EdX MOOC courts questions about censorship and academic freedom

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Has edX become a platform for a Chinese propaganda course?

Chinese Professor Punished for "Radical Opinions"

The removal of Liang Xinsheng from his position as deputy head of the English department at Lingnan Normal University, in China, for allegedly publishing “radical opinions” on social media, has raised concerns of a further crackdown on free expression, the South China Morning Post reported. New Chinese Communist Party guidelines issued last month restrict members from challenging party policies and criticizing party leaders.

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Author discusses new book arguing that China's universities are rising while America's decline

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Author discusses new book arguing that China's universities are rising while America's are in decline.

Regulatory Help for Nepali Students Affected by Earthquake

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is suspending certain rules to allow Nepali students who are experiencing economic hardship due to the April 25 earthquake to request employment authorization, work an increased number of hours during the academic year and reduce their course load while maintaining their status on the F-1 student visa. The notice of the changes was published Monday in the Federal Register.

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Experiences of Indian Academics in Britain

A recently published study of Indian academics working at a research-intensive university in the United Kingdom challenges the “discourse of disadvantage” common in discussing the experiences of foreign academics. The study by Dulini Fernando, of the University of Warwick’s business school, and Laurie Cohen, of Nottingham University’s business school, is based on interviews with 32 early- to midcareer researchers in science and engineering fields. Fernando and Cohen found that the respondents’ single-minded focus on research and publishing over teaching, combined with their competitiveness, resilience, and work-centeredness enabled the international academics to advance in British universities.

The Indian academics in the sample also successfully leveraged their “ethnic capital” -- that is, “advantages pertaining from one’s ethnicity such as cultural knowledge and networks.” The academics were, for example, able to use their connections and cultural knowledge in India as an asset in collaborating with leading British researchers.

In short, the article highlights the unique advantages enjoyed by Indian academics, while also raising concerns about their relative (self-reported) weakness in teaching, which, the article notes, is becoming an increasingly important indicator in measuring faculty performance at British universities.

“Rather than considering international colleagues as deficient and in need of remedial support, our data reveal considerable strengths and unique advantages,” the article states. “Home academics might benefit from listening to some highly agentic international colleagues’ career accounts, in particular how they manage research alongside other work commitments, how they balance home and work and how they develop strategic research partnerships. Likewise international academics may be able to learn about citizenship and teaching from home colleagues.”

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Trends for Public Funding of Universities in Europe

A new European University Association report on trends in public funding for higher education systems across the continent finds diverging trends, with projected year-over-year increases in public funding for 10 of the university systems studied (the French-speaking community of Belgium, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden) and decreases in another 9 (Croatia, the Czech Republic, Flanders in Belgium, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Serbia, Spain and the United Kingdom). Public higher education funding in Austria was flat from 2014 to 2015.

In Norway, a 10-year plan is providing resources for university infrastructure, and there is increased funding to support greater numbers of doctoral candidates. Ireland, on the other hand, "illustrates particularly well the type of pressures universities are increasingly operating under. The recurrent grant per student has been diminishing continuously in the last years, and research funds have progressively been shifted towards competitive funding schemes."

"A series of countries show different types of trajectories; on the one hand Iceland and Latvia, for instance, have faced a major drop in funding at the beginning of the period, which an upward trajectory since then has only marginally corrected," the report states. "On the other hand, Portugal has technically compensated the cuts of 2012 and 2013 in 2014 and continues on an upward trend. Hungary is an extreme case, with very large cuts in the system that seem to have stopped last year and a positive outlook for 2015. There is however much to be done to restore funding anywhere close to its 2008 level."

The EUA report also notes “worrying signals” regarding funding trends in the north, specifically in Denmark and Finland: “Worryingly, countries that have so far shown comparatively high levels of investments, and stable or positive funding trajectories, have reported serious concerns regarding current and upcoming funding, although figures have not been fully disclosed yet,” the report states. The EUA report also describes a trend toward performance-based funding, in which universities are rewarded for specific outputs (in terms of graduates or research grants, for example) rather than just their inputs (such as student enrollments).

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Journalists Protest Gag Order by U of Hong Kong

Journalists are protesting a court order obtained by the University of Hong Kong barring Hong Kong Commercial Broadcasting Company and other media from publishing information about the university’s governing council, including meeting agendas, minutes and other papers, the South China Morning Post reported. The interim gag order was obtained after the broadcaster aired leaked audio clips that were apparently from a closed-door council meeting during which members took a controversial vote against the appointment of a pro-democracy scholar to a pro vice chancellor post.

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Turkish Professor Indicted for Exam Question

Middle East studies scholars are rallying to the cause of a Turkish professor who is being prosecuted for disseminating “terrorist propaganda” and praising “crime and criminals” based on an exam question he wrote asking students to compare two texts written by Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is designated by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization.

The Middle East Studies Association’s Committee on Academic Freedom has written a letter supporting the professor, Baris Unlu, a political scientist at Ankara University. The association wrote that the indictment against Unlu “conflates the use of texts for critical examination in an academic curriculum with engaging in terrorist propaganda. Further, if presenting Ocalan as a political figure is treated as a basis for criminal investigation, the government runs the risk of effectively criminalizing all academics, students, journalists and political organizers working on Kurdish issues.”

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What Influences International STEM Students' Decisions?

A British Council survey of 1,348 international undergraduate and graduate students studying in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States asked about factors affecting their decision making in choosing a country and course of study. The report found that undergraduates tend to choose U.S. universities with the goal of increasing their career prospects globally. Graduate students are drawn by perceptions of rigorous education and high-quality research, and affordability.

“The U.S. perhaps has the most well-rounded value proposition to international STEM students: it is a country where students perceive they can engage in high-quality education and gain skills and research experience to apply to work either there or in their home countries; poststudy work experience in the U.S. has expanded and STEM students can now spend 29 months working -- though there remains debate about the future sustainability of this policy,” the survey report states.

The survey found that while significant numbers of international students hope to stay in their destination countries to work after graduation, a comparatively small proportion (15 percent) hope to migrate permanently.

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British business school eyes U.S. in planning financial strategy

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London Business School is seen as wealthy in the U.K., but feels poor compared to its American competitors.


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