The Department

Earlier this year Daniel Drezner discussed why there will never be a reality show about academia. Well... this is not reality, but pretty funny nevertheless. The Office Department: a merger between the Kennedy School of Government and the Government Department at Harvard. The difference? They (Kennedy School of Government) want to go and save the world. What we (Government Department) want to do is save the political science profession. I don't know which job is tougher. Probably the latter. [ht: CoreEcon / Dani Rodrik]Read more …

Eronomics 101

Isn't economics wonderful? It gives answers to all important questions in life. It even provides the tools for 'understanding the preferences underlying the search for a mate'. Or in other words, an economist goes to a bar and solves the mysteries of dating. At a local bar just off the Columbia campus, Raymond Fisman ran a speed-dating experiment with two psychologists, Sheena Iyengar and Itamar Simonson, and fellow economist Emir Kamenica. Some of their findings confirm the well known clichés, stereotypes and prejudices, other findings are more surprising: 260Read more …

Equity or Excellence in Education (or both?)?

One of the major current issues in (higher) education policy - in my opinion - is the issue of excellence versus equity. Is it most important to focus on the masses and see to it that everyone gets the same high quality education? Or should the country's prime talents be nurtured and given the opportunity to fully exploit their opportunities. Or, better yet, can you do both? The BBC Radio Documentary series 'The Changing World' investigates the dilemma, and what better places to visit than Finland on the one hand and the UK…Read more …

Athletics on Campus or Classes in the Arena?

As a European, my view on the relation between the university and sports is very straightforward. There's a health related function and a social function: the university provides facilities for students and staff to stay in shape and stay in touch. Simple as that! As a European in Australia, the prominence of athletics on campus surprised me in the early days when I got here (I'm pretty much surrounded by ovals and tennis courts). But then again, sports are pretty much part of everyday life here (especially the past few weeks) and obviously,…Read more …

HOW to reform Europe’s universities?

Going through my daily news intake, my eyes fell on this alarming headline in Businessweek: Europe Falls Short in Higher Education. Going through the article, it seemed like the same old story (more of this and this). Nonetheless,  I decided to have a look at the source of the article. It was based on a policy brief (Why reform  Europe’s universities?) issued by Breugel, a European think tank devoted to international economics. The report presented some interesting data and analysis of the determinants of research performance (interesting despite the fact that much of…Read more …

Crack addict: University Inc.

More than 25 years after the Bayh-Dole Act came into force, Members of the Subcommittee on Technology & Innovation met to discuss the future of the law. The law allows universities to patent inventions that result from government funded R&D. Inside HigherEd reports that most members agreed that circumstances have changed the last 25 years. Competition is coming from China and India, instead of Germany and Japan. Technology is now more complex, with technological innovations being based on a bundle of patents instead of a few. And...universities have become competitors not just collaborators.…Read more …

Open access to research

A nice little snippet from last week's issue of Nature about a good initiative in open access to research: "The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), a leading private sponsor of biomedical research in the United States, will require its 300-plus investigators to make their research publicly accessible within six months of publication. Articles that do not meet this requirement will not be considered when the investigators apply for contract renewals. The policy, announced on 26 June, will come into effect at the start of 2008 and will apply only to papers on which…Read more …

America and the Bologna Process

The European process of harmonisation of degree structures is also causing discussions on the other side of the Atlantic. The participating countries have implemented (or are implementing) a three tier degree structure (Bachelor, Master, PhD). In most countries, the undergraduate phase will take three years. In my opinion, one reason for this rather short duration, is the fact that many countries - like the Netherlands - saw their previous 4 year degrees (doctorandus, licentiaat, magister and what have you) as equivalent to a Master's degree. And because governments did not want Bologna to…Read more …

The Next (World) Bank President

While Wolfowitz has barely resigned as president of the World Bank, the Financial Times is already speculating about his successor. A quick look at the possible nominations makes clear that World Bank is first and foremost a Bank. The first name the FT mentions is Robert M. Kimmitt, the US deputy Treasury secretary. Kimmitts bio reveals that his experience in the developing world is limited to his military service in Vietnam in 1970-1971. He served in the 173rd Airborne Brigade, earning three Bronze Star Medals, the Purple Heart, the Air Medal, and the…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 …

QS and Flawed Rankings

It's a fact! Rankings are getting more and more important. In a recent article in Inside Higher-ed I found out that they are even explicitly included in the performance criteria for some university presidents. In this case it was the Arizona State University president who would get an extra 60,000 US$ bonus if his university would improve its ranking in the U.S. News & World Report. But in the US, resistance against this ranking is gradually growing. For the rest of the world it is probably the ranking of the Times Higher Education…Read more …

Legrain on immigrants

Tonight I attended a lecture (in the Sydney Ideas Series) from Philippe Legrain on his latest book: Immigrants: your country needs them. It was also the occasion of his Sydney book launch but luckily - in this open world - I ordered the book a month ago from the UK (and thereby avoided the high Australian book prices).   Legrain's lecture will be available on the University of Sydney podcasts site, but here's a short impression of both book and lecture. In short, Legrain's message is: Let them in! Because it's better for…Read more …

Female University Presidents

Harvard has named Drew Gilpin Faust as its 28th president. Faust has since 2001 been the Dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Last year, Larry Summers had a turbulent exit as Harvard president. This was caused mainly by a speech he held at NBER, early 2005. In trying to explain why there were more men than women in high-end science and engineering positions, he suggested that it might be related to ability and/or preference.The new Harvard president seems to be the opposite of her predecessor. Richard Bradley, author of "Harvard Rules:…Read more …

Ivy League CEOs

The blog of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) has a post that plugs into an earlier article from Time: "Where the Fortune 50 CEOs Went to College". Here it was concluded that an elite career doesn’t always stem from an elite education.CCAP conducted a deeper study of this topic. They tracked down the CEOs for the top 100 Fortune companies for the years 2006, 1980 and 1955. Together, this represents roughly three different generations of business leaders. From there, they researched where these CEOs completed their undergraduate and graduate work,…Read more …

Still Bowling Alone

While staying in the US last month, I heard an interview on the radio with Lynn Smith-Lovin, a sociology professor at Duke. The interview was about a study she co-authored: Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks over Two Decades.The study of 1,467 adults showed that one-fourth of all Americans report that they have nobody to talk to about personal matters. Another quarter reports they are just one person away from nobody. It seems that, in addition to bowling alone, more and more Americans now also have to cope alone with…Read more …