Friday, September 08, 2006

More on the Rise of Ecole Polytechnique

I have already mentioned the remarkable rise of the Ecole Polytechnique (EP), Paris, in the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) world university rankings to 10th place in the world and first in Continental Europe. This was largely due to what looked like a massive increase in the number of teaching staff between 2004 and 2005. I speculated that what happened was that QS, THES's consultants, had counted part-time faculty in 2005 but not in 2004.

The likelihood that this is what happened is confirmed by data from QS themselves. Their website provides some basic information about EP. There are two different sets of figures for numbers of faculty and student on the page for EP. At the top it says the ecole has 2,500 students and 380 faculty members. At the bottom there is a box, DATAFILE, which indicates that the ecole has 1900 faculty and 2468 students.

In, 2004, the top scoring university in the Faculty-student ratio category was Ecole Normale Superieure (ENS), another French grande ecole. According to QS's current data, ENS has 1,800 students and 900 faculty or 2 students per faculty. If the numbers of faculty and students at ENS remained the same between 2004 and 2005, then EP's score for faculty-student ratio would have gone from several times lower than ENS in 2004 (23 out of 100)) to quite a bit higher (100, the new top score) in 2005.

Going back to QS's figures their first set of data gives us 6.58 students per faculty and the second 1.30.

EP's dramatic improvement is most probably explained by their using the first set of figures, or something similar, in 2004 and the second set, or something similar, in 2005.

The main difference between the two is the number of faculty, 380 compared to 1900. Most probably, the 1,500 plus difference represents part-timers. Once again, I would be happy to hear of another explanation. I am certain that they are a lot more distinguished than the adjuncts and graduate assistants who do far too much teaching in American universities, but should they really be counted as equivalent to full-time teaching faculty?

The next question is why hasn't anyone else noticed this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The change in the program in 2000 brought more international students to the EP - which eventually helped the school to be noticed outside of France, and voila...