Monday, August 18, 2014

University rankings out again

There are now rather a lot of these rankings, all using slightly different methodology, but the latest out is the well established Shanghai Jiao Tong ranking.

No great surprises in the top ten, though Oxford would be sniffy about being ranked lower than Cambridge.

As usual, Australian universities had a good showing, with Melbourne in the top 50 and ANU at 74,  Queensland at 85 and UWA at 88.  Queensland is my Alma Mater so nobody can cast nasturtiums on my background.  My son is back there too.

And one of Brisbane's newer universities (Griffith) put out a press release expressing pleasure at being ranked 400th!  That is not as silly as it sounds when you realize that is 400th out of 10,000 -- and rankings lower than 500 are not released. Newer universities are somewhat disadvantaged by the weight that Jiao Tong gives to Nobel prizes and Fields medals.
And Israelis will be pleased that their small community produced two in the top 100 -- Hebrew and Technion. And that is despite the "brain drain" of Ashkenazim to American universities.  No Palestinian universities made it into the top 500, however.  I believe there is one. Maybe the Palis could send some suicide bombers over to Shanghai to show those Chinamen at Jiao Tong University a thing or two!

The first non-American university on the list was -- at 19 -- The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, which I know nothing about.  I have certainly never seen a paper from them.  Did Einstein go there or something?

The ranking of Leiden university in the Netherlands may indicate that there is such a thing as Dutch modesty.  They ranked at 77 when in the ranking system that they themselves run they come in only at 100!

Brits will be peeved that LSE made it only into the 100-150 bracket.  I gather that they have a lot of Muslims there.  And I was slightly peeved to see Sydney also in that bracket  I have a large document issued to me by that university. At least it did better than Macquarie, which was at 201-300.  I also have a large document issued to me  by Macquarie.

Three New Zealand universities made it into the top 500, which isn't bad for a country of only 4 million souls, though the ranking of Victoria University Wellington (401-500)  will disappoint many. I very nearly took a job there once.

The methodology used by the Shanghai rankings is entirely academic and research oriented. The project is supported by the Chinese government so it is a pretty good look "from outside".  The huge preponderance of American universities in the rankings would have to be taken with a large grain of salt if it were Americans who were doing the rankings but since the work was in fact done by Chinese academics, it is not subject to that suspicion.

Teacher on Unions: ‘Felt Like Little Children Being Bullied on a Playground’

 Teachers who left labor unions connected with their jobs said on Tuesday that they felt “bullied” for their opposition to compulsory membership and payment of dues that funded political activities.

“We literally felt like little children being bullied on a playground,” Rebecca Friedrichs, a teacher and former member of the California Teachers Association, said at the event at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Friedrichs, who is also the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against the CTA challenging its authority, was one of a panel of two educators and a child care provider that spoke about their experiences with labor unions and their efforts to help others who want to end their union membership.

Although she was opposed to CTA’s political activities, Friedrichs said she decided to become a member so she would “have a voice.” However, her efforts to question the union’s policies were rebuked, she said, including while at a CTA conference where she and another member expressed their concerns publicly.

“I continually brought up the fact that many of my colleagues and I were disturbed and offended that our forced dues were being used toward politics and highly political collective bargaining that were against our moral codes and our fiscal sensibilities,” Friedrichs said.

“On every occasion we were answered with hateful tones – rhetoric that made it very clear to everyone in the room that if you did not stand with union politics you were a bigot,” Friedrichs said. “And on every occasion, the entire room fell silent because of the extreme intimidation of the higher union officials.

“We literally felt like little children being bullied on a playground,” Friedrichs said.

The event, entitled "Free at Last: How and Why Union Members Leave their Unions,” was held during National Employee Freedom Week (NEFW) to highlight the growing movement of teachers and others leaving unions and fighting the compulsory membership and dues that pay for unions’ political activities.

Victor Joecks, executive director of NEFW and also a panelist at the event, said that 81 organizations have formed in 45 states “with the sole purpose of letting union members know that they have the ability to leave their union.”

The options for leaving unions vary from state to state depending on employment law, but teachers and others are working to change those laws, the panelists said.

Jennifer Parrish, who runs a child care center in her home in Minnesota and heads the Coalition of Union Free Providers, is the lead plaintiff in another lawsuit challenging her state’s efforts to force providers who receive state funding to join the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), one of the largest public-sector unions in the country.

The lawsuit, which is still being litigated by Minnesota’s Eighth Circuit Court, could be affected by the recent Supreme Court decision, Harris v. Quinn, which said the state of Illinois’ attempt to make personal caregivers state employees for the purpose of union membership was unconstitutional.

Parrish said a union member came to her home and tried to get her to sign a “petition,” which turned out to be a union membership form.

Robert Wiersema, a teacher and former member of the Michigan Education Association, said teachers who leave their union should expect “resistance.” In his case, that included a disciplinary hearing.

“They were looking at every jot and tittle of what I did to make sure it followed the line,” Wiersema said. “I’m not saying this to intimidate other teachers from opting out, but you will face a little bit of resistance.

“That’s how it is, but that’s alright, because nothing of value is free,” Wiersema said.

Ironically, in 2012, the National Education Association issued a report on workplace bullying.

“Workplace bullying has many different definitions, for example, ‘the phenomenon that includes negative workplace behavior including such behaviors as being humiliated or ridiculed, being ignored or excluded, being shouted at, receiving hints that you should quit your job, receiving persistent criticism, and excessive monitoring of your work,’” the report stated.

“Other definitions include ‘repeated and persistent negative actions towards one or more individual(s), which involve a perceived power imbalance and create a hostile work environment,’” it added.


Australia: Proposed Islamic school starts new push for registration in the ACT

An Islamic school, whose initial application to set up shop in the ACT failed after a highly critical review, have reapplied for registration under an altered name.

The Canberra Muslim Youth group have resubmitted an application for provisional registration for a kindergarten to year 3 school to open in 2015.

The group submitted the application under the new name "Taqwa School" after previously applying under "At-Taqwa School".

The proposal was opened to public comment in early August after it was submitted on July 30.

Hassan Warsi, the chairman of the board of governance for the school, declined to comment on the move, saying it was too early to do so.

The school was originally proposed for Gungahlin in 2012 and was rejected for registration last year by a review panel.

The panel's report said in February that the application failed to ensure staff were registered properly and that the education programs and curriculum were tailored for the students.

The review also questioned the financial viability of the school's application and said the group had so far failed to consider child protection procedures and background checks of volunteers.

The panel said interviews with the principal and board members "revealed an absence of thorough pedagogical understanding and principles of curriculum design, as it applies to a primary context''.

Andrew Wrigley, the executive director of the Association of Independent Schools of the ACT, said he was aware of the application.

"They have been working very hard on the requirements to gain provisional registration," Mr Wrigley said.

Mr Warsi is also associated with the Islamic Society of Belconnen, whose social media pages reveal the groups has been fund-raising within the Islamic community to get the school off the ground.

The school has lodged a development application for a site in Gungahlin to allow for the installation of fences, demountable classrooms and toilets.

An ACT Education and Training Directorate spokeswoman said a panel would now be appointed to report to the minister on the proposed school.


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