Saudi Arabia on Sunday opened the campus of Princess Nora bint Abdulrahman University, which, with an enrollment of up to 50,000, is expected to be the nation's largest women's institution, AFP reported.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Faculty members at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay have voted 117 to 2 to unionize with an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. The AFT has a major organizing campaign going in the university system -- and has continued that effort despite the push by Governor Scott Walker to bar collective bargaining by system faculty members.
A group of public and for-profit institutions has agreed to collaborate on a project aimed at finding a common way to use the data they collect about students' academic progress to better understand how and why students succeed or fail. The project will be led by WCET, the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, and funded by a new $1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It is designed to bring student-level data (drawn from learning management and student information systems) from six institutions -- American Public University System, Colorado Community College System, Rio Salado College, University of Hawaii System, University of Illinois Springfield, and the University of Phoenix -- into a common format so they can be stripped of identifying information about students and merged into one dataset. The researchers say this will allow them to study the variables that affect student progress, and test the ability to merge student-level data from numerous and varied colleges in one place -- a goal that some policy makers have laid out as the holy grail of education research.
Thai authorities last week charged Somsak Jeamteerasakul, a prominent historian at Thammasat University in Bangkok, with lèse majesté, a serious crime in the country, punishable by up to 15 years in jail, AFP reported. Jeamteerasakul has openly called for reforms of the Thai monarchy, but he maintains that by calling for reform (as opposed to elimination), he is not violating the law.
A majority of Americans (57 percent) believe that the higher education system in the country fails to provide students with good value for the money they and their families spend, according to a survey released Sunday by the Pew Research Center. Three-quarters of those polled said that college is too expensive for most Americans. But among Americans who are college graduates, 86 percent said that college had been a good investment for them personally. Pew also released a survey, in conjunction with The Chronicle of Higher Education, of college presidents. (Inside Higher Ed released a survey of college presidents in March.)
The Pew survey is the latest to find public ambivalence about higher education -- with majorities seeing the importance of a college education, but much skepticism about college pricing and access. A survey by Public Agenda and the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education last year found that a majority of Americans believe that colleges mainly care about their own bottom lines instead of making sure that students have a good educational experience. But the survey also found that a majority of Americans believe a college education is essential for success.
A new idea has emerged in the debate over whether the University of Wisconsin at Madison should be given independence from the university system and many state regulations. A key state legislator is drafting legislation that would keep the system together, but create a board for Madison that would be within the larger university system, The Capital Times reported. It is unclear whether the new idea could gain broad support.
St. Andrews Presbyterian College, in North Carolina, may merge with Webber International University, in Florida. Both institutions are nonprofit, private and accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. SACS has moved to end accreditation of St. Andrews, but the college announced last week that SACS has agreed to extend accreditation until the end of July to permit time for the institutions to merge and seek appropriate recognition from SACS for the combined institution.
The economic downturn of fall 2008 left many colleges -- even wealthy institutions -- with cash flow problems, as their suddenly sagging investments were anything but flexible in providing money in the short term. A new report from Moody's finds that most colleges have recovered and are in much healthier condition with regard to liquidity. "Liquidity risks have stabilized for most universities nearly two years after unexpected cash shortages caused fifteen highly rated private universities to borrow more than $7 billion in taxable debt to bolster their liquidity," says the report's summary. "The healthy liquidity position of most U.S. colleges and universities has also aided bank liquidity facility renewals for the sector thus far in 2011. Nevertheless, significant uncertainty remains for some universities that face potential liquidity risks from variable rate debt structures, weak tuition pricing power, investment volatility and cuts in government funding."
Carl Wieman, the Nobel laureate at the University of British Columbia, has released new findings to show that the right approaches to teaching can have a big impact on student understanding of science. The findings, published in Science, show that exercises in which students work through problems together are far more effective than lectures.