Saturday, June 30, 2007

Funding 'curbs joined-up courses'

Funding doubts are hobbling a programme which has led to good vocational achievements by teenagers, Ofsted says.
It said colleges with "centres of vocational excellence" in England had led to large numbers of young people staying on in education or training.
With specialist equipment, they were providing more high quality courses for those aged 14 to 16 than schools could.
But funding uncertainty was compounded by some schools' reluctance to let pupils do vocational study, it said.
The government is keen to encourage more youngsters, especially the less academic, to stay in education or training.
Ofsted said that in one area the numbers who would have been classed as "not in education, employment or training" (Neets) had fallen when the local college opened a centre for training on motor vehicles.
But high fliers also benefited. Another college was running film and media studies evening courses for gifted and talented pupils.
This gave them access to state-of-the-art facilities and they had been able to take AS-levels early, alongside their GCSEs.
In its small-scale survey of centres in 24 further education colleges, Ofsted found the motivation, attendance and achievement of 14 to 16-year-olds had increased.
Collaboration between schools and colleges will be crucial to the success of the new 14 to 19 Diplomas being taught from next year.
All the colleges involved in the Ofsted study had taken the lead in preparing or backing submissions to run the specialist Diplomas.
But a lack of clarity over future funding was a potential barrier to further development.
"At present, many colleges subsidise their work with schools. Schools which contributed to the funding were also concerned about the sustainability of the work."
There was also concern about the lack of clear funding where several different providers were involved in delivering courses.
"A few of the colleges reported that some schools were denying their more academic learners an equal opportunity to choose a vocational pathway," Ofsted reported.
"There were also concerns about the status of vocational qualifications if many schools continued to channel students who were considered less academically able into vocational programmes."
It recommended that the Learning and Skills Council, local authorities, schools and colleges should review the funding to ensure such programmes were sustainable.
A spokesperson for the new Department of Children, Schools and Families said: "Consultations were held on the 14-16 and 16-19 funding systems earlier this year with the aim of creating an overall funding system for 14-19 year olds.
"Following these consultations we announced changes to the School, Early Years and 14-16 funding systems, which also set out how the new diploma qualifications would be funded."
The national director of skills for employers at the Learning and Skills Council, Jaine Clarke, said: "Schools, colleges and employers will need to continue to work closely together in order to deliver the skills and qualifications that young people will need to achieve good and sustainable employment."
The centres of vocational excellence programme had recently been reviewed and a new standard for working with employers had been released, she said, to which colleges were "responding positively".
"In combination with other developments such as the introduction of 14-19 Diplomas we believe that this will mean that young people in England will be better prepared than ever before for the transition into the workplace or further learning."

Friday, June 22, 2007

China top CO2 producer

BEIJING, China (AP) -- China has overtaken the United States as the world's top producer of carbon dioxide emissions -- the biggest man-made contributor to global warming -- based on the latest widely accepted energy consumption data, a Dutch research group says.
According to a report released Tuesday by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, China overtook the U.S. in emissions of CO2 by 8 percent in 2006. While China was 2 percent below the United States in 2005, voracious coal consumption and increased cement production caused the numbers to rise rapidly, the group said.
"It's an expression of their fast industrial production activities and their fast development," Jos G.J. Olivier, the agency's senior scientist who compiled the figures, said Wednesday. The agency is independent but paid by the Dutch government to advise it on environmental policy.
The study said China, which relies on coal for two-thirds of its energy needs and makes 44 percent of the world's cement, produced 6.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2006. In comparison, the U.S., which gets half its electricity from coal, produced 5.8 billion metric tons of CO2, it said.
The group's analysis makes sense and had been predicted to happen by 2009 or 2010, said experts from the United Nations and the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and outside academics.
Bert Metz, a senior researcher at the Dutch agency and a leading expert on efforts to battle global warming, said the analysis was done using methods and data that "are the best currently available."
This means that "Chinese contributions to global CO2 emissions are getting more important," Metz said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
Telephone calls to China's State Environmental Protection Agency and the National Development and Reform Commission, the Cabinet-level economic planning agency, were not answered Wednesday.
Earlier figures indicated China would likely surpass the U.S. in greenhouse gas emissions as early as 2009, although other predictions said it could happen this year.
Chinese environmental officials have said that while total emissions are going up, they are still less than one quarter of those of the United States on a per capita basis. Because China's population of 1.3 billion people is more than four times that of the United States, China spews about 10,500 pounds (4,763 kilograms) of carbon dioxide per person, while in the United States it is nearly 42,500 pounds (19,278 kilograms) per person.
Olivier said there was not much chance China will now lose its lead.
"China's growth will saturate at some point," he said. But "for now, we don't see a trend (toward) this saturation yet."
Olivier said the research was based on data on fossil fuel consumption from BP PLC's Review of Energy 2007, compiled by the British oil company, and cement production data through 2006 published by the U.S. Geological Survey.
John Christensen, head of the U.N. Environment Program's Center on Energy, Climate and Sustainable Development in Denmark, said the figures did not come as a surprise.
"The Dutch agency referred to BP statistics, which is the standard reference tool. We have no reason to doubt that the numbers are right. We have no reason to doubt the methodology," Christensen said. "It's been stated many times that China will overtake the U.S. in emissions."
Other sources of carbon dioxide, such as deforestation and the flaring of gas in oil and gas production, are not included in the data. They also do not include methane from fuel production and agriculture and nitrous oxide from industry.
Fatih Birol, chief economist of the Paris-based International Energy Agency also said the findings were not surprising, given China's economic growth of more than 9 percent annually over the past 25 years.
His agency had estimated China would overtake the U.S. before 2010; in November it sharpened the forecast to 2007 or 2008.
But the issue is not just current emissions, but carbon dioxide stuck in the atmosphere, where it lingers for about a century trapping heat below, said Jay Apt, a professor of engineering, business and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Apt and a colleague calculated the share of carbon dioxide now in the atmosphere that can be attributed to each country and determined that the United States is responsible for 27 percent, European nations contributed 20 percent and China only 8 percent.
"The planet does not respond to emissions, the planet responds to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere," said Apt. "It means the U.S. will have the lion's share of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for the foreseeable future. In fact, even if China's exponential growth continues, China will not surpass the U.S. in the numbers of carbon dioxide atoms in the atmosphere, that is concentration, until at least 2050, which is too late to start anything."
The International Energy Agency's Birol said the key message from the emission figures is not who is No. 1, but the need to slow growth in CO2 emissions. "The rest of the world with the help of China needs to find ways for China to reduce CO2 emissions," Birol said.
China has come under growing international pressure to take more forceful measures to curb releases of greenhouse gases.
This month, China unveiled its first national program to combat global warming with promises to rein in greenhouse gas production. While the program offered few new concrete targets for greenhouse gas emissions, it outlined steps the country would take to meet a previously announced goal of improving energy efficiency in 2010 by 20 percent over 2005's level.
Beijing also indicated an unwillingness to enforce mandatory emissions caps.
Ma Kai, the minister heading the National Development and Reform Commission, said economic development is a priority for China, but efforts would be made to raise awareness about global warming.
China signed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which caps the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted in industrialized countries. But because China is considered a developing country it is exempt from emission reductions -- a situation often cited by U.S. President George W. Bush's administration and Australia for not accepting the treaty.
Yang Ailun of Greenpeace China called on the country to take more steps to protect the environment. "Due to the urgency of climate change, China has the responsibility to take immediate actions to reform its energy structure and curb its CO2 emissions," Yang said in a statement.
She noted that Western consumers use products made in China.
"All the West has done is export a great slice of its carbon footprint to China and make China the world's factory," she said. "This trend has kept the price of projects in the West down, but led to a climate disaster in the long term."
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Application Essay

Every year, hundreds of thousands of students apply for admission to colleges and graduate schools in America. It’s impossible for each school to consider every applicant in full; they just don’t have the time, people, or money for such an endeavor. For this reason, they use academic profiles to help them in their selection process. They’ll look at an applicant’s grade point average, how rigorous a school or college they graduated from, and their results on one or more nationally recognized standardized tests. These things have all been shown to be very strong indicators of how well a person will do in school. They’ll determine their own criteria for acceptable GPA’s and test scores, and they’ll use this to immediately eliminate a very large percentage, often the vast majority, of their applicants. Anyone who doesn’t make the basic cutoff is denied admission. But that still leaves most colleges and universities with far more applicants than they can accept. To further narrow down the field to the best possible students, they also require an essay upon application. They will then read the essay of those students whose applications made the cutoff in order to get some insights into what kind of a person the applicant is, beyond what the numbers say. A badly written essay can disqualify even a student with the best GPA and test score, and a terrific essay can be the ticket to admission for someone who barely made the cutoff. For these reasons, you’ll want to write the very best essay you possibly can if you’re hoping to go to college or get into graduate school. In this section, we’ll tell you about the different types of essays you might be asked to write, and give you some tips on how to write an excellent one, and really make yourself stand out from the competition. But first, here are some helpful tips on writing essays in general.The quality of your essay is crucial to your chances of getting into graduate school. This can’t be stressed highly enough. It would be completely reckless and foolhardy to simply write something on the spur or the moment and send it in. You’ve got to give your essay a lot of thought, and you’ll want to thoroughly edit and rewrite it before submission. You’ll also want to have some pages of raw material written down before you even begin your essays. On these pages, you’ll be writing down things, books, ideas, events, and people of significance to use as essay material. Think back on your life so far. Think of five books that have profoundly affected you. Think of five people who have inspired you. Write them down. What are your five best qualities? What are your five greatest accomplishments? What are the five biggest obstacles or challenges you’ve overcome? What are the five adjectives people would most commonly use to describe your personality? What are the five highlights of your life so far? What are your five biggest failures in life? What are the five most memorable events of your life? Write all these down, and think of some questions of your own to ask yourself, and to ask your family and friends. When you’re done, you’ll have the basic building blocks upon which to write a good essay. You certainly won’t use all the material, but you’ll have a lot to work with, and you can pick and choose what you need as you see fit for the various essays you’ll be writing. And don’t get hung up on the number five-if you can only think of a couple or three for some categories, that’s fine. The goal is to get you thinking. And here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when you sit down at your keyboard:1. If you’re applying to several schools, you don’t necessarily have to write a different essay for each school. You will probably have to write more than one, but many of them will have very similar questions and you’ll be able to reuse the same material without hurting your chances. There’s absolutely nothing unethical about this at all. Just make sure that you’re actually answering the question, and that you don’t mention one school in an application to another, and that you proofread your work extremely carefully. 2. Make it personal. A generic essay won’t help the admissions committee to get a picture of who you are-what makes you special, what your strengths are, your uniqueness, if it doesn’t come out in your essay. You’re not writing a textbook; you’re trying to make the best case for the college to accept YOU. So your essay needs to be about you, without being conceited. And write with some flair. A dull essay not only may ruin your chances of acceptance, but it may not even be read all the way through if it’s not interesting.3. Play it straight. Don’t try to be cute, or sarcastic, or facetious. It’s the wrong time and place for attempts at humor, and I hate to say it, but you’re probably not nearly as funny as you think you are. You may be able to crack up your friends, but make no mistake, the admissions committee will not be laughing. They’re looking for people who take college seriously. A humorous reference or sentence or two is fine, but don’t try to make your essay into a comedy routine.3. Don’t tell them what they already know. If the committee has gotten to your essay, that means they’re already familiar with your academic record and achievements, so mentioning them isn’t necessary and only makes you look conceited.4. Play up your strengths, and don’t mention your weaknesses. Of course, if you’ve changed radically in the past few years, and have overcome some bad habits to buckle down and become a top student, feel free to write about that. But don’t mention that you could’ve done better in school had you spent less time watching TV or chasing girls. That’s probably not going to help your chances.5. Don’t focus on your race, gender, or sexual orientation. It’s okay to mention these if they have some relevance to your essay topic, but these facts alone shouldn’t be your entire essay. Colleges and universities are always seeking to increase diversity, but they are not looking for people who have no identity beyond their racial and gender identifications. Mention it, but don’t dwell on it.6. Don’t write a sob story. Just like being flippant or facetious, turning the essay into a long and obvious plea for sympathy is very likely to sour the reviewers on your application. It’s okay to mention that you spent months recovering from a terrible car accident. That‘s important, and can tell the committee a lot about what kind of person you are, but you certainly don’t want to make that the focus of your essay. Mention it if it’s germane, and then go on.7. Be sure to answer the question or address the topic. Some applicants spend so much time talking about themselves that they never get around to actually addressing the assigned topic. Needless to say, this will kill your chances of being accepted. Answer the question, and give evidence and arguments that back up your answer. 8. This should go without saying, but pay extremely close attention to spelling, grammar, sentence structure, and word usage. In this day and age of spell checkers and other computer tools, it’s harder to miss errors and typos. Which means that they’re even more inexcusable than they used to be. And none of these tools are perfect, so proofread, proofread, proofread. And then let others proofread your essay. You can’t be too careful.You’ll also want to demonstrate good writing skills. Your essay should be written with the reader in mind. If it doesn’t grab and hold their attention, then they may not even bother to read the whole thing. That would ruin your chance of being accepted. So make in interesting. Use some style. You don’t want your essay to sound like everyone else’s. And write logically and with good sentence and paragraph structure. You should outline your thoughts after you’ve selected your topic, and then make sure you follow the outline. You don’t want a rambling, discordant essay, which can easily result if you don’t outline the structure ahead of time. Don’t forget to check for typos and other errors. And read the essay out loud, because doing so is the only way to catch some errors. Use varying sentence lengths, and break them up-long sentences divided by short and medium ones. Avoid slang, and avoid using big words just to impress. If a longer or more unusual word is necessary, by all means use it, but if you’re just using it to show that you’re very intelligent it will be obvious to the reader, and their reaction won’t be positive. And don’t use “I” over and over, especially at the beginning of sentences. Also, as you hopefully learned in high school English but have probably forgotten, do not overuse the passive voice in your essay. In fact, don’t use the passive voice much at all. Active verbs are much more interesting to read. Don’t use your first sentence or two as a summary of what you’re about to write. They should be introductory sentences, where you set the stage for the rest of your essay. Likewise for your conclusion. It shouldn’t be a rehash of your main points, but a way to wrap things up and state some lessons learned or insights gained. Of course, you’ll want to avoid phrases like “lessons learned” and “I gained insights”, just as you most definitely don’t want to say something like “in conclusion”. Remember, avoid clich├ęs. Your essay reader has seen thousands of them, and will lump you in with the rest of the unoriginal writers they’ve seen. And, one more time, because it can’t be stressed enough-proofread your essay. Then have others proofread it. Then read it out loud to make sure it sounds right.

Friday, June 8, 2007

The multi-disciplinary school

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Not so long ago, business schools taught business and largely left it at that. Now, with the commercial world becoming increasingly globalized and multi-disciplinary, they are having to think in broader terms.
More or less every month, a school announces a joint study program linking business with other areas of knowledge.
Recent examples chronicled on Executive Education include joint business and government programs (see here), socially responsible business (here) and even military MBAs (here).
Now, a leading UK business school has gone a stage further in setting up a specific multi-disciplinary center with two partner institutions, one an engineering faculty, the other one of the most famous art and design schools in the world.
The new Design-London institution, being established at a cost of more than $10 million, is intended to help innovation by bringing together the fields of design, engineering, technology and business.
Its creation follows a major review of higher education carried out for the British government, which specifically recommended that institutions assist the country's business innovation through such "centers of excellence" touching on a number of areas of expertise.
'Innovation triangle'
Design-London joins London University's Tanaka Business School, the science and engineering-specific Imperial College -- of which Tanaka is part -- and the Royal College of Art (RCA), also based in the British capital.
The aim is create what is being dubbed an "innovation triangle" between design (represented by the RCA), engineering and technology (Imperial's faculty of engineering) and the business of innovation (Tanaka).
The founders hope that combined teaching will improve knowledge interchange between graduate students in business, arts and engineering. Research will also explore how design can be more effectively integrated with business and technology to create world-beating products and services.
Meanwhile, entrepreneurial-minded graduates from RCA and Imperial will be given the chance to develop new ideas in the "Incubator," a multi-disciplinary environment for business development allowing collaborations between different disciplines and organizations.
Separately, business partners of RCA and Imperial will be able to build innovation capacity via exercises in the so-called "Simulator."
"This is a really important stage of development for the RCA," said the college's head, Sir Christopher Frayling.
"Building on the triangle of design, technology and business at this high level is good for us and in time will be good, no doubt, for the British economy."
Sir Richard Sykes, head of Imperial College London, said the new institution would help his college's students become more business minded.
"Innovation is an important part of what we do at Imperial and we are constantly exploring new ways of turning exciting ideas into reality, encouraged greatly by the presence of an integrated business school," he said.
"Our previous collaborations with the RCA have sparked some imaginative problem-solving, so I'm delighted that this partnership provides further opportunities for us all to work together to tackle design challenges in a creative and dynamic multi-disciplinary environment."

Monday, June 4, 2007

Beware of title inflation

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Many people take MBAs with the intention of, somewhere down the line, picking up not only a fat salary check but also an impressive job title.
These days, according to new research by a leading business school, the latter could come sooner than you think. The bad news? Your fancy title might not mean very much.
The phenomenon responsible, as documented by the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, is so-called "title inflation."
This describes the process by which a company which once had a handful of easily identifiable top jobs -- CEO, chief financial officer -- can now have a string of staff with the word 'chief' at the head of their job description.
Apart from other by now relatively well known examples such as chief technology officer, chief marketing officer and, in some places, chief diversity officer, such titles -- many pioneered in the tech industries -- can include chief talent officer, chief cultural officer, chief reputation officer and even chief geek.
This in part reflects a long-term process of corporate restructuring away from simple hierarchies, says Betsey Stevenson, professor of business and public policy at Wharton.
"People want to be distinguished in some way from everyone else, but in a flat organization there is less hierarchy and therefore less opportunity to be distinguished," she says.
This can be a problem for high flyers seeking to reach the top, for example those with MBAs.
"One good thing about hierarchy is you can climb a corporate ladder. If there is no ladder, there is nothing to climb."
1970s phenomenon
The first examples of title inflation in the US corporate world appear to date back to the 1970s, when wage and price controls meant promotions could not always be matched with wage rises, meaning people were compensated with an impressive, resume-improving job title.
However, the researchers noted, new job titles are not always meaningless -- they can reflect changing business priorities, for example the post-Enron rash of chief ethics officers.
According to Wharton management professor Sarah Kaplan, the reason many companies give out new "chief" titles is "to signal the importance of that particular issue to the corporation. So you have a chief diversity officer because the company realizes that diversity is an important initiative."
But if pushed too far, title inflation can render job descriptions meaningless, potentially damaging both the holder and their company, warns Wharton management professor Ben Campbell.
"A company does need to be frugal," he says. "Not everyone can be above average. Firms should be deliberate about how they give these title awards out to employees, because each additional person who gets a C-level title dilutes the currency."
Another devalued title -- especially in the financial sector, targeted by many new MBAs -- is that of "vice president."
Vice presidents in the financial services industry "are typically sales positions," notes Wharton marketing professor Len Lodish.
"That's no big deal. And now even the title of president has been hit with inflation. The number of presidents within organizations has risen significantly in the last 15 years, especially as the pressure increases on companies to stay competitive when it comes to hiring and retaining employees.
"The companies aren't organized any differently; they are just giving people different titles. Being president doesn't mean what it once did."