Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016 - 3:00am

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Tuesday announced a slate of new initiatives to expand and research digital and online education for learners of all ages. For its residential students, MIT will offer a program through its Digital Learning Lab for postdocs who want to create digital materials for use in their fields, including online course work that can be used in face-to-face courses. MIT is also expanding its continuing education courses and creating a new faculty advisory committee to coordinate digital learning initiatives aimed at K-12 students.

On the research side, MIT is launching the Integrated Learning Initiative, an interdisciplinary center that will examine the process of learning. Sanjay Sarma, appointed to the new position of vice president for open learning, will lead MITili (pronounced "mightily"), and its findings will be applied to MIT's online and in-person programs.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016 - 4:26am

Two students at Santa Clara University have meningococcal meningitis, The San Jose Mercury News reported. Of particular concern is that the students have a strain of meningitis against which most college students aren't protected, because vaccinations for it were approved only recently. University officials are working to inform people on campus of symptoms and precautions to take.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016 - 3:00am

The Saudi government approved more restrictive eligibility rules for its foreign university scholarship program on Monday, Reuters and the Saudi Gazette reported. Details of the new rules are vague, but they would appear to make the scholarship program more academically elite. The Saudi government is facing a budget deficit due to low oil prices and is looking for ways to reduce state spending.

Saudi Arabia's foreign university scholarship program, started in 2005, has led to big increases in the number of Saudi students at U.S. universities. Nearly 60,000 Saudi students were enrolled at American colleges in 2014-15, making Saudi Arabia the fourth-largest country of origin for international students in the U.S.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016 - 3:00am

A new alliance between Arizona State University, King’s College London and the University of New South Wales will focus on cross-border research on issues related to health, social justice, sustainability and innovation. At a launch event in London next week, the universities plan to announce the inaugural group of more than 60 “PLuS Alliance” fellows, who will come from across the three institutions and who will receive stipends to cover travel and other costs. A pool of money will be available for research projects. The universities plan to announce the first joint research initiatives, on sustainability, at next week’s event.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, Avery August, professor and chair of immunology at Cornell University, discusses how the overuse of antibiotics could be to blame. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016 - 3:00am

The new Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education -- the first produced since the project shifted to Indiana University from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching -- is now officially available. Colleges and universities have been reviewing their data for the last month or so in advance of the official release.

Indiana's Center for Postsecondary Research is now responsible for the classification system, which categorizes institutions in multiple ways and allows for comparisons among them but not rankings.

Perhaps the most significant change in the new version involves how associate-granting institutions are classified.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016 - 3:00am

Faculty and student groups at Suffolk University on Monday reiterated their support for President Margaret McKenna (right), who they believe is doing an outstanding job but whom the board wants to oust, seven months into her tenure as the university's fifth president in five years. The Faculty Senate sent the board a letter calling on it not to dismiss McKenna, as the board plans to do later this week, but instead to support open discussions about the future of Suffolk.

The Faculty Senate letter specifically asked the board to lift a cease-and-desist order it gave McKenna, telling her she could not defend herself in public. Professors say she is being muzzled at a time when she needs to be part of a discussion on the university. The Faculty Senate letter said its members were "disturbed" by recent events in which board members have been leaking criticisms of McKenna to local reporters (leaks many on campus say are inaccurate).

The Executive Committee of Suffolk's Student Government Association met with leaders of the board Monday. After that meeting, the association issued a press release reiterating that students are "steadfast in our support" for McKenna. The press release said the student government was planning a vote of no confidence in the board chair later this week.

The university did not respond to requests for comment from board leaders.

A few trustees, however, are saying either that they are not on board with firing McKenna or don't like the way the issue is playing out in public, The Boston Globe reported.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016 - 3:00am

Concordia College will discontinue nine majors and one concentration, the Moorhead, Minn., college announced Friday. Instructors in those majors could lose their jobs by the end of May, while tenured professors will have one year’s notice, Inforum reported. Faculty members over 55 are being offered an incentive to retire early.

Concordia has been struggling to make up for declining enrollment, and it cut 5 percent of its workforce in April. Now, the college is aiming for $2.7 million in savings and new revenue.

Five of the discontinued majors are foreign languages -- Latin, Latin education, French, French education and German -- along with the classical studies, classics, health, humanities and Scandinavian studies concentration. There are currently 38 students enrolled in the discontinued majors, and 12 of those are scheduled to graduate this year. The rest will be able to complete their majors through special arrangements, independent studies and substitution of requirements.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016 - 4:15am

Emerson College has fined a student for renting out his dormitory room on Airbnb, Boston.com reported. The student admits doing so and says his rentals were helping him afford college. But Emerson says its lease agreements explicitly bar students from any subleasing. Friends of the student have organized an online petition in which they say Emerson's punishments could result in the student's expulsion. "There is nothing criminal with providing cheap housing to travelers," the petition says.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016 - 3:00am

The College of William & Mary announced that one of its students "apparently" contracted the Zika virus while traveling in Central America during winter break. According to the university’s announcement, the student is expected to recover fully and there is no known health risk for others on campus.

The World Health Organization on Monday declared a public health emergency related to the spread of the Zika virus. Though the mosquito-borne virus usually causes mild symptoms, public health officials are concerned about a suspected causal link between infection during pregnancy and microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads.

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