Friday, October 03, 2014

World university rankings show 'power shift' from US and UK towards Far East

US and UK Universities dominate the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.  In Australia ANU, U Sydney, U. Melb, U Qld and Monash made the top 100 with U NSW just outside at rank 109.  Full list here

British universities slipped in major global league tables published today amid evidence of a "power shift" towards the Far East.

Figures showed three UK universities dropped out of a list of the world's 200 top performing higher education institutions while five disappeared from the top 500.

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings showed that the United States and UK continued to dominate the very highest positions but there was "worrying evidence of decline".

It emerged that universities in China, Hong Kong and South Korea showed particular improvement this year, while Germany also had more institutions among the top 200.

Experts said the development represented evidence of a "power shift from West to East", driven by the fact that many universities were being "starved of vital public funding".

The tables showed that California Institute of Technology in the United States was named as the best university in the world for the fourth year running while Harvard retained second place.

Oxford was named as the best ranked British university in third - down from joint second last year - followed by Stanford.

Cambridge was fifth - up from seventh - while remaining places in the top 10 were taken up by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton, the University of California, Berkeley, Imperial College London, Yale and the University of Chicago.

The UK was second only to the US in terms of the number of top-rated universities, Times Higher Education said.

But it also emerged that some universities fell out of the global elite this year.

Reading, Dundee and Newcastle all dropped out of the top 200, while two others were close to falling, with East Anglia dropping from 174th to 198th and Leicester dropping from 161st to 199th.

In a further disclosure, it was revealed that five UK universities dropped out of the top 400 - Heriot-Watt, Keele, Liverpool John Moores, Loughborough and Surrey, although Aston climbed into the leading positions for the first time.

It follows claims from leading vice-chancellors that universities are struggling to keep up with high-performing peers from overseas because of a squeeze on funding.

Sir Christopher Snowden, the president of Universities UK, has said that the current £9,000 cap on undergraduate tuition fees is no longer sustainable while Prof Andrew Hamilton, the vice-chancellor of Oxford, suggested fee levels should be closer to the full cost of educating students - £16,000 in Oxford's case.

The league table suggested US universities were also showing relative declines, despite continuing to dominate the leading positions in overwhelming numbers. Some 60 per cent of US universities lost ground this year, falling an average of five places, with publicly-funded institutions being hardest hi, THE said.

By comparison, 2014 was a "strong year" for the Far East, it emerged.

Some 24 Asian universities are now in the top 200 compared with 20 a year earlier. This includes two listed in the top 25 - Tokyo University and the National University of Singapore. Two German universities also entered the top 200 for the first time.

Phil Baty, the ranking's editor, said: "Western universities, in many cases starved of vital public funding, are losing ground.

"There is much talk of a power shift from East to West, but these new world university rankings provide hard evidence of the phenomenon. There is little doubt that key East Asian nations have emerged as powerhouses in global higher education and research, while traditional leaders including the UK, Canada and the US, risk losing significant ground in the global knowledge economy.”

He said the UK continued to "punch above its weight" but added: "While the elite institutions remain highly competitive at the top of the global rankings, this new data raises a number of key concerns."

The tables are compiled using 13 key indicators, including research income, research impact, staff/student ratio, the number of international staff and students and reputation.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said the rankings suggested Britain continued to "possess, by some margin, one of the strongest university systems in the world".

“What is clear, however, is that if we want to maintain this leading position, we must start matching our competitors’ increased investment in higher education," she said. "That is why, before next year’s general election, Universities UK is calling on all parties to reveal how they plan to fund sustainably the world-class teaching and research in our universities.”

Wendy Piatt, director-general of the Russell Group, which represents 24 top universities, said:

“The UK’s leading universities continue to outperform many of their global competitors, with 11 Russell Group institutions in the top 100.

"But other universities, particularly those in East Asia, are rapidly catching up, thanks to their governments pumping billions into their best universities. Without increased investment and less regulation in coming years, the UK’s best universities might lose their place as world-leaders."


Goddard College Selects Convicted Cop Killer as Fall Commencement Speaker

A liberal-arts college in Vermont decided it would make some waves by selecting a murderous jailbird as its commencement speaker.

Goddard College announced Monday that alumnus Mumia Abu-Jamal, Class of '96, was selected by the Fall class of 2014 to speak at commencement this Saturday.

Prosecutors sentenced Abu-Jamal to death for the 1981 murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner.  The college gives more on this man's "illustrious" background:

Abu-Jamal was convicted in the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. His original death sentence handed down at his trial in 1982 was commuted to life imprisonment without parole in 2011. He was then transferred from death row to the Mahanoy State Correctional Institution in Frackville, Pa., where he resides today.

His formal biography at the bottom of the press release, however, paints him as a former "resident" of death row and prominent journalist - instead of as a criminal.

Abu-Jamal will make his virtual appearance in a video address to Goddard's fall graduating class on Sunday October 5 along filmmaker Steven Vittoria, who filmed a documentary about Abu-Jamal in 2012.  But if you're worried that this will be one of the only commencement speeches you'll find at Goddard- don't worry- the college hosts 20 different commencement ceremonies every year.

While one college selects a convicted cop-killer for the esteemed tradition, several conservative commencement speakers have been banned from universities within the past two years.

In 2013, Dr. Ben Carson withdrew as Johns Hopkins' commencement speaker after students claimed he made some inflammatory remarks about gay marriage.

Former Bush Administration official Robert Zoellick withdrew from Swarthmore's commencement ceremony because students said he made comments about instigating the Iraq War.

Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice withdrew from Rutgers University's commencement ceremony because students protested her appearance.


'A' Is for Agitation: What's Really Going on in Jefferson County Schools

There's a big battle brewing in the Jefferson County, Colorado, school system. The manufactured controversy over a proposed curriculum review is generating national headlines. But the fight is not about what misguided students and biased reporters say it's about. "Censorship" is a red herring. The real issue is union control.

Here's the deal: Public school teachers in this Denver-area district walked out of their classrooms this week to protest the implementation of performance-based pay. The JeffCo school board approved the new compensation system last week, which rewards the most highly effective teachers with 4.2 percent raises, effective teachers with 2.4 raises and inferior teachers with nothing. Only 2 percent of teachers received no pay raises.

One fact the grievance-mongering teachers conveniently left out of their politicized pep talks to student sympathizers: The board gave bonuses to 450 teachers who would have otherwise received no raises under the union's arbitrary step scale. The old system didn't take performance into any consideration at all.

Despite the hefty rewards for teacher competence and excellence, disgruntled union leaders called for a strike last Friday (or as they prefer to whitewash it, a "sickout"). The Big Labor avengers succeeded in shutting down two schools — and enlisting students to protest with them. But the optics of robbing kids of valuable educational time to protest an $18.2 million salary compensation package did not play well with taxpayers.

Enter the "censorship" fakeout.

At the same board meeting where the new pay system was approved, elected school board members heard a proposal to form a curriculum review committee. Under the state constitution, elected local school boards are responsible for instructional and curriculum matters. It's their duty. The proposal called for the creation of a new, nine-member panel "to review curricular choices for conformity to JeffCo academic standards, accuracy and omissions, and to inform the board of any objectionable materials."

The panel's first review items would be the elementary health curriculum and the A.P. U.S. History (APUSH) curriculum, which has undergone a radical revamp over the past few years.

The chief architect of the APUSH revisions is David Coleman, a progressive ideologue who is also one of the prime movers and shakers behind the Common Core standards scheme. Objections to the shoddy, intrusive, costly, top-down, backroom-designed Common Core agenda cross party lines. Rank-and-file teachers across the country have joined a diverse anti-Common Core coalition of parents, administrators, scholars, grassroots activists, privacy advocates and anti-cronyism watchdogs.

The JeffCo school board takes its deliberative role seriously. The proposal is the opposite of censorship. The debate over history standards is part of a wider battle between left-leaning militant teachers' unions, who explicitly see their primary role as Saul Alinsky-trained political agitators, and those who want to restore academic excellence, rigor and ideological balance in the schools.

While every liberal "-ism" has been incorporated into the school day — from environmentalism and collectivism to social justice activism to mandatory volunteerism, feminism and transgenderism — JeffCo school board members are now being mocked for simply proposing that citizenship, individualism and patriotism have a fundamental place at the schoolteacher's table.

Somehow, this perfectly reasonable proposal morphed into "JeffCo wants to remove slavery from the history curriculum!" Next thing you know, students were walking out of class two days in a row this week with "We (Heart) Our Teachers" signs. And the liberal Denver Post was running propaganda stories on Twitter mockery of the school board.

"It upsets me greatly to see children being used as pawns and missing educational time," school board president Ken Witt told me. And "we're not just going to rubber-stamp" the top-down APUSH changes, he says. But the bigger picture, Witt points out, is that the district's "union contract expires in August. It will be entirely redrafted." The agitators' ultimate goal is "to create turmoil and discredit board before those negotiations."

And they are trying to do so by any means necessary — including misleading kids, spreading falsehoods in the classroom and instigating walkouts through student-managed organizing websites.

The parting words of former top National Education Association lawyer Bob Chanin a few years ago in explaining the union's main agenda say it all. After calling conservative opponents "bastards," he said:

"This is not to say that the concern of NEA and its affiliates with closing achievement gaps, reducing dropout rates, improving teacher quality and the like are unimportant or inappropriate. To the contrary — these are the goals that guide the work we do. But they need not and must not be achieved at the expense of due process, employee rights and collective bargaining. That simply is too high a price to pay.

Listen up, class. For public employee union leaders, it's not really about the children or academic excellence or curricular freedom. It's about their own political self-preservation. Always.


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