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The Declining Competitiveness of US Higher Education March 14, 2012

Posted by geoff in News.

I was sitting at a table with Ace, NiceDeb, and a few other luminaries back at the Conservative Blogger Conference in November, weighing forth upon the decline of American universities’ dominance of global academia. “20 years ago only 5 – 10% of technical papers in my field were from foreign sources, and they weren’t very good,” I thundered, “but now over half the papers are from furriners, and most of them are darn good!”

They nodded politely and turned the conversation back to topics more genteel.

But check this out:

U.S. and U.K. universities still sit at the head of the class in world higher education, but emerging schools in Asia and elsewhere threaten to shift the global balance of academic power, a major study shows.

“The U.S. has the most highly regarded universities in the world by a long way. … No other country comes near it,” said Phil Baty, editor of the Times’ rankings.

“But,” he cautioned, “there is absolutely no room for complacency. A large number of U.S. institutions have seen their standing in the table slip, with some of the great public institutions taking significant hits as the world watches their public funding being slashed. Meanwhile, the top Asian universities, which have seen very healthy levels of investment from their governments, have almost all seen an increase in their reputational standing. There are clear signs of the start of a power shift from West to East.”

In the 2010-2011 survey, US institutions took 54 of the top 100 spots, according to the UK Times’ survey. In the most recent survey, we took only 44.

Haven’t I been telling you? I’ve been telling you.


1. Michael - March 14, 2012

I call bullshit. This ranking does not even consider BCS bowl game wins (like Michigan this year).

2. Michael - March 14, 2012

I mean, let’s be serious about this. Any Big Ten school, even the pathetic University of Illinois, has a football team that could go to Cambridge University or the University of Tokyo and kick their asses in a football game. They would be crying and begging for mercy while we stole their research papers from their lockers during halftime. And took their juice boxes.

3. Michael - March 14, 2012

Geoff seems not to understand that the purpose of institutions of higher education is football and basketball. For a seemingly intelligent person, he is remarkably myopic about this.

4. Michael - March 14, 2012

Personally, I would pay $50 to watch the women’s basketball team from Baylor play a game with the men’s team from Oxford on cable TV. It would kinda be like watching a bunch of English guys getting raped. That would be funny.

5. daveintexas - March 15, 2012

Yeah, but in fairness, Brittney Griner?

She’s a man, baby!

6. Michael - March 15, 2012

That’s just cruel, Dave.

According to Wikipedia:

Brittney Yevette Griner (born October 18, 1990) is an American college women’s basketball player at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Standing 6’8″ tall, Griner wears a men’s US size 17 or 18 shoe and has a wingspan of 86″.

But, I’ll bet that you still have to act like you’re interested in her feelings in order to get laid, and you still have to come up with the right answer when she asks you, “Does this dress make my ass look fat?”

Plus, I hope Lipstick will forgive you for the implied slam at big female feet. I think an apology is in order.

7. daveintexas - March 15, 2012

You listen to Griner speak sometime and get back to me.

8. Lipstick - March 15, 2012

Heck, I could live</i. in her shoe, it's that big!

9. OBF - March 15, 2012

In most European countries they make shoes up to size 54 (not our form of measurement) and then they start making suitcases. At least that’s what I was told when I tried to buy a pair of cheap sandals while visiting Italy. (My feet are size 14 or 15) The lady shoe store clerk thought that was pretty funny. Have to admit I did too.

10. Lipstick - March 15, 2012

Wow, OBF, those are bigguns.

I was also laughed out of a shoe store in Italy after requesting my size in euro, “That is a MAN’S size!”

11. OBF - March 15, 2012

Lipstick – that’s called a firm understanding. I think if we could find a reasonbly good attorney we could sue some Italian shopkeeper. If we win maybe we’ll get paid in Olive Oil or Pasta.

12. geoff - March 15, 2012

*Watches thread devolve from decline of American universities to buying large shoe sizes in Europe*


*interrupts sobbing briefly to blame Michael*

*resumes sobbing*

13. Lipstick - March 15, 2012

*pats Geoff on the back*

There, there, let me open a bottle of that beer you like.

You made a mistake — you overestimated us. It happens all the time.

14. digitalbrownshirt - March 15, 2012

What difference does it make? Our current President shows that a degree is pretty much worthless. They give them to complete idiots all the while stroking their tender egos and encouraging them to go out there and get what the world owes them.

All three of my kids have plans for college, but quite honestly I can think of several jobs that will pay more with less debt attached and you won’t have to put up with 4 years of moonbat indoctrination to get there.

15. lauraw - March 15, 2012

No worries Geoff, I got your back!

*practices Vulcan neck pinch on dog*

*dog arches back, then slumps to the ground*

*gasp* omg I had no idea that worked, this is a motherfuckin’ useful move

*forgets all about Geoff and writes up enemies list*

16. daveintexas - March 15, 2012

uh oh

17. OBF - March 15, 2012

Can you do a Vulcan Mind Meld on a dog? That would be smokin’ hot.

Sorry’s and regrets go out to Geoff for messing up his stuff. I’m a little nervous about a hug though. Laura and Lips will have to cover that part…and maybe a self hug from the dog if he/she wakes up.

18. lauraw - March 15, 2012

pfft, dog is fine, c’mere

19. geoff - March 15, 2012

Now witness the power of my fully operational lw!!

20. geoff - March 15, 2012

I’m a little nervous about a hug though.

Now, now – not to worry. What could possibly go wro…?


You must have met Dave.

21. Michael - March 15, 2012

As a simple matter of logic, it’s unfounded to state that U.S. higher education is declining. More likely, foreign universities are improving. Like any other market, higher education is a product where the market moves towards equilibrium over time. The U.S. domination of higher education is no more stable or sustainable than its former domination of the auto industry.

22. Michael - March 15, 2012

You see the same thing happening in health care, by the way. The U.S. has traditionally been best in class, but now you see Americans traveling to Mexico for dentistry and Singapore for surgery.

23. Michael - March 15, 2012

Leadership in the telecom business was ceded to places like Hong Kong and Korea a long time ago. They were way ahead of us in developing wireless as an alternative to landline phones and building a broadband infrastructure.

24. Michael - March 15, 2012

I’m not pretending to any peculiar insight about this. It’s just basic Adam Smith.

25. digitalbrownshirt - March 15, 2012

I know a few people that travel to Mexico for dentistry. It’s not because they’re better at it, it’s because it’s simply cheaper for them. If the product is similar in quality, people are going to look more closely at price.

26. geoff - March 15, 2012

As a simple matter of logic, it’s unfounded to state that U.S. higher education is declining.

This why the post says “decline of American universities’ dominance.” But I used shorthand in #12.

US education, though, would be in much worse shape if we weren’t importing so many foreign graduate students (more than 50% of STEM graduate students are foreign).

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