More private school pupils accepted at top universities

Pupils at private schools have received more offers of places at leading research universities this year than those at state schools, according to the Independent Schools Council's annual universities survey.

The survey of 139 schools shows a rise in the acceptance rate of Independent Schools Council (ISC) pupils at Russell Group universities to 65.6% this year from 62.5% in 2006.

But the Russell Group, which represents the largest research universities, said that it was working hard to ensure that it took pupils from state and private schools, and in some of its institutions the numbers of students entering from both were roughly equal.

Private school pupils applying for undergraduate studies are more likely to target the top universities. They are also far more likely to take sciences and languages and were more likely to apply to Russell Group universities than before.

The overall offer rate by the university admissions service, Ucas - where offers are made and taken up - for places at Russell Group universities is 13%.

The ISC survey, published today, shows that acceptance rates for independent school pupils are especially high (more than 80%) in biological sciences, physical sciences, mathematical and computer sciences, and technologies subjects.

According to the ISC, getting three A or B grades at A-level is the key to get a place at a leading universities and it is better to have three top A-level grades than the equivalent A-level points score made up from a larger number of less good results.

For instance, a pupil with three A-level A grades will get 360 points as will a pupil with one A and three C grades. But for many courses at leading universities three A-level A grades is the normal entry requirement, so lower grades with the same point score are unlikely to be accepted.

Jonathan Shephard, ISC chief executive, said: "These results show once again the superb job done by ISC schools in preparing pupils for entry to leading universities.

"Our research also shows that A-level point scores can be misleading as a measure of achievement: it is quality, not quantity, that counts."

According to the Russell Group's director general Dr Wendy Piatt, universities in the group were over-subscribed by high-performing candidates with an average of nearly eight applications per place.

Dr Piatt said: "One of the keys to successful applications to Russell Group universities is a strong academic record, and the facts show that pupils from independent and grammar schools have a good chance of gaining three As.

"However, admissions practices within the Russell Group universities also aim to identify potential in candidates over and above qualifications. Oxford, for example, has recently introduced a new admissions form offering schools the opportunity to provide detailed and reliable information about a candidate's educational environment. We are also exploring the ability of aptitude tests to identify potential which is not reflected in a candidate's academic record."

Dr Piatt added that several Russell Group universities have a broadly similar success rate for both independent and state school applicants. For example, at the University of Warwick the proportion of applicants who accepted a place they were offered from independent schools in 2006 was 10.5% compared to 11.0% from comprehensive schools.

The best international schools around the world

When looking for schools abroad that offer a British curriculum (international GSCEs and A levels), parents are spoilt for choice. There are also thousands of schools accredited by the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) across the world that offer the well-established and reputable IB diploma in English.

Some schools focus on a bicultural and bilingual education while others create a miniature version of Britain inside the school gates, emphasising British culture and language. A bilingual curriculum is a challenging and stimulating environment for children who speak English as a first language, especially as students are required to write essays in both their native and host language. Check carefully to see what immersion language classes are available and what support is offered for students who initially only speak English. Few would deny that a bilingual curriculum is both beneficial and enriching for students and encourages them to become global citizens.

In South America, most schools offer the IB programme in Spanish, English or both. In such bilingual schools, around half of the classes are taught in Spanish and the remaining half in English, often taught by imported native-English speaking teachers who make up at least 25% of the teaching staff.

School fees increase incremently according to age group and are often paid in the local currency. There are extra costs to consider, such as application and enrolment fees, school development fund fees, lunch and transport costs, student accident insurance, uniforms and exam entry fees. Full IB diploma examination fees cost around £340. Some schools offer discounts on tuition fees when two, three or more children from the same family are enrolled.

Neither the IBO or the Council of International Schools (CIS), which accredits schools, publish league tables. The following list of the top international and IB schools across the world are based on a combination of factors, such as exam results, school facilities and extra-curricular activities offered, but it's also based on word of mouth and those schools recommended by expatriate teachers and parents.


India, Japan (and its islands) China, and in particular Hong Kong, have the best and widest range of international schools in the region catering for a large expatriate population. When choosing a school in Bangkok, it's advisable to consider the distance from home to school because of the heavy traffic.

Tanglin Trust school, Singapore
Students must be fluent in English to be accepted in the school and the vast majority of teachers are British, giving Tanglin school a predominantly British feel. It has an excellent academic reputation and a strong emphasis on the performing arts, with well-established choirs, orchestras and concerts. Many students go on to study at leading UK universities.
Campus: Modern teaching blocks with a separate sixth form centre overlooking tropical forest. Swimming pool and spacious outdoor playing fields.
Student intake: Of the 2,000 students, about 70% are British citizens.
Curriculum: British curriculum taught in English.
Fees: Termly tuition fee from S$4275 (£1,440) to S$7775 (£2,620).
Examination results: In 2006, 95% of students gained GSCE A*-C grades and 82% A-C grades at A-level.

Dulwich College international school, China (Shanghai and Beijing)
A partner of Dulwich College in London with a traditional public school atmosphere. The vast majority of its staff are native English-speakers.
Campus: Excellent sport and music facilities.
Student intake: Over 900 students (ages 2-16) at the Shanghai school.
Curriculum: British curriculum taught in English with IB offered from September 2007. In Beijing, a Montessori curriculum is offered at pre-school. Spanish and Chinese as a second language classes are available.
Fees: Annual tuition fees from RMB135,100 (£9,000) to RMB186,500 (£12,500).

The Garden international school, Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur
The largest international school in Malaysia. It has an academic and friendly atmosphere with an excellent range of extracurricular actitvities on offer, from modern dance to judo and Mandarin classes.
Campus: Modern and well-resourced teaching blocks with excellent sport facilities.
Student intake: Students from over 58 different countries.
Curriculum: British.
Fees: Tuition fees per term (three terms in total) from RM6,590 (£950) to RM12,010 (£1,740).
Examination results: In 2006, the percentage of students with A and B passes at A level was over 80%, with almost 60% obtaining grade A.


International School of Geneva, Switzerland
This hi-tech flagship IB school with its bilingual international environment, academic excellence and strong emphasis on global issues, feels a bit like the UN headquarters.
Campus: Three separate leafy campuses, including a chateau in the countryside with a lake and mountain views.
Student intake: Over 3,750 students, representing 120 nationalities, including 84 languages Curriculum: IGSCE, IB and French bac. At secondary school, students can choose to study in French, English or both. SAT (standard assessment tests) can be taken at the school. Palm-held computers are used in some classes.
Fees: Annual tuition fees from CHF19,760 (£8,400) to CHF25,075 (£10,600).

Latin America

St Paul's school, Sao Paulo, Brazil
This Anglo-Brazilian bilingual school is regarded as one of the leading British schools in Latin America. It boasts an excellent academic reputation and is a demanding and challenging environment for students. Many of them go on to study at the top UK and US universities.
Campus: A large, bright and well kept campus set in the leafy suburb of a wealthy residential area.
Student intake: Brazilian elite and students from over 30 other countries.
Curriculum: IB and school curriculum is a mixture of Brazilian and British national curriculums. IB diploma in theatre and visual arts offered.
Fees: Annual tuition fees from £7,600.
Examination results: The IGSCE A*-C pass rate was 94.3% (2006). On average 34.5 points were awarded per IB candidate (maximum IB points are 45).

Newton College, Lima, Peru
One of the leading British-style, bilingual, international schools in Peru.
Campus: A special feature is its field-study centre in the Amazon jungle used for student research projects.
Student intake: About 85% of its 1,300 students are Peruvian, with a growing international student community.
Curriculum: IB and IGSCE taught in English and Spanish. 80% of classes in kindergarten are taught in English.
Fees: Annual tuition fees from US$3,070 (£1.600) to US$6,280 (£3,300).

Grange school, Santiago, Chile
A well-established and renowned bilingual school with a traditional feel.
Campus: Boasts plush, landscaped grounds complete with a swimming pool and snow-capped mountain views. 1:1 computer-student ratio.
Student intake: Over 1,700 students, with waiting lists for first school year (pre-kinder).
Curriculum: Integrated British and Chilean national curricula. IGSCE and AS/A2 exams are in English.
Fees: Tuition fees from £150 a month (11 monthly payments).

Middle East

St Christopher's, Bahrain
A welcoming and friendly school with a predominantly British feel.
Campus: Modern teaching blocks, swimming pool and a good sixth-form centre.
Student intake: 2,000 students from around 50 countries.
Curriculum: GSCEs and a broad choice of A-level options offered, including media and business studies, PE and psychology. The music department enjoys a good reputation.
Fees: Termly tuition fees (three terms) from BD751 (£1,050) to BD1,630 (£2,300).
Examination results: Last year, 42% of students obtained A grades at A-level and 92% obtained A*-C passes at GSCE.

University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge is rich in history - its famous Colleges and University buildings attract visitors from all over the world. But the University's museums and collections also hold many treasures which give an exciting insight into some of the scholarly activities, both past and present, of the University's academics and students.
The University of Cambridge is one of the oldest universities in the world and one of the largest in the United Kingdom. Its reputation for outstanding academic achievement is known world-wide and reflects the intellectual achievement of its students, as well as the world-class original research carried out by the staff of the University and the Colleges. Its reputation is endorsed by the Quality Assurance Agency and by other external reviewers of learning and teaching, such as External Examiners.
These high standards are the result of both the learning opportunities offered at Cambridge and by its extensive resources, including libraries, museums and other collections. Teaching consists not only of lectures, seminars and practical classes led by people who are world experts in their field, but also more personalised teaching arranged through the Colleges. Many opportunities exist for students to interact with scholars of all levels, both formally and informally.

There are 31 Colleges in Cambridge. Three are for women (New Hall, Newnham and Lucy Cavendish) and two admit only graduates (Clare Hall and Darwin). The remainder house and teach all students enrolled in courses of study or research at the University
Each College is an independent institution with its own property and income. The Colleges appoint their own staff and are responsible for selecting students, in accordance with University regulations. The teaching of students is shared between the Colleges and University departments. Degrees are awarded by the University.
Within each College, staff and students of all disciplines are brought together. This cross-fertilisation has encouraged the free exchange of ideas which has led to the creation of a number of new companies. Trinity and St John's have also established science parks, providing facilities for start-ups, and making a significant contribution to the identification of Cambridge as a centre of innovation and technology.
In addition to the collections on display in the University's libraries & museums, there is a wealth of sporting and cultural activity at the University of Cambridge, much of it organised by individual clubs and societies run by staff and students. Although the University does not offer courses in the creative arts or sport, there is a strong tradition of achievement in these fields, with many former students going on to gain international standing as artists, performers and athletes. Initiatives ensure that aspiring performers enrich their education with a high level of activity outside the lecture.

Universidades latinoamericanas “tendrían que desarrollar con más fuerza los estudios de posgrado”

El historiador argentino Fernando Devoto -de paso por Montevideo para presentar La Universidad de la República. Desde la crisis a la intervención. 1958-1973, libro póstumo de Blanca Paris de Oddone-, dijo a la diaria que tendrían que “defenderse con más fuerza mecanismos de cooperación y algún tipo de interacción entre las universidades de la región, incluso la creación de algún tipo de institución regional a nivel terciario”.*

El argentino Fernando Devoto y los desafíos de la historia y la universidad actuales.

Titular de teoría e historia de la historiografía en la Facultad de Filosofía y Letras de la Universidad de Buenos Aires, Fernando Devoto (1949) tuvo cercana relación con Paris y con su esposo (y colega) Juan Oddone. "Creo que la Universidad de la República es un poco un estudio en sí, y es a la vez un lugar en el cual se puede pensar la historia del Uruguay. Tiene un interés específico vinculado a un ámbito importante para la formación de los grupos dirigentes, tanto de dirigentes establecidos como de outsiders, desde el poder y desde la oposición, en un sentido amplio. Esos ámbitos formativos son importantes, no sólo como conjunciones de ideas, sino más aun como constructores de ámbitos de sociabilidad, como ámbitos de interacción", opinó Devoto en relación a la obra de Paris.

-En la presentación se habló de la corriente reformista que refleja el libro, y de Blanca Paris como una historiadora comprometida con los tiempos que le tocó vivir y con los procesos de cambio en la universidad. ¿Cómo se puede relacionar estas ideas con los desafíos actuales de las universidades latinoamericanas ?

-La pregunta es compleja. Primero, haría una precisión. Creo que Blanca Paris fue una persona mucho más comprometida con la reforma de la universidad y con una idea de la universidad que una historiadora o una persona comprometida en la arena política. Eso también es parte del clima del reformismo. Era un compromiso intelectual. Un compromiso desde lo profesional y desde los ámbitos profesionales, más que una participación activa. Dicho esto, creo que una de las virtudes de Juan Oddone y Blanca Paris es que fueron muy imbricados con las dos orillas del Plata. Muchas experiencias de ellos en Buenos Aires reflejan un tiempo de unión entre dos historiografías. El clima cultural ahora es muy diferente. Los desafíos actuales tienen que ver ya no con problemas asociados, por ejemplo, con la explosión de la matrícula. La explosión vino, se instaló y se quedó. Hoy el desafío es pensar en una nueva universidad, en cómo mantener unidos un proceso de especialización con un espíritu global. Es evidente que lo que podríamos hablar sobre estudios terciarios ha cambiado de características. En Argentina hay muchos jóvenes, y también en Uruguay, que van a hacer sus posgrados al exterior. Las universidades latinoamericanas tendrían que desarrollar con más fuerza los estudios de posgrado, tendrían que defenderse con más fuerza mecanismos de cooperación y algún tipo de interacción entre las universidades de la región, incluso la creación de algún tipo de institución regional a nivel terciario. Éstos son problemas que el reformismo no pensaba. El reformismo pensaba “universidad-cambio social”. La universidad tiene en sí un papel en el proceso de cambio, pero ese proceso de cambio tiene que estar vinculado con el ofrecimiento de una enseñanza de calidad. Y además, hoy en día la universidad pública tiene la competencia de las universidades privadas. Lo que se debe conservar, entonces, y lo que planteaba el reformismo, es la idea de que el Estado tiene que garantizar no sólo los estudios gratuitos sino una educación de excelencia. Y esa educación de excelencia no siempre es posible con una educación masificada, por lo que el Estado tiene que tener distintas alternativas. Pero el Estado no puede perder mecanismos de controles que aseguren la formación de sus cuadros dirigentes.

-En eso jugaría un papel importante el intercambio académico, tanto en beneficio de las ciencias sociales como para los procesos de la universidad latinoamericana. Y también puede tener un papel muy importante para la historia, como lo fueron, por ejemplo, para el desarrollo inicial del Instituto de Investigaciones los aportes de historiadores argentinos como Emilio Ravignani y José Luis Romero.

-Yo diría que de todas maneras hoy no se plantea del mismo modo que a mediados de la década de 1940. Yo no iría por ahí. Eso respondía a problemas de aquel entonces. Yo creo que hoy en día es un problema de diálogo entre iguales, de intercambio. Pero sí insistiría mucho sobre el tema de un marco de circulación, un marco de intercambio. Profesores argentinos que enseñen en un período en las universidades uruguayas, profesores uruguayos que enseñen por períodos en las universidades argentinas o brasileñas. No te digo otros países porque tiene un sistema universitario muy diferente. Pero en estos tres países, Argentina, Brasil y Uruguay, hay compatibilidad ,¿por qué no hay un acuerdo que implique este intercambio de experiencias? Hay que abrir la universidad de algo que aparece poco en el libro de Blanca Paris, que son los intereses corporativos. Los grupos académicos son focos que se autoprotegen y se autoreproducen. Entonces eso limita las posibilidades de contar con una universidad de excelencia. ¿Cómo se combate eso? Yo creo que con una apertura. Apertura al mundo global, una apertura de aquellas universidades que tienen desafíos, que tienen intereses y que tienen perspectivas comunes en la región.

-¿Como podrían ayudar estos intercambios al estudio de la historia regional y de la historia comparada?

-El futuro de la historiografía está más allá de las historias nacionales. Entonces acá tenemos dos vías. Una es la historia regional. Una historia que se da por dimensiones que no son delimitadas por lo político sino por otras características, que pueden ser sociales, económicas, espaciales, que van más allá de las fronteras políticas. La otra idea es la historia comparada, que permite ciertas unidades de observación, que en este caso no necesariamente tienen por qué ser una historia comparada de Argentina y Uruguay, pero sí, por ejemplo, se puede hacer una historia comparada de Uruguay y el litoral argentino. Siempre debe haber comparación con unidades similares, y en el problema de la regionalización, lo importante es la delimitación de la región. O sea, lo que tiene que resolver el historiador es el objeto de estudio, cómo lo delimita, cuál es la escala en la que quiere operar y cuáles son las operaciones que quiere hacer a partir de ellos.

-Usted tiene una relación bastante cercana con historiadores uruguayos. ¿Cuál es su opinión acerca del estado de la historiografía uruguaya?

-Creo que está ante un desafío, y que es también el de la historiografía argentina, que es cómo se sustituye una generación de grandes historiadores a los que les pasó su tiempo, por su desaparición o su retiro. El problema se presenta no sólo para los que son los sustitutos naturales de la historia académica, sino para las nuevas generaciones (y, pensando en la pregunta, yo no sé si tengo los elemento suficientes para responder eso). O sea, no la generación inmediatamente sucesiva, sino la otra. En ese contexto, noto sí que hay una generación joven de muy buenos historiadores uruguayos, formados en el exterior, gran parte de ellos, y muy profesionales. Puedo citar el caso de Vania Markarian, quien estudió en Estado Unidos. Hay otros, como Laura Reali, que está en Francia, o Isabella Cosse, que está en Buenos Aires. Pienso que ahí está el futuro de la historiografía uruguaya.

-¿Cuál es su opinión sobre el papel que han jugado los historiadores argentinos en los festejos del Bicentenario?

-Primero, los historiadores juegan el papel que les dejan jugar. En ese sentido, yo diría que los historiadores en general han tenido un lugar bastante marginal. Y lo han tenido quizás no porque ellos lo hayan querido, sino porque también los historiadores tienen hoy un conjunto de desafíos, como los operadores y gestores mediáticos, que eran desafíos impensables hace 30, 40 años. Entonces, considero que lo que tenemos hoy son best sellers, tenemos medios de comunicación, etcétera. La industria editorial ha dicho lo suyo. Además, no te olvides de que los historiadores no tienen que construir mitos, tienen que criticarlos. En general, las conmemoraciones, como el Centenario, el Bicentenario, son concepciones siempre arbitrarias. Es más una celebración del presente con la excusa del pasado. Entonces, en ese punto el historiador debería ser más bien, lamentablemente, un aguafiestas. Y, ¿quién quiere un aguafiestas?

* La entrevista fue realizada por el periodista Santiago Delgado.

Should Diversity Be Added to Best Law Schools Rankings?

U.S. News recently received a letter from The State Bar of California asserting that our main Best Law Schools rankings would be improved by including numerous diversity-related measures.

This new diversity category would include indicators measuring the degree to which a law school's student body is ethnically diverse, possibly relative to state-wide demographic data. One indicator would be a determination of whether law schools had taken "concrete actions," via programs and activities committed to diversity that are aligned with the "ABA Accreditation Standards on Diversity" (Standard 212).

U.S. News was urged to poll diversity professionals at law schools on diversity reputation or include diversity as a category on our existing reputation surveys. Finally, the letter also recommends that these new diversity variables count for a total of 15 percent of a law school's overall score and that the weights of the existing peer surveys and student selectivity (admissions data) be reduced.

U.S. News doesn't incorporate our current diversity index or diversity into the Best Law Schools rankings, because measuring how successful law schools are at achieving diversity goals cannot be included easily in our rankings formula in a fair and meaningful way. The current U.S. News diversity index does not measure how successful law schools are at achieving diversity standards against a benchmark; rather, it measures to what extent a law school is diverse.

There are many key questions that need to be resolved. For example, U.S. News would need to determine what scale would be used to measure diversity success for each law school. How should law schools be compared in ethnically diverse states like California and Florida with those in far less diverse states like Vermont and Iowa? Should Stanford University and the University of Southern California, both private law schools, be measured against the same scale as public schools in California like UCLA?

How should diversity at Howard University in Washington, D.C. and North Carolina Central University law schools, which are part of the historically black colleges and universities, be measured? Should diversity just be based on ethnic diversity and not take into account economic diversity? How would law school economic diversity be measured? We also need to consider what the law schools themselves think about including diversity in the rankings.

Yet another important issue is to what degree diversity is linked to academic quality versus being an important social goal. There is also the key question of whether diversity should even be included in the rankings, given that the main purpose of the rankings is to identify the best schools academically.

I spoke with Craig Holden, a partner at Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard & Smith and chair of the Council on Access & Fairness for The State Bar of California, who was the catalyst behind the proposal to U.S. News, and told him that U.S. News was willing to have further discussions so we could determine the feasibility of the suggestions.

In addition, U.S. News would need to work with a representative group of legal educators and others to develop such diversity success yardsticks. We cannot do it without outside assistance and some meaningful level of agreement on the right things to measure and the correct metrics to use to measure them.

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Researchers Discuss the Higher Ed Act

I recently returned from the 2008 Southern Association for Institutional Research Conference in Memphis. I go to these conferences in the United States and around the world to give talks on the Best Colleges rankings, find out the latest trends at universities, determine what new higher education data U.S. News should try to collect, and get feedback. I made one presentation: "America's Best Colleges Rankings: What Just Happened and What's Ahead."

The impact on colleges and students of the recently passed Higher Education Opportunity Act was discussed at length there. The HEOA includes provisions aimed at making more information available so that the public can better understand and respond to the rising cost of a college education. The act calls for the U.S. Department of Education to collect and publish on its website College Navigator a wide variety of information on college affordability, the net price of attending college by income level for those receiving student aid, which schools are raising tuitions more than others, and other consumer topics, including the time it takes to complete a degree at that college, alternative tuition plans, and information for disabled students.

There was also an update on the now two-year-old Voluntary System of Accountability project, which is a partnership between the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges. The VSA's goal is to provide students with comparable information on public institutions in a standardized format called College Portraits. The VSA deserves a lot of credit for being the only such effort underway that will include comparative data on student engagement as well as information on student learning outcomes. There is good news, too: As of October 18, nearly 60 percent (309 schools) of the 520 member institutions of the two higher education associations have agreed to participate in the project, and over 200 have already posted College Portraits. These colleges enroll some 3 million undergraduates, nearly 60 percent of the total undergraduate enrollment in four-year public colleges and universities. But there's a potential cloud on the horizon: Because the VSA system is, by definition, voluntary, it's unclear what proportion of four-year public colleges will end up participating and making all their information public.