We’re slipping. Not as students, maybe not even as a university, but certainly on the global stage when the United States is no longer the world leader in higher education.
The University of Cambridge recently topped Harvard University, the country’s oldest institution of higher learning, in the QS World University Rankings, knocking it down to second place for the first time since 2004.
These rankings may seem like little more than symbolic judgments made by officials glaring down from the ivory tower, but they represent the potentially bleak future of American institutions.
These rankings should put administrators and students to the flame. We can no longer sit comfortably knowing that degrees from prominent American schools guarantee a position in today’s job market. As colleges in Asia and the United Kingdom climb past Harvard and Yale in virtually every category, students across the country must prepare to face an even greater uphill battle after graduation.
Not only do they have to compete with the Ivy League but are facing increased pressure to beat out students abroad. The country as a whole is 18th in the global rankings, an embarrassing spot for the world’s wealthiest nation.
Ben Sowter, head of division for the QS intelligence unit, said Cambridge acquired the number one spot based on a variety of factors including the number of international students, each institution’s reputation among academics and employers, the number of citations and class size.
What American schools appear to be lacking compared to their foreign counterparts are skills in math and science, fields that also have the fastest growing job availability. I’ve never taken a class in Europe or Asia, but I have witnessed the faults of the American education system firsthand.
It appears that many students are not learning much at all, drifting from class to class with no real goals or hope of graduating. These rankings demonstrate the fact that those who are graduating are doing so with less knowledge and capability than students in other countries. Disruptions in college classrooms seem common,and in some settings, they happen nonstop. We constantly hear that test scores are horrific and that school violence is increasing.
The problems are clear, but what is the best solution? The most common answer to a faltering education system is to throw money at the problem, hoping that enough funding will fix anything. However, the most beneficial tool may be to become more proficient on an international level and learn what makes these great schools tick.
Perhaps educators should take a broader look at education, partnering with foreign schools to learn what works there and implement the kinds of transformative research techniques that have the University of Tokyo towering over NYU and set American students up for tough competition. Yes, we’re slipping but we can catch ourselves by implementing new techniques and restoring our nation’s education system to number one.