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Escaping the Average

Imperial College, the science-oriented school in London, recently pulled out from the umbrella organization, the University of London.

Imperial graduates will no longer have University of London diplomas, but will now have diplomas issued by Imperial.

The reason for the pull-out is that the college administration apparently felt that the Imperial cachet was more valuable than the broader London label. Some of the other constituent colleges of the university are now considering declaring independence also.

What is the equilibrium in this process?

If a school is convinced it is the best in a group, then it will pull out, lowering the average quality, rather than having its graduates tarred with the average label. The next highest school will feel the same way, etc. The equilibrium is independence for all.

I noticed a similar thing when looking at pictures of job candidates from a certain graduate program. Some of them had their pictures on their Web sites, and those pictured were gorgeous. I’m sure the best-looking students among those without pictures realized this, and, fearing they would be taken for the ugly average of the non-pictured, quickly posted their pictures. The equilibrium here too is for everyone to have a picture posted (and unfortunately this blog posts my picture!).

(Hat tip: Pierre Weil)