American U of Afghanistan Confirms Abductions

The American University of Afghanistan this morning confirmed that two of its faculty members were abducted on Sunday. The university had not previously commented on the news reports about the abductions. The university was closed Monday and today. A statement from the university said it planned to resume normal operations Wednesday. University leaders worked after the abductions "to review the security situation and to put in place additional precautionary measures," the statement said. No details were provided about those who were abducted, although press reports have indicated that one is an American and the other is an Australian.

The university is unique in Afghanistan, offering a private, American-style, coeducational college program.

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State Department Suspends Teaching Program in Turkey

The U.S. State Department, citing the current unrest in Turkey, has suspended the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program, which sends Americans to teach English in Turkey, The New York Times reported. Fulbright research grants have not been impacted. However, prior to the recent coup attempt and crackdown on civil liberties in Turkey, participants in the State Department's Critical Language Scholarship Program were told that their work in Turkey would be moved to Azerbaijan.

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2 Professors at American U Afghanistan Abducted

ABC News and The Sydney Morning Herald are reporting that armed gunmen on Sunday abducted two professors who teach at the American University of Afghanistan. One of the professors is reported to be an American and the other an Australian. Reportedly they were seized just outside the campus by gunmen dressed in uniforms of the Afghan security forces. Few details are available, but the ABC News report said the abductions had been confirmed by the police chief in Kabul.

The university -- Afghanistan's only private, nonprofit institution -- offers American-style liberal arts and professional programs, enrolling men and women.

The campus of the university is heavily guarded. In 2014, a Taliban attack on a restaurant in Kabul killed a political scientist and a student affairs officer at the university.

More information about the university may be found here.

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New Concerns on Faculty Rights at U Hong Kong

Leaders of the University of Hong Kong are proposing changes in the way faculty members are hired, and those plans have set off concerns about faculty rights at the university, The South China Morning Post reported. Among the changes proposed is that faculty committees, which currently oversee hiring, would have their role changed to advisory. In additionally, faculty panels would lose the right to appoint assistant professors.

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Third Canadian University Accredited in U.S.

Simon Fraser University, in British Columbia, has become the third Canadian university to be accredited by an American accreditor, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Officials went through a seven-year process for Simon Fraser to become accredited. They said that they believed the move would enhance the university's reputation and allow its athletics program to participate in the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Other Canadian universities accredited by American accreditors are Athabasca University and  Capilano University. (This item has been updated to reflect the correct number of Canadian universities with this status.)

Study finds growth of Chinese higher education hasn't reduced inequality

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The “massification” of higher education hasn’t decreased the importance of family background, analysis finds.

Canadian Scientists Furious Over New Funding System

Scientists in Canada are demanding immediate changes to the way grant proposals are reviewed by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, STAT reported. A record percentage of proposals are being rejected, but scientists say that this isn't about rigor but the new review system. In a bid to save money, a computer algorithm was used to assign reviewers to grant applications, and many report that the algorithm didn't work, and many proposals have been reviewed by people who don't understand them. The president of the institutes has pledged to make improvements.

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New Doubts on Critical Thinking at China's Universities

Research by Prashant Loyalka, a faculty member at Stanford University, is pointing to a key weakness -- in critical thinking -- of students at China's universities, The New York Times reported. The research is still preliminary and won't be published until next year. But initial findings suggest that Chinese students arrive at universities with much better critical thinking skills than their counterparts in the United States and Russia. The critical thinking skills of Chinese students stall once they reach higher education, however, while American and Russian students see significant gains in college. Critical thinking skills measured include the ability to identify assumptions and to test a hypothesis.

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How the crackdown in Turkey is affecting international academic collaboration

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A crackdown on Turkey’s higher education sector after a failed coup has far-reaching effects for fraying academic collaboration and exchange.

Another College Merger Plan -- This One in Sydney -- Is Scuttled

A plan between two major universities in Sydney, Australia, to merge their art schools has been dropped, just five weeks after it was announced, The Australian reported. The University of Sydney announced Thursday that it decided not to pursue a possible merger of its Sydney College of the Arts with the University of New South Wales' Art & Design school. "Despite the best efforts of all involved, our two institutions have a different vision of what a center of excellence in the visual arts might entail and the extent to which it is important to preserve the SCA’s distinctive tradition," Sydney's vice chancellor, Michael Spence, said in a message to students at the college.


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