Higher education

Why has no other European country adopted the Research Excellence Framework?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/01/2018 - 10:00pm in

Most European countries have followed the UK’s lead in developing performance-based research funding systems (PRFS) for their universities. However, what these countries have not done is adopt the same system, the Research Excellence Framework being its most recent iteration. Instead, many use indicators of institutional performance for funding decisions rather than panel evaluation and peer review. Gunnar Sivertsen has examined […]

The concept of research impact pervades contemporary academic discourse – but what does it actually mean?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 09/01/2018 - 10:00pm in

Research impact is often talked about, but how clear is it what this term really means? Kristel Alla, Wayne Hall, Harvey Whiteford, Brian Head and Carla Meurk find that academic literature discusses research impact but often without properly defining it, with academic discourses mostly drawing on bureaucratic definitions originating from the UK. The authors highlight four core elements that comprise most […]

in NYC spring 2018 semester? looking for a PhD-level course on “Change and Crisis in Universities?”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 09/01/2018 - 7:12am in

Are you a graduate student in the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium or a CUNY graduate student?*  If so, please consider taking “Change & Crisis in Universities: Research, Education, and Equity in Uncertain Times” class at the Graduate Center, CUNY.  This course is cross-listed in the Sociology, Urban Education and Interdisciplinary Studies programs.

Ruth Milkman and I are co-teaching this class together this spring on Tuesdays 4:15-6:15pm.  Our course topics draw on research in organizations, labor, and inequality.  This course starts on Tues., Jan. 30, 2018.

Here’s our course description:

 

This course examines recent trends affecting higher education, with special attention to how those trends exacerbate class, race/ethnicity, and gender inequalities. With the rising hegemony of a market logic, colleges and universities have been transformed into entrepreneurial institutions. Inequality has widened between elite private universities with vast resources and public institutions where students and faculty must “do more with less,” and austerity has fostered skyrocketing tuition and student debt. Tenure-track faculty lines have eroded as contingent academic employment balloons.  The rise of on-line “learning” and expanding class sizes have raised concerns about the quality of higher education, student retention rates, and faculty workloads.  Despite higher education’s professed commitment to diversity, disadvantaged racial and ethnic groups remain underrepresented, especially among faculty. Amid growing concerns about the impact of micro-aggressions, harassment, and even violence on college campuses, liberal academic traditions are under attack from the right. Drawing on social science research on inequality, organizations, occupations, and labor, this course will explore such developments, as well as recent efforts by students and faculty to reclaim higher education institutions.

We plan to read articles and books on the above topics, some of which have been covered by orgtheory posts and discussions such as epopp’s edited RSO volume, Armstrong and Hamilton’s Paying for the Party, and McMillan Cottom’s Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy.  We’ll also be discussing readings by two of our guestbloggers as well, Ellen Berrey and Caroline W. Lee.

*If you are a student at one of the below schools, you may be eligible, after filing  paperwork by the GC and your institution’s deadlines, to take classes within the Consortium:

Columbia University, GSAS
Princeton University – The Graduate School
CUNY Graduate Center
Rutgers University
Fordham University, GSAS
Stony Brook University
Graduate Faculty, New School University
Teachers College, Columbia University
New York University, GSAS, Steinhardt

2017 in review: top posts of the year

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 31/12/2017 - 10:00pm in

As 2017 nears its end and before our focus is drawn to whatever the new year might have in store, now is the perfect time to look back and reflect on the last twelve months on the Impact Blog. Editor Kieran Booluck reports on another year in which our readership has grown, and also shares a selection of the most […]

2017 in review: round-up of our top posts on research evaluation and impact

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 30/12/2017 - 10:00pm in

Increasing REF’s impact weighting could offer incentive for institutions to address societal, economic and global challenges Challenges posed by events such as Brexit highlight the importance of excellent research programmes. Moreover, they represent a broader context in which the next Research Excellence Framework must consider “impact”. But do current REF proposals go far enough towards doing this? Matthew Guest argues that there […]

What do universities want to be? A content analysis of mission and vision statements worldwide

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/12/2017 - 10:00pm in

Universities’ mission and vision statements serve as public pronouncements of their purpose, ambition, and values. So what does analysis of worldwide institutions’ statements reveal to us? Julián David Cortés-Sánchez has conducted a large-scale content analysis and found a trend towards global influence, an unsurprising emphasis on research and teaching, certain geographical patterns, and a noticeable focus on either the individual […]

The crumbling façade: my experience working for an essay mill

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/12/2017 - 10:00pm in

According to a recent UK Government-backed review, academics are topping up their earnings by writing for “essay mill” sites which help students to cheat in their assignments. S. A. Mills was one of those academics and recounts the experience here; offering an insight into the allure of such opportunities for those either out of work or in precarious positions, as well […]

Where are the rising stars of research working? Towards a momentum-based look at research excellence

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 11/12/2017 - 10:00pm in

Traditional university rankings and leaderboards are largely an indicator of past performance of academic staff, some of whom conducted the research for which they are most famous elsewhere. Paul X. McCarthy has analysed bibliometric data to see which research institutions are accelerating fastest in terms of output and impact. The same data also offers a glimpse into the future, helping […]

the PROSPER Act, the price of college, and eroding public goodwill

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/12/2017 - 2:55am in

The current Congress is decidedly cool toward colleges and the students attending them. The House version of the tax bill that just passed eliminates the deduction on student loan interest and taxes graduate student tuition waivers as income. Both House and Senate bills tax the largest college endowments.

Now we have the PROSPER Act, introduced on Friday. The 500-plus page bill does many things. It kills the Department of Education’s ability to keep aid from going to for-profit schools with very high debt-to-income ratios, or to forgive the loans of defrauded student borrowers . It loosens the rules that keep colleges from steering students into questionable loans in exchange for parties, perks, and other kickbacks.

And it changes the student loan program dramatically, ending subsidized direct loans and replacing them with a program (Federal ONE) that looks more like current unsubsidized loans. Borrowing limits go up for undergrads and down for some grads. The terms for income-based repayment get tougher, with higher monthly payments and no forgiveness after 20 years. Public Service Loan Forgiveness, particularly important to law schools, comes to an end. (See Robert Kelchen’s blog for some highlights and his tweetstorm for a blow-by-blow read of the bill.)

To be honest, this could be worse. Although I dislike many of the provisions, given the Republican higher ed agenda there’s nothing shocking or unexpectedly punitive, like the grad tuition tax was.

Still, between the tax bill and this one, Congress has taken some sharp jabs at nonprofit higher ed. This goes along with a dramatic downward turn in Republican opinion of colleges over the last two years.Capture

Obviously, some of this is a culture war. Noah Smith highlights student protests and the politicization of the humanities and social sciences as the reason opinion has deteriorated. I think there are aspects of this that are problems, but the flames have mostly been fanned by those with a preexisting agenda. There just aren’t that many Reed Colleges out there.

I suspect colleges are also losing support, though, for another reason—one that is much less partisan. That is the cost of college.

I think colleges have ignored just how much goodwill has been burned up by the rise in college costs. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been buried in data about tuition rates, net prices, and student loans. Although intellectually I knew how much prices risen, it was still shocking to realize how different the world of higher ed was in 1980.

The entire cost of college was $7,000 a year. For everything. At a four-year school. At a time when the value of the maximum Pell Grant was over $5,000, and the median household income was not far off from today’s. Seriously, I can’t begin to imagine.

The change has been long and gradual—the metaphorical boiling of the frog. The big rise in private tuitions took place in the 90s, but it wasn’t until after 2000 that costs at publics (both sticker price and net price—the price paid after scholarships and grant aid) increased dramatically. Unsurprisingly, student borrowing increased dramatically along with it. The Obama administration reforms, which expanded Pell Grants and improved loan repayment terms, haven’t meant lower costs for students and their families.

Picture1What I’m positing is that the rising cost of college and the accompanying reliance on student loans have eroded goodwill toward colleges in difficult-to-measure ways. On the one hand, the big drop in public opinion clearly happened in last two years, and is clearly partisan. Democrats have slightly ticked up in their assessment of college at the same time.

But I suspect that even support among Democrats may be weaker than it appears, particularly when it comes to bread-and-butter issues, rather than culture-war issues. Only a small minority (22%) of people think college is affordable, and only 40% think it provides good value for the money. And this is the case despite the growing wage gap between college grads and high school grads. Sympathy for proposals that hit colleges financially—whether that means taxing endowments, taxing tuition waivers, or anything else that looks like it will force colleges to tighten their belts—is likely to be relatively high, even among those friendly to college as an institution.

This is likely worsened by the common pricing strategy that deemphasizes the importance of sticker price and focuses on net price. But the perception, as well as the reality, of affordability matters. Today, even community college tuition ($3500 a year, on average) feels like a burden.

The point isn’t whether college is “worth it” in terms of the long-run income payoff. In a purely economic sense there’s no question it is and will continue to be. But pushing the burden of cost onto individuals and families, rather than distributing it more broadly, makes it feel unbearable, and makes people think colleges are just in it for the money. (Which sometimes they are.) I’m always surprised that my SUNY students think the mission of the university is to make money off of them.

This perception means that students and their families and the larger public will be reluctant to support higher education, whether in the form of direct funding, more financial aid, or the preservation of weird but mission-critical perks, like not taxing tuition waivers.

The PROSPER Act, should it come to fruition, will provide another test for public institutions. Federal borrowing limits for undergraduates will rise by $2,000 a year, to $7,500 for freshmen, $8,500 for sophomores, and $9,500 for juniors and seniors. If public institutions immediately default to expecting students to take out the new maximum in federal loans each year, they will continue to erode goodwill even among those not invested in the culture wars.

The sad thing is, this is a self-reinforcing cycle. Colleges, especially public institutions, may feel like they have no choice but to allow tuition to climb, then try to make up the difference for the lowest-income students. But by adopting this strategy, they undermine their very claim to public support. Letting borrowing continue to climb may solve budget problems in the short run. In the long run, it’s shooting yourself in the foot.

 

 

How to start dismantling white privilege in higher education

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/12/2017 - 10:00pm in

Racism is still alive and well in US and UK academia, with many from black and minority ethnic backgrounds less likely to gain access to universities or occupy decision-making roles. Kalwant Bhopal argues that to address this problem requires radical action from universities, which must start by acknowledging the existence of institutional racism and white privilege. Despite many claims to the […]

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