Tag: American HE

New open access book: Simon Marginson on the crisis of the California master plan

The California master plan has been an inspiration in the world of higher education. Introduced in the 1960s it market an important milestone in thinking about system coordination in higher education. However – what has happened to the plan since?

clipboard02In a new book, professor Simon Marginson looks into the development of the plan and its spread across the world. Simon Marginson is the Director of the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) Centre for Global Higher Education, and leads CGHE’s global higher education engagement research programme.

Marginson explains his main rationale for the book: “In this book I start from the legacy of Clark Kerr and the 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education in California, noting the strengths and weaknesses of that framework, and then reflect on the spread of the Californian ‘Multiversity’, and the influence of the system model, throughout the world, especially in East Asia“.

In the book, he also takes a more critical stance towards the recent developments in American higher education, as Marginson argues: “The final 40 per cent of the book then attempts to explain the gathering and growing difficulties faced by public higher education in America, in the context of an increasingly unequal economy and society. The conclusion suggests ways forward for the future.

The book is available open access, which is arguably still (too) rare in the field of higher education for books. Marginson explains his rationale for choosing open access: “I am very impressed by the scholarly virtues of open access publishing of a scholarly book, which University of California Press (in line with their own public values which can be traced back to the 1960s) are increasingly using. It’s good to be able to spread the work more widely than with solely purchased books.

Download the book

Marginson, S. (2016) – The Dream is Over: The crisis of Clark Kerr’s California Idea of higher education. Published by University of California Press, download free at doi: http://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.17

Report analysing PIAAC data reveals that American youth is increasingly better educated but with lower skills


Educational Testing Service (ETS), an US based private non-profit educational testing and assessment organisation has examined PIAAC data for US.

PIAAC is the short version for Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, an OECD led project in 24 countries to examine the skills among adult populations. Here, PIAAC results complement the skills assessment of pupils with PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) and AHELO (Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes). Some of the initial analysis were published in late 2013.

ETS has examined PIAAC data for the US, and in particular for the so-called millenial generation that has been isolated from the total for this report. Their main starting point is that this is the best educated generation in the US history, but this generation also consistently appears to score below international average in literacy, numeracy and problem solving with technology.

Literacy in the PIAAC study is defined as “understanding, evaluating, using and engaging with written texts to participate in society, to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential”, and it was operationalised both as an ability to comprehend and decode text as well as using the text appropriately in context. The test did not measure actual writing skills. Numeracy was defined as “the ability to access, use, interpret and communicate mathematical information and ideas, in order to engage in and manage the mathematical demands of a range of situations in adult life” and its operationalisation included both understanding mathematical information, but also a wider understanding of mathematical content – such as quantity and number; dimension and shape; patterns, relationships and changes; and data and chance. The third skill in focus in the ETS report is “problem solving in technology-rich environments”. While on first glance somewhat cumbersome definition, in PIAAC this refers to digital skills, that is: “using digital technology, communication tools and networks to acquire and evaluate information, communicate with others and perform practical tasks”. Here, a wide range of digital skills were evaluated.

Obama introduces free community college plan in the US

Last week, 9th of January, Obama introduced his new plan for free community college during his visit to Tennessee. Obama reportedly commented on this: “For millions of Americans, community colleges are essential pathways to the middle class. I want to make it free.”

A video preview to the initiative was posted earlier on the White House Facebook page.


While all the financial details are not clear yet, the plan is indeed ambitious and is reported to cost approximately 60 billion dollars over 10 years – the key idea is that federal funds would cover 3/4 and state funds the remaining part. The proposal is that free tuition would be conditional – students would be expected to maintain a 2,5 GPA, be minimum part-time students and assure progression through their studies.

According to the American Associaytion of Community Colleges, there are over 1100 community colleges in the US, catering to nearly 13 million students (2012), representing almost half of all the undergraduate students in the US. 60% of the students are part time, and many work aside their studies. About one third of the students are first generation to attend college. In principle the sector has already been known for relatively lower tuition levels than one would find in the universities. The degrees awarded are associate degrees and various certificates. While many of the students already receive various kinds of state and federal financial aid, nearly 30% of the revenues for the institutions come from tuition fees.


Recorded seminar on consumerism in American higher education

We are delighted to share with you another seminar recording from the research group HEIK (Higher Education: Institutional dynamics and Knowledge cultures). HEIK is a research group located at the Faculty of Educational Sciences in University of Oslo, the coordinating institution of Hedda.

Professor Christopher Morphew  (University of Iowa)

Professor Christopher Morphew
(University of Iowa)

This time, we are pleased to feature professor Christopher Morphew from University of Iowa who visited University of Oslo in June 2014 and gave a presentation titled: “Academic Consumerism: The American Advantage?

Listen without the Flashplayer

The presentation will draw from several recent articles by Professor Morphew.

Please see: 

Seminar: a new social contract for higher education

We are pleased to present you another recorded session from the HEIK academic seminar series in the field of higher education. This lecture was recorded in December 2013 and features Professor Peter Maassen who in this presentation discusses the new social contract for higher education.

Abstract for the session: 

Times Higher Education ranking tool to compare US universities

THEBy now most of us have been flooded with different kinds of rankings. THE, Shanghai and QS with their composite scores that rely rather heavily on research have been accompanied by a multitude rankings on all possible and impossible indicators – from university ICT visibility, employability and reputation to the best place to party.

THE World University Rankings has now also compiled a set of US universities in terms of Average SAT score, acceptance rate as well as total number of students enrolled. On THE website, one can also find the tool with out of state tuition fees included. Aligning these results with the ranking from the annual THE rankings, some interesting cases emerge.

The institutional profiles of the top universities clearly differ. Institutions such as UCLA and UC Berkeley have a much more open acceptance rate amongst the top ranked US universities. While Harvard has an acceptance rate of 6%, then Berkeley accepts 22% and UCLA 27% of the applicants, indicating that not all of the institutions in the top are equally selective. The institutions also vary greatly in terms of size, but it is not the case that the most selective institutions are the smallest, the emerging picture is rather varied. Harvard has in fact over 27 000 students, whereas CalTech has only just over 2200 students, and an acceptance rate of 13%. The highest acceptance rate amongst the top universities is at University of Washington which in the THE ranking is on the 25th place but takes in a whole 58% of the applicants.

The very largest institutions, University of Phoenix, Ashford, and Arizona State University are also amongst those that either are not ranked, or do not perform particularly well in the composite ranking. Of the five largest, only Arizona State University is part of the THE ranking, on #146 position. While on a global scale this is a good position, the students they attract in the US clearly have much lower average SAT scores than the better ranked institutions as their acceptance rate is at 89%. At the other end one can find Georgetown, a rather selective institution that accepts 18% of the students, but is well behind in the rankings of other equally selective institutions, being in fact ranked under Arizona, on #160.

News: American students unprepared for college?

SATtesytJust over a week ago College Board, a not-for-profit membership organization in the US, published data indicating that only 43% of the graduates from highschool in 2013 were academically prepared for college, a number that has remained the same in the last five years.

While the US is often considered the leading country with respect to the quality of their higher education institutions, this report also shows great disparity within the educational system.  During the release of the report, Cyndie Schmeiser told Chronicle of HE reporters that the fact that the number has remained unchanged is worrisome: “We are just not moving the needle as aggressively as it needs to be moved.”

SAT is one of the most important admissions exams used in the US, which is conducted in the form of a standardized test and conducted by the College Board. The SAT tests have been around since 1926 but has undergone major revisions, with the current test introduced in 2005. The majority of four-year institutions use SAT in their admission processes. The test includes measurement on three large areas – mathematics, critical reading and writing.

New report: College degrees still worth it in the US, but not equally

hardtimesThe Public Policy Institute at Georgetown University has produced a new report titled “Hard Times” examining the issues of unemployment of graduates in the context of the current economic crisis in the US.

While there have been recent media coverage on graduate unemployment in the US and questions have been raised whether college pays off at the time of increased unemployment and skyrocketing debt from tuition fees. From being a taken for granted benefit, for instance conservative pundit William Bennett argues in his latest book that one should  think long and hard before sending their kids to college.

The report from Georgetwon University establishes that at times of crisis when one examines college graduates age 25 or higher, their unemployment rates are significantly lower than of those without higher education: 9–10 percent for non-college graduates compared to 4.6–4.7 percent for college graduates. However – it is not only that education matters, it is what you study that matters even more.

The five fields with clearly highest unemployment rates are Information systems, Architecture, Anthropoliy, Film/Photo/Arts, and Political Science, whereas the fields with a clearly lowest unemployment rates include Nursing, Elementary Education, Physical Fitness, Chemistry and Finance.

Finding architecture graduates in the list is perhaps not surprising with the real estate bubble having burst and with a generous oversupply of housing existing in the US. The unemployment rates for Information systems (14,7%) graduates might seem somewhat more surprising, as also other IT graduates have a relatively high unemployment  rate (over 8% for computer science). Social sciences in general provide relatively bad prospects with political science in the t op five worst fields, but also sociology (9,9%) and economics (10,4%) leading to high levels of unemployment. Regarding humanities and arts it is archeology and anthropology (12,6%) that are provide least future jobs.

HEIK seminar: University of California – Challenges to mass education in the US

We are pleased to share yet another session from the HEIK academic seminar series in the field of higher education, with both invited international speakers and members of the research group HEIK (Higher Education: Institutional dynamics and Knowledge cultures) here at the University of Oslo.

This lecture was recorded in March 2013 and features Prof. Steven Brint (University of California Riverside) who examines the challenges of mass education in the US.

Professor Steven Brint (UC Riverside)

Professor S. Brint

Abstract for the session: Mass access combined with declining requirements and student utilitarianism has led to increases in the size of academically disengaged undergraduate student populations in the United States. This paper presents a method for conceptualizing and measuring these populations. It measures the size and characteristics of academically disengaged populations in a major public research university system, the University of California, and it discusses approaches that can be useful as means to re-engage these students in academic life. The paper briefly discusses the likely implications of mass online higher education within the current context of undergraduate student life.

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Read more about Prof. Steven Brint here.

Hedda Chronicle: Go Bears or Fear the Tree? “Norwegian” impressions about Berkeley and Stanford – part 2

Martina Vukasovic and Sverre Tveit  (University of Oslo)

Martina Vukasovic and Sverre Tveit
(University of Oslo)

In this Chronicle, Hedda research fellow Martina Vukasovic and Sverre Tveit continue their reflections about their research stays in two leading US higher education institutions – UC Berkeley and Stanford University. As a follow-up to the previous post, Martina and Sverre go more in depth into their experiences with campus life.

Martina Vukasovic is a Hedda graduate and currently works at the University of Oslo with her doctoral dissertation as well as being involved in the Hedda master programme. The post is based on her stay at SCANCOR, a consortium that facilitates cooperation between Scandinavian universities and Stanford University in the area of organizational research.

Sverre Tveit works at the University of Oslo where he is writing his doctoral dissertation on educational assessment, and the post is based on his stay at the Graduate School of Education at the University of California – Berkeley. 

In terms of life on campus, Berkeley and Stanford are rather different. While it emerged to be a city in its own right over the years it was in fact the university campus that formed the beginning of the city of Berkeley. The initial private college was established at the foot of the Contra Costa Range, now known as the Berkeley hills. The campus itself is situated in the lower part of the hills, with a better view of the campus the further up-campus up you go. From the Sather Gate and upper campus buildings you have a terrific view of the San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate bridge. Surrounding the campus are numerous stores, coffee shops, bars and residential areas. Berkeley is well known for its liberal (anti American if you wish) tradition, and is particularly known for the “Berkeley riots” which among others included the first major protest against the Vietnam war (more than 10.000 people demonstrated). Today the liberal traditions are particularly evident in the hippie style food trucks and emphasis on vegetarian, vegan or other more healthy food selection than the typical American cuisine.

Stanford campus is more of a bubble in the suburbia between San Francisco and San Jose, boasting to be the second largest campus in the world, very bike friendly, flat, with several museums and arts centres and Rodin sculptures scattered around. Although it is relatively shielded from its surroundings, Stanford boasts to have a significant contribution to the Silicon Valley, not least by being the alma mater of David Packard and William Hewlett, whose garage is dubbed as the birthplace of the Silicon Valley and who, together with William/Bill Gates, now have dedicated buildings on campus. Less advertised, or rather not advertised at all, is the building of the Department of Psychology – Jordan Hall, in which basement the controversial Stanford Prison experiment took place.

Life on campus is further marked with strange traditions. The significance of these traditions is also visible in the fact that both universities include these in constructing of their public image (Berkeley and Stanford).