What are rankings for?

hear, hear:

“The panic about ratings causes university management teams to spend money on PR in order to affect the opinions of those who rank universities. They may formally request all staff to lobby colleagues in foreign universities for a higher rating on questionnaires. They may insist on an increase in the quantity of postgraduates without respect to quality. They may demand that faculty publish only in journals the university ranking systems tabulate.

When the only aspects of quality considered are those that are digitally measured, a great divide can open up between appearance and reality. Time is spent on the manipulation of measures rather than on the search for truth or the betterment of life.

Ratings may go up (in the short term) and the actual quality of the university sink.

These management-driven efforts to perform for the rating system can have a bad effect on scholarship as well as teaching.”

Letter to the editor of the Irish times by Adrian Frazier, 5 Oct 2015 http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/letters/university-rankings-what-are-they-for-1.2376841

Tagged , , , ,

“Who needs Oxbridge?”(The Guardian)

Optimistic title for what is still a very small trend. I hope the trend gets bigger and UK universities realise that their fees are unsustainable. And since there are already plenty of foreign-degree graduates working in the UK, conversion of grades should not pose a problem. Another very important point mentioned in passing in the article: in Europe fees may be small or zero, but the pass rates are much lower. You really have to study to pass from year one to year two!

By the way, in the 1990s and 2000s Bulgaria’s medical schools already had lots of international students, but they were mostly from Macedonia, Turkey and Greece, and a few ethnic Bulgarians from Bessarabia. Local students used to say that oftentimes the internationals had an easier time passing exams.


Is “embracing ordinariliness” really the only way to cope with the impossible demands of contemporary universities?

Another depressing article: astute analysis of the problems in contemporary academia (which affect both women and men, but the average man tends to have better invisible support in coping with them)…sadly followed by a call to “embrace ordinariliness”.


“Given that women still bear the brunt of responsibility for running households and organising the school schedules of children and so on, the question I was asking myself was how can women academics ever hope to achieve success in their working lives when this kind of pattern is seen as not just normal but entirely unremarkable, especially in a sector deemed by and large to be well-disposed towards working parents? Deciding not to have children, and having a partner who is also an academic or at least very familiar with these kinds of schedules would seem like the obvious answer.

the ideal career track in the academy especially one which carried all the laurels of prizes, awards, fellowships and a high volume of grants seemed to have been tailored around the image of the brilliant young man untrammelled by any of the fine details of domestic life. And if the young woman was to follow this pathway and plan the right time to have a child, then when would this right time be? The first few years of full time work (34-38) are marked by all kinds of expectations, and so it may be that just before getting to 40 having children could be embarked upon.”

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Quitting My Tenure Job: the story of a legal history academic

Interesting polemic (even if the title has that annoying Buzzfeed ring to it):

“In the time that’s allotted to us to in life, we have to make many choices. Opting to pursue an unmarketable career solely because one loves it is an available option. But that decision has consequences. In a university system like ours, where supply and demand are distorted, many promising young people make rash decisions with an inadequate understanding of their long-term implications. Even for people like me, who succeed despite the odds, it’s possible to look back and realize we’ve worked toward a disappointment, ending up as “winners” of a mess that damages its participants more every day.” (from I have one of the best jobs in academia. Here’s why I’m walking away, by Oliver Lee, http://www.vox.com/2015/9/8/9261531/professor-quitting-job)

But the author does not say where he is going after he quits… Presumably, journalism? Will his future career not benefit from his experience in an academic job? Maybe it will have been time wasted. Maybe not. Another nagging question: how much is this a feature of liberal arts, and how much – of the entire academic system? My research has convinced me that there are problems of this sort in mathematics as well, even though less deep, but things are worse and worse in the humanities end of the academic spectrum. What can be done?



Academic job insecurity and psychological well-being: new study

At long last, here is a new-(ish, from last summer) study about the psychological effects of job insecurity on non-tenured academic staff.  Unfortunately, it is only about psychology academics.  The fact that it is published in the journal called Frontiers in Psychology is crazy…As the authors themselves stress, “[t]he study of psychological well-being among contingent faculty is uncharted territory.” More research needed!

Gretchen M. Reevy and Grace Deason (2014) Predictors of depression, stress, and anxiety among non-tenure track faculty, Front. Psychol., 08 July 2014

You can read the full text here (updated link, free access): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4085875/


Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I can’t get my head around the grammar of the opening sentence of this document I found on the EPSRC webpage:

“A clearly thought through and acceptable pathways to impact is an essential component of a research proposal and a condition of funding.”

“Pathways to Impact – guidance for applicants and reviewers”, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, https://www.epsrc.ac.uk/funding/howtoapply/preparing/impactguidance/

On research impact and grammar

Why the world needs more scientific literacy.

Scientific literacy is one of those things which are easiest to spot by their absence. We need more scientific literacy to make sure there are fewer articles like this…”A Michigan Newspaper Claims the Large Hadron Collider is Being Used as a Stargate

Tagged , , ,

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 21,436 other followers

%d bloggers like this: