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From: Karin Fischer
Subject: Latitudes: More U.S. colleges are boycotting ‘U.S. News.’ What does that mean for international rankings?
What’s the future for international rankings?
Over the past year, dozens of American colleges, and in particular medical and law schools, have announced they would no longer cooperate with U.S. News & World Report’s rankings. My colleague Francie Diep
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What’s the future for international rankings?
Over the past year, dozens of American colleges, and in particular medical and law schools, have announced they would no longer cooperate with U.S. News & World Report’s rankings. My colleague Francie Diep recently took stock of the fallout, asking other rankers if they too were worried about possible boycotts. (Not at all, they maintained.)
What about internationally? Could the American anti-rankings fever become a global contagion?
The answer is complicated. In many parts of the world, rankings are deeply entrenched. While in the United States, rankings have typically been seen as more of a consumer tool, many foreign governments — in Nigeria, Russia, and Taiwan, among others — have built rankings into official policy, using them as standards of quality and incentivizing universities to move up the tables. In fact, one of the big three international rankings, the Academic Ranking of World Universities, better known as the Shanghai ranking, was originally developed by Chinese officials as a way to benchmark the country’s universities against institutions around the globe.
But some foreign universities have begun to push pause on rankings. Last month, South Korea’s top research universities jointly announced they were boycotting another of the major international rankings, the QS Universities Rankings. A number of the Indian Institutes of Technology, among the country’s most elite universities, have been refusing to participate in a third global ranking, by Times Higher Education, for the last three years.
Still, such boycotts are not rejections of rankings, per se. In an email to The Chronicle, the South Korean universities said they were upset by a methodological change in the QS rankings that they argue penalizes institutions in non-English speaking countries. Korean universities, as well as some well-known institutions in Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, experienced sharp drops in the most recent QS rankings. (The company has said the declines were caused by other factors.)
In the email, the South Korean universities objected to the “radical and abrupt” change in the metrics. “The competitiveness of Korean universities is steadily increasing in many respects,” they wrote, “thus, there is no reason that Korean university rankings drop this drastically.”
Likewise, the Indian institutions, known as IITs, have criticized a lack of transparency in Times Higher Education’s methodology, not the idea of rankings as a whole. For the past eight years, the Indian government has released its own rankings of the country’s higher-education institutions, which includes IITs. Government officials have said it better reflects domestic priorities like diversity and outreach to women and low-income students.
Igor Chirikov, a senior researcher at the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California at Berkeley, said international rankings may be losing their hold as “the global higher-education space become much more fragmented post-Covid.
“Ten years ago, global-competitiveness programs were thriving,” Chirikov said, referring to governments’ efforts to move their universities up the rankings. “Now, the focus is much more internal.”
Even some Chinese universities have pulled out of international rankings, heeding the call by Xi Jinping, the country’s president, to develop “world-class universities with Chinese characteristics.”
Moving forward, new rankings could be more specialized, said Chirikov, who has been critical of ranking companies that sell consulting services to the universities they rate. Both QS and Times Higher Education now rank universities by geographic region, by academic discipline, and even on sustainability and social impact.
Even as objections to rankings have grown louder, the standings have found new footholds. India, for example, plans to permit only top-ranked foreign universities to open branch campuses in the country. In the past year, a number of governments — in Britain, Singapore, and Hong Kong — have announced changes to their immigration systems to make it easier for graduates of the world’s top universities, as determined by some combination of global rankings, to get skilled-work visas.
The plans for so-called talent visas have sparked fresh objections: Should academic rankings really be used in setting immigration policy? Do such plans discriminate against developing countries whose institutions tend not to fare well in global rankings? And what about shifts in methodology that could cause graduates of particular universities to qualify as top ranked one year but not the next?
Get ready for a new round in the international-rankings debate.
U.S. expands list of majors qualifying for STEM OPT
The U.S. government will add new majors, including developmental and adolescent psychology and linguistics and computer science, to the list of those fields that qualify for a supersized post-graduate work program.
In a notice published in the Federal Register today, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it would add eight fields of study to those that qualify for an expanded version of the popular Optional Practical Training program. Known as STEM OPT, the program allows graduates in science, engineering, math, and technological fields to work in the United States for three years after graduation, rather than just one.
This is the second time the Biden administration has expanded the list of qualifying programs. In January 2022, it added 22 new fields of study, which are based on U.S. Department of Education classifications.
In the notice, the department said it had been collecting nominations from the public for new majors since the last update. The other new fields include: composite materials technology; geospatial intelligence; institutional research; landscape architecture; demography and population studies; and mechatronics, robotics, and automation engineering technology. No fields were removed from the STEM OPT list.
Study-abroad survey finds field under strain
Study-abroad offices, hit hard by Covid-19, may need to brace for a new difficulty: turnover.
More than half of respondents in a new State of the Field survey by the Forum on Education Abroad said they had been looking for a new job in the past year. That churn could complicate the efforts to return to normal after the pandemic froze global mobility and led to cutbacks and, in many offices, staff reductions.
A new white paper by a working group organized by the forum, an association of American and overseas colleges and independent study-abroad programs, highlighted both the challenges facing the field as well as potential strategies for moving forward, among them:
- Some 56 percent of respondents to the survey, conducted between September and December 2022, said they had been on the job market in the last year. Among midcareer professionals, the share of job seekers was even higher. Among the reasons cited were workplace morale, heavy workloads, salary stagnation, lack of training for new responsibilities, and lack of a clear path for advancement.
- The “creeping scope” of work may be adding to workplace stress. Forty-seven percent of those surveyed report having job responsibilities for which they did not have education or training. Education-abroad staff members have been asked to oversee additional activities such as domestic study away, internships, civic engagement, and volunteering.
- Salaries aren’t competitive. A third of early-career staffers, those with six years in the field or less, report making less than $50,000. But expectations for many entry-level positions are that applicants speak a foreign language, have some work experience, and have earned a master’s degree, the report said. Dissatisfaction with salary levels was the single-biggest reason driving workers to look for new jobs, the survey found.
Still, the “field is creative, resilient, and ready to work hard to make international education better for ourselves, our students, and our future,” the authors wrote, listing some possible interventions:
- Administrators and managers can do more to build trust among their staff members. Four in 10 job seekers said improvements in organizational support and culture could encourage them to stay in their current roles. Among those respondents who weren’t on the job market, team culture and communication were the factors most often cited for workplace satisfaction. One possibility: Be more flexible in allowing hybrid or remote work that can help with work-life balance.
- Leaders should learn how to say no more often. They can advocate for strategic priorities and avoid stretching staff members thin by using data or showing how certain work does more to further institutional missions.
- As a field, study abroad must pay competitive wages that reflect responsibilities, skills, and education levels, the report said. Managers can push for higher pay by doing wage comparisons both inside and outside the field. Clearer pathways for promotion could also help educators see a long-term future with their current employers.
While the forum typically conducts a biennial survey, Amelia J. Dietrich, senior director for research and publications, said in an email that the group decided to take a deeper look to help colleagues “make sense of recent changes.”
As “people proclaimed an imminent return to ‘normal,’ it felt like the right moment to take a 360-degree snapshot of what’s happening in education abroad,” Dietrich said.
Around the globe
A new U.S. Department of State program will allow colleges to sponsor refugee students and will permit such students to be eligible for federal financial aid and to obtain legal permanent residency.
Donald Trump said he would reinstate a prohibition on travelers from several largely Muslim countries if re-elected. The original ban, enacted in the first days of the Trump administration, threatened to disrupt the studies and careers of international students and scholars.
A Princeton University graduate student conducting research in Iraq has been abducted by a militia group linked to Iran.
A defense authorization bill likely to be taken up this week by the U.S. House has attracted multiple research-security amendments that could limit American colleges’ joint research with counterparts in China and, to a lesser extent, Russia, and impose stricter reporting requirements of foreign gifts and contracts.
The U.S. Department of Defense has published guidelines it will use to assess security risks of applicants for federal research grants, including connections with “malign” talent-recruitment programs run by the Chinese and Russian governments.
A federal appeals court ruled that the University of North Texas can charge out-of-state students higher tuition than undocumented students from Texas, reversing a lower-court decision that had blocked the practice.
Employability was the single most important factor in choosing where to study, according to a survey of more than 120,000 international students.
The Institute of International Education has given its first-ever award for contributions to diversity, equity, inclusion, and access in international education to NAFSA: Association of International Educators.
The European University Association has released recommendations for supporting Ukrainian higher education, including developing virtual exchanges and hosting Ukrainian academics and students who have had to leave their home country.
Nepal’s government has begun levying a 3-percent tax on its students who go abroad.
Universities in Hong Kong could be allowed to double their enrollment of international undergraduates and those from mainland China.
China is sharpening its ethics rules for scientific research.
The Chinese police have detained a graduate of Renmin University who has been accused of stealing university data to create a website ranking the attractiveness of his fellow students.
And finally …
In one photo, a student lies on a college quad, her graduation cap covering her face. In another, a trio of students, in caps and gowns, sprawl on the stairs of an academic building.
Forget your traditional graduation photos. Across Chinese social media, recent college grads have been posting shots of themselves on the ground in “zombie style” poses.
The photos are a response to the depressing economy students are graduating into, one that has been exacerbated by three years of restrictive Covid policies. With job prospects bleak, many young people are rejecting societal pressure to work harder, joining what’s known as the “lying flat” movement. Snapping the photos is also a fun last activity to do with friends before leaving campus, some of the students told The Washington Post, which ran a photo essay on the phenomenon.
“I think the trend reflects how the years of the pandemic have affected people,” one graduate told the Post. “For new graduates, it’s a blow to our confidence, especially when you see layoffs from big companies.”
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