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US: big hopes for Carnegie classifications

Institutions across the US have said that being recognised in a respected research framework will help to attract “strong” students, while also suggesting it will help to widen participation.

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"As we begin to reimagine many aspects of how we approach higher education as a hub for learning amid a global pandemic, a lot must change"

Earlier this month, The Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education completed a public review and published the resulting classification list. Originated in 1970, the classification is the foremost framework for acknowledging institutional excellence, particularly in the areas of research and doctoral degrees.

The most sought-after designation is the ‘Doctoral Universities: Very High Research Activity’ classification, known as R1. Since its inception over a half century ago, university administrators have sought to achieve or maintain R1 status.

Currently, there are 146 R1 institutions, a critical classification to institutions, as it is often connected to grant funding and serves as the basis for ranking systems such as U.S. News & World Report.

Leslie Neely, associate professor of Educational Psychology at UTSA told The PIE News, “Achieving this designation gives UTSA the national and international recognition it deserves.

“I think this will help UTSA continue to attract strong students and provide even greater support for our students.”

“I think this will help UTSA continue to attract strong students and provide even greater support for our students”

UTSA is also one of only 20 institutions classified as both Hispanic Serving Institutions and R1s.

She added that the “community has invested in UTSA and this designation is testament not only to the hard work of our faculty, but the phenomenal support of our community”.

Community Engagement is a newer Carnegie category, with the first cohort of recipients identified in 2006. Its purpose is to recognise institutions contributing knowledge and resources to their local communities.

“As a PhD student, this honour and rare classification demonstrate to me the university acknowledges the greater good that the research on our campus does for others,” The University of Tennessee, Knoxville doctoral student Steve Syoen said. UTK first received this designation in 2015.

“There is not infinite time and resources and thus, community partnerships are both helpful and necessary. It’s a great feeling to be a scholar at an institution that emphasises these partnerships.”

CCIHE is moving next month from Indiana University to the American Council on Education in Washington DC, with the two organisations recently issued a joint statement about a new criterion that recognises social and economic mobility. The aim is to acknowledge the diversity of institutions and to create incentives to rectify gaps in equity.

US secretary of Education Miguel Cardona welcomed this change, asserting the need for institutions to rethink acceptance protocols to favour inclusivity and opportunity over exclusivity and ranking.

Frederick Engram Jr., assistant professor of Instruction at R1 classified University of Texas at Arlington offered similar sentiments to The PIE News, stating, “As we begin to reimagine many aspects of how we approach higher education as a hub for learning amid a global pandemic, a lot must change.

“The great resignation is largely affecting faculty and staff of colour as well as vulnerable populations because institutions are refusing to be equitably minded and centred – and folks are tired.”

Although pleased more students will be considered based upon merit and not socioeconomic status, Engram expressed concern about the way “neutrality” policies are implemented, stressing they “almost always leans toward disenfranchising the already historically marginalised,” and imploring institutions to be more intentional and creative in rethinking their admissions processes.

 

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