Friday, April 04, 2008

Cornell on Universities Ranking

Quoting from The Ithaca Journal

CU provost downplays importance of rankings in defining school worth

By Topher Sanders
Journal Staff

ITHACA — Colleges shouldn't use rankings to define or determine their value, Cornell University Provost Biddy Martin said Wednesday during the second annual Academic State of the University address.

Martin spoke to a crowd of about 400 at the Call Alumni Auditorium in Kennedy Hall on the school's campus. She talked about the value of institutions of higher learning and how the value of universities is defined.

Martin spent the first 12 minutes of her talk referencing a 2005 article from The Economist called “The Brains Business,” which lauded American universities for providing access to students regardless of background and ability to pay, among a host of other positives.

“I think this is a description of a model of higher education pioneered by Ezra Cornell and A.D. White in 1865,” Martin said, referring to the university's founders. “Its primary features continue to define Cornell.”The Economist, Martin said, failed to highlight the growing problems of competition in higher education. Universities' attempts to be among the best in the country have consequences, like the developing of a “winner-take-all attitude” among schools, she said.

The value of a college is being defined too narrowly, based on schools like Harvard University and Yale University, and cost is being driven up as each school attempts to keep up with the elites.

Martin took special aim at the rankings of U.S. News & World Report magazine.

“The U.S. News & World Report rankings are usually something I refuse to talk about,” she said.

“When I report to trustees I usually say they're not important, we don't care about them.”

Martin showed slides that depicted the close relationship between the wealth of universities and their rankings in U.S. News & World Report.

“Does wealth influence rankings?” she asked. “It's been 11 years since a public institution cracked the top 20,” she said.

Slides showed Cornell's ranking over time as compared to other schools and the factors used to establish the rankings. Martin cited Harvard's 9 percent acceptance rate as an example of one of the factors considered by U.S. News & World Report.

“And this is the thing of which we are suppose to be proud, how many people we can reject, most of whom have the exact same qualifications,” Martin said.

Martin gave numerous examples of drastic changes Cornell would have to make to rise from its No. 12 ranking in the magazine's list.

To match Harvard's acceptance rate, Cornell would need to attract 77,000 applicants, 44,000 more than it currently receives, Martin said. Cornell would also need to cut the undergraduate numbers by more than half, or add 1,100 faculty members to match Princeton University's 5-to-1 ratio of faculty to students.

“Within that top tier, the relative rankings are not useful, I don't think,” Martin said. “I don't think we should make it our goal to follow the leaders. Our goal is to remain worthy of being recognized as a top-tier, world-class research university that creates the conditions for the most rigorous and original scholarship ... and a research university that translates our research into solutions.

“We can worry about our rankings,” she said, “or we can be who we are and define our value in our own terms, taking advantage of what makes Cornell unique. Or we can do a little of both, and I suppose that's where we are.”

Click here to read more of Chen Chow's posts

Would encourage any of my blog readers to share with me any event that you come across. As long as the event/activity/initiative is education/charity/youth oriented and is not-for-profit, I would be more than happy to post it to share!

No comments: