Thursday, August 11, 2011

America's Best Colleges

As the world waits anxiously for the publication of Princeton Review's Stone Cold Sober School Rankings (like everybody else I am praying the US Air Force Academy stays in the top ten), there are a few less important rankings like Shanghai's ARWU or the Forbes/CCAP (Center for College Affordabilty and Productivity) Rankings to study.

The latter, which have just been released, are designed for student consumers. The components are student satisfaction, post-graduate success, student debt, four-year graduation rate and competitive awards. They clearly fulfill a need that other rankings do not. It is possible that some of the indicators could be adopted for an international ranking. The top 10, a mix of Ivy League schools, small liberal arts colleges and service academies, are:

1.  Williams College
2.  Princeton
3.  US Military Academy
4.  Amherst College
5. Stanford
6.  Harvard
7.  Haverford College
8.  Chicago
9.  MIT
10. US Air Force Academy

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Missing Indicator

There is an interesting item in Times Higher Education. Apparently leading universities might be offering financial inducements in the form of scholarships to students with AAB at A level. For Americans that would be something like a 3.9 GPA.

Universities like to proclaim that they provide something to students that enables them to succeed in the post university world, training in critical thinking, soft skills or exposure to a diverse multicultural society for which massive tuition fees can be extracted from parents or government.  Whether they actually do is debatable. A book length study by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, Academically Adrift,  indicated that universities do little to teach students how to think.

Employers seem to have a rather different view of the matter. Many restrict themselves to recruiting from only the elite universities and are quite unconcerned with whether universities have established learning outcomes or whether they have created a safe space for diverse students. They simply wish to recruit the most intelligent students that they  can, with perhaps a bit of charm and likability for publicly visible positions.

Left to their own devices, universities would probably do their best to admit the most intelligent students available. The news that some are willing to pay for those with good A levels is a stark reminder that they are not being entirely honest in claiming that they provide an excellent education that is worth paying for. If that were the case, why not just put in a bit more effort and a few thousand pounds to turn an BBB or CCC student into an AAB. The answer is that while you might get a bit more out of a student by teaching reading and writing skills, basic numeracy and so on, recruiting from the top of the cognitive scale will bring much more to a university.

It is likely that calculating the average academic ability of students, or better still, their underlying intelligence might be an extremely valuable component in any international ranking system

Research Blogs has a table, derived from data from the Higher Education Funding Council of England,  of universities according to the percentage of UK students with AAB or better at A levels.

If it were possible to calculate equivalences between the standardised tests or qualifications in various countries with some sort of adjustment for national differences in education or literacy, then an global ranking of universities according to student quality would be quite feasible.


The second column in this table shows the position of the institution when ranked by size.
Ranked by percentage AAB+ UK %
1 3 University of Oxford 2568 99
2 4 University of Cambridge 2554 99
3 18 Imperial College London 1094 96
4 23 London School of Economics 686 93
5 2 University of Durham 2581 85
6 8 University of Bristol 2199 85
7 13 University College London 1648 82
8 9 University of Warwick 2068 81
9 7 University of Exeter 2368 74
10 15 University of Bath 1496 69
11 17 King's College 1238 68
12 57 Royal Veterinary College 195 60
13 86 Conservatoire for Dance & D 71 59
14 35 SOAS 353 57
15 5 University of Nottingham 2505 57
16 12 University of Southampton 1686 54
17 14 University of York 1538 53
18 1 University of Manchester 2776 51
19 11 University of Sheffield 1846 49
20 10 University of Birmingham 1883 48
21 6 University of Leeds 2376 47
22 16 University of Newcastle 1332 43
23 19 Loughborough University 1042 38
24 91 School of Pharmacy 59 37
25 21 Lancaster University 740 32
26 25 Royal Holloway, London 589 32
27 20 University of Liverpool 886 32
28 33 City University 414 31
29 26 University of Leicester 578 30
30 22 Queen Mary 702 29
31 24 University of Sussex 630 29
32 32 Aston University 429 25
33 27 University of East Anglia 538 25
34 93 Blackpool and the Fylde 52 24
35 30 University of Surrey 433 23
36 95 Blackburn College 51 22
37 29 University of Reading 455 19
38 58 Goldsmiths College 180 17
39 72 University of Chichester 114 13
40 37 Brunel University 325 12
41 84 University College Falmouth 78 11
42 31 University of the Arts London 430 11
43 28 University of Kent 480 10
44 76 University of Cumbria 105 10
45 89 Arts UC at Bournemouth 67 9
46 67 Bath Spa University 144 9
47 55 University of Essex 200 8
48 56 University of Teesside 197 8
49 43 Southampton Solent 254 8
50 69 University Creative Arts 136 8
51 48 University of Lincoln 232 8
52 68 University of Worcester 142 8
53 80 Liverpool Hope University 97 8
54 42 Coventry University 262 7
55 50 Bournemouth University 227 7
56 54 Oxford Brookes University 213 7
57 63 University of Bedfordshire 163 7
58 64 University of East London 157 7
59 79 Edge Hill University 97 7
60 51 University of Brighton 215 7
61 39 University of Northumbria 283 7
62 41 University of Plymouth 278 7
63 62 London South Bank 165 7
64 60 Birmingham City University 170 6
65 75 University of Northampton 110 6
66 36 Sheffield Hallam University 340 6
67 65 Anglia Ruskin University 156 6
68 34 Nottingham Trent University 357 6
69 49 University of Hull 228 6
70 78 Keele University 99 6
71 77 University of Chester 100 6
72 52 University of Huddersfield 214 6
73 40 Kingston University 280 6
74 44 University West of England 238 5
75 46 University of Westminster 235 5
76 70 University of Derby 133 5
77 92 University of Bolton 55 5
78 73 University of Bradford 112 5
79 87 Thames Valley University 68 5
80 38 Manchester Metropolitan 290 5
81 47 De Montfort University 232 5
82 45 London Metropolitan 237 5
83 53 Liverpool John Moores 213 5
84 71 Middlesex University 126 5
85 61 Central Lancashire 168 4
86 94 Roehampton University 51 4
87 83 University of Sunderland 79 4
88 90 University of Gloucestershire 65 4
89 59 University of Greenwich 178 3
90 66 University of Portsmouth 152 3
91 74 Leeds Metropolitan 111 3
92 88 University of Salford 67 3
93 85 University of Wolverhampton 76 2
94 82 University of Hertfordshire 85 2
95 81 Staffordshire University 91 2





















Worth Reading

University World News has some new articles on rankings by Ellen Hazelkorn, Philip Altbach and Danny Byrne of QS. It also provides links to several older articles.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Ranking Fever Rages in the US

Forget Shanghai, QS and Times Higher. The really important ranking has just been released by Princeton Review.

Ohio University in Athens has replaced the University of Georgia in Athens as the top party school (one wonders if all the respondents could remember where they were).

Other number ones are:

Amazing College Campus: Elon University, NC
Top Online University: Penn State University World Campus 

And more to come.