Alex Usher of Higher Education Strategy Associates asked some interesting questions in his morning blog post. The world of university funding in Canada is changing – there is more money overall for universities but governments have been paying a declining share of university operating budgets with the remainder coming from tuition and assorted sources of research and contract funding. Indeed, a lot of new government money is targeted towards capital projects or new student support programs rather funding what faculty often see as core teaching and research functions of universities.
Carleton University admits more male students than females. But it graduates more female students than males. Why? What, if anything, can and should we do about it? (I don't know.)
The public access data is here. (Datacubes is a lovely tool, but it takes a little time learning how to use it.)
You can see there's a difference from the public access data. I can also get access to Carleton internal data. Except I can't seem to access it from home, so what follows comes from memory:
This is not about economics. Maybe it's about teaching. Maybe it's about the internet. I only have anecdata, and it is compromised by sample selection bias. I don't have any theory, and I don't have a proposed policy.
The last few weeks has seen the death of two economists – James Buchanan and Albert O. Hirschman - whose work has influenced my intellectual development and thinking over the years. Their thoughts combined with tomorrow’s “political action” by Ontario teachers against the soon to expire McGuinty government has caused me to think about what forces are at work here. To be human is to see patterns (I can’t remember who came up with that line but I’m sure it was not me) and the dispute with Ontario teachers can certainly be framed in my mind by the concepts of Leviathan, exit and voice.
It's hardly a secret to anyone who's worked in an economics department: some students enrol in economics because they want to study something that seems vaguely useful, but they don't have the grades, or the mathematics and language skills, to make it in business or engineering.
Making change sometimes involves an elaborate public discourse and preparation of affected stakeholders and in Ontario the discourse is towards getting people in the public sector to do more with less. The latest target was drawn to my attention by Alex Usher’s Higher Education Strategy Associates (HESA) morning bulletin, which featured the preliminary report by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) on The Productivity of the Ontario Public Postsecondary System.
If you've ever been a student or a teacher, please answer this seven question survey:
I explain what the survey is about below the fold.
Imagine a world where education is of no intrinsic value, and serves only as a signal of an unobservable character trait called "ability." Performance (which can be observed) is determined by both ability and effort. Effort is costly. Some students have a high level of ability, and some have a low level of ability. A professor's job is to rank them. Professors cannot recognize absolute excellence, only relative excellence, and so grade on a curve.
There are times when a professor wishes to raise or lower his or her students' grades.
Perhaps a directive has come down from on high: "Instructors need to focus on increasing student success rates." "The average grade in this class is above the departmental norm - grades must come down."
Or a professor might wish to maximize teaching evaluations while maintaining a reputation for rigor and standards using the tried-and-true easy midterm/killer final technique.
Ontario’s government is now engaged in public sector restraint and reform tackling its doctors and teachers in an effort to wrestle down its 15 billion dollar deficit. Soon it will be turning its attention to universities. Indeed, work is already underway on an ambitious plan to reform the university sector which according to reports on the activities of colleges, universities and training minister Glen Murray includes having only three year BAs, year round class offerings, standardized first and second year course offerings that are transferrable across institutions, more experiential learning, student centered learning and an online university.
"Read each sentence or poem. Mark an X on the word or words that need to be capitalized. Then write the sentence correctly on another sheet of paper."
"Writing it again is a waste of time."
Being in Toronto for the Rimini Conference in Economics and Finance 2012 and standing in the shadow of Queen’s Park has led me to contemplate why the Ontario government is suddenly being so mean to its teachers. After years of Dalton McGuinty as the education premier with an expansion of education funding and programs, the government does seem to have become rather uncharacteristically harsh-imposing new contracts to prevent wages increases.
Because I would be abusing my authority if I said "yes". So you shouldn't even ask.
[Updated: see below]
This post is about teaching economics, though it could be about teaching anything else. It's also about allocating scarce resources between competing ends, which is the subject matter of economics.
Most of us are familiar with the metric known as the h-Index. Developed by Jorge Hirsch, the h-index is a measure that says that if you have an index of h, you have published h papers each of which has been cited at least h times.
Only something like 35% of Quebec students are on strike*, and in a column in today's La Presse, Yves Boivert notes that those on strike are overwhelmingly from the arts and social sciences faculties; those in natural sciences, engineering, medicine, etc have all stayed in class and their session is ending normally. His argument is that since people in the arts and social sciences cannot expect the sort of salaries that students in other faculties will likely get, the tuition increase hurts them more, so it is to be expected that they will be more likely to object.
My first reaction was: "Okay, that makes sense."
My second reaction was: "Hold it, what about compensating differentials?" Increased salaries are only one form in which the returns to education are realised, and it's one that is a relatively recent addition. For centuries, people had been studying philosophy, history and literature for their own sake. Students would take all forms of returns into account when choosing their fields of study, and those at the margin between electrical engineering and English literature would view the combinations of the two sorts of returns as equally balanced in each discipline. Increasing the cost shouldn't change anything.
A complication is that the high-earning programs usually have limited enrollment, so applying marginal analysis here may be problematic.
What do you think?
*For non-Canadians: The Quebec government decided last year to increase tuition fees in Quebec by 75% over 5 years, to a level just under the Canadian average. A student strike has been in progress for 11 weeks or so.
An average person, asked to explain the impact of cutting taxes, might well reason:
I have represented this argument in flow chart form to give it a spurious air of logical coherence. Yet any flow chart is only as good as the reasoning that underlies it. In this case, that reasoning is seriously incomplete.
I use rubrics sometimes, and I'm curious to know if other people do as well, and how they feel about them, so here is a survey about rubrics:
I've put a couple of demographic questions on towards the end, but please feel free to skip them. Update: preliminary results over the fold.