Tag Archives: tests & rankings

Who’s measuring?

It seems that academic auditing is the only industry that’s flourishing these days (that, and designing standardized tests for kindergarteners). In the absence of real answers from the deans and the FFAC, we turn to the professional data-miners who help our administrators understand the world and/or justify themselves.

Here are a few of the measures the graduate school considered when they decided which PhD programs did and didn’t make the excellence/eminence cut.

1. AcademicAnalytics is a private firm with a “member” database of “more than 9400 PhD programs at more than 385 universities.” Member institutions have access to data about, well, where they stand vis-a-vis other member institutions (insert Woody Allen joke here). Their top priorities are

  • the publication of scholarly work as books and journal articles
  • citations to published journal articles
  • research funding by federal agencies
  • honorific awards bestowed upon faculty members

If you’re comparing the departments within one universities, #2 and #3 are pretty much stacked against the humanities. Moreover, the analytic does not include research published in languages other than English or scholarly translation.

2. The U.S. National Research Council publishes rankings of doctoral programs every 10 years, these ones publicly available. Evidently, Spanish fared lower than some of Emory’s other language and literature departments. Here are their priorities:

  • Publications per allocated faculty member
  • Citations per publication (not included for humanities fields)
  • Percent faculty with grants
  • Awards per allocated faculty member
  • Percent interdisciplinary faculty
  • Percent non-Asian minority faculty
  • Percent female faculty
  • Average GRE scores
  • Percent 1st-yr. students with full support
  • Percent 1st-yr. students with external funding
  • Percent non-Asian minority students
  • Percent female students
  • Percent international students
  • Average PhDs, 2002 to 2006
  • Average completion percentage
  • Median time to degree
  • Percent students with academic plans
  • Student work space
  • Student health insurance
  • Number of student activities offered

3. The LGS is also obsessed with exclusivity. (We all know how well that worked for the College.) Excellence, I suppose, has something to do with a relatively low percentage of applicants being admitted. French apparently scored lower in this regard. The world is really cynical and all that.


Blau: Emory did the right thing

Max Blau, whom we remember from his revealing interview with Dean Forman last week, has written another piece in Creative Loafing allying himself with the college dean. Blau is also a College alumnus.

We share Blau’s sentiment that Emory needs to manage its resources judiciously, not just during periods of recession or deficit. But we are skeptical of either-or reasoning:

UGA recently revealed plans to eliminate roughly 130 jobs in order to meet Gov. Nathan Deal’s 3 percent state budget cuts. Likewise, Georgia Perimeter College laid off faculty and staff to absorb a $25 million shortfall caused by the fiscal ineptitude of its senior leaders. If either of these two institutions attempted to practice fiscal conservatism, both of these financial shortfalls could have been avoided.

The crucial difference here is between public and private colleges. The operating costs of the University System of Georgia, as well as aspects of their staffing policies and even course offerings, are determined directly by state legislators. We have trouble believing that the administrators of UGA and GPC have not been trying to streamline their budgets to less catastrophic ends.

As long as we’re talking about “the bottom line,” let’s talk about the cost-effectiveness of the liberal arts. Academically Adrift (2011), a large-scale quantitative study of college learning outcomes, found that humanities and social-science students far outperformed business, engineering, and communications.[1] The authors found that liberal arts majors see “significantly higher gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills over time than students in other fields of study.” These programs are considerably less expensive to run than their shinier counterparts. In addition, universities with more doctoral students teaching classes are less costly than those with fewer or none. (Source)

Given that Emory’s decision to cut seven programs was not the result of a deficit or a government bill, the argument is not really about fiscal anything, nor is it comparable to layoffs made under duress. The vulnerable departments, Blau argues, simply failed to make a case for themselves.

it ultimately appears that [Forman’s] final decisions all revolve around a single motive: that Emory cannot and will not settle for programs that are less than exemplary.

Exemplary means setting an example. I see no reason why creating the first education program for Georgia prisoners (the Division of Educational Studies), a 100% job placement rate (the PhD program in Spanish), offering a language (Hindi) which many peer institutions don’t, or just plain being well known and influential (the ILA) don’t qualify.

“Mark from Atlanta” has some pointed observations about the article as well.

[1]We can only assume a “communication” separate from languages, literature, the arts, and social research is what that “Digital and New Media” emphasis strives to be.
For an extended discussion of Academically Adrift and similar polemics, see this review essay in the NYRB, and every academic blog ever.

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A neuroscientist explains (why we need the liberal arts)

Katherine Bryant, PhD candidate in neuroscience, has allowed us to reprint her speech from today’s rally. We think it sums up a lot of the big issues pretty damn well. It was also an important reminder of why the sciences and the humanities shouldn’t be pitted against one another by market-driven interests. We need all kinds of knowledge and methods to be socially responsible, self-critical and, well, interesting.



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Dean Forman Explains, Our Intrepid Tweeters Keep Pace

Read some of the highlights from Twitter here: the evening’s progress…and some of the overarching themes.

Now pardon our editor as she pours herself a glass of red wine and mournfully rereads Derrida’s “The University Without Condition.”

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