Goodbye to AHELO?

This article was written for 'HE - Policy and markets in higher education' from Research Fortnight and was published there on 24 June. “It is hard to improve what isn’t measured.” So said Andreas Schleicher, who runs a programme to identify the abilities of school children in different countries on behalf of the OECD. Eight years ago, a similar measurement for higher education was proposed. The Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes (AHLEO), as it is known, was due to be discussed this week at the sixth annual international symposium on university rankings and quality…Read more …

The end of the university? Not likely

This article was first published in University World News. This year has frequently seen apocalyptic headlines about the end of the university as we know it. Three main drivers have been and still are fuelling these predictions: the worldwide massification of higher education; the increasing use of information and communication technology in teaching and the delivery of education; and the ongoing globalisation of higher education. These developments will make the traditional university obsolete in 2038. At least, that’s what some want us to believe. The massification of higher education worldwide – even more than the…Read more …

Regulating recruitment agencies

Study abroad for a full degree has developed from an elite to a mass phenomenon. Parallel to this development, we have witnessed a commercialization of international higher education where many institutions have become financially dependent on full fee paying international students. To operate in this (global) market, institutions – and especially the lesser-known ones – now frequently turn to agents and recruiters in order to attract prospective students. Many point to the risks of these third party agents and plea for more regulation or even abolishment. Abolish or regulate? In Inside Higher Ed,…Read more …

Rankings and Reality

Summer holidays are over. In the global field of higher education, this also means that it is ranking season. Last month it was the Shanghai ranking, This week the QS World Universities Ranking were revealed and in two weeks the all new Times Higher Education ranking (THE) will be published. Ranking season also means discussions about the value of rankings and about their methodologies. Two points of critique are addressed here: the volatility of (some) rankings and the overemphasis of research in assessing universities’ performance. Volatility and stability in international rankings  This year’s discussion has gotten extra fierce (and nasty now and then) because of the THE’s decision to part…Read more …

Podcasting Higher Ed

Some years ago the first podcasts emerged in higher education. Initially these were mostly downloadable lecture series, mainly from US universities. Universities like Berkeley and Stanford took the lead here but soon many other US universities followed and later, also some UK universities jumped the iTunes U bandwagon. In the Netherlands, the universities of Wageningen, Leiden and Rotterdam were the first to podcast lectures. Of course there were fears that these podcasts would make real lectures superfluous, but i don't think that podcasts ever knocked lectures off the podium. More recently, also several…Read more …

The global higher education market

The last edition of the Economist in 2008 included an interesting article on the growth of international education. International education has witnessed an enormous growth in the past decade, a growth that comes with risks and benefits for both developed and developing countries. The 20th century saw a surge in higher education; in the early 21st century, the idea of going abroad to study has become thinkable for ordinary students. In 2006, the most recent year for which figures are available, nearly 3m were enrolled in higher education institutions outside their own countries,…Read more …

Academic Salaries around the World

There have been quite some controversies about the salaries of university leaders, especially those in the public sector. Philip Altbach and his colleagues from the Boston College Center for International Higher Education have now published a report comparing the salaries of academics around the world. Here are the results, summarised in one single picture: Conclusion? It pays of to work hard in order to get to the top, especially in South Africa, New Zealand and above all, Saudi Arabia. Not so in France and Germany (surprise?). Furthermore, an advice for academics who aspire…Read more …

Foreign Students and the Global Competition for Talent

The OECD recently published a very interesting report on skilled migration and the diffusion of knowledge: The Global Competition for Talent: Mobility of the Highly Skilled. This publication can be seen as a follow-up of the 2002 report International Mobility of the Highly Skilled. Here's a short summary of the summary: "International mobility of human resources in science and technology is of growing importance and can have important impacts on knowledge creation and diffusion in both receiving and sending countries indicating that it is not necessarily a zero-sum game. Receiving countries benefit from…Read more …

THE Ranking 2008 by Country (again)

Like last year, I tried to look at the Times Higher education university league tables from a national perspective. I gave a score of 200 for the number one university (Harvard) and 1 for the number 200 (the university of Athens) etc., and than aggregated these scores for every country. The graph below shows that the United States and the United Kingdom are again superior in the Times rankings, followed by Australia and Canada. The Netherlands is the first non English speaking country, followed by Japan and Germany. The main difference however compared…Read more …

Education at a Glance 2008

Today the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development published its annual report 'Education at a Glance'. Education at a Glance presents data and analysis on education; it provides a rich and up-to-date range of indicators on education systems in the OECD’s 30 member countries and in a number of partner economies. This years highlights are: Meeting a rapidly rising demand for more and better education is creating intense pressures to raise spending on education and improve its efficiency. Recent years have already seen considerable increases in spending levels, both in absolute terms and…Read more …

Can institutions be compared using standardised tests?

At the EAIR conference in Copenhagen last month I attended an interesting presentation by Trudy Banta, a professor of higher education and vice chancellor for planning and institutional improvement at Indiana University-Purdue University. Her question was clear: Can institutions really be compared using standardised tests? Policymakers seem determined to assess the quality of HEIs using standardised tests of student learning outcomes. Yet, Dr. Banta claims that such tests do not provide data for valid comparisons and on top of that, they measure other things than institutional performance: Comparing test scores sounds easy, but…Read more …

More rankings: Shanghai Jiao Tong, Forbes (& AHELO?)

Tomorrow, the new 2008 Academic Ranking of World Universities will be officially published. Not surprisingly, it's an almost all American affair. It's rather interesting that the publication of the Shanhai Jiao Tong rankings almost goes by unnoticed, especially if you compare it to the publication of the Times Higher Education Supplement/QS World University Rankings (the THES-QS rankings 2008 will be published on 9 October). This exactly is the strength of the SJT ranking. After all, universities are robust organisations and don't change a lot in a years time. I guess it therefore corresponds…Read more …