Foreign academics report difficulties working at leading South Korean university

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Western scholars recruited to a top university report feeling their careers are limited, and they leave after a few years.

An 'Internal Boycott' in Israel?

The leader of the Israeli Sociological Society said he is implementing a 2011 decision by the group’s general assembly to refrain from academic cooperation with Ariel University, which is located in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

“It’s a matter of making the declaration of a moral principle and drawing the line between Israel and the occupied territories, reminding people that there is such a line and while we surely accept the state of Israel as fully legitimate we do not accept as such the occupation of the Palestinian territories, and the denial of basic rights from Palestinians for 50 years or so cannot go on unnoticed by the sociological association,” said Uri Ram, the association's new president.

Ram emphasized that this action is not part of the international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement that targets Israeli universities broadly. “Israeli academia is part of a legitimate system. Not so the so-called academia beyond the Green Line,” he said.

Ram said the association’s board will discuss the issue at its meeting next month. He said there is a need for renewed discussion now that he has brought the issue to the consciousness of members again but that any change to the 2011 policy would need to be put to a vote.

The news of the sociological association’s stance comes at a time when many scholars in Israel are worried about the momentum BDS has gained in international academe. Israel's minister of education, Naftali Bennett, is quoted in a Jerusalem Post article expressing concern about an “internal boycott” by sociologists.

“It is absurd that the fighters for academic freedom are taking the right to discriminate between institutions into their own hands,” Bennett said.

“The Israeli taxpayers fund higher education with some NIS 10 billion [new Israeli shekels, about $2.6 billion] a year and we have no intention of allowing boycotts.”

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Laval U Will Review Poster Resembling Nazi Images

Laval University, in Quebec, has promised to review one of its posters after many complained that it looks like a Nazi poster and resembles the Nazi German pavilion from the 1937 World's Fair, CBC News reported. The poster features a soaring bird that looks like a Nazi eagle symbol, on top of stripes of red and orange (image is available through the link).

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Stephen Hawking Warns Against Brexit

Stephen Hawking, the Emeritus Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, and more than 150 other Royal Society fellows are warning that Britain’s exit from the European Union would be a “disaster” for science in the United Kingdom. In a letter published in The Times of London, Hawking, of black hole fame, and fellow scientists argue that the so-called Brexit would hurt science because the union has led to increased research funding, especially in the United Kingdom.

“We now recruit many of our best researchers from continental Europe, including younger ones who have obtained [European Union] grants and have chosen to move with them here,” they added. “Being able to attract and fund the most talented Europeans assures the future of British science and also encourages the best scientists elsewhere to come here.”

Tim Worstall, fellow at the Adam Smith Institute in London, wrote in Forbes, meanwhile, that Hawking and others “get it wrong.” The problem with their argument, he wrote, “is that they’ve entirely missed the economic point about science itself: that it’s a public good. That means that it doesn’t actually matter who does the science, where it’s done, only that it is done. That’s the economic implication of it being a public good: and it’s also the economic reasoning behind why there’s public subsidy to it.”

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U.S. Young Adults Lag Behind International Peers

The National Center for Education Statistics released its assessment of young adults' skills yesterday and found American adults lag behind their international peers in numeracy and problem solving.

The Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) exam revealed that the average numeracy score for U.S. adults was lower than average scores for 16 other countries, not statistically different for three countries and higher than three other countries. The assessment also found that when it comes to digital problem-solving skills, the U.S. average score was lower than every other participating country except one.

"In today's global labor market, companies can choose their workers from among dozens of countries. In this highly competitive environment, American workers are at an enormous disadvantage," said Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, in a news release. "First, a smaller portion of our students graduate high school. Second, even those who do graduate perform poorly relative to their competitors in other countries on the OECD PISA survey of high school students. It should not surprise us that the skills of our graduating high school students predict the skills of our adult workers."

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IITs Open Entrance Tests to Foreign Students

The elite Indian Institutes of Technology will hold entrance exams in eight foreign countries starting in 2017 in an effort to attract more international students. The Huffington Post’s India edition reported that tests for foreign nationals are planned for Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka and, within the United Arab Emirates, Dubai. 

"The entrance tests to the IITs abroad have been held till now only to admit Indian nationals. This is for the first time that it has been planned to admit foreign students through tests held abroad," the publication quotes an unnamed Ministry of Human Resource Development official as saying.

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U of Cambridge Moves Controversial Cockerel Bronze

Jesus College of the University of Cambridge has removed from public display a bronze of a cockerel -- long a symbol of the college -- that was looted from Benin City in Nigeria by British authorities in the late 19th century. Student leaders have said that displaying the object (at right), which is also used on the college's crest, suggests support for British imperialism. Some have pushed for the bronze to be returned to Nigeria, but the university has not committed to that.

Cambridge released this statement: "Jesus College acknowledges the contribution made by students in raising the important but complex question of the rightful location of its Benin Bronze, in response to which it has permanently removed the Okukor [the name for the statue where it was created] from its hall. The college commits to work actively with the wider university and to commit resources to new initiatives with Nigerian heritage and museum authorities to discuss and determine the best future for the Okukor, including the question of repatriation. The college strongly endorses the inclusion of students from all relevant communities in such discussion."

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Vanderbilt Student Killed in Terror Attack in Israel

A Vanderbilt University business student, Taylor Force, was killed Tuesday in Israel in what is being called a Palestinian terror attack. Force was stabbed fatally. The other Vanderbilt students and faculty members with Force -- on a program to study global entrepreneurship -- were not harmed.

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Pell Grant Abuse Alleged at Michigan Jewish Institute

The U.S. Department of Education has revoked the eligibility of Michigan Jewish Institute to participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs after finding that it obtained Pell Grants on behalf of students who were enrolled in foreign institutions and had no intention of earning an MJI degree.

The Department allows Pell Grants to be used by students who study abroad during the course of their degree programs. However, in its evaluation the department found that MJI “turned the notion of a study abroad program on its head” in awarding Pell Grants to students who were not seeking a MJI credential.

“The evidence shows that almost 2,000 U.S. citizens, who were full-time Israeli residents, received Pell Grants for ostensibly 'studying abroad' in Israel at Israeli institutions between 2006 and 2012,” states the Department of Education's Feb. 25 letter to the university, uploaded to the Detroit Jewish News website. “Not a single one of them ever physically attended classes at MJI and none of them graduated from MJI. More than a quarter of these individuals were enrolled at universities or colleges in Israel offering degree programs or were enrolled in teachers' colleges in Israel offering teacher certificates. This evidence demonstrates that these students did not study briefly at an Israeli institution to enhance their educational experience after enrolling in MJI for purposes of obtaining a degree from MJI. Rather, these full-time Israeli residents were 'enrolled' in MJI so MJI could obtain and use Pell Grants, partly to subsidize the education of full-time Israeli residents enrolled at Israeli educational institutions, and partly to fund its own activities.”

The department’s letter also alleges that the institute provided false information to its accrediting agency, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.

In a statement issued by a public relations firm, MJI said it “disputes the department’s contentions and will contest the action to the fullest extent possible.”

“MJI does not provide a study abroad program as described by the department; rather, its students are almost all either enrolled entirely online with MJI or enrolled in a hybrid version in which the student is taking courses from MJI and courses for credit toward an MJI certificate/degree from a foreign institution that has signed a partnership agreement,” the institute said in its written statement. “This arrangement complies with departmental regulations governing written arrangements between eligible institutions, such as MJI, and other institutions including ones located outside the U.S.”

Texas A&M Receives $76.2M per Year for Qatar Campus

Texas A&M University receives more than $76.2 million each year to operate its branch campus in Qatar, The Washington Post reported. The Post obtained a copy of the contract and budget documents for the campus via a public records request.

Texas A&M’s campus in Qatar’s “Education City” has awarded 635 degrees in engineering fields since its establishment in 2003. It is one of six U.S. branch campuses funded by the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development. Each of the branches has a specific programmatic focus: Carnegie Mellon’s branch focuses on business and computer science, Cornell University’s on medicine, Georgetown University’s on foreign service, Northwestern University’s on communication and journalism, and Virginia Commonwealth University’s on art and design. The Post estimates that operating expenses for all six of the branches totaled $404.8 million in 2014.

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