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.

Myanmar universities gain some autonomy

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Universities appear to be gaining some autonomy.

Cheating Found in ACT-Owned Preparatory Program

A Reuters investigation found evidence of cheating in a preparatory program owned by a Hong Kong-based subsidiary of the test provider ACT, with some former students in the program reporting that they gained advance access to ACT test materials.

The Global Assessment Certificate program is billed as helping foreign students develop the academic and English skills they need to succeed in university, but Reuters interviewed seven students from three GAC centers who reported that program officials or test proctors ignored or were complicit in cheating on the ACT. Reuters also interviewed eight teachers or administrators at seven GAC centers who reported cheating in program courses.

An ACT spokesman said its Hong Kong-based subsidiary, ACT Education Solutions Ltd., is responsible for vetting and monitoring GAC centers, which Reuters reported are run according to a franchising model in which local operators pay the ACT subsidiary for the right to offer the curriculum at schools and educational centers. The ACT's head of test security said the organization has canceled suspicious test scores of GAC students.

More than 60 U.S. universities use the GAC program for admission purposes, in some cases awarding college credit for GAC classes. The GAC program enrolls about 5,000 students at 197 centers in 11 countries. About three-quarters of the centers are in China.

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