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Selection? Rank? Engagement!!

VU International News and Reviews No. 122 October 22 2018

October 2018

Challenge Success, a non-profit affiliate of Stanford’s Graduate School of Education promoting student well-being and engagement with learning, has published a report “A ‘Fit’ over Rankings” in which they show why college engagement matters more than selectivity.

The paper is a review and analysis of research literature on three related topics:

  • How are rankings made and how well do they correlate with institutional quality?
  • How well does college selectivity predict study success and success in life and work?
  • How well – by contrast – does student engagement predict success during and study?

The critique of the Rankings is not new: too much emphasis on single and dubious factors (US N&R builds for over 25% on graduation rates), trust in unreliable ‘reputation’ factors (another 22,5%),  lack of transparency in the methodology and suspicion of fabricated changes to attract media coverage, reliance on input and process indicators and total lack of educational outcome and impact factors.

Neither is the demonstration that ‘selective institutions’ do not provide their alumni with more learning, better jobs or income, more well-being or more fond memories of their student days than less or non-selective institutions. Already in 2014, a Gallup-Purdue-Lumina survey showed that ‘this one inspiring professor’ and ‘that wonderful extracurricular activity’ make a more lasting impact than the selectivity or rank of the HE institution.

What is new – at least for me – is the research presented showing that the students’ engagement with their study programme does have a strong predictive value for how much they will profit from their study in the rest of their lives. And this is influenced by the efforts the HE institution makes to achieve that student engagement.

In addition, bringing together literature review on Ranking and Selectivity with that on Student Engagement, makes this publication valuable for academics, leaders and administrators that take education to heart.

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