Federal Cuts for Eurasian and Eastern European Studies

The Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) has learned that the Title VIII program – a U.S. State Department program that funds language training and research in Eurasian and Eastern European studies – did not receive an appropriation for the federal fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Because the money is typically allocated one year and spent the next, that means a significant reduction in the number of fellowships and grants available in 2013-14.

The budget for Title VIII had already sustained cuts: while the funding level averaged about $4.5 million per year throughout the early 2000s, it was cut to $3.3 million in fiscal year 2012, according to an analysis of the funding situation that ASEEES published in its newsletter earlier this year. 

“Government seems to be shortsighted in cutting these small programs that have large outcomes," said Lynda Park, the association's executive director. 

"I think just about every specialist in our field who was trained in the last 25 years was impacted by Title VIII in one form or another.”

ASEEES is maintaining a list on its website of programs that will be suspended for the 2013-14 year. The association is advocating for the restoration of funding for 2014-15. 

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LSE Looking Into Controversial Dismissal of Peking U. Prof

A spokeswoman for the London School of Economics told Times Higher Education that the university is attempting to establish the facts surrounding last week’s dismissal of Xia Yeliang from Peking University, a partner institution of LSE. 

The dismissal of Xia from Peking’s economics department purportedly for political reasons has been widely watched as an important test case for academic freedom in China – one with implications for Western universities collaborating with institutions there. Xia has been an outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist Party and an advocate of democracy. In September, more than 130 faculty members at Wellesley College signed a letter saying they would urge the administration to reconsider Wellesley’s institutional partnership with Peking if the university fired Xia (as it announced Friday that it had).

Peking has said the reason for firing Xia is his poor teaching record.

Although the LSE spokeswoman told Times Higher Education that the university is looking into the case, the president and vice-chancellor of Cardiff University, another partner institution of Peking, told the newspaper it would be inappropriate to take a position on the matter.

“Universities have their own procedures on accountability, agreed with their governing bodies, and as an autonomous institution we avoid intervening in the complex decisions that other institutions may have to take from time to time,” Colin Riordan said in a statement.

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A call for prerequisites for math and science in Australia

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An Australian report says the disappearance of prerequisites in science and mathematics fields has many students entering universities unprepared, and urges they be reintroduced.

Texas A&M Plans to Open 'Peace Campus' in Israel

Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, is traveling with Texas A&M University officials to Israel this week to announce plans to open a branch campus in Nazareth, considered the leading Arab city in Israel, The Bryan-College Station Eagle reported. The campus, which will award Texas A&M degrees, will be called Texas A&M University at Nazareth - Peace Campus, and will aim to educate Christians, Jews and Muslims together. Israeli officials have been pushing to expand higher education opportunities for Arabs in Israel, and are backing the plan by pledging to seek an exemption to Israeli regulations that would normally prohibit the creation of a branch campus by a foreign institution. Texas A&M, which as a public institution cannot use state funds for the project, is planning to raise money for it.


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A Peking U. professor is fired in what's seen as a test case for academic freedom

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Peking U. fires economics professor  in widely watched test case for academic freedom in China -- an outcome that some Western academics have said should raise questions about partnerships there.

Laureate-Affiliated University in Chile May Lose Accreditation

A 34,000-student university in Chile affiliated with Laureate Education, Inc. has received notification from the National Accreditation Commission that its institutional accreditation will not be renewed at the end of its current three-year term. The Universidad de las Américas plans to appeal the decision, which -- if it stands – would mean that new students would be ineligible for government loans or grants.

The university has not yet received the report from the accreditor indicating the reasons for the decision, said Matt Yale, a Laureate spokesman. He’s confident of the university’s chances for a successful appeal nonetheless. 

“We are very confident because this is a really great university with a world-class management team, commitment to student outcomes, and a track record of operating a very good university,” Yale said.

Laureate, a for-profit university system, has grown its overseas footprint rapidly in recent years, expanding to operate 78 institutions in 30 countries. It operates six higher education institutions in Chile, including three full-fledged universities.

Laureate is not the only multinational for-profit education operator to face accreditation woes in Chile. In 2012, the National Accreditation Commission rescinded its approval of the Universidad de Artes, Ciencias y Comunicación, which is operated by Apollo Group, the parent company of the University of Phoenix.

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European educators consider how their MOOCs could compete with those from U.S.

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Could Europe outpace the U.S.? Many experts think the key is awarding credit.

$65 Million Gift Supports Research at 5 Australian Universities

An Australian businessman who made his fortune mining precious metals will donate $65 million to support research fellowships and scholarships at five universities in Western Australia, The Australian reported. Andrew Forrest, who heads Fortescue Metals Group, will donate $50 million to create the Forrest Foundation, which will fund grants at the University of Western Australia and four other institutions in the region, and $15 million to build a residential college for rising research stars at Western Australia. The gift is among the largest in the history of Australian higher education, the newspaper reported.

As part of the donation, a new $50m Forrest Foundation will be set up to fund scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships at UWA and WA's four other universities.

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As part of the donation, a new $50m Forrest Foundation will be set up to fund scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships at UWA and WA's four other universities.

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A Call for More Academic Freedom in Iran

Iranian President Hassan Rohani is calling for more freedom for students and professors at his country's universities, Radio Liberty reported. In a speech at Tehran University, Rohani said that he thought it a "shame" that professors and students "are not able to express their viewpoints." Further, he said that government officials should stop blocking scholars from attending international academic conferences.


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International Statement on Characteristics of Research Universities

The Consortium of China 9 Research Universities has joined with three other international associations in releasing a statement of 10 characteristics of research universities, including -- notably within a Chinese context -- a commitment to academic freedom.

Specifically, one of the characteristics identified in the "Hefei Statement on the Ten Characteristics of Contemporary Research Universities" is "[t]he responsible exercise of academic freedom by faculty to produce and disseminate knowledge through research, teaching and service without undue constraint within a research culture based on open inquiry and the continued testing of current understanding, and which extends beyond the vocational or instrumental, sees beyond immediate needs and seeks to develop the understanding, skills and expertise necessary to fashion the future and help interpret our changing world."

Other characteristics identified in the statement include autonomy, a commitment to civil debate, and a dedication to research integrity.

The Association of American Universities, the Group of Eight Australia, and the League of European Research Universities joined with the leaders of nine elite Chinese research universities in sighing the statement at the C9 consortium's meeting in Hefei, China. 

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