2215: Faculty:Student Ratio
Universities are often rated in various ways to help students/parents pick which one to attend. This comic satirizes the very real culture of schools modifying their actions to artificially inflate their ratings. One metric used in ratings is the ratio between the number of faculty members to the number of students. Typically this is expressed as student-teacher ratio, which normally determines how much time teachers get to spend with individual students. The lower the ratio, i.e., the fewer students per teacher, the smaller classes teachers have to teach, and thus the more attention the teachers can give to each student. However, having many more teachers than student(s), as in this comic, is not very beneficial to the student(s). (For context for international readers, high student-teacher ratios are common and expected in the United States, Randall's home country, whereas some nations especially in Asia sometimes report much lower ratios, often close to 1:1 in some areas.)
Another metric commonly used to measure a college's exclusivity and therefore prestige is the college's rejection rate; more prestigious schools get more applicants, and since they can accept only a limited number, they must reject many. Less prestigious schools often accept a higher fraction of their applicants, but some schools will reject students whose test scores, résumé, etc. are much higher than average for the school, since it's likely that college is a "safety school" and the student won't actually go there. This rejection can decrease the school's acceptance rate and make it appear more prestigious. However, if the above-average student does want to attend that school, they are unable to, even though it would be good for both the college and the student.
For-profit universities and diploma mills may use techniques like this to artificially boost their ratings, or use fabricated metrics and accreditation mills to give an inflated appearance of value. Predatory publishers and conferences are other techniques used to inflate the perceived value of a school, or to pad curriculum vitae.
In the title text, other metrics are skewed in the school's favor:
- Having a high standard for entry is usually associated with better or high-prestige schools; however, this is subverted by the fact that the school has only one student per class. A class of one would make (at least for most students) for a poor educational experience, especially in this case, where the student is apparently being micro-managed by all of the teachers at once. Even if it were a good academic environment, it could only benefit one student per year, which means the school would only have a very modest impact on the world.
- A high number of research papers would normally indicate a high level of scientific research at the school; however, these research papers have no real content in them, and are all identical, rather missing the point of a research paper - namely, to make the scientific community aware of new research.
- A high hiring rate (percentage of students that have gotten a job after education) and a high average salary after graduation is favorable, as it is one goal for many students attending college. However, the school in question artificially inflates these metrics by having all (one out of one) of their student body be hired by them, producing a 100% hiring rate, and giving them a starting salary that is astronomically high, but not giving them enough employment time to actually gain very much income. $50 trillion/year for 10 microseconds is approximately $15.85 (= $50e12 / (365 * 24 * 60 * 60) * 10e-6) if pay is assumed to be spread constantly over the full 365 days of the year. Assuming fifty-two 40-hour work weeks would make this $66.77. Since xkcd originates in the USA, trillion most likely means 1e12 (i.e., short scale), as compared to 1e18 (long scale interpretation).
- [Cueball is sitting hunched over a desk writing while ten people crowd around him, five on each side, all leaning towards him. On the left side they are Hairbun, a Cueball-like man, Hairy, Megan - who speaks, and another Cueball-like man. On the right are Ponytail, a third Cueball-like man, another Megan-like woman, Blondie and finally a fourth Cueball-like man.]
- Megan: How's the work going?
- Cueball: Can you all at least stand back a little?
- [Caption below the panel]:
- My school tried to game the ratings by having a 30:1 faculty:student ratio
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