Japan's government is starting a grant program that will provide support for up to 10 years for 37 universities in the country to seek to become more globally competitive, The Japan Times reported. Thirteen of the universities are being urged to develop plans to reach the global level of Harvard University or the University of Oxford. The other universities are being encouraged to improve, but without those aspirations. The funds will be used to recruit more faculty and students from outside Japan, and to boost rankings.
Lasell College, in Massachusetts, has suspended its service learning trip to Uganda out of a commitment to gay rights as well as concerns about terrorism and the spread of Ebola.
In a statement, the college said that “the dangerous situation in Uganda for the LGBT community is repugnant to our community and safety of our students would be overly compromised.” The statement cited several reasons for canceling the trip, including the persecution of LGBT individuals following the passage of a harsh anti-gay law last February; the possibility that the law, since nullified, could be reinstated; travel advisories from other countries, including the United Kingdom, on the threat of terrorism in Uganda; and the spread of the Ebola virus in African countries. The U.S. Department of State has not posted a warning against travel to Uganda, although it does rate the country as being at high risk for terrorism. Uganda has not had any cases of Ebola during the current outbreak.
Lasell had sponsored two trips to Uganda in the past two years.
Israel's universities will shift admissions policies so that one-third of students may be admitted without considering of their scores on a national psychometric exam, The Jerusalem Post reported. Instead, those students will be admitted solely based on achievement in high school. Education Minister Shai Piron explained the change this way. “Some view the psychometric exam as a tool suffering from cultural bias. The financial investment in preparation and the structure of parts of the exam may discriminate between students, and turn into a wall that prevents many students to enter the gates of academia.”
A historian in Thailand is facing lèse-majesté charges, brought by "ultra-royalists," Khaosod English reported. Such charges can lead to serious punishments in Thailand. Sulak Sivaraksa, the historian, faces the charges over comments he made at an academic forum at Thammasat University in which he questioned whether there was evidence behind the story of King Naresuan winning an elephant battle against a Burmese general 400 years ago. The event is much commemorated in Thai society, as in the illustration below, from Wikipedia.
Joe Bergantino, a clinical professor of journalism at BU and director of the BU-based investigative reporting center, and Randy Covington, a journalism professor at the University of South Carolina, were conducting a training with 14 Russian journalists in St. Petersburg before being detained and taken to district court, where a judge found them guilty of visa violations. The professors were in Russia through a U.S. Department of State media training grant and reportedly were using the type of visa recommended by the State Department for this type of work. They are not allowed to continue teaching but can return to the United States as scheduled.
Some faculty at Kean University, in New Jersey, are questioning the academic value of a new campus in China, The Wall Street Journalreported. Kean officials argue that an exchange program will benefit the state's students, while faculty and students critical of the branch in Wenzhou argue that Kean should focus on its campuses in New Jersey.
U.S. News and World Reporthas announced that it will release its first global ranking of universities on Oct. 28. U.S. News plans to publish a global ranking of the top 500 universities across 49 countries, as well as four regional, 11 country-level, and 21 subject area-specific rankings.
The Best Global Universities ranking will be based on reputational data, bibliometric indicators of academic research performance, and data on faculty and Ph.D. graduates. Robert Morse, U.S. News’s chief data strategist, said that there will be no cross-over of data between the publication's longstanding ranking of American colleges and the new global ranking, which will rely on data from Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters also provides data for the global university ranking compiled by Times Higher Education (THE).
“What we’re doing is completely, 100 percent independent from THE,” Morse said. “It’s our methodology, our choice of variables, our choice of weights, our choice of how the calculations are done, our choice of how the data’s going to be presented.”
U.S. News is entering into territory dominated by three major global university rankings: those produced by Times Higher, the Shanghai Ranking Consultancy, and QS. “I think it’s natural for U.S. News to get into this space,” Morse said. “We’re well-known in the field for doing academic rankings so we thought it was a natural extension of the other rankings that we’re doing."
Morse pointed out that U.S. News will also be the first American publisher to enter the global rankings space (Times Higher and QS are both British, while the Shanghai rankings originate in China). Noting that to date there hasn’t been much interest among the general American public in global university rankings (as opposed to U.S.-specific ones), Morse said, “maybe people will pay more attention to the ones we do.”