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Blanchflower Speaks Out

Economics Professor Danny Blanchflower, virtually a household name in the UK for his performance a few years ago on the British equivalent of the Federal Reserve, has published a 1752-word piece in the Times Higher Education supplement that uses the College as a case study:

Blanchflower Times Comp.jpg

He takes a starting point the shift in the number of majors by department at the College over the past decade, emphasizing the growing number of Economics and STEM majors and the concomitant decline in Humanities fields like English and foreign languages:

Blanchflower Major Changes.jpg

Blanchflower emphasizes that the allocation of faculty members by the administration has not followed the students:

But that generates a major resource allocation problem, especially in terms of faculty, who are dominantly found in departments where the students haven’t been for decades (such as Russian) or where students are leaving in droves (English). Some departments now have more academic staff than students taking majors…. The humanities division now has approximately five times as many faculty as the economics department, yet both teach the same number of majors. Something is wrong here.

Academic staff are in exactly the wrong places to fit the new student demands in a world of high tuition fees; previous administrations allocated faculty incorrectly to where there were few students or where student demand was about to fall (the reasons for this are unclear). A random allocation based on the drawing of lots or throwing darts at a dartboard would have been a better way to allocate faculty.

He ends the piece with a series of suggestions on how the administration can better balance supply and demand. Give it a read.

Addendum: Blanchflower makes the observation that students are crowding into disciplines with the potential for high post-graduation earnings in an effort to justify/recoup the quarter-million dollar investment that they are now making in their education. This is an important point. The College’s failure to control costs has directly contributed to the corruption of its core educational mission.

Addendum: As we noted a month ago, in light of financial pressures, some commentators are re-thinking the way that colleges are ranked. Money Magazine, as one might expect, focused on, um, money (“the most bang for your tuition buck” was their delicate phrase). By its lights, the school with the best overall ROI is Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. The Ivies rank as follows: #4: Princeton; #6: Harvard; #11: Penn; #15: Yale; #19: Brown; #22: Columbia; #24: Dartmouth (tied); #24: Cornell (tied).

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