An American professor’s perspective as reported on Irwin Collier’s Economics in the Rear-View Mirror:
On an October morning, some years since, a recent Vermont graduate and I entered together the Aula of the Friedrich-Wilhelms-University at Berlin. Lectures were still two weeks away; but Germany is a country of leisurely beginnings and this was the morning of matriculation. The great hall was thronged with an interesting company. At a long table sat the Rector Magniﬁcus, Harnack, the mighty theologian, and the professors of the various faculties. Moving about the room were students of three types: foreigners like ourselves; wanderers from other universities of the Fatherland; and boys from the “Gymnasium,” who had passed the “Abiturient” examination and become “mules” or freshmen. These last we regard with interest. They are unquestionably the best trained school boys in the world. For nine years they have been drilled by the best masters, every one a doctor, for some thirty hours a week. They have been taught not simply to remember, but to analyze, compare and classify, until, at the age of eighteen or nineteen stand often on a better footing than graduates of our colleges. But there is another side to the shield, as I learned when I grew to know them better. They have marred their sight — sixty per cent of Germans over eighteen wear glasses. They have hurt their health by long hours of work at home and by little play save perhaps skating in winter and gymnastic exercises on the “Turnboden.” With all his learning, the German Jack is often a dull boy. …
A paper by Peter Arcidiacono, Josh Kinsler, and Tyler Ransom offers some glimpses.
The lawsuit Students For Fair Admissions v. Harvard University provided an unprecedented look at how an elite school makes admissions decisions. Using publicly released reports, we examine the preferences Harvard gives for recruited athletes, legacies, those on the dean’s interest list, and children of faculty and staff (ALDCs). Among white admits, over 43% are ALDC. Among admits who are African American, Asian American, and Hispanic, the share is less than 16% each. Our model of admissions shows that roughly three quarters of white ALDC admits would have been rejected if they had been treated as white non-ALDCs. Removing preferences for athletes and legacies would significantly alter the racial distribution of admitted students, with the share of white admits falling and all other groups rising or remaining unchanged.
In the NZZ, Andrea Köhler qualifies the micro aggression debate on US college campuses as a “witch hunt.”
Um keine Missverständnisse aufkommen zu lassen: Der allgemeine Konsens, Diskriminierung zu ahnden, ist hier nicht gemeint. Selbstverständlich gilt es, traumatisierte Menschen zu unterstützen und Minoritäten zu schützen; letzteres hat das Attentat von Orlando einmal mehr deutlich gemacht. Doch die Hypersensibilität an den Universitäten unterminiert jede Form des intellektuellen Denkens, das per definitionem in der Auseinandersetzung mit unterschiedlichen Positionen gedeiht. Von Humor oder Ironie ganz zu schweigen.
Im Unterschied zur ersten Political-Correctness-Welle, die in den 80er und 90er Jahren den historischen und literarischen Kanon herausforderte, geht es heute nicht mehr um die Diversifizierung des Lehrplans oder das Aufbegehren gegen die Diskriminierung marginalisierter Minderheiten, sondern um das emotionale Wohlbefinden einer Generation, die als verwöhnt und übersensibel gilt. Mit diesem aus dem Ruder gelaufenen Kinderschutz wird den Studierenden eine psychische Fragilität attestiert, der der kleinste Dissens als «traumatisierend» gilt.
Open Syllabus Explorer lets you compile rankings of readings assigned at colleges across the English speaking world. The top three texts across countries, fields and colleges are Strunk’s “The Elements of Style,” Plato’s “Republic,” and Marx’ “The Communist Manifesto.”
Over a year ago, the University of Chicago published a Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression that reflected on the debates on the UoC campus (and elsewhere) over permissible speech. These are the Report’s three core paragraphs:
Of course, the ideas of different members of the University community will often and quite naturally conflict. But it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. Although the University greatly values civility, and although all members of the University community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.
The freedom to debate and discuss the merits of competing ideas does not, of course, mean that individuals may say whatever they wish, wherever they wish. The University may restrict expression that violates the law, that falsely defames a specific individual, that constitutes a genuine threat or harassment, that unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests, or that is otherwise directly incompatible with the functioning of the University. In addition, the University may reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities of the University. But these are narrow exceptions to the general principle of freedom of expression, and it is vitally important that these exceptions never be used in a manner that is inconsistent with the University’s commitment to a completely free and open discussion of ideas.
In a word, the University’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the University community, not for the University as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose. Indeed, fostering the ability of members of the University community to engage in such debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of the University’s educational mission.
In the NZZ, Katharina Bracher reports about the flourishing ‘academic’ ghostwriting market in Switzerland. Firms like GWriters, Acad Write oder Acadoo offer ‘advice’ for Master and PhD theses writers. Demand is particularly high for law and business theses. A PhD thesis costs roughly CHF 25’000.
A German court has ruled that
das auftragsweise Erstellen von Hochschul-Abschlussarbeiten und Dissertationen zwar gegen die «guten Sitten» verstosse. Es handle sich aber «lediglich um ein rechtlich missbilligtes Gewerbe». Ghostwriting steht damit auf einer Stufe mit der Prostitution: zwar sittenwidrig, aber nicht verboten.
The Economist featured a special report on universities. Some elements:
On the value added of university education (see this article):
Employers are not much interested in the education universities provide either. Lauren Rivera of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management interviewed 120 recruiters from American law firms, management consultancies and investment banks. Their principal filter was the applicant’s university. Unless he had attended one of the top institutions, he was not even considered. “Evaluators relied so intensely on ‘school’ as a criterion of evaluation not because they believed that the content of elite curricula better prepared students for life in their firms…but because of the perceived rigour of the admissions process,” Ms Rivera wrote. After the status of the institution, recruiters looked not at students’ grades but at their extracurricular activities, preferring the team sports—lacrosse, field-hockey and rowing—favoured by well-off white men.
On rankings (see this article): More than 50 of the top 100 universities (according to the Shanghai ranking) are located in the US. Switzerland has the highest density of these institutions per capita (6.2 top universities per 10m people, next is Sweden before the Netherlands).
On public and private funding (see this article):
The rules of procedure (PDF) of the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences at the University of Bern. An overview of the rules governing the academic programs.
In an article in the Journal of Economic Perspectives (data appendix), John Conley and Sina Önder argue that
only the top 10–20 percent of a typical graduating class of economics PhD students are likely to accumulate a research record that might lead to tenure at a medium-level research university. … graduating from a top department is neither necessary nor sufficient for becoming a successful research economist. Top researchers come from across the ranks of PhD-granting institutions, and lower-ranked departments produce stars with some regularity, although with lower frequency than the higher-ranked departments. Most of the graduates of even the very highest-ranked departments produce little, if any, published research.
The Economist discussed the article here.