should set a national target of moving performance on the OECD PISA* to the very top range (that of Finland, say). These results can’t be gamed or subject to grade inflation.

Fifth (tongue in cheek), don’t forget the Flynn Effect!

*The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an internationally standardised assessment that was jointly developed by participating economies and administered to15-year-olds in schools.

Three assessments have so far been carried out (in 20002003 and 2006 ). Data for the 4th assessment is being collected in 2009, with results scheduled for release at the end of 2010.

Tests are typically administered to between 4,500 and 10,000 students in each country.

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.