The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education is widely used in higher education research to characterize and control for differences in academic institutions.
The 2010 classification update retains the structure adopted in 2005. It includes 4,634 institutions, 483 of which were added after the 2005 update. More than three-quarters of the new institutions (77%) are from the private for-profit sector, 19% from the private nonprofit sector, and 4% from the public sector.
The Carnegie Classification categorizes academic institutions primarily on the basis of highest degree conferred, level of degree production, and research activity.* In this report, several Carnegie categories have been aggregated for statistical purposes. The characteristics of those aggregated groups are as follows:
*Research activity is based on two indexes (aggregate level of research and per capita research activity) derived from a principal components analysis of data on research and development expenditures, S&E research staff, and field of doctoral degree. Seefor more information on the classification system and on the methodology used in defining the categories.
An expert panel convened by the National Research Council produced a report on measuring productivity in higher education (NRC 2012a). The panel defined productivity as a ratio of outputs (degrees completed, credit hours passed, or other indicators of successful completion) to inputs (labor and nonlabor factors of production).
The panel identified the many complexities characteristic of higher education processes that complicate the measurement of productivity in this sector. Among them are the following:
The panel made several recommendations to develop the data infrastructure necessary to measure productivity and to improve data collection across the federal statistical system, in particular by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The panel noted that, at the moment, the graduation rates produced by the NCES Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) survey restrict the denominator to first-time, full-time students, so graduation rates are not meaningful productivity indicators for institutions that enroll more part-time students or in instances in which students transfer to a different institution. More accurate productivity measurement will require the development of comprehensive longitudinal student databases to be able to calculate more precise graduation rates, follow students through their college years and into their careers, and compile detailed reports on which colleges produce the most successful graduates. To do that, the panel recommended that the BLS facilitate multistate links of unemployment insurance records and education data. That step will enable research on issues such as return on investment from postsecondary training or placement rates in different occupations. Given the importance of higher education, the panel also advocated efforts to include colleges and universities in the U.S. Economic Census, as was the case in 1977.
The purpose of discipline-based education research (DBER) is to improve teaching and learning in S&E by bringing together general findings and perspectives from the science of learning and expert knowledge of specific S&E disciplines. DBER seeks to understand how people learn the concepts, practices, and thinking of S&E fields. It focuses on a group of related research fields (physics, chemistry, engineering, biology, the geosciences, and astronomy).
In 2012, at the request of the National Science Foundation, the National Research Council (NRC) examined the status, contributions, and future directions of DBER in undergraduate education. It found that across the different disciplines, students have incorrect understandings of basic concepts, in particular those involving time or space scales that are very large or very small. The NRC also concluded that students find important aspects of the fields that seem easy or obvious to experts to be challenging and to pose barriers to further learning, especially when instructors are unaware of the challenges for the novice.
DBER has shown that actively involving undergraduate students in the learning process improves understanding more than listening to a traditional lecture. Effective instruction strategies can promote conceptual change. Such strategies include, for example, making lectures more interactive, having students work in groups, and incorporating authentic activities and open-ended problems into teaching (e.g., learning in laboratories or learning in a field setting). Students can be taught more expert-like problem-solving skills and strategies to improve their understanding of concepts by instructional practices that provide steps and prompts to guide them, use multiple ways to represent those concepts, and help them to make their own thinking visible.
Trends in master’s education have attracted considerable attention in recent years, but little is known about the extent to which master’s students succeed in completing their programs. A study by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS 2013) collected data on master’s completion and attrition trends in master’s programs from the 2003–04 to the 2006–07 academic years from five academic institutions in five broad S&E fields (biological and agricultural sciences, engineering, mathematics and computer sciences, physical and earth sciences, social and behavioral sciences) and in business. Although the data from this study are not nationally representative and cannot be generalized to S&E graduate programs as a whole, they come from a range of fields and institutions and are suggestive of factors affecting master’s degree completion.
In surveys, graduating S&E master’s students said that the most important factor contributing to the successful completion of a master’s program was their motivation and determination, followed by nonfinancial family support, being a full-time student, quality of teaching, and supportive faculty.
S&E master’s students who left their programs reported that the most important factors preventing them from earning a master’s degree were interference from employment, program structure, lack of adequate financial support, and lack of support from faculty. Among students who reported having concerns about their ability to complete their master’s in S&E, the most frequently reported challenge was finding the time to manage school, work, and family commitments.
In the institutions studied, 41% of the S&E master’s students completed their program within 2 years, 60% within 3 years, and 66% within 4 years. Completion rates within 4 years varied little by S&E field, but rates within 2 years were lowest for students in physical and earth sciences. Women, Asians and Pacific Islanders, temporary residents, and younger cohorts of students completed their master’s degrees at higher rates.
About 10% of students in S&E fields left their programs within 6 months, 17% within 1 year, and 23% within 2 years. The median time to degree for students in S&E fields was 23 months, and the median time to attrition was 8 months.
Professional science master’s (PSM) degrees provide advanced training in an S&E field beyond the bachelor’s degree level while also developing administrative and business skills that are valued by employers, including leadership, project management, teamwork, and communication. Starting from a handful of PSM programs in 1997, there are now almost 300 such programs in more than 100 institutions in 32 states and the District of Columbia, as well as some international programs in Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
Total enrollment in PSM programs in the United States reached nearly 5,800 students in 2012, about one-third of whom were first-time enrollees (Allum, Gonzales, and Remington 2013). More than half of the enrollees were men (55%) and, among U.S. citizens and permanent residents, one-quarter were underrepresented minorities. The majority of the students were enrolled in one of four fields of study: computational sciences (21%), biotechnology (16%), environmental sciences and natural resources (14%), and mathematics and statistics (14%).
Nearly 1,800 PSM degrees were awarded in 2012. More than one in five of them were in biotechnology, and a similar proportion was in computer or information sciences. Men earned the majority of the PSM degrees awarded in chemistry, geosciences and geographic information systems, bioinformatics and computational biology, and mathematics and statistics. Women earned the majority of the degrees granted in medical-related sciences and environmental sciences and natural resources.
PSM programs have not yet been subject to a systematic, formal evaluation. However, according to the Outcomes for PSM Alumni: 2010/11 survey conducted by the Council of Graduate Schools (Bell and Allum 2011), more than 8 in 10 PSM program graduates were working in the summer of 2011, the vast majority of them in jobs closely related to their fields of study. More than half of those working full-time reported salaries of $50,000 or higher. Similar findings are reported by individual PSM programs that track student outcomes (Carpenter 2012).
A 2011 study produced for the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Education and Culture examines degree mobility and credit mobility into, out of, and between 32 European countries (the European Union [EU]-27, European Free Trade Association [EFTA]-4, and Turkey, also called the “Europe 32 [EU 32] area”) (Teichler et al. 2011).
The report distinguishes between two types of student mobility. Degree or diploma mobility includes students who travel abroad to obtain a degree, whereas credit mobility refers to students who study abroad on a more temporary basis. Data for degree mobility come from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and Eurostat data. For credit mobility, however, there is no comprehensive data set, so the study examines data on participation in ERASMUS, an EU study-abroad program that enables students at higher education institutions in Europe to study in another participating country for a period between 3 months and 1 year.* Although ERASMUS is one of the largest programs of its kind in this region, it supports only a portion of total credit mobility in Europe, so its figures are an underestimation.
Average degree mobility levels in the EU 32 region are high by global standards and increased considerably between 1998–99 and 2006–07. In 2006–07, 1.5 million foreign students, representing 51% of the global student market, were enrolled in a degree program in the EU 32. In addition, despite growing competition worldwide, EU 32 countries have increased their global share of foreign students since 1998–99. The strong growth in foreign enrollment was fueled primarily by students from non-EU 32 nations. These students accounted for 58% of all foreign students in 2006–07, compared with 38% of nationals from EU 32 countries (in the case of 4% of foreign students, the nationality was unknown).
Degree mobility levels differed considerably across countries. Almost two-thirds of all foreign students pursuing a degree in the EU 32 zone were enrolled in one of three countries: the United Kingdom, Germany, and France. In all other countries of the EU 32, regional mobility levels are considerably lower. The proportion of EU 32 students in a degree program in a foreign country grew by nearly 40% between 1998–99 and 2006–07, but growth was considerably lower than that of foreign nationals studying in the EU 32 zone.
Large differences exist between countries. At one extreme, in Cyprus, the majority of citizens are enrolled abroad (1,380 abroad for every 1,000 at home); at the other, in the United Kingdom, studying in a foreign country is rare (12 abroad for every 1,000 in the United Kingdom). The vast majority of students from the EU 32 who are pursuing a degree in another country choose a country in the same region.
With regard to credit mobility, according to ERASMUS statistics, the number of students embarking in a study-abroad program more than doubled in the 11-year period between 1998–99 and 2008–09, to nearly 200,000. Despite this growth, the number of students participating in ERASMUS represents a very small share (less than 1%) of EU 32 students.
Spain, Finland, Malta, Poland, Portugal, and Slovakia are more attractive as study-abroad destinations than for degree-type studies. Compared to the other EU 32 countries in 2006–07, these countries hosted more ERASMUS students than foreign degree students. Although the United Kingdom has a large number of college students, it has one of the lowest numbers of study-abroad students.
In the case of both degree and credit mobility, in 2008–09, 21 out of the 32 countries were either net exporters or net importers. Eastern European countries tended to be net exporters (with the exception of the Czech Republic and Hungary), and countries from Western and Northern Europe tended to be net importers. Ten countries were net importers of degree-seeking students but net exporters of study-abroad students. These countries include Germany, France, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.
Students in the social sciences, business, and law; engineering; and humanities and arts more often embarked on ERASMUS study-abroad programs than students in mathematics, computing, sciences, agriculture, and teacher training and education science.†
* ERASMUS also provides opportunities for student placements in enterprises and for university staff teaching and training, and it also funds cooperation projects between higher education institutions across Europe.
† The data do not allow comparisons by degree level.
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Science and Engineering Indicators 2014 Arlington, VA (NSB 14-01) | February 2014