Archive for February, 2010

IELTS Success! Many U.S. Colleges are joining the U.K., Canada, and Australia, recognizing the IELTS for admissions

Over 2000 U.S. colleges and universities have agreed to accept the IELTS for admissions requirements.  It joins the other 3 other major foreign study destinations in recognizing the IELTS standard.  It joins Canada as the only other major country that now accepts both the IELTS and the TOEFL.  This is great news for foreign students studying English in their home country as it now expands their choices for international education.  Also, students will not have to study different tests for different countries.  

It is important to note that not all US universities have agreed to recognize the IELTS, but many well-regarded universities have.  The list of US schools now accepting the IELTS is available here.

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Ranking the World's Universities

Leaders and administrators from hundreds of universities worldwide convened in Kuala Lampur to debate world university rankings and discuss the methodology used to determine these rankings.  Details of the event, including powerpoint slides and pictures, can be found here.

Although university rankings are always controversial, world university rankings have become even moreso because of the current efforts of major study destinations like the US, UK, and Canada to promote their higher education systems to foreign students.  Rankings have become yet another arena in the ever-expanding competition for foreign students, with each country proudly announcing the number of universities it has placed in the top 100.

However, not all rankings are created equal, as demonstrated by the sometimes divergent results yielded by the two most esteemed ranking systems: the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) and the THE – QS World University Rankings.  For example, the ARWU has Stanford University at #2, whereas the THE-QS has Stanford at #16.  Perhaps Stanford alums Larry Page and Sergei Brin of Google teach the THE-QS a little about organizing and ranking information?

This divergence might be explained by the unique methodology of each system.  The ARWU focuses on academic accolades and notoriety, giving 40% weight to the quality of faculty (determined by number of faculty winning nobel prizes/fields medals and number of highly-cited faculty) and 40% to research output (determined by number of faculty papers published in prestigious academic journals).

The THE-QS rankings focuses on academic peer assessment (40%), student/faculty ratio (20%), and research output (20%).  Although the THE-QS is more broad in its focus, it has been criticized for focusing too much on academic peer assessment, which is very subjective.

The QS survey selects 1800 respondents from around the world and asks them to fill out a survey evaluating the strongest schools in each fields in terms of research and relative student quality.  It first asks them to indicate the subject areas with which they are most familar, never requiring any verification of their familiarity.  It then asks them to pick the 30 strongest schools in each of the subject areas they indicated familiarity with.  The surveys are then adjusted to prevent geographical bias.  The more a school was picked in a particular field, the higher the school’s academic peer review score in that field.

Since the the northeastern US and England contain the largest concentration of universities in the world, many of the 1800 respondents in the directory came from these universities.  Not suprisingly, the peer review results favored older universities clustered in the Northeastern United States and England.  This likely explains Stanford’s relegation to #16, as it is located in Palo Alto, California, far from the old college towns of the northeast.  

However, the ARWU is not without its faults.  First, it makes no attempt to measure the quality of the teaching at the universites.  Also, the weight given to the number of nobel prize winning faculty seems excessive.  Though the conception might seem a little narrow, the execution is excellent.  It is undeniably objective and transparent.

Both rankings focus on reputation but the ARWU does a better job because it focuses measures the actions of experts while they are in their expert capacity.  This is because the ARWU employs pre-existing assessments of quality to determine reputation: the decision of a journal editor to publish an article or the decision of a researcher to cite a professor’s work.  These decisions involve the professional fates of the respondents.  The THE – QS rankings fall short in this regard because the respondents have no incentive to answer truthfully, or more importanly, to admit that they don’t know.

Does this even matter, you ask?  Isn’t perception all that matters anyways?  Perception, counts for a lot in the fields of law, finance, and politics.  But the benefits of perception extends only so far, just around the point where the network ends.

Ironically, it is the metric most important for many undergraduates, reputation among employers, that is given the least weight (10% by the THE-QS and 0% by the ARWU). 

What does this mean for the average student?  To be wary of rankings and know precisely why you are using the rankings.  For now, anybody planning to major in the math and sciences should pay attention the ARWU rankings, as they will only become more influential in separating math and science programs.  If you plan on doing law or finance in one of the Alpha World Cities, the THE – QS top 20 will do you just fine, otherwise don’t bother.  But if you really want to hedge your bets, just go to Harvard.

Ranking the World’s Universities

Leaders and administrators from hundreds of universities worldwide convened in Kuala Lampur to debate world university rankings and discuss the methodology used to determine these rankings.  Details of the event, including powerpoint slides and pictures, can be found here.

Although university rankings are always controversial, world university rankings have become even moreso because of the current efforts of major study destinations like the US, UK, and Canada to promote their higher education systems to foreign students.  Rankings have become yet another arena in the ever-expanding competition for foreign students, with each country proudly announcing the number of universities it has placed in the top 100.

However, not all rankings are created equal, as demonstrated by the sometimes divergent results yielded by the two most esteemed ranking systems: the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) and the THE – QS World University Rankings.  For example, the ARWU has Stanford University at #2, whereas the THE-QS has Stanford at #16.  Perhaps Stanford alums Larry Page and Sergei Brin of Google teach the THE-QS a little about organizing and ranking information?

This divergence might be explained by the unique methodology of each system.  The ARWU focuses on academic accolades and notoriety, giving 40% weight to the quality of faculty (determined by number of faculty winning nobel prizes/fields medals and number of highly-cited faculty) and 40% to research output (determined by number of faculty papers published in prestigious academic journals).

The THE-QS rankings focuses on academic peer assessment (40%), student/faculty ratio (20%), and research output (20%).  Although the THE-QS is more broad in its focus, it has been criticized for focusing too much on academic peer assessment, which is very subjective.

The QS survey selects 1800 respondents from around the world and asks them to fill out a survey evaluating the strongest schools in each fields in terms of research and relative student quality.  It first asks them to indicate the subject areas with which they are most familar, never requiring any verification of their familiarity.  It then asks them to pick the 30 strongest schools in each of the subject areas they indicated familiarity with.  The surveys are then adjusted to prevent geographical bias.  The more a school was picked in a particular field, the higher the school’s academic peer review score in that field.

Since the the northeastern US and England contain the largest concentration of universities in the world, many of the 1800 respondents in the directory came from these universities.  Not suprisingly, the peer review results favored older universities clustered in the Northeastern United States and England.  This likely explains Stanford’s relegation to #16, as it is located in Palo Alto, California, far from the old college towns of the northeast.  

However, the ARWU is not without its faults.  First, it makes no attempt to measure the quality of the teaching at the universites.  Also, the weight given to the number of nobel prize winning faculty seems excessive.  Though the conception might seem a little narrow, the execution is excellent.  It is undeniably objective and transparent.

Both rankings focus on reputation but the ARWU does a better job because it focuses measures the actions of experts while they are in their expert capacity.  This is because the ARWU employs pre-existing assessments of quality to determine reputation: the decision of a journal editor to publish an article or the decision of a researcher to cite a professor’s work.  These decisions involve the professional fates of the respondents.  The THE – QS rankings fall short in this regard because the respondents have no incentive to answer truthfully, or more importanly, to admit that they don’t know.

Does this even matter, you ask?  Isn’t perception all that matters anyways?  Perception, counts for a lot in the fields of law, finance, and politics.  But the benefits of perception extends only so far, just around the point where the network ends.

Ironically, it is the metric most important for many undergraduates, reputation among employers, that is given the least weight (10% by the THE-QS and 0% by the ARWU). 

What does this mean for the average student?  To be wary of rankings and know precisely why you are using the rankings.  For now, anybody planning to major in the math and sciences should pay attention the ARWU rankings, as they will only become more influential in separating math and science programs.  If you plan on doing law or finance in one of the Alpha World Cities, the THE – QS top 20 will do you just fine, otherwise don’t bother.  But if you really want to hedge your bets, just go to Harvard.

American, Canadian, British, and Australian Universities Compete For Growing Numbers of Foreign Students

It seems like students hoping to study abroad will have their fair share of options as the competition for foreign talent and tuition money is heating up amid the recession.  I would expect cash-strapped public research universities in the United States, which are usually very selective, to be especially receptive to foreign students in the coming year.  If there is indeed a competition, like the article below implies, I would also expect for international student admissions decisions to come in earlier as some schools try to lock down commitments from accepted applicants.

“Top Destinations Compete For Growing Numbers of Foreign Students”, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Nov. 17, 2009
“For the past year or so, educators in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Britain have been worrying over whether the global financial meltdown would shut down the international student market. Would students see both their banks accounts and their job prospects abroad dry up, and simply choose to stay home?
The answer, over all, seems to be no. These top destination countries are all reporting relatively robust international enrollments this fall. 
Canadian universities, for example, have seen numbers rise at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, according to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.
“The numbers are up. Way, way up, by an estimated 10 percent at the graduate level,” said Herb O’Heron, the association’s senior adviser on national affairs. 
In Britain, which draws more international students than any country after the United States, enrollments seem to be on the upswing, despite troubles putting new student-visa regulations into effect, which led to increased visa costs and processing delays. 
Over the summer there were dire predictions that the new procedures would have such a negative effect that tens of thousands of students would be unable to enter Britain in time to begin their programs, leaving institutions that depend on revenue from foreign students in the lurch. 
There have been delays. Many students, especially those planning on arriving in Britain in advance of their programs to take preparatory courses, were inconvenienced over the summer by the worst of the problems.
“I think every university in the country will say that in some way they suffered students arriving late,” said Dominic Scott, chief executive of the UK Council for International Student Affairs.
But even against such an inauspicious backdrop, many British universities have registered foreign-student increases, although the figures are still preliminary. 
“If you ask the majority of institutions, and we asked a fair range, most would say that, regardless, their numbers are probably as good as or better than last year,” Mr. Scott said.
Many universities are reporting that, were it not for the visa glitches, they would be posting record numbers. The most likely explanation is the continued weakness of the British pound, which has made the country much more affordable than in the past.
Public-Relations Woes
Australia also faced its share of road bumps this past year. A spate of attacks on Indian students, combined with problems with some questionable vocational-education providers, led to significant public-relations problems with India. The country is second only to China in the numbers of students it sends to Australia. And Indian students make up almost 18 percent of Australia’s foreign-student population–much of that in the vocational-education sector. 
Global Competition for Foreign Students
 The United States and its key competitors continued to see growth in enrollment of foreign students.
Although the Australian government’s response to the situation was criticized by both universities and the Indian government for being too slow, an official at the Australian embassy in the United States says it has been effective. 
“If you look at the statistics, there is continued growth in student numbers,” he said. “The difficulties that have been experienced have gotten a lot of attention. It has not had a big impact in terms of demand for student places, but has had a big impact in terms of government response.”
This academic year, which starts in March for Australian institutions, the number of international students at universities and vocational colleges climbed by 20 percent. But recent tightening of oversight of the vocational-education sector, which has driven much of the international-student growth in recent years, raises questions about what enrollment growth among international students over all might look like next year.
Retaining Their Edge
From government efforts at damage control to individual institutional outreach, these destination countries are working hard to keep pace in the race for global talent. 
McGill University, in Montreal, for example, recently created a graduate-recruitment-and-retention team to help market graduate programs. The team looks at enrollment trends and capacity, redesigns Web sites and marketing materials, and has streamlined application processes to appeal to top candidates. Faculty and staff members who travel abroad for conferences carry recruiting materials and squeeze in graduate presentations at top universities while they are in the area, said Lissa Matyas, who is directing the effort. 
This all-hands-on-deck approach to international student recruitment typifies the pragmatism that even the most popular destination institutions and countries must embrace to retain their edge. The factors that determine the flow of students remain too unpredictable and uncontrollable for complacency, educators say.
The United States, for example, has been hit hard by a significant drop in the number of Indian graduate students this year, caused largely by the effects of the global recession.” 
You can find the rest on the website of The Chronicle for Higher Education.

Japan being passed up for other destinations by international students

According to the Japan Times article “Universities must look abroad to reverse Japan’s brain drain”, Japanese universities are being passed up by talented students mainly because of inadequate scholarship money and a lack of integration with Asia’s larger university community.  Some claim that the tendency of Japanese universities to leave the educating duties to Japanese employers has left fresh Japanese college graduates unprepared.   This is having an effect on not only Japanese students but also other students from Asia who might otherwise further their studies in Japan.

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100104f1.html

Australia sending mixed signals to the young and the educated

In the article, “The Migratory Habits of the Educated Indian”, the Wall Street Journal documents the increased demand from countries like Australia for young, college-educated people with English language proficiency. This is happening at just the time when backlash from violence against Indian students in Australia is causing some Indians to avoid Australia altogether.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB126649620815647633.html

Canadian province of Quebec introduces fast track citizenship for international students

“Starting February 14th, international students who graduate from universities in Quebec would get “a certificate of selection” that would put them on a fast track to Canadian citizenship.”

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/Soon-study-in-Canada-get-selection-cert-to-be-a-citizen/articleshow/5525659.cms