international

Semester at Sea Announces New Academic Sponsor

Colorado State University will be the new academic sponsor for the Institute for Shipboard Education’s Semester at Sea study abroad program starting in June 2016. The institute’s current academic sponsorship agreement with the University of Virginia is due to expire then.

The Institute for Shipboard Education entered into an agreement with a German bank last year to forestall action by creditors as it sought to sell its cruise ship, the MV Explorer. The organization reported in late May that it has no further financial obligations related to the MV Explorer and that it has leased a new vessel for the upcoming fall voyage.

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Objections to the OECD's AHELO

The American Council on Education and Universities Canada have reiterated their longstanding opposition to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s AHELO (Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes) project, an effort to measure teaching quality globally that is often described as a higher education equivalent of the K-12 level Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). In a May letter to OECD’s secretary-general, the American and Canadian presidential associations objected to a “one-size-fits-all” approach to outcomes assessment worldwide.

“The AHELO approach fundamentally misconstrues the purpose of learning outcomes, which should be to allow institutions to determine and define what they expect students will achieve and to measure whether they have been successful in doing so. AHELO, which attempts to standardize outcomes and use them as a way to evaluate the performance of different institutions, is deeply flawed,” states the joint letter from ACE and Universities Canada.

The letter also objects to the process behind the AHELO project and to what the associations describe as an “unwillingness to openly hear the views of institutional leaders.”

OECD’s press office declined to comment on the letter on Thursday. In a blog entry recently published in Inside Higher Ed, the Toronto-based higher education consultant Alex Usher described some of the criticism of AHELO on the part of higher education associations in the West as “a defense of privilege: top universities know they will do well on the comparisons of prestige and research intensity, which are the bread and butter of the major rankings. They don’t know how they will do on comparisons of teaching and learning. And so they oppose it, and don’t even bother to suggest ways to improve comparisons.”

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Italian Rector Criticized for Judging Beauty Contest

Academics in Italy and elsewhere are criticizing Eugenio Gaudio for leading the judging of a student beauty pageant at the Sapienza University of Rome, The Guardian reported. Students were judged on their grades and also on their physical attributes in a contest to select the “most beautiful and wise” student. Many female professors have objected. Gaudio has noted that two of his predecessors played a similar role and the students in the contest “were not in bathing suits but in evening dresses.”

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Universities U.K. Opposes Academic Boycott of Israel

The board of Universities U.K. issued a statement on Wednesday rejecting academic boycotts on the grounds that “they are inimical to academic freedom, including the freedom of academics to collaborate with other academics.”

“Given the reported perception in Israel that U.K. universities support an academic boycott, the board of Universities U.K. wishes to confirm its previously stated position that it is firmly opposed to any academic boycott of Israeli universities,” says the statement from the major presidential association for universities in the United Kingdom.

The Universities U.K. statement came a day after the executive council of the U.K.-wide National Union of Students voted to affiliate itself with the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, as The Telegraph and various Israeli news agencies reported.

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British universities prepare for American-style grade point averages

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As American-style grade point averages cross the pond, the question remains whether a 4.0 can ever equal a "first."

Scholars Protest Death Sentence to Egyptian Professor

Middle East studies scholars are protesting a provisional death sentence handed down by an Egyptian court to a visiting professor of political science at Georgetown University. Emad al-Din Shahin, who holds a professorial appointment at the American University in Cairo, was convicted in absentia for espionage-related charges May 16 along with more than 100 others, including ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi.

“Although Dr. Shahin and his co-defendants were accused of conspiring with foreign organizations to harm Egyptian national security, it is unclear what specific charges were leveled against him, or what evidence was provided to support these charges,” the Middle East Studies Association’s Committee on Academic Freedom wrote in a letter dated June 1. “This lack of clarity, combined with Dr. Shahin’s record of active public engagement and criticism of political developments which he views as weakening democracy in Egypt, suggest that his sentence may be a form of retaliation for his political views.”

“In the absence of concrete evidence of Dr. Shahin’s involvement in espionage, and in light of the fact that his co-defendants in the 'Grand Espionage' case are all Muslim Brotherhood members, including leaders at the highest level of the organization… it appears that Dr. Shahin is being punished for what the government views as support of the Muslim Brotherhood,” states the letter, which notes that Shahin has denied any involvement in the organization.

About 40 scholars signed another letter, posted last week on the Arab studies website Jadaliyya, describing the sentence as “appalling” and the charges against Shahin -- who has also taught at Harvard and Notre Dame Universities -- as “improbable.”

“We, the undersigned colleagues and personal friends of Professor Shahin, wish to add our voices to those who have expressed deep concern over the provisional sentence of death. But we do more: based on our personal knowledge of Professor Shahin’s character, activities and scholarship, we state that the charges are so utterly alien to his character as to lack any credibility whatsoever,” this letter states.

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U of Sydney Shifts to 4-Year Undergraduate Degrees

The University of Sydney on Monday announced plans to shift undergraduate degrees from three to four years as part of a major overhaul of instruction, The Sydney Morning News reported. University officials said that more time was needed to promote critical thinking and other key skills. At the same time, the university will discourage students from taking more than one undergraduate program, but will instead encourage master's programs after a single undergraduate degree. The moves are part of a plan to overtake the University of Melbourne in rankings.

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Experts consider impact of English as global language of instruction

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While English is on the rise as language of instruction worldwide, experts consider whether it is as universal as some say -- and whether its expansion has downsides.

Report finds countries hosting universities from other countries lack basic information about operations

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Countries with campuses from other nations lack agreement on how to define such arrangements, track data from institutions and assure quality control, report says.

Survey asks citizens of rural Midwestern town about perceptions of international students

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Results from a survey of community members' perceptions of international students in a rural Midwestern town suggest there's plenty of room for improvement.

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