Monday, September 29, 2008

What to do about student ghost cities?

The BBC has an interesting piece here on the problem of student ghost cities in the United Kingdom. The problem is that many parts of cities become absolutely deserted when students leave (and overwhelmed during the academic year).

Why is this? Unlike the United States, the overwhelming number of undergraduate students in the UK live off-campus in private accommodation. They live --- at least in one case I know of --- up to 12 people in one home. When the academic year begins, parking becomes impossible as out of nowhere several cars per home emerge overnight. Then people and cars --- and the weekend parties --- disappear for the summer only to return in September.

I am not sure that new zoning laws would be the best way forward. For one thing, there will be strong opposition from land owners who rent to students --- and they remain the primary players until a true alternative emerges. For another, and as much as I sympathize with those who worry about inevitable drops in property values when student homes move in, I am libertarian on where (and where not) student homes may be situated. It is hardly surprising that these "ghost cities" are normally areas near campus. (Thus, the solution would be to move the campus in order to move the private student accommodation.)

A better solution might be to move more towards the US-model (if it can be called that). It is typical to find ample accommodation on campus for students with kitchens, cafeteria, and so on. This does not deny students the opportunity to live in private accommodation, but the latter may be less attractive if cheaper accommodation/meals were available on campus. There might be better security for students, as fewer might live off campus (and student homes are prime targets for thieves as they may expect several televisions, stereos, laptops, cd's, and the like they can easily sell off). In addition, it would help eliminate the "problem" of "ghost cities" (indeed, if it is a problem) as most students would live on campus.

UPDATE: An excellent guide for students on private accommodation can be found here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

More on journal rankings: the case of Australasia

Readers may be aware of new attempts to rank philosophy journals, such as this attempt in Australasia. Journals are ranked A-C with a special A* for the very best of A journals. A sample (and far from exhaustive):

Journals ranked A*
Australasian Journal of Philosophy
European Journal of Philosophy
Journal of Philosophy
Midwest Studies in Philosophy
Mind and Language
Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy
Pacific Philosophical Quarterly
Philosophers' Imprint
Philosophical Quarterly
Philosophical Review
Philosophical Studies
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research
Philosophy and Public Affairs
Philosophy East and West
Political Theory

Journals ranked A
American Philosophical Quarterly
Asian Philosophy
Ethical Theory and Moral Practice
European Journal of Political Theory
International Journal of Philosophical Studies
Journal of Applied Philosophy
Journal of Ethics
Journal of Philosophical Research
Journal of Political Philosophy
Journal of Social Philosophy
Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology
Kantian Review
Law and Philosophy
Logique et Analyse
Philosophical Topics
Philosophy and Social Criticism
Philosophy Compass
Politics, Philosophy, Economics
Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society
Review of Metaphysics
Social Theory and Practice

Journals ranked B
Archiv für Rechts- und Sozialphilosophie
Bulletin of the Hegel Society of Great Britain
Derrida Today
Indian Journal of Philosophic Studies
Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy
Journal of Indian Philosophy
Journal of Moral Philosophy
Owl of Minerva
Philosophical Books
Philosophy and Theology
Public Affairs Quarterly
Ratio Juris
Res Publica

Journals ranked C
APA Newsletters
Collingwood and British Idealism Studies
Ethical Perspectives
Journal of Indian Philosophy and Religion
Philosophical Writings
Review Journal of Philosophy and Social Science
Review Journal of Political Philosophy

Not ranked
History of Political Thought [This is the surprise of the list: it should be at least A, if not A* - Thom]
International Journal of Applied Philosophy


The Australasian Association of Philosophy's cover letter is well-written. It notes that there are perhaps far more problems arising from using rankings than not using them. I found the general sentiment agreeably cautious.

A real effort has gone into identifying journals. This list is far more impressive than all others that I have seen in terms of its size.

One very serious problem is that some of the journals do not exist. For example, the list notes a Filosofick? Casopis and a Filosoficky Casopis. Both are awareded 'C' and I imagine both refer to the latter: the former does not exist. Moreover, they list a non-existent Journal of the Hegel Society of Great Britain -- this is awarded a 'B' not unlike the Bulletin of the Hegel Society of Great Britain which does exist. Finally, I am fairly certain that the 'A' ranked (!) Moral Theory and Practice journal does not exist, while the 'A' ranked Ethical Theory and Moral Practice does exist.

A further problem is that there are mistakes on journals that are included. For example, the Aristotelian Society's publications are listed as 'peer reviewed'. In addition, the Bulletin of the Hegel Society of Great Britain is listed as 'peer reviewed'. It is the case in this month's meeting of the Hegel Society we agreed to begin including work that will be peer reviewed, but it is not a fully peer reviewed journal at present. Neither is the Aristotelian proceedings or supplement. These are then wrong.

The Journal of Moral Philosophy is ranked 'B'? In previous journal ranking schemes, the Journal of Moral Philosophy has consistently ranked alongside other 'Journal of' titles, such as the Journal of Ethics, Journal of Political Philosophy, Journal of Social Philosophy, and others, including the ERIH rankings of philosophy journals. I was then surprised to find these journals all ranked again together, but without the JMP.

I am not sure what explains this. The JMP has an international editorial board, submissions are peer reviewed with two or three readers for papers, and our acceptance rate is now under 10%. We are listed in the Philosopher's Index and other similar databases. It is then curious that journals less international with much higher acceptance rates than ours were ranked higher in several cases. I have written to the Australasian Association of Philosophy about this and, hopefully, a change will be forthcoming.