In the most recent world university rankings from Times Higher Education, the United States continued to boast more schools in the top 100 slots than any other country. Since 2018, however, the number of American schools in the upper echelon has fallen from 43 to 34, while the number of Chinese schools has risen from two to seven over the same period, according to an analysis from The Wall Street Journal.
The worsening results for the United States come two years after college students were sent home as a result of government lockdowns. Reports of cheating and declining standards at the nation’s best schools have circulated as the institutions return to conventional instruction.
Jeremy Tate, the founder of the Classic Learning Test, a standardized exam geared toward students with Christian and classical educations, told The Daily Wire that the decline in American higher education is “largely cultural” in nature.
“China is coming out of poverty and has a sense of urgency. America is still benefiting from the meritocracy we were for generations that has now been replaced by a pervasive sense of victimhood,” he said. “This shift in America, from a hard-working meritocracy to a nation arguing about who fits where in the new oppression hierarchy, largely explains the drop in America’s rankings.”
In one recent high-profile example, students at New York University (NYU) successfully filed a petition to dismiss longtime organic chemistry professor Maitland Jones who had a reputation for teaching rigorous courses and establishing high standards for his students, many of whom aspire to become physicians. Among other observations mentioned during an interview with The New York Times, the academic said students were not “coming to class” and not “watching the videos” he had recorded to help with the challenging subject.
NYU was one of several elite schools to recently implement test optional admissions policies, under which applicants are not required to submit scores for standardized tests. Earlier this year, the American Bar Association likewise endorsed dropping the LSAT as an admission requirement for law schools.
Even as other admissions departments drop testing requirements, often in the name of advancing racial equity, the College Board announced that students taking the SAT would have more time for each question as the exam is revised to be easier and shorter. Scores for the ACT reached their lowest average in three decades after five consecutive years of decline.
In order to qualify for undergraduate coursework, students in China must complete the National College Entrance Examination, often called the gaokao, which lasts for nine hours over the course of two or three days. Before new regulations were introduced by the Chinese government last year, the nation maintained a private tutoring sector worth $120 billion, with roughly 70% of students in Beijing and Shanghai receiving additional instruction outside the classroom.
In the aftermath of lockdowns in American primary and secondary schools, the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress showed average reading scores for nine-year-olds plummeting five points and average mathematics scores dropping seven points over the past two years.