international

British Government Responds to Concerns on Syrian Students

An online petition campaign organized by Avaaz.org draws attention to the plight of Syrian students who are unable to pay tuition fees, including government-sponsored students whose tuition payments have been stopped. A statement released Friday by the Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, asked universities and funding agencies to exercise discretion over tuition and to use hardship funds to support students when possible. The statement notes that all institutions that enroll Syrian students through the Syrian Higher Education Capacity Building Project have agreed to waive or defer fees.

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Term Paper Ghostwriting Common in Russia

Ghostwriting of term papers is so common in Russia that those who do the work openly advertise their services, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty reported. A woman based in Tatarstan told the news service: "Theses start from 5,000 rubles [$165]. But it depends on how much the person can pay; the price is agreed individually. I don't copy anything from the Internet and I do my research in libraries. I care about my professional reputation; I don't want to lose clients."

 

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Debate Over Christian Law School in Canada

The Council of Canadian Law Deans is opposing a proposal by Trinity Western University, an evangelical institution, to start a law school, The Vancouver Sun reported. The deans say that the accreditor for law schools in Canada should block the new institution from opening because Trinity Western's policies bar gay relationships by students or employees. Trinity Western officials said that they are entitled to hold their religious views, and also to start a law school.

 

Author of novel attacking lack of academic integrity runs an essay-writing service

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Author of novel that criticizes universities for failing to prevent cheating himself runs an essay-writing service.

Hebrew U. Considers Accepting Doctoral Theses in English

The Senate of Hebrew University of Jerusalem has been considering and is expected to vote for a proposal to allow doctoral theses to be submitted in English, Haaretz reported. While it is currently possible to obtain special permission to submit a thesis in English, the requirement is that they be submitted in Hebrew. David Aviner, a professor who is head of the Authority for Research Students in the Experimental Sciences, said the rule change reflects the need to use English because one or more committee members come from outside Israel. Further, he noted the issue of disseminating findings. "If the doctorates were written in Hebrew, two people in the hallway would read it instead of hundreds of colleagues among research groups overseas," he said.

The president of Israel's Hebrew Language Academy, Moshe Bar-Asher, sent a letter of protest to Senate members. "There's a new version of the rules, saying 'Doctorates are to be submitted in Hebrew or English,' and thus this dignified institution ... announces that the status of Hebrew has been devalued," he wrote. "In the end, studying in English will outweigh everything else, and this process will result in the teaching of English in elementary and high schools."

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Dozens Killed in Explosions at Aleppo U.

Explosions at Aleppo University, in Syria, killed dozens of people Tuesday, the New York Times reported. 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.

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College enrollment demand flattens in Australia

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After three years of growth, the number of students seeking places in Australia's universities flattens, similar to patterns seen in the United States.

Southern Utah Releases Review of ESL Program

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 Ed reported 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.

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U. of Buckingham Ends Relationship With Ugandan Institution Over Anti-Gay Bill

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. 

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U.K. Sees Slowdown in Growth of International Students

New data on international student enrollments released by the United Kingdom’s Higher Education Statistics Agency offer insight into the effects of changes in visa policies, including the elimination of a post-study work option. The total number of international students in the U.K. increased by 1.6 percent in 2011-12, a slowdown from the 5.5 percent growth rate reported the year before.

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.”

Beall added: "The UK’s overall growth in international student numbers of 4,570 is tiny compared to recent U.S. figures of a growth of 41,000 students over the same period. This suggests that we are beginning to lose out in an incredibly competitive market.”

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