- A Chronicle for Higher Education article reports that according to a recent study released by the U.S. Education Department, women dominate every degree level and will continue to do so over the coming decade. By 2019, the study projects, women will account for 59% of undergraduate students and 61% of graduate students. The gap is widening across all ethnicities and populations, but some minority populations are experiencing a wider gender gap than others. For example, in 2007-2008, black women earned 66% of all undergraduate degrees and 72% of all graduate degrees awarded to black students, a rather high proportion. One explanation for the gap is that the labor market is responsible for determining who attends college or grad school and who does not. According to William R. Doyle, assistant professor of higher education at Vanderbilt University, For women, if you want to get a decent job and decent earnings, the state of the labor market is such that you are going to need to pursue a couple of extra years of education. Another explanation, he says, is that more females complete high school than males, especially in minority populations. Another research finding shows that despite the fact that universities are becoming increasingly popular, certain fields like engineers and computer science remain predominantly male.
- In a related article published by the Wall Street Journal, titled Recession May Cut Into Female College Advantage, author Phil Izzo discusses how the recession may alter the research that suggests that female/male college ratio will only continue to grow. Izzo points Doyle's quote in the Chronicle article and argues that if the reason why women remain in higher education longer than men is because of the pay gap, then there's a good chance that the recession will force men to remain in school for longer too, since women have fared better than men in the current downturn. The unemployment rate for women in April 2010 was 8.2% compared to 10.1% for men. Jobs in the heath care and education sectors have held up much better than jobs in other fields, he explains, and these are the fields in which women are overrepresented. Men are more likely than women to be out of work these days; they will likely begin narrowing the education gap by returning to school in the meantime.
- The New York Times ran an interesting article recently about Oxford University's decision to end its tradition of the one-word essay question. Whereas most American applicants are used to answering such pointed questions like What are you most passionate about? or Write page 300 of your autobiography, students applying to Oxford's All Souls College were forced to spin a cohesive essay out of a single word...in just three hours. The Times article laments: No longer will other allusion-deploying Oxford youths have the chance to demonstrate the acrobatic flexibility of their intellect in quite the same way. The one-word exam was a portion of a traditional, grueling, multiday event (12 hours of essays in two days) that has been around for over one hundred years. The one-word exam has been offered consistently for the last 78 years. Past words for this Essay, as it was known simply, include censorship, novelty, reproduction, mercy, chaos, and style.
- The U.S. isn't the only place where universities are in danger of closing departments and cutting back on jobs and programming. Huge budget cuts at U.K. universities are inciting students and faculty members to protest all across the country, reports a Wall Street Journal article last week. The recent cuts, which amount to close to $1.6 billion, were instituted by the government in an effort to reduce the county's large budget deficit. Middlesex University, the site of one of these aforementioned protests, will be closing its philosophy department; the University of Sussex will cut more than 100 jobs; and the University of Leeds may cut up to 400 jobs if more budget cuts are made.
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