Blame it on the rankings

Serious critique on rankings and league tables. This time not about the flawed methodologies and inaccuracies in the data collection, but on the detrimental effects of rankings. They 'erode academic vigour' and they 'threaten the country's prosperity'.In the Guardian, Geoffrey Alderman argues that the league tables lead to grade inflation and a lowering of standards in order for universities to appear high in the rankings:"How has British higher education got itself into this mess? Part of the answer lies in the league-table culture that now permeates the sector. The more firsts and upper…Read more …

Higher Education and Statistics

The OECD has issued its latest Factbook. The OECD factbook 2007 contains a large amount of indicators on issues ranging from economics to the environment and from population to health. And of course on higher education. Some time ago I've been critical about the presentation of some of the OECD higher education statistics, but I must admit that they do a great job in collecting them. The OECD is without doubt the best source for cross-national statistics in the fields of higher education and science & innovation.But of course you can do a…Read more …

Aussie news bites

Time for some higher education news from down under.The biggest event the past week was definitely the launch of Melbourne University - New Style. The so-called Melbourne Model is based on six broad undergraduate programs followed by a professional graduate degree, research higher degree or entry directly into employment. In simple terms, what happened is that the old English model was exchanged for the American one. Of course this was accompanied by protests since according to some the university has decided on this move because of a lack of funding and others claim…Read more …

Good Global Governance?

After all the controversy about World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, the Economist has now opened the attack on Secretary General Angel Gurría of that other global governance institution, the OECD. Since accountability and good governance are some of the main priorities in the OECD, it's a good thing that publications like the Economists keep a close watch on the internal governance of such international organisations. Iain Carson, the author of the article, points to a number of issues that leaves some - to say the least -suggestion of nepotism, corruption and excessive compensation.…Read more …

Top 15 Controversial Honorary Doctorates

The tradition of awarding honorary degrees stems from Oxford University. These degrees were first awarded here in the 14th century and were given mostly to academic scholars. Nowadays the recipients range from academics to politicians to artists. Lately there has been quite some controversy about a few universities that had awarded Robert Mugabe an honorary degree. To my knowledge our most popular honorary degree recipients must be dr.dr.dr.dr. Václav Havel and dr.dr.dr. Nelson Mandela. Mandela has at least 30 honorary degrees - next to a long list of other awards. Václav Havel, former…Read more …

Science 2.0

One of my first posts in this blog was on the iBridge Network, a platform for searching and sharing innovations in universities. Universities can use the platform to license and distribute a variety of items, including software, research tools, databases, teaching materials, surveys, and reference materials.Obviously I was surprised to read on the URENIO website that the iBridge Network was launched at DEMO 07 in January of this year. Well, it appears that the event I posted about 18 months ago was the announcement of the network, while this was the launch of…Read more …

Yet Another EIT (or EITs)?

A study team led by Peter Tindemans (former Chair of the OECD Megascience Forum) and Luc Soete, Director of UNU-MERIT, a joint research and training centre of United Nations University and Maastricht University in the Netherlands) has proposed yet another structure for the European Institute of technology.Originally proposed by Commission President José Manuel Barroso as part of the relaunched Lisbon Agenda, the aim of the EIT is to strengthen the European 'knowledge-triangle' of research, education and technology. The European Commission first expressed a preference for the EIT as a single institution. After a…Read more …

Reality TV enters Academia

A cross between 'University Challenge' and 'The Apprentice'. That's how The Times describes a new TV show in India: Scholar Hunt - Destination UK. In the show, students will compete for full scholarhips to the universities of Leeds, Warwick, Cardiff, Sheffield and Middlesex. They will follow the students going through the exams, interviews and other tests for the scholarships. Each of the British universities will award one scholarship for a 3 year degree worth 45000 Pounds. Arun Thapar, the show’s producer and presenter:“It’s survival of the fittest, but hopefully this will provide someone…Read more …

The Wolfowitz ‘Affairs’

Appointing Wolfowitz as the President of the World Bank in 2005 was a risky decision in the first place. After the severe criticism in the late 1990s (Seattle etc.) the bank was slowly regaining trust, credibility and legitimacy. Putting a political figure like Wolfowitz in charge obviously provoked a lot of criticism from outside the bank but also from within. From outside because of his role in the Iraq war. From within because of his critique on bank officials and the lack of accountability within the World Bank.But let's be fair. An organisation…Read more …

Reith Lectures 2007

Today the BBC starts another episode in their Reith Lecture Series. The BBC has broadcasted the series since 1948. The Reith lecture series were initiated by Sir John Reith, the first director general of the BBC. He maintained that broadcasting should be a public service which enriches the intellectual and cultural life of the nation. In its long history the series have covered a wide range of topics in the sciences and social sciences. The first Reith lecturer was philosopher Bertrand Russel, speaking about the Authority and the Individual. In economics and the…Read more …