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U.S. Universities Still Lead


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March 16, 2006

U.S. Universities Still Lead

Michael Mandel

A new report from a top OECD education expert has a table on the top 20 universities in the world. Seventeen are in the U.S.

The list may be skewed because it was originally constructed by a Chinese university (how did Seattle get on the list??). Nevertheless, it suggests something about global reputations.

The report also says that "France and Germany...are no longer among the world's leaders in developing knowledge and skills." Incidentally, the author is also the project director for the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment, so he is quite knowledgeable.

01:36 PM

Education

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School ranking is generally a silly business but this one is of outstanding stupidity. just look at those six criteria they used:

http://ed.sjtu.edu.cn/rank/2005/ARWU2005Methodology.htm

Posted by: sredni vashtar at March 17, 2006 11:05 AM

Seattle meaning UW? I've seen UW placed similarly in previous surveys.

Posted by: Brandon at March 17, 2006 11:33 AM

"France and Germany...are no longer among the world's leaders in developing knowledge and skills."

This list is skewed alright... the Chinese don't understand the value of astrology.

Posted by: Jay at March 17, 2006 11:34 AM

Well, we know what a bunch of crap the school quality grading methods are, and it would be nice if you had a list that didn't have Wisconsin on the same list as Cambridge (let's get serious), but the point is taken.

On the other hand, if we're all so brilliant in this country, why are all the engineers Indian and Chinese? Eh? (I'm from Michigan, we say "eh" here).

Which brings up another question. How do we account - in your "new economic model" - for Asians coming to the US and getting degrees, then taking their knowledge back to Asia with them?

Posted by: Brandon at March 17, 2006 04:40 PM

*** On the other hand, if we're all so brilliant in this country, why are all the engineers Indian and Chinese? Eh? ***

a) they're not. Your query will come as a surprise to a buttload of white-guy engineers I see all the time... Of course, I'd agree you don't tend to see lots of certain kinds of people, such as female people.

b) ...but, the list doesn't actually say anything about Americans being brilliant per se. Just the university institutions, which isn't quite the same thing.

Of course, considering how many countries starve their universities of funding and quality by providing "free" education, the USA doesn't have much competition in this industry.

Posted by: Kevin at March 18, 2006 06:40 PM

*** Which brings up another question. How do we account - in your "new economic model" - for Asians coming to the US and getting degrees, then taking their knowledge back to Asia with them? ***

The U.S. exports *productivity*. Might be our top export. We just don't precisely get paid for it, specifically.

I call it "dark energy". See I can play this game too.

Posted by: Kevin at March 18, 2006 06:42 PM

"Dark energy"--I like it. I like it a lot. You've got a future.

Posted by: Mike Mandel at March 18, 2006 09:26 PM

"b) ...but, the list doesn't actually say anything about Americans being brilliant per se. Just the university institutions, which isn't quite the same thing." (Kevin)

Very true. For example, George W. Bush has a Bachelor's from Yale and an MBA from Harvard. (To my Republican friends: support the guy's politics if you want, but he's simply not bright.)

Posted by: Brandon W at March 20, 2006 08:47 AM

Knowledge goes global,.......... would be interesting to see the percentage of foreign teachers and students at US Top University. Competition is good, but we should not focus just on Benchmarking, the Marketing for prestige institutions like Harvard and Wharton is great , but if we take recent surveys about MBA programmes we see that European schools are starting to match the US. ( Insead, Madrid Business School, London Business school etc. ), It is just a question of knowledge transfer, and attracting and retaining creative thinkers.

Posted by: Henrique Pl?ger Abreu at March 22, 2006 07:41 AM

I think the ranking stuff is pointless. Let?? face it, school is pretty simple. Ninety percent of it can be summed up like this: You go and listen to someone talk, you read text, and you write papers. Then you take a test. I'd say that better than 9 out of 10 PHDs are pretty good at communicating their area of study to the masses. So the only real test is how many classes are taught by the profs that run them. There is also something to be said for how deep each subject is taught. That is pretty hard to measure.

I've always felt that the key is really just how strong of a filter the school is in the first place. If it is hard to get into a school then the people who graduate from there are people who were brilliant or motivated to begin with. Of course a culture of brilliants and motivation must have an affect on the student body as well. I?? say the quality of the student body is key to having a quality school. Imagine trying to do a group project with a group of people who don?? care. Imagine a course that is dumbed down because the student body won?? or can?? do more, or a course that is stepped up for the opposite reasons. Based on this assumption how long can our universities remain on top, when our public schools are in such a mess and student quality is falling?

Since most people who go to college go as an investment the best way to measure success would be to report ROI or each student body. We already have this on a national scale, we just need it for each individual school. Another test would be one that measures if the graduates are actually working in the areas they majored in. This would measure how well the school steers students to degrees that suit them and that are in demand in the public. Helping students choose a degree is not something a lot of colleges do well. There are so many students that are hopelessly searching for a major. Universities need real, up to date data on what jobs people get for each degree program, how much money they will earn, and how many hours they will put in each week. For example: I have a friend who majored in the wrong kind of engineering??ow she works 50+ hours a week at Wal-Mart for half the money that an engineer or factory worker would make. It took years of job searching after college for me to figure some of the job market out. Now I probably have to go back for a different degree too.

On the George bush comment above. I?? like to think that George isn?? as dumb as he sounds??hat deep underneath there is an intelligent guy screaming to get out. I think he is just a bit slow to express himself and there is a difference between one?? ability to understand things and one?? ability to make others understand things. I know it is hard to listen to him talk 5 word blocks. This is why I made the comment about PHD?? above. In order to get one you have to prove you can communicate. This isn?? as true with lesser degrees that student teachers have.

Posted by: Joe at March 25, 2006 11:15 AM

Yes, I'm very impressed with American schools. Perhaps our great universities will one day approach the heights of our secondary school system (our so-called feeder system). With creationism replacing evolution in our secondary schools, we're indeed reaching for the stars. The sorry thing is we just don't know which way is 'up'. (Is this word still part of our vocabulary, by the way?). Oh yes - and there is a minor problem understanding how living off of credit can sustain economic viability.

Posted by: Larry at March 25, 2006 10:49 PM

6 schools from California? The only reason California isn't an independent country is that if it were, it would just annex the rest of the country anyway. - pjw

Posted by: Patrick J. Walker at March 29, 2006 08:27 AM

This report leaves alot to be desired.

The research makes no attempt to explain why Harvard is at the top of the list or how Seattle or Winsconsin made it there.

If I am a student aspiring to study economics I am totally different from a student aspiring to be a dentist, engineer, lawyer or whatever.

I still think LSE, Chicago and Cambridge rock when it comes to economics but have no idea why an aspiring engineer would consider Cambridge over MIT or Stanford.

If you want to compare the level of education in various schools you need to narrow it down to faculties and other disciplines like research and contribution to the academic community and respective industries.

Make the information insightful for those seeking to join this institutions, otherwise it's all marketing hype

Posted by: Ken at April 4, 2006 04:04 AM

Any ranking that weights and adds scores across categories is flawed. A statistical analysis of the Shanghai table and also the Times Higher (THES) shows that many universities near eachother in these tables are not at all similar in their scores under individual headings. There is an illustration of this using fuzzy cluster analysis at http://www.universitymetrics.com Another approach on the same site (http://www.universitymetrics.com/g-factor) is a ranking based on links to each university website from other university websites. Interestingly, this results in quite a similar list to SJTU and THES - although there are also some notable differences. Rankings probably do not yield much useful information unless like this one they are a comparison of a single factor (and that factor is for some reason interesting to observe).

Posted by: Peter at April 10, 2006 03:40 PM

"With creationism replacing evolution in our secondary schools"

Except, of course, that it's not. Perhaps your ability to understand this was negatively impacted by a public school education?

"?). Oh yes - and there is a minor problem understanding how living off of credit can sustain economic viability."

Perhaps because describing the issue as simply "living off of credit" underscores a profound ignorance of what is a complex topic?

IMHO, the scariest thing in our country today is this tendency to boil complex issues down into one-liner "problems" like this, ignoring all reality.

Posted by: Michael at April 20, 2006 10:47 PM

I agree with the rankings.

Posted by: Bryan Chuk at June 17, 2006 02:47 AM

I am from Michigan and let me tell you that this list is screwed up alright. I mean The University of Michigan is one of the best schools in the nation for gods sake. As well as internationally, lets not forget that the American University of Beirut is one of the world's top schools. Hell if you go there good luck on passing. It's sooooooooo hard to even consider getting into it.

Posted by: samo at June 23, 2006 11:37 PM


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