Sunday, July 31, 2011

College admissions in England

Inside Higher Ed follows the Plan to Restructure British Higher Ed

"The British government released its long-awaited "white paper" on the future of higher education, offering a sweeping set of proposals that would produce dramatic changes in how the country would educate students and fund institutions.
"The reform plan released by British government's Department for Business Innovation and Skills says that in the first year of the new funding regime, around 65,000 high-achieving students will be able to go to whichever university will have them. This represents a change from the present strict controls on the number of students each university can accept. It raises the prospect of some elite institutions expanding their intake to vacuum up more top students.

"The government’s aim is to ensure that students with very high grades -- AAB or above -- on the country's college entrance exams will have a better chance of reaching their first choice of university.
"However, this new contestability will sit within an overall cap on the total number of student places in the sector. Consequently if some elite institutions expand their intake, it will be at the expense of others, which will necessarily have to shrink.

"It also means that highly selective institutions, such as those in the 1994 and Russell Groups (consortiums of elite universities), will have to compete for a large proportion of their students, many of whom already achieve AAB or above on the "A level" exams.
"Willetts denied that the government’s aim was to create an elite set of institutions in which all the top-achieving students were concentrated.

I’m not trying to plan the system. The whole point about this is we’re taking some steps back and it will be the choices of students and the reaction of institutions – I have no view on that,” he said.
"He argued that with funding following the student, and universities and colleges forced to compete for those students, the quality of teaching and learning, and the student experience, would rise.
“We’ve got very strong incentives to reward research, and the intense competition through the [research excellence framework] and research councils has yielded an incredibly strong research [base]. We haven’t had comparable incentives on teaching,” he said."


A followup article elaborates on the two tier structure being contemplated: New Competition in the UK

"Asked for comments on the changes ushered in by the white paper, two vice-chancellors were critical of plans to make another 20,000 student places "contestable" by auctioning them off to institutions that charge average fees, after waivers, of below £7,500 (about $12,000).
"Under the government’s proposals, universities with students who secured grades of AAB or higher would lose those students from their standard allocation of places, but would then be allowed to recruit as many above the AAB threshold as they wanted, provided they could attract them.

"As an estimated 65,000 such places become contestable, some universities will lose AAB students and will be forced to drop their average fees below £7,500 if they want to claw back their numbers.Times Higher Education understands that an elite group of just 10 institutions have 40 percent of all AAB students
"Martin Hall, vice-chancellor of the University of Salford, said the combined effect of the AAB plans and the sub-£7,500 auction would be to increase "social sorting." Applicants would increasingly "end up going to universities with students like themselves," he argued.

"Hall said the government was allowing universities with more privileged student cohorts to charge £9,000 because they were perceived to be "high quality," while seeking to force down fees at universities such as Salford with high proportions of disadvantaged students.

"We serve that group. That is our mission, and we try to serve them well," he said. "The assumption that we don’t do that through providing quality is completely untested. If you are serving students … from non-traditional university backgrounds … you have to provide more resources to help [them]. In my university, teaching provision costs more than in a so-called 'top' university, where students come in with two As and a B."

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Update on efforts to ban circumcision in CA

Here's a legal update on the matter, from the Volokhs... Court Tentatively Decides That State Law Preempts Proposed San Francisco Ban on Circumcision of Boys.

Some background on the effort to ban circumcision is in my earlier post here.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Hockey: the NHL draft is different

Yesterday's post, with an update at the bottom...

Four Harvard Freshmen Selected in NHL Draft

"Months before they’ll put on a Harvard uniform for the first time, four incoming Crimson freshmen were chosen in Saturday’s National Hockey League draft.
With these four additions, there will be eight NHL draftees on Harvard’s roster going into the 2011-12 season.
"The structure of the NHL draft differs from that of the other three major American sports. Unlike in MLB, the NBA, and the NFL, players selected by NHL teams can continue to compete on the amateur level while remaining the protected picks of the team that originally selected them.
Baseball, football, and basketball prospects are forced to choose between signing a professional contract or retaining amateur status and NCAA eligibility shortly after the draft."

Can someone fill us in  on why the NHL works this way? i.e. why do pro hockey draftees include students who are about to go to college?
Update (Friday, July 29):

Jaron Cordero writes with some relevant detail:

"NFL draft: to be eligible players must be out of high school for at least three years.

NBA draft: you have to be 19 years old to be eligible.

--So a student can't enter either draft before entering college.

NHL and MLB: you can be "drafted" and still retain NCAA eligibility. In fact, there are plenty cases each year where a player fresh out of high school will get drafted by a major league baseball franchise, but instead choose to play college baseball.

The difference between the NHL and MLB is their respective collective bargaining agreements:

The MLB's requires a team to sign their drafted player in order to retain exclusive right of negotiation for his services. NCAA legislation states that an athlete's amateur status is forfeited if he/she signs a contract with a professional team.

On the other hand, the NHL's CBA allows teams to retain the exclusive right of negotiation of a drafted player until the summer after the athlete graduates from college. Thus, the athlete is not forced to sign any contract with a professional team; therefore he keeps his status as an amateur."

Thanks, Jaron. I'm puzzling over a new set of questions, e.g. why are the agreements so different? E.g. in MLB, they seem to think that playing in the minors is the way they want to develop players, in contrast to football, where players often develop in college. (Maybe because for football you have to see how big they are going to be when full grown?)  Is hockey somewhere in between?

Can new science universities flourish in Saudi Arabia? In Egypt? In China?

I've written before about the difficulties of breaking into the top ranks of universities, and so it will be very interesting to watch what becomes of well funded attempts to create first rate technical institutes that will concentrate on subjects which shouldn't be religiously or politically controversial.

There's a well-funded attempt in Saudi Arabia, and also a post-revolution proposal for something similar in Egypt, although a pre-revolution attempt at a new technical university appears to be running into trouble. And finally there's China, which seems much more likely to succeed.

The Chronicle of Higher Ed reports on Saudia and Egypt:

 Saudi Arabia's $10-Billion Experiment Is Ready for Results

A Promising Egyptian Research University Gets Tangled in Post-Revolutionary Politics

Here's the Saudi story:

"King Abdullah University of Science and Technology is an anomaly many times over: a spectacular campus in the middle of nowhere; an international, co-ed institution in a gender-segregated society; and an aspiring world-class research graduate university created virtually overnight.

"Kaust, as it is known, also faces a unique challenge. It must convince the world that through a combination of wealth and vision, it can flourish in one of the most restrictive countries in the world. Many here believe that the next year will be a critical one in its development.
"King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia's absolute ruler, donated the university's $10-billion endowment in the hope that Kaust will make his country "a player in global science," says Kaust's president, Choon Fong Shih, who formerly headed the National University of Singapore.
"The university is organized around nine research centers, which focus, for example, on advanced membranes and porous materials, plant-stress genomics, and solar and photovoltaics engineering. The work of all these centers feeds into three fields key to Saudi Arabia's future: solar energy, water desalination, and drought-resistant crops.
"Yet while the university has been able to attract established senior academics ready for another challenge before retirement, as well as promising young faculty taking what they hope will be a career-making gamble, it remains difficult to lure tenured professors in the middle of their careers (especially since Kaust, in line with Saudi Arabia's labor laws, can offer five-year rolling contracts but not tenure).
"The university has also made every effort to attract a bright cohort of international students. Admission comes with free housing, insurance and a yearly round-trip ticket home; students receive $20,000 to $30,000 stipends.
"The institution is particularly concerned with attracting Saudi students since one of its main goals is to create a new scientific elite for the country. Saudi students make up between 15 and 20 percent of about 300 students now at Kaust. The university plans to eventually enroll 2,000 graduate and 1,000 postdoctoral students.

"The number of Saudi students with the required English and science skills is limited, and Kaust must compete for them with international universities. And it must teach some of those skills itself."
"Several Saudi observers expressed doubts about the university's future, saying there is no guarantee that whoever succeeds the 87-year-old King Abdullah will share his vision for it."

That last line brings us right into the story about the Egyptian university:

"When Nile University opened four years ago, it offered something unusual in Egyptian higher education. In a country with weak research infrastructure, the small private nonprofit engaged students and professors in applied research in high-demand fields, such as information technology and construction engineering. Over time, it has developed global partnerships and international support.

"But today the university finds itself in the cross hairs of post-revolutionary politics. The government has repossessed its soon-to-be new campus. Uncertain about the institution's fate, many corporate and philanthropic backers have stopped their donations.

"A high-placed government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the state was "rectifying" the improper allocation of public land and funds to a private university. Supporters say the university is a target because it was supported, and is thus now tainted, by the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak.

The story goes on to say that there's a new, post-revolutionary plan for a technological university in Egypt.

"Mr. Zewail, the Egyptian-American Nobel laureate, says he was contacted by Egyptian government officials shortly after the revolution and asked to revive his 10-year-old proposal for a city of science and technology that will combine a university, research centers, and a technology park. In a few months, Mr. Zewail has raised over $100-million in donations. The university that will be part of the planned city will have a different, more ambitious mission than Nile's. "It will be a national project," says Mr. Zewail, "not a private university. But I do feel very strongly we should help students and first-rate researchers" from the troubled university, he says, by absorbing as many of them as possible."

In China, there are also political restrictions on universities, but there shouldn't be any problem finding technically well qualified and motivated students, although there may be other cultural barriers to overcome (aside from political ones). Here's a Chronicle story on that:

News Analysis: China Looks to Western Partners to Reshape Its Universities

"Last year the University of Nottingham, which runs the oldest foreign branch campus in China, was approached by government officials from Shanghai asking if it would consider opening another location, this one 140 miles north of its undergraduate campus in Ningbo.

"The project would involve a substantial donation by a wealthy Chinese philanthropist, along with a host of government perks, including enough land to support an enrollment of 4,000. In return, Shanghai municipal officials hoped Nottingham would build a research-oriented campus in Pudong, Shanghai's major development zone. There, graduate students and professors could work on such subjects as drug development, stem-cell research, and regenerative medicine.
"Through speeches and policy papers, the Ministry of Education has made clear in recent years that it is unhappy with the widespread use of rote learning and narrowly defined academic programs at its universities. Last year it came out with a 10-year plan for educational reform that outlined what it viewed as the system's deficiencies.

"With China's booming and increasingly modern economy as a backdrop, the plan proposed to introduce Western-style critical thinking and interdisciplinary work into the college curriculum, and expose students to other Western concepts, such as experiential learning and professional training. The government also wants to introduce more programs taught in English."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Brandeis and critics agree that sales of donated art are repugnant

After a change in presidents, the controversy about whether Brandeis University could sell its art has ended, Inside Higher Ed reports: Brandeis Will Keep Its Art

"One of the flashpoints in the debate over whether colleges and universities should ever sell significant works of art was resolved Thursday -- with Brandeis University pledging to strengthen the Rose Art Museum rather than sell its masterpieces.

"Based on the promise, four supporters of the museum who sued the university two years ago agreed to end the litigation. Further, the Massachusetts attorney general's office has agreed to end its inquiry into the university's handling of the art collection.
"There have been several cases in recent years of colleges trying to sell or being pressured to sell parts of valuable collections. Fisk University remains in a legal battle over its desire to sell (or to partly sell) a $30 million collection of modern paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe and others. The University of Iowa this year fended off calls for it to sell Jackson Pollock's "Mural," an 8-by-20 foot painting that is considered one of the masterpieces of abstract art and of modern American art. Some estimated that the painting could have brought in as much as $140 million.

"Longstanding policy in the art world is that donated works of art be sold only to finance the purchase of more art, not to have the funds shifted to other purposes. So art supporters at Brandeis and elsewhere were stunned when the university in 2009 announced plans to shut the Rose Art Museum and sell off its works.
"The university made the announcement in January 2009, with officials citing a major hit taken by the endowment and severe budget problems facing Brandeis. “These are extraordinary times,” said a statement from Jehuda Reinharz, then the university's president, as the decision was announced. “We cannot control or fix the nation’s economic problems. We can only do what we have been entrusted to do -- act responsibly with the best interests of our students and their futures foremost in mind.”

The decision immediately prompted an outpouring of anger at the university from supporters of the arts, and donors to the Rose. Eventually, the university faced the lawsuit, an inquiry from the state, and widespread condemnation -- even as Brandeis put the plans to sell the art on hold.

"David A. Robertson, director of the Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University, was president of the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries when the initial Brandeis plans were announced. He said Thursday that he was thrilled with the news that the university was committing itself to strengthening the collection.
"The Brandeis controversy was "the flagship problem" for those worried about the sale of art, because of both the caliber of the university and the stature of the collection, he said. "It was very detrimental to art that Brandeis would have considered that move," he said.
"The debate over art at Brandeis has been valuable, Robertson said, in that it has "made other institutions aware of the issues that revolve around their collections." He said he hoped the uproar Brandeis has faced would discourage similar proposals."


Here's the museum website: The Rose Art Museum

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

NSF Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences--attack and defense

As budget talks go on in Washington, the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences division of the National Science Foundation has become a specific focus of discussion (as distinguished from support for other science funded by NSF). The Consortium of Social Science Associations posts a number of documents, including Talking Points, which highlights some of the economics research funded by NSF over the years, including several research streams in market design (e.g. spectrum auctions and kidney exchange).

"According to the Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA), amendments will probably be offered to disproportionately cut or completely eliminate funding for the National Science Foundation's Social, Behavioral, and Economic (SBE) Sciences Directorate when NSF's 2012 appropriations are voted on by the House.
"Amendments to cut NSF/SBE funding are most likely to be submitted when the spending bill comes to the House floor in the first week of August.

"We are calling this to your attention now because there might not be enough time for AEA members to express their opinions once the amendment is proposed and before it is voted on. Economists of all people understand the need to take action to deal with the U.S. fiscal challenge. But these amendments might target the social sciences for disproportionate funding reductions and possibly elimination. Economic research has profound value for society and we want to make sure that this is understood by policymakers. Although the NSF budget for the social and behavioral sciences is small (in FY2010 $255 million out of a total NSF budget of $7 billion), eliminating it would have very negative consequences for economic research and economic policy.

"The following are some reasons why Republicans and Democrats both should oppose this amendment:
Unique Role: NSF’s SBE Directorate is the only place in the Federal government with a broad mandate to maintain and strengthen the basic science of economics. It provides over one-half of all external support by the Federal government for basic research in economics. SBE’s Economics Program current budget is only $26.5 million. Although other government agencies, private foundations and the private sector support applied and some basic economics research, none have the resources and the incentives to support the new methods, data and broad range of substantive research funded by NSF. Severe cuts in an already small NSF budget for economics would be a major blow to the infrastructure needed to support the best research on extremely complex and important economic questions.

Very High Return on Past Investments: Since 1994 spectrum auctions have generated more than $50 billion for the U.S. Treasury and worldwide revenues in excess of $200 billion. Researchers at Stanford University and the California Institute of Technology, supported by grants from NSF, developed the simultaneous ascending auction mechanism as a technique for auctioning off multiple goods whose values are not fixed but depend on each other. The mechanism was then tested experimentally in a laboratory, also financed by NSF, before its implementation by the Federal Communications Commission. These auctions not only benefit the US taxpayer, but ensure efficient allocation of spectra so that the winners of the auction are indeed the individuals who value the spectra the most. This method has also been extended to the sale of divisible goods in electricity, gas, and environmental markets.

Innovation and Adoption of New Technologies: SBE funded a number of awards that have resulted in fundamental advances in our understanding of the economic factors that encourage innovation and the adoption of new technologies. For example, Nicholas Bloom at Stanford University was awarded a Faculty Early CAREER Development award for his research into the role innovation plays in determining economic productivity and growth. This research includes developing new data collection methods for measuring management practices and adoption of information technology (IT) in business. Using an innovative double-blind survey, he has been able to gather systematic evidence about the effects of specific management practices on the success and failure of firms. His research also has shed new light on the links between increased use of IT and patterns of international trade between the US and less developed countries. Other
work supported by SBE contributes to our understanding of how uncertainty shocks affect decisions made by businesses that in turn contribute to macroeconomic fluctuations.

Lives Saved: Researchers in economics at Harvard University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Boston College have applied economic matching theory to develop a system that dramatically improves the ability of doctors to find compatible kidneys for patients on transplant lists. Organ donation is an example of an exchange that relies on mutual convergence of need; in this case, a donor and a recipient. This system allows matches to take place in a string of exchanges, shortening the waiting time and, in the case of organ transplants, potentially saving thousands of lives. Similar matching markets exist in other contexts, for example, for assigning doctors to residencies or students to schools.

Millions Lifted out of Poverty: Microfinance has spread very rapidly in the last decade, raising the hope that it has the power to lift millions out of poverty by providing them with access to capital. Loans are often given to groups of five to ten women who are jointly liable for the loan to the group. Basic research findings from SBE grants have led to important practical advice for microfinance practitioners. SBE grantee Esther Duflo was named by TIME magazine one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2011 for her work this area.

• Many More Accomplishments: ...

In a possibly related development, the NSF recently (June 2011) highlighted some of our early (1992 and 2006) grants: Economists Design Life-Saving Exchange for Kidney Transplants

Monday, July 25, 2011

More on deceased organ donation in Israel

In an earlier post I wrote about the recent Israeli legislation giving priority for deceased donor organs to those who have themselves registered as potential donors. Now, Haaretz reports on some difficulties that may present themselves in implementing the law as intended: Officials: New donor cards will reduce organ transplants

"Health officials are worried that the Knesset will authorize changes to organ donor cards that would move certain people up the waiting list for transplants without increasing the overall number of transplants. The officials are putting the blame on religious groups.

"In the current format, a potential donor may condition a donation on the decision of a clergyman of the family's choice.

""But MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima ) has put forth a bill to be sent to the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. The bill would amend Article 28 of the organ transplant law of May 2008. Potential donors would be able to specify a religious figure or rabbinical committee that would approve an organ donation after the person's death.

"Over the past year, changes have been made that allow the health authorities to give preference in the transplant waiting list to anyone who signs an organ donor card.

"Health officials suspect that the proposed legislation is part of an effort by religious groups to bypass the system. In effect, people who do not genuinely intend to donate organs would receive preferential treatment while on the waiting list for a transplant. Their religious patron would then veto the organ donation if the person dies.

"A senior source in the medical establishment says that "this proposal may significantly curtail organ transplants in Israel."

"The privilege of being moved up on the waiting list if one is a donor is meant to go into effect in January for everyone who signs the donor card by then. The privilege can be exercised only three years after signing the card.
"The tension between the rabbis and doctors over organ transplants dates to 1986, when the Chief Rabbinate demanded that a religious representative be present when determining brain death. Only in 2009 was legislation on brain death approved, after a compromise forged by Schneller. The law requires that brain death be determined by a medical committee and objective machine-based data.

"Still, the Chief Rabbinate refused to acknowledge that brain death is a condition that allows for organs to be donated and transplanted."

HT: Maya Bar Hillel and Assaf Romm

Sunday, July 24, 2011

764 anniversaries in NYC

I thought of heading this post "7/24 to be an anniversary for 764."

New York City will be conducting a lot of marriages today: Expecting Overload on Day 1 of Gay Marriage, City Sets 764-Wedding Limit

"Demand for same-sex marriage in New York is so great that the city has decided to cap at 764 the number of couples who can be wed at clerks’ offices on Sunday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said on Tuesday.

"Mr. Bloomberg said the city would hold a lottery to determine which couples, gay or straight, will be allowed to marry at the five borough clerks’ offices. Sunday is likely to break the single-day record for marriages performed by the city, which currently stands at 621."
There will also be weddings elsewhere in NY State, some at the stroke of midnight:
"The first marriages were scheduled to take place just after midnight in Niagara Falls, where officials planned to illuminate the famous cascade in the colors of a rainbow, and in Albany, where an eager mayor planned to marry eight gay couples.
"Not everyone will be celebrating. Town clerks in at least two rural communities have resigned in recent days, saying their religious convictions precluded them from marrying gay couples, and some cities will see public demonstrations on Sunday. The National Organization for Marriage is planning protests on Sunday afternoon..."


And in related news (related through the transformation of a formerly repugnant transaction into an ordinary one),
"President Obama formally certified on Friday that the American military is ready for the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy as Pentagon officials said that nearly two million service members had been trained in preparation for gay men and women serving openly in their ranks."

"Enactment of the repeal will come in 60 days, on Sept. 20. The two-month waiting period is called for in the legislation passed late last year that ended “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the 17-year-old law that banned openly gay men, lesbians and bisexuals from military service.

“As of Sept. 20, service members will no longer be forced to hide who they are in order to serve our country,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. He signed the certification, along with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about 3:30 p.m. in the Oval Office."

Mazel tov to all...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Behavioral Economics in Management Science

Kathleen McGinn forwards the following announcement, a version of which also appears here:

Given the tremendous growth and importance of behavioral economics research and building on the success of our Behavioral Economics and Finance Special Issue (which is scheduled to appear in the January 2012 issue), we have created a new department in Management Science: 
Behavioral Economics
We provide below our editorial team, the editorial statement for the department and information about Management Science. You are receiving this email most likely because you have reviewed or submitted to Management Science.  Please pass on this information to all that may be interested. 

Department Editors:
Uri Gneezy, University of California, San Diego
Teck-Hua Ho, University of California, Berkeley
John List, University of Chicago

Associate Editors:
Nick Bloom,Stanford University
Colin Camerer, California Institute of Technology
Jeffrey Carpenter, Middlebury College
Gary Charness, University of California, Santa Barbara
Yan Chen,  University of Michigan
Anna Dreber,  Stockholm School of Economics
Simon Gaechter,   University of Nottingham
Stephan Meier,  Columbia University
Klaus Schmidt,  Univeristy of Munich
Andrew Schotter,  New York University
Uri Simonsohn,  University of Pennsylvania
Matthias Sutter,  University of Innsbruck
Chad Syverson,  University of Chicago
John van Reenen,  London School of Economics
Roberto Weber,   University of Zurich  

Editorial Statement:
The Behavioral Economics Department seeks to publish original research broadly related to behavioral economics. We welcome laboratory experiments, field studies, empirical and theoretical papers. The goal of the Department is to promote research on incentives and behavior in domains such as markets, groups and individual decision making.  In the cross-disciplinary tradition of Management Science, we encourage research that draws ideas from multiple disciplines including economics, psychology, sociology, and statistics to provide novel insights on behavioral economics.  In all cases, manuscripts should provide high quality original approaches to behavioral economics, should be motivated such that the importance of the results are clear to nonspecialists and have important managerial implications for business and public policy.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Real estate agents as middlemen

A new NBER paper examines real estate agents in Boston:
The Costs of Free Entry: An Empirical Study of Real Estate Agents in Greater Boston,
by Panle Jia Barwick and Parag A. Pathak

Abstract: This paper studies the real estate brokerage industry in Greater Boston, an industry with low entry barriers and substantial turnover. Using a comprehensive dataset of agents and transactions from 1998-2007, we find that entry does not increase sales probabilities or reduce the time it takes for properties to sell, decreases the market share of experienced agents, and leads to a reduction in average service quality. These empirical patterns motivate an econometric model of the dynamic optimizing behavior of agents that serves as the foundation for simulating counterfactual market structures. A one-half reduction in the commission rate leads to a 73% increase in the number of houses each agent sells and benefits consumers by about $2 billion. House price appreciation in the first half of the 2000s accounts for 24% of overall entry and a 31% decline in the number of houses sold by each agent. Low cost programs that provide information about past agent performance have the potential to increase overall productivity and generate significant social savings.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Middlemen and repugnance

Luke Coffman has shown how employing a middleman can reduce the apparent blameworthiness of an action ( Intermediation Reduces Punishment (And Reward) , forthcoming, American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, , November 2011)

But being a middleman is complicated. Just as adding money to some transactions can sometimes change them to something that is regarded as repugnant and perhaps illegal (e.g. selling a kidney versus donating one), so can adding a middleman.  And it matters how the middleman is compensated.

Inside Higher Ed reports on the controversy surrounding middlemen who act as marketers for colleges: Holding the Line on Agents

"The National Association for College Admission Counseling has long had a policy barring commission payments to anyone for recruiting or enrolling students. The policy is consistent with U.S. law with regard to domestic students -- a statute that was developed in part out of concerns over admissions practices at some for-profit institutions.

The U.S. law doesn't apply to the recruitment of foreign students -- and a growing number of colleges have employed agents, who are paid in part on commission, to recruit abroad. Advocates for the use of agents have been encouraging NACAC to consider differentiating between the recruitment of foreign and domestic students, and permitting commissions for recruiting the former. But NACAC appears headed in the opposite direction. The association's board has released a draft policy revision that clarifies the issue only by being more explicit that the ban on commissions applies whether the recruited students are in the U.S. or abroad.
"NACAC is not opposed to the use of agents or agencies to recruit international students," the draft states. "We believe, however, that the use of agents who are compensated in the form of bonus, commission or other incentive payment on the basis of the number of students recruited or enrolled creates an environment in which misrepresentation and conflicts of interests are unavoidable."

The Chronicle of Higher Ed also covers the matter:
Use of Paid Agents to Recruit International Students Sparks Lively Debate at Forum

"The practice of using commissioned agents to bring in foreign students to American colleges and universities came under sharp criticism during an international-education conference organized by the U.S. State Department, with one panelist comparing it to contracting out the student-recruitment process to a car salesman.
"The practice of paying overseas agents for the students they recruit has become more contentious as it has grown more common among American colleges. Proponents say it can help attract students in an increasingly competitive global student market, and they note that other countries, like Australia and Britain, rely on foreign representatives to bring in students.
But a primary membership group for admissions officials, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, or NACAC, has released a proposed policy statement that would expressly forbid colleges from using commission-based agents to recruit domestically or internationally. (Institutions cannot pay commissions for domestic students if they receive federal financial-aid funds.)
"One person who was clear about where he stood was Mr. Nassirian. "It's a very simple proposition," Mr. Nassirian said. "It stinks to high heaven."
In his comments, Mr. Nassirian criticized the American International Recruiting Council, a group that has begun to set standards for and accredit overseas recruiters, calling its efforts "laughably inadequate."
"It's like attempting to regulate bribery overseas so it is done ethically," he said.
Officials for the recruiting group, which is known as AIRC, were not present at the event, and no supporters of paying overseas commissions were included on the panel. In an e-mail message, Mitch Leventhal, AIRC's founder, called Mr. Nassirian "long on bombast and short on facts."
"It is unconscionable to stand in the way of these developments, which are aimed at protecting students and which are being undertaken from within the mainstream of American higher education," said Mr. Leventhal, who is vice chancellor for global affairs at the State University of New York. "Rather than inventing facts, these critics would be well served to read the AIRC standards and suggest specific modifications, which will lead to a better outcome."

And here is the AIRC site, which includes a memo reply to NACAC:
"AIRC agrees with NACAC that “it is in the interests of institutions of higher education, as well as the public diplomacy of the U.S. itself,  to maintain high standards for the recruitment of students.” We also agree that there is potential  for misrepresentation, fraud,
and other unethical behavior in an “unregulated” international student recruitment environment.

"However, AIRC is convinced that the proposed ban on commission-­‐based international
recruitment would not be an effective way to achieve these goals."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Kaushik Basu on India

Kaushik Basu, Currently on leave from Cornell as Chief Economic Adviser, Government of India, gives a wide ranging interview.

On Indian bureaucrats and bureaucracy:
"But one of my big surprises when I joined the government of India was to see the quality of the top civil servants in India. They really are very talented people, because it is a highly competitive system of recruitment. But the efficiency of the bureaucracy leaves so much to be desired. It’s like getting a bunch of ace drivers and then getting caught up in a traffic jam and leaving them there. There is something in the system which makes it go very slowly and sluggishly. I’ve felt this frustration as an ordinary citizen before I joined government, and I feel it now because I feel that if we can do better then India’s economy can really take off.

"There are two major things that can hold back an economy. One is the physical infrastructure, and the other is this soft infrastructure, which is the bureaucracy. On the physical infrastructure, I’m very optimistic that India is going to change. Even within the next four to five years, you’ll see the change. There is investment happening, the government is putting in money, and it will improve. On the bureaucratic side, it’s very tough. Everyone frets about it, but you don’t quite know where to begin. I’m less hopeful on that. However, the economy has done well despite that because, mercifully, one big difference with China is that India’s government, despite the inefficiency, doesn’t quite have the power of the Chinese government."

"Now to my policymaking work. In our everyday life, we have to practice what I call normal economics. You have to recognise and respect the laws of the market, allow individual enterprise to flourish, international trade has to be open, and all the regular things economists say I would also repeat. At the same time we must not blight our chances of a more idealistic world. My book is based on two views of the invisible hand. For Adam Smith, the invisible hand was the little minions going about their everyday life, unwittingly creating order. That’s true in many domains, and its discovery was a major scientific breakthrough. But I contrast it with Kafka’s view, drawing on The Trial and The Castle, where little minions are going about their everyday chores without thinking about the larger implications of their actions and they create a horrific world. The book argues that both these visions have a role to play. Economists have given complete predominance and priority to the Smithian view, but we should be aware of the Kafkaesque view of what can happen and take guard against such a predicament.

Have you been able to move that into the policy world in your current job?

"No. My work as a policymaker is to attend to everyday life. This is what I meant by normal economics. What I do now is normal economics. I have to make sure that prices don’t rise too fast, interest rates don’t fluctuate too much, India’s economic growth is rapid and sustained, and unemployment is low. There is a lot of standard economics that addresses these matters. We need to apply this accumulated wisdom well and that’s what I try to do my best with. To reject all standard economic theory as conspiracy, as some do, is a big mistake. It can only lead to policy failure. But, at the same time, we must not abandon the somewhat utopian project of creating a distinctly better world some day. This needs a lot of analysis and research. The possibility of such a world is what my book is about.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kosher and Halal slaughtering repugnant in the Netherlands

Dutch slaughter ban sparks Jewish and Muslim outrage
"Just one week after the acquittal of fiery far-right politician Geert Wilders, the Dutch parliament struck another blow against multiculturalism in the Netherlands yesterday with the passage of a bill banning ritual animal slaughter. The bill requires that all animals be stunned before being slaughtered, a requirement that conflicts with halal and kosher stipulations that animals be fully conscious.
The bill was initially proposed by the Party of the Animals, which holds two seats in the 146-seat Dutch parliament and maintains that ritual methods of slaughter are inhumane. It gained support from centrists on similar grounds, but Wilders's Freedom Party has also been a longtime proponent. In fact, it was Wilders who first raised the issue in 2007 when he objected to halal meat being served at a public school in Amsterdam.
The ban has provoked a furious reaction from Jewish and Muslim leaders in the Netherlands and Europe. From Reuters:
"The very fact that there is a discussion about this is very painful for the Jewish community," Netherlands Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs told Reuters. "Those who survived the (second world) war remember the very first law made by the Germans in Holland was the banning of schechita or the Jewish way of slaughtering animals."
It should be noted that a last-minute amendment attached to the bill states that halal and kosher slaughterhouses will be able to apply for special permits if they can show that their methods do not cause more pain than non-ritual methods. But some are skeptical of the permit process's efficacy, and the European Jewish Congress is already considering challenging the law in court."

Monday, July 18, 2011

Peter Cramton video on the Medicare Auction

"If you are building a bridge, you need a bridge expert. If you're building an auction, you need an auction expert."

From the 12 minute video Peter Cramton has posted at Medicare auctions update: video and legislation

Congestion in airports--landing at Logan

One of the things that makes airports congested is the safety margin needed between planes as they takeoff and land. So I was a little surprised when, walking along Boston harbor, I saw planes landing simultaneously on parallel runways at Logan airport. Here's a picture.

Apparently it's been going on for a long time, quite safely. Ben Edelman points me to the DRAFT MANUAL ON SIMULTANEOUS OPERATIONS ON PARALLEL OR NEAR-PARALLEL INSTRUMENT RUNWAYS (SOIR)

And Jerry Green gives the rules for Logan, with the aid of this airport diagram:

( )

Jerry writes:
"There are a couple of combinations of runways that can be used simultaneously for landing.  Ideally Logan likes to have three active runways: one will be for landing only, one for departure only and the other one can do both, depending on the wind and the types of aircraft involved.
You will need to look at the attached airport diagram to make sense of what I will say below.
The only combination at Logan where both landing runways are instrument runways (i.e. conducting instrument approaches, possibly in bad weather) is where they land on 27 and 22L and depart on 22R. In this case the aircraft cleared to land on 22L is told to “hold short” of 27, and that means that they are not allowed past the point marked LASHO (Land and Hold Short Operations) on 22L. Usually the aircraft sent to 22L are turbo props, small private jets or smaller things (like Cape Air). They can easily make the LASHO restriction.  The larger jets get to use all of 27.
In the other combinations that allow two landing runways one of them is conducting visual approaches, and in most cases  that runway does not even have the equipment to conduct instrument approaches.  These are:
Land on 4R and4L. This is the picture you have sent (I can see that from the fact that they are both over the harbor) – 4R is an instrument runway but 4L is a visual runway.  In this configuration runway 9 is used for departures only (it is not an instrument runway and no one ever lands on it because their approach would come very close to hitting the State Street Bank building downtown).  This is the most common three runway configuration since Logan frequently has a sea breeze from the East in the summer, favorable for this set up.
Another one is landing on 27 and 32, and departing on 33L.  Here 27 is an instrument runway and 32 is a visual runway. Another factor in this set up is that the final approaches for 32 and 33L would cross each other about 5 miles out, so even though they are almost parallel they can’t both be landing runways at the same time.  But as 27 and 32 to do not intersect, they can be used for landing at the same time.  This is a common set up when there is a strong Northwest wind.
That’s about it for simultaneous landing operations with three runways in use.  There are quite a number of two runway configurations with intersecting runways which can be used when things are not as busy. One of these is landing on 15R and departing on 9, used frequently on bad weather days with strong winds from the Southeast. This is a particularly difficult one for the controllers as they don’t like to use the LAHSO restriction on 15R, holding short of 9, when the weather is bad.  Pilots add a little extra speed in gusty winds which makes the aircraft take a longer landing rollout.  They have to be sure they can make the LASHO restriction.  If a pilot is asked to do LAHSO and he has any doubt about it, then he is supposed to say that he is “unable” and the controller will delete the restriction and not let the other aircraft depart on runway 9 until the landing aircraft has stopped or exited onto a taxiway. That slows things down and reduces the airport’s capacity.
All this makes Logan an interesting case of “aircraft choreography”.  
Update: I feel like a photographer.  After a delay of only eight years (around the time it takes a paper to be published in an Economics journal), the photograph I took at the top of this post has been republished in Milton at, appropriately cited by a caption saying "This image shows two planes landing in parallel on runways 4L and 4R, which both fly over Milton. The photo was taken by Professor Alvin Roth, the Gund Professor of Economics and Business Administration Emeritus at Harvard and winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Economics."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

NRMP to require participating programs to include all positions in the match


"At its May 16, 2011 meeting, the NRMP Board of Directors voted unanimously to require programs participating in the Main Residency Match to place all positions in the Match. The so-called "All-In" Policy will become effective for the 2013 Match that opens for registration on September 1, 2012. The policy will affect all PGY-1 positions and PGY-2 positions in advanced programs.
The NRMP will continue to accept comments on implementation of the policy, especially as it relates to possible exceptions for residents who enter training off-cycle, GME programs in rural and geographically underserved areas, combined clinical-research programs, and accelerated programs. Final implementation rules will be adopted in May 2012. Read how to submit comments to the NRMP."

The accompanying document includes the following background information, which suggests that at least some positions have matched early (e.g. to the 567 applicants who were withdrawn at "applicant's request"):

HT: Nikhil Agarwal

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Wife sales

File under 'formerly not as repugnant as now..."

Wife Sales, by Peter T. Leeson , Peter J. Boettke, Jayme S. Lemke,  June 7, 2011


For over a century English husbands sold their wives at public auctions. We argue that wife sales were indirect Coasean divorce bargains that permitted wives to buy the right to exit marriage from their husbands in a legal environment that denied them the property rights required to buy that right directly. Wife-sale auctions identified "suitors" - men who valued unhappy wives more than their current husbands, who unhappy wives valued more than their current husbands, and who had the property rights required to buy unhappy wives' right to exit marriage from their husbands. These suitors enabled spouses in inefficient marriages to dissolve their marriages where direct Coasean divorce bargains between them were impossible. Wife sales were an efficiency-enhancing institutional response to the unusual constellation of property rights that Industrial Revolution-era English law created. They made husbands, suitors, and wives better off.

HT: John Hatfield

Friday, July 15, 2011

The job market in gastrointestinal endoscopy

After completing a 3 year subspecialty match in gastroenterology, doctors wishing to specialize further can do a fellowship in advanced endoscopy. The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy is trying to organize that job market, and, at least for this year, they are doing something quite different from a standard medical match. Aside from a system of prescribed dates (First date to offer an interview: 4/1/2011; First date to offer a position 7/15/2011: Fellowship start date: 7/1/2012), the process is described to applicants (in a letter) as follows:

"At 12pm EDT on July 15th, all program directors will send out an email to their top
choice. The fellow will then have 1 hour to decide if they wish to take that position or
wait for other offers. Please send a return email confirming that you got the offer.
You may respond at any time during that hour, ideally as soon as you make your
decision. If you do not respond within that hour, the program director may move on to
their second choice, so please respond within the hour.

"One of 2 things will then happen once you respond:

1. If you have chosen the offer, and send an affirmative email, the program
director will then send an email ASAP to all of its other applicants to
alert them that the spot has been filled, so that other applicants will be
aware that that position at that particular institution is no longer

2. If you chose to reject the offer, please alert the program director via email
ASAP, so that the program director can then make an offer to the next
applicant on the list.

"If after the 15th (and the weekend of the 16th-17th) you do not have a position, please
go to the ASGE AEF website, and a list of programs with open positions will be
posted so that you may contact any of them if you like.

"I know that this non-electronic “match” is not ideal, but until we adopt an electronic
match (hopefully next year) we hope this format works without too many glitches."

Note that this is a system of "exploding offers", so one can expect some communication between participants before the appointed hour... (See also the discussion of similar problems I anticipate in the proposed new rules for the residency scramble (SOAP)).

Gastroenterology fellowships enjoy a successful match, so it seems reasonable to speculate that the fellowship in advanced endoscopy will turn to one after trying this.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Misc. repugnant transactions

What is it about mercenaries? Deane-Peter Baker explores the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights view on the repugnance of mercenaries:  Are mercenaries just warriors?

"In its most recent annual session, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed resolution A/HRC/15/L.31, which addresses “The use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination”. In the resolution, the UNHRC declares itself, among other things, to be “Extremely alarmed and concerned about recent mercenary activities in developing countries in various parts of the world, in particular in areas of conflict, and the threat they pose to the integrity and respect of the constitutional order of the affected countries.”
"Consider first the title of the mercenary resolution. It’s directed against “The use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination.” That certainly sounds like something to be concerned about. After all, violating human rights and the self-determination of peoples is undoubtedly a bad thing. But, on reflection, it seems somewhat odd for the resolution to be focused on mercenaries. To see why this is so, consider another, fictional, UNHRC resolution directed against “The use of boxcutters as a means of hijacking passenger aircraft in order to crash them into buildings and commit mass murder and violate state sovereignty.” If I were to read the title of such a UNHRC resolution my first instinct would undoubtedly be that this is something I’d want to support. But then it would be very odd indeed if the resolution turned out to be all about the evils of boxcutters. That would seem to miss the point, to say the least.

"Perhaps, however, we might imagine from its title that the point of the mercenary resolution is to delineate inappropriate uses of mercenary forces (violating human rights, impeding peoples’ self-determination) from legitimate uses of mercenaries. If that were so, then focusing the resolution on mercenaries would make some sense. It turns out, however, that this is not the case. As we read on further we find the UNHRC expressing itself to be “Convinced that, notwithstanding the way in which mercenaries or mercenary-related activities are used or the form they take to acquire a semblance of legitimacy, they are a threat to peace, security and the self-determination of peoples and an obstacle to the enjoyment of human rights by peoples.” So, then, no matter how they are used and no matter what form they take, mercenaries are nonetheless a threat to peace, security, the self-determination of peoples, and human rights."

"win a baby" game draws fire
"A controversial IVF lottery will launch in Britain this month giving prospective parents the chance to win thousands of pounds toward expensive fertility treatments in top clinics.

"The scheme, which the media have dubbed "win a baby," has already run into trouble on ethical grounds with critics calling it inappropriate and demeaning to human reproduction.

"Britain's Gambling Commission has granted a license to fertility charity, To Hatch, to run the game from July 30.

"Every month, winners can scoop 25,000 pounds' ($40,175) worth of tailor-made treatments at one of the UK's top five fertility clinics for the price of a 20 pound ticket bought online. The tickets may eventually be sold in newsagents.

"The lottery is open to single, gay and elderly players as well as heterosexual couples struggling to start a family.

"If standard IVF fails, individuals can be offered reproductive surgery, donor eggs and sperm or a surrogate birth, the charity says, though the winner will only be able to choose one treatment."
"Britain's fertility regulator, The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said using IVF as a prize was "wrong and entirely inappropriate."
"The Gambling Commission said it had noted reaction to the scheme but said it had no regulatory powers to intervene and that any decision to revoke a license would be a government one.

"This particular example, perhaps, has thrown up some questions which may need looking at and whether that is by us or the government I don't know," a spokesman said.

"There has been concern expressed about this, but from our perspective it's a pretty straightforward granting of a license application for a lottery operator."

(HT Dean Jens, who sent the link to me in an email whose subject line was "gambling and IVF -- a repugnance twofer!"

Susanne Lundin in Lund University, an ethnologist, writes about illegal kidney black markets: The Great Organ Bazaar .
"Trade in humans and their bodies is not a new phenomenon, but today’s businesses are historically unique, because they require advanced biomedicine, as well as ideas and values that enhance the trade in organs. Western medicine starts from the view that human illness and death are failures to be combated. It is within this conceptual climate – the dream of the regenerative body – that transplantation technology develops and demand for biological replacement parts grows.
"One of the more obvious manifes­tations of treating the human body as a resource to be mined is the hospital waiting list, used in many countries. "

A compromise that both sides find repugnant: In Rhode Island, Chafee makes same-sex civil unions legal

"Governor Lincoln Chafee signed a bill into law yesterday that allows gay couples in Rhode Island to enter into civil unions, acknowledging that it was an imperfect piece of legislation but a “step forward’’ toward full marriage rights. Chafee said the bill fails to give homosexual couples the full marriage rights given to heterosexual couples and that he was concerned that an exemption given to religious groups was too broad. But he added that the legislation “brings tangible rights and benefits to thousands of Rhode Islanders.’’ The General Assembly voted Wednesday to approve civil unions. Gay rights groups urged Chafee to veto the measure, saying it continued discrimination against gays. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence denounced the Assembly vote."

Saudi women defy ban to take driver's seat: Several women drive around in kingdom in open defiance of rule that prohibits them from driving.
"Women who had driving licences obtained abroad were urged to run their errands themselves without relying on male drivers."

Some believe a rabbit's place is cuddling on the sofa, not stewing with garlic and shallots on the stove. Agriculture laws should reflect that, bunny advocates said.
"Raising rabbits for food is not 'green,' it's not eco-friendly. It only adds to animal suffering," said Marcy Schaaf, director of Save a Bunny, a Mill Valley nonprofit. "Rabbits are sentient beings, just like dogs and cats. In our culture, they're companion animals."
Companion animals already have Oakland's shelter busting at the seams, Webb said. The shelter barely has staff to care for the 7,000 animals a year that filter through. Animal control officers are already swamped with animal abuse cases, including cock-fighting and other livestock-related infractions, she said.
Some think Oakland should go one step further and discourage residents not just from slaughtering rabbits but from eating them.