Oxford Brookes University is becoming the first British university to use U.S.-style grade-point averages, although the institution will also still use the British style of grouping students by broad honors categories, Times Higher Education reported. Officials cited a number of reasons, including the way G.P.A.s allow for ranges, while British honors don't distinguish between those who just made a category and those who just missed it, resulting in "cliff edges" between students.
Another sign of the competition among MOOCs (massive online open courses) for the global student population: The all-British MOOC provider on Monday announced an expansion and British Prime Minister David Cameron promoted the offerings during a trip to India. Cameron said that the expansion of Futurelearn (as the MOOC provider is called) "will mean that Indian students can access some of the best teaching and learning online from their home in Mumbai or Delhi." And a statement from Simon Nelson, CEO of Futurelearn, noted the international competition. "Until now, this market has been dominated by companies based in the U.S., but with 18 U.K. partners, we are determined to provide the smartest and most engaging online learning experiences and revolutionize conventional models of education."
The new members of Futurelearn are the British Library, Queen's University Belfast and the Universities of Bath, Leicester, Nottingham and Reading.
A new paper based on survey data from scientists in 16 countries compares the relative strengths of the United States and other countries in attracting top Ph.D. talent. For obtaining a Ph.D. and selecting a postdoc, American universities continue to be highly regarded and benefit from the prestige of their academic programs and a perception that an American Ph.D. will help the careers of non-American scientist, the study found. But the survey found that Australia, Germany and Switzerland have made gains in recent years, relative to the U.S., in attracting Ph.D. students.
In selecting postdoc locations, non-Americans are discouraged from positions at universities in the U.S. by concerns over working conditions and fringe benefits, relative to opportunities elsewhere. "This finding will hardly come as a surprise to postdocs in the United States who lack paid health insurance coverage -especially for their families- and a formal family leave policy and have few if any specified holidays or vacation days," says the report, released today by the National Bureau of Economic Research. (Abstract available here.)
As a result, countries gaining against the U.S. in competition for top postdocs are Australia, Britain, France, Germany and Switzerland.
The authors of the paper are Paula Stephan of Georgia State University, Chiara Franzoni of Politecnico di Milano and Giuseppe Scellato of Politecnico di Torino.
It's not unheard of for professors to question the value of undergraduate education in business. It's more rare if you teach in -- let alone lead -- an undergraduate program in business, but that's what has happened at Tel Aviv University. Haaretzreported that Shmuel Ellis, chair of the undergraduate Department of Management, recently sent out an e-mail telling those who are undecided about their major not to pick business. He suggested they consider fields in the humanities, social sciences or biological sciences. "Study of academic disciplines prepares students to think scientifically in these fields and form the foundation for advanced studies in graduate degree programs," he said.
The comments have angered some students studying business. Adding to the anger is that Ellis was defending comments from Moshe Zviran, vice dean of the graduate business program, who recently questioned the value of undergraduate education in business. Zviran said that business study only makes sense at the graduate level. "Business administration is an excellent degree but needs to be studied at the appropriate time," he said.
Israel's Council for Higher Education on Tuesday backed away from a plan to close the political science department at Ben-Gurion University, Haaretz reported. The council has previously called for the elimination of the department. While officials cited concerns about quality, the university said it had addressed those issues. Many believe that the department was targeted because some of its faculty members are outspoken critics of Israel's government, and the proposal to shut down the program attracted widespread criticism from academics in Israel and elsewhere.