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Rankings

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Talking Points: Rankled by Rankings?
CURRENTS Article Following revelations in fall 2012 that five U.S. institutions supplied incorrect data for the 2013 U.S. News & World Report rankings, administrators, prospective students, and their families are questioning the reliability of contemporary college rankings. The debate has a silver lining: several privately and publicly funded alternatives are gaining attention.

Finland Tops in Affordable, Accessible Higher Education, Report Says
Article,  BriefCASE Article Finland has the most affordable and accessible higher education system, according to a global report of 17 countries, including Australia, Canada, England, Japan, Mexico and the United States.

Outlook: A League of Our Own
CURRENTS Article Eric Thomas, vice-chancellor of the University of Bristol, explains why he thinks rankings (or league tables, as they are known in the U.K.) help neither students nor institutions. His university has made the decision not to mention rankings in its marketing material.

Beyond Borders
CURRENTS Article Researchers from the British Council and the Economist Intelligence Unit quantified the internationalization of 11 countries' higher education policies.

Canada Receives Mixed Marks in Education, U.S., Others Lag
Article,  BriefCASE Article A new report indicates that Canada is outperforming many countries when it comes to educating youth but is lagging behind in higher education.

Advance Work: Being Cool Is Totally Hot
CURRENTS Article The Sierra Club recently published the results of their annual survey that ranks which U.S. colleges and universities make the least impact on global warming and other areas of environmental concern.

Outlook: Chasing World-Class Status
CURRENTS Article Research shows that three factors distinguish top international universities from their competitors: talented teachers and students; significant budgets; and strategic leadership. However, countries that aspire to build world-class universities may be chasing a myth that could take years to materialize, cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and operate, and still fall short of the social and economic rewards commonly associated with these prestigious institutions.

The Role and Relevance of Rankings in Higher Education Policymaking
Institute for Higher Education Policy
Report Published in September 2009, this 24-page report provides an overview of assessment efforts for U.S. postsecondary institutions, notes the similarities and differences these approaches have taken in comparison to college rankings, presents examples of the inclusion of college rankings in state government assessment efforts, highlights key findings and makes recommendations for enhancing the relevance of college rankings to policymaking.

Advance Work: Online Accolades
CURRENTS Article The Webometrics Ranking of World Universities ranks the top 6,000 colleges and universities worldwide based on their online availability of scholarly materials.

Rankings File
CURRENTS Article This sidebar, which accompanied the essays on the rankings debate in this issue, provides links to resources offering coverage of various aspects of the rankings discussion.

Don't Be So Quick to Join the Refusenik Ranks
CURRENTS Article In this article package (made up of two essays), CURRENTS explores the eternal rankings debate with thoughtful perspectives from Colin Diver, president of Reed College, and Kevin Carey, a researcher at Education Sector. In this essay, Diver describes Reed's experience with not participating in the U.S. News rankings and, despite Reed's success, he cautions colleagues to several important factors before deciding to stop participating.

Beat Them, Join Them, or Leave Them Be?
CURRENTS Article In this article package (made up of two essays), CURRENTS explores the eternal rankings debate with thoughtful perspectives from Colin Diver, president of Reed College, and Kevin Carey, a researcher at Education Sector. In this essay, Carey argues that rankings are unavoidable and that campuses can't choose whether to have rankings or not, only whether they'll be good or bad. He also describes alternative measures and using other available data to develop a new rankings system.

Spelling It Out
CURRENTS Article No accountability discussion these days would be complete without mentioning the Spellings Commission on the Future of Higher Education. The article examines the nature and wide range of the Commission's work, but in particular looks at the idea of national standards as one way to measure the government’s return on investment and to assess institutional effectiveness. The article suggests that if higher education can succeed in designing and carrying out a comparative system of standards of excellence, it could reclaim the definition of academic excellence long held hostage by commercial rankings.

Advance Work: Rankings Ruckus
CURRENTS Article A recent report by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business challenges the media to change the way it ranks graduate and undergraduate business schools.

AdvanceWork: Measure for Measure
CURRENTS Article A Carnegie Communications report on college rankings found that students measure institutional quality far differently than U.S. News & World Report--one of several publications that conducts rankings. When presented with a list of 10 factors U.S. News uses to rate campuses, students selected student-to-faculty ratio as the best indicator of an institution’s quality. U.S. News, on the other hand, barely recognizes the factor in its rankings.

Talking Points: Quality Time
CURRENTS Article Often described as a better way to measure quality than popular media rankings, the National Survey of Student Engagement is a gaining attention and credibility. The project's directors describe what NSSE is, how it works, why it was developed, why it's important, what its goals are, and how best to use it.

Who Says They Matter?
CURRENTS Article Campus communicators should consider how parents and students use the popular guides in their decision-making processes. The author, a guidance counselor, offers an on-the-ground perspective based on her own experiences and interviews with other counselors, parents, and students. A companion piece to "A Thin Line Between Love and Hate."

A Thin Line Between Love and Hate
CURRENTS Article No matter how campus communicators feel about institution rankings, the public has embraced them, and there's no turning back. U.S. News & World Report's rankings issue is a must-read for anyone considering going to college, and it spawned a virtual rankings industry. This article addresses the history of the rankings and different communications approaches to living with them, including what campuses do when they fare well or poorly. A companion article, "Who Says They Matter?" examines parent, student, and guidance counselor attitudes about the U.S. News rankings; a sidebar, "Due North," chronicles the rankings phenomenon in Canada.

Fair Market Value
CURRENTS Article Has higher education become a commodity? Where does that leave the lofty pursuit of knowledge that once drove college admissions? Four higher education observers and advancement practitioners weigh in on the public's evolving perceptions of higher education. Part of the issue focus on five forces shaping advancement.

Talking Points: The Strength of Numbers
CURRENTS Article The author provides an overview of the methodology used by U.S. News & World Report for its college rankings and summarizes the most common criticisms of its approach. He advises advancement officers to understand the magazine’s methodology in order to explain it to their constituencies, and to be up front about the strengths and weaknesses of the ranking system.

When Rankings Rankle
CURRENTS Article Stephen, vice president for advancement at Wilfred Laurier University, tells how Canadian universities worked together to convince Maclean's, Canada's newsmagazine, to overhaul its criteria and methodology for its annual ranking of colleges. He also describes ways institutions can capitalize on and potentially influence their rankings -- for example, by mailing targeted promotional materials to recipients of the magazine's reputational survey, and by preparing a coordinated campus strategy for handling media inquiries about results.

Talking Points: Tier Review
CURRENTS Article Magazine rankings of colleges are popular among parents, college students, alumni, donors, and the media, but have surprisingly little influence among college-bound students. Weiss summarizes the major annual rankings and lists criticisms of the process, including 1) bias against public universities; 2) inconsistency of self-reporting practices; 3) biases of data collection; and 4) frequent change

Closing Remarks: A Rank Enterprise
CURRENTS Article Feinman argues that institutional rankings in popular magazines are fundamentally flawed because they cannot take into account the varied purposes and means of U.S. colleges and universities.

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