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The University of Columbia has piloted the Colombia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought this month, a joint project of the Law School and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. 

The launch comes alongside the same time as prominent companies like EY and Goldman Sachs have declared vested interests in employees who demonstate the ability to critically think and analyse valuations and explaining the process of evaluating and concluding evidence (http://online.wsj.com/articles/bosses-seek-critical-thinking-but-what-is-that-1413923730). The Wall Street Journal notes, however, that the assessment of qualities such as critical thinking become murky and quite hard to assess, much like large sociological concepts like ‘diversity’ similarly pose problems of self-contained definitions in working environments (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diversity_%28business%29).  

The centre operates under the helm of law, where applicants need to be aware of studying law as a practice of philosophy requiring critical thought. Beyond this, however, the centre seeks to unite multiple disciplines under the banner of critical thought, much like the TSA test is used to assess thought processes and aptitudes of students in a uniform way that caters to each subject’s specificity; under the guidance of Bernard E. Harcourt, the centre seeks to link the Heyman Center for the Humanities, the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, the Center for Institutional and Social Change, and the Institutde for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality.

The sheer spectrum of subjects on offer show the unifying factor of critical thought as key to displines as disparate as anthroplogy and theology and law, all catered to by the centre and similarly by the TSA. While critical thought appears to be dominating the work environment and postgraduate community, it is perhaps notable that subjects requiring the TSA Cambridge are undersubscribed this year compared to previous years, which coincides with lower application numbers overall for Cambridge relative to its Oxford counterpart(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/11183160/Record-demand-for-Oxford-places-as-applications-for-Cambridge-drop.html). 

This is arguably tied to the more stringent entry requirements for hard sciences courses at Cambridge – the decline in applicants could demonstrate a natural ebb and flow in Oxbridge applications, or could demonstrate strategic, critical thinking on behalf of university applicants opting for Oxford’s more manageable entry requirements.

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