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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Various notes

On the 28th of each month João Vasconcelos Costa and I choose a post from the others' blog and translate it and put it on our own blog. When I'm so busy I wonder where I'll have the time to do it, but it feels like something important to keep up ... This month I chose the post "Notas várias or Various notes. His first note reminds me of a post I wrote back in October.

"1. Failure. In the Público, 6th June: “The Minister of Science and of Higher Education opened a contest for universities and polytechnics to study the reason for students' bad results. They are also invited to come up with some activities that will promote success.” This piece of news has a particulalry instructive table to go with it. Average failure rate in higher education: 35.1%. In ublic Higher Education, 36.9%; in private (except the Universidade Católica), 31.4%. Breaking that down in sub-systems, public university: 33.6%, private university: 35.9% . Then, big surprise, the polytechnic: 41.2% in the public, 22.3% (!) in the private. Are there perverse factors influencing these rates? The reader can try and imagine. There I go, about to receive an avalanche of offensive messages …

"2. BCG. This isn’t something about vaccines, but about the Boston Consulting Group matirx. Everyone knows it, the distribution of evaluation by four quadrants defined by two axes, horizontal and vertical. The D Day, of the Público, always has one of those delightful examples, like the matrix of “pathetic-brilliant” and of “irrelevant-relevant”. A few days ago, a blog – I’m sorry that I lost the link – also used a funny BCG for the evaluation of Ministers. I would like to see this method applied to HE institutions. What would be fun is choosing the parameters of the axes. I leave that challenge to the imagination of you readers.

"3. Plagarism. These days, this (plagarism) is within the “competences” of our students’ work, thanks to the net. It’s worth reading this article in the Guardian. But also there is a plagarism detector for lecturers. Visit Turnitin.

"4. E pur si muove. An advertisement a couple of days ago, by an unidentified public university in the Lisbon area for the recruitment of its director: first degree candidates with or without connection to public office may apply. OK - fine.

"5. In the name of rose. I read an article by a Mr. Dr. X who signed himself as “university lecturer”. When I see this, I know what it means, but I wanted to take a look. Confirmed, Mr. Dr. X is a university assistant. By the looks of things he seems to be ashamed to be one.

"6. Worrying. According to the Guardian, "The elaborate research assessment exercise (RAE), in which the work of every active researcher in British universities is assessed by 67 different subject panels ranging from astrophysics to art history, will be carried out for the last time in 2008. After that, the quality of research - and hence the amount of funding universities receive from the government - will be judged largely on the basis of statistics such as grant income and contracts. (...) Bahram Bekhradnia, director of Hepi, fears the increased competition for research grants that will result could lead to more compliant behaviour by academics and the suppression of unpopular research." I hope that this fashion doesn’t get here, where we have an uncritical acceptance of bibliometrics."

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