Explosions at Aleppo University, in Syria, killed dozens of people Tuesday, the New York Timesreported. Students were taking exams at the time of the explosions, which were among the worst in the two-year conflict. Sympathizers with the opposition estimate that more than 50 people were killed, while Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations put the toll at 82 killed and 192 wounded.
Both the anti-government activists and the government blamed one another for the explosions. The university’s press office issued a statement saying that it had been targeted by Syrian Air Force MIG fighter jets that launched two missile strikes, each three minutes apart.
Internationally academics have begun to mobilize to raise funds for scholarships and fellowships for Syrian students and professors to attend or teach at universities outside the country.
Southern Utah University has released a report from external reviewers who evaluated its English as a Second Language program after a former instructor raised concerns about lax standards for instructors and students and the toleration of plagiarism. The external reviewers, professors of ESL from Utah State University, interviewed eight instructors, four students, and two administrators, in addition to reviewing syllabuses and faculty C.V.s. The reviewers found a number of curriculum-related issues, including a lack of outcomes-based assessment (with many students passed through the program based in large part on attendance), a lack of clear course objectives, inconsistency across course sections, a lack of vertical integration within the writing and reading curriculums, and a general failure to prepare students to work with outside sources. Over all, the reviewers recommended that there be a greater focus on academic skills throughout the program.
The reviewers also recommended hiring full-time faculty with a master’s in teaching English as a second language and at least three years of experience teaching English for Academic Purposes. They noted that none of the faculty they interviewed had previous training in EAP and for those who did have prior ESL experience, it was on the K-12 level. As Inside Higher Edreported in November, Southern Utah’s ESL instructors are part-time and paid $17.50-$20 per hour taught, with no compensation for time spent grading or preparing for classes.
Finally the reviewers wrote that the claim that plagiarism was tolerated in the program appeared to be unfounded: they note that while faculty members are concerned about plagiarism, other factors, including the reliance on inexperienced part-time faculty and the failure to integrate work with sources into the curriculum, may have contributed to incidents of plagiarism that have occurred. (They also write that “in the case of the students, it did appear that they knew there was an ‘issue’ surrounding plagiarism as they smiled when we brought it up.”)
In its response to the report, SUU indicated that it will take into account many of the suggested curricular changes as it undergoes a curriculum overhaul under its newly hired director, and that it does plan to take steps to hire some full-time faculty and to provide opportunities for current teaching staff to become trained in teaching ESL.
The University of Buckingham, in England, has ended a relationship in which it validated degrees for a Ugandan university due to concerns about pending legislation in Uganda’s parliament that would impose harsh prison sentences as a punishment for gay sex. In a statement released last week, Buckingham said it had suspended its relationship with Edulink, which owns Victoria University, in Kampala. “We have both become increasingly concerned about the proposed legislation in Uganda on homosexuality and in particular the constraints on freedom of speech in this area,” the University of Buckingham said.
Victoria University also released a statement in which David Young, the acting vice-chancellor, said “there are fundamental differences between the two nations’ respective laws regarding equality and diversity, which cannot be reconciled.”
The relationship between Buckingham and Victoria dates to the latter university's founding in 2011. According to the BBC, Victoria is attempting to make arrangements to transfer the approximately 200 students affected by the suspension to other institutions.
There was a significant rise in the number of students from the U.K’s top sending country, China (up 16.9 percent). However, the number from India, the second-largest sending country, dropped 23.5 percent. There were also double-digit decreases in the numbers of students from Pakistan (-13.4 percent from the year before), Ireland (-10.5 percent), and Poland (-14.1 percent).
The U.K. experienced a small drop in the number of international graduate students (from 213,685 in 2010-11 to 209,710 in 2011-12). In a statement, Jo Beall, the British Council’s director of education and society, said the decline in international graduate enrollments was “of real concern as international students make up the majority of numbers in many post-graduate courses and research teams in the STEM [science, technology engineering and mathematics] subjects. Attracting the brightest and most ambitious post-graduate and research students is critical if the UK is to maintain its quality reputation for research and innovation.”
Scotland will offer financial support to students who choose to study elsewhere in the European Union for the first time under a new pilot program, The Scotsmanreported. The government will provide loans of up to £5,500 (about $8,884) and scholarships of up to £1,750 (about $2,827) to about 250 students in 2014-15. As Michael Russell, the education secretary, said, “This will help encourage our young people who choose to study abroad and the pilot will help assess demand and allow us to roll out this support to all Scots studying in Europe.”
Scotland has a tradition of providing free higher education to its citizens.
Islamic University in Gaza City, the flagship university of Hamas, has started a Hebrew program, the Associated Press reported. The program seeks to train teachers for high schools in Gaza, which have been encouraged to add Hebrew to their curriculum. Somayia Nakhala, an official of the Education Ministry in Gaza, said that "as Jews are occupying our lands, we have to understand their language." Nakhala added that students need to "understand what's going on, like wars, medical treatment in Israel, in the West Bank."
Officials at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities are concerned that TCF Bank -- which the university exclusively permits to market accounts linked to student identification cards -- is closing the accounts of students from Iran, The Star Tribune reported. Bank officials said that they are not targeting students, but are complying with federal regulations concerning funds from certain groups in Iran. The bank said it was open to reviewing the accounts of the Iranian students, and possibly restoring them. University officials said that they should have been notified, and might have been able to work this out without the students losing their accounts.