Student protests blocking access to Kliment Ochridsky University, Bulgaria's largest university, have forced officials to suspend classes, the Associated Press reported. Students' grievances focus on the government, and university leaders have been urging them -- without success -- to let the university function.
Peking’s statement says that this month's vote among faculty and school leaders not to renew Xia’s contract was the second such vote on this topic. The first, in 2012, resulted in 11 against renewal and 10 for, with one abstention. However, the university said it wanted to give Xia an opportunity to improve his performance and held a second vote this month, which resulted in 30 against renewal of his contract, 3 for, with one abstention. Xia’s contract will not be renewed when it expires in January.
“The reason that most members of the committee voted against the renewal of Xia Yeliang’s contract lies in the performance of his teaching and research,” the university's statement reads, in part. “With regard to his teaching, the result of annual teaching assessments since 2008 showed that he ranked lowest among the School faculties three times, the third lowest once, the fourth lowest once. His best performance was the sixth from the bottom twice. During the same period, more than 340 pieces of students’ complaints and criticism on his teaching were received, including a letter of request signed by over 20 students to demand replacing Xia Yeliang. Such a demand is extremely rare at Peking University. The students mostly complained about his digressive talks and excessive waste of time on materials irrelevant to the course. Some of the comments are sharp criticism, for example 'Please teach economics in class; don’t bullshit!' 'You put the cart before the horse.' 'Too much superficial digression.' 'His words are full of garbage.' "
The statement also says that Xia only published one paper in the Chinese Social Sciences Citation Index from August 2008 to January 2013. The university said that Xia is untenured and that it has terminated 25 people upon expiration of their contact since 2008, including Xia.
A New York Times article, however, noted that Xia is the first professor to be dismissed from the economics department in more than a decade -- a fact that was confirmed by Peking officials. In an interview, Xia maintained that his dismissal was politically motivated -- he cited warnings from the university's Communist Party secretary regarding his online pro-democracy writings -- and defended his academic performance. He said that the 340 negative evaluations represent a fraction of the thousands of students he has taught and that his name had appeared in a number of publications since 2008.
“All such records are in their hands right now, so they can say whatever they want," Xia told the Times.
A new survey of how domestic Canadian students experience the internationalization of the campus by a Toronto-based consultancy finds mixed results.
Of the 1,398 students surveyed by Higher Education Strategy Associates, 43 percent counted at least one international student among the five closest friends they made at university. Overall, the study found that students generally have positive attitudes toward the diversity that international students bring to their social lives and the classroom.
However, the study also identified a number of tensions. Roughly half of respondents agreed with the statement that the presence of international students has considerably enriched their classroom learning experience. However, roughly a third said there have been occasions in which having international students in class hindered their learning experience.
Students in business and the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields – which attract large numbers of students from overseas – were least likely to agree that international students had enriched their learning experience. Across all fields of study, students who had a close international friend were more likely to say that international students enriched the classroom experience.
As for the issue of international instructors and teaching assistants, 70 percent of students said they took a course with an international instructor or T.A. who was difficult to comprehend because of his or her English or French ability (the survey is of domestic Canadian students, recall). And 32 percent said an instructor's language level had negatively impacted their ability to succeed in a course.
“None of this should be taken as an argument against internationalization,” the report concludes. “Rather, it suggests two things: first, that the values of internationalization are still in many ways adopted only superficially by Canadian students, and require strengthening. And second, that not enough attention is being paid to the dislocations caused by internationalization, particularly with respect to instructors’ official language abilities. Mitigating those problems is likely key to sustaining students’ support for internationalization over the long run; without it, the large minorities who have had less than positive experiences with campus internationalization could turn into majorities, and the resulting discontent could imperil the entire process."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been interviewing participants in an exchange program to Russia on whether the head of that program may be trying to recruit agents, The Washington Postreported. The investigation -- first reported in Mother Jones -- concerns the Russian Center for Science and Culture, in Washington, which offers trips to Russia for young professionals, including graduate students. A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Washington said that the exchanges were legitimate and did not involve the recruitment of xspies. "'All such ‘scaring information’ very much resembles Cold War era," the spokesman said, adding that these reports are an attempt to "distort and to blacken activities of the Russian Cultural Center."
The BBC decided to investigate the M.B.A. program offered by American University of London, and so enrolled a dog named Pete, giving him the fake name Peter Smith and a fake biography with various job titles. The university requires that students submit photographs, but the BBC opted not to send one, since the picture would have shown a dog. No problem. The university offered Pete an M.B.A., with no academic work, for $7,300. In a statement to the BBC, the institution defended itself. "We are not a bogus university … and have always been upfront about our status," said the statement. "We have not applied for accreditation with any American, British or other official agency. Many graduates go on to higher education or hold important positions on the strength of our degrees."
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.
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.
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.