Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 3:00am

Just three months after Susan Hockfield announced her plans to retire as president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT's board said Tuesday that it had hired Provost L. Rafael Reif to succeed her. The remarkably quick (for major research universities) succession came about not for a lack of candidates -- MIT considered more than 100, said its board chairman, John S. Reed -- but because Reif emerged so clearly as a "uniquely qualified candidate," Reed said. Reif was centrally involved in many of the institute's most innovative efforts in his seven years as provost, including the creation of MITx and its recent expansion, with Harvard University, into EdX. “I cannot tell you that this is a dream come true,” Reif told reporters after his selection, “because this is a dream I never dared to imagine.”
 

Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Stan Kuczaj of the University of Southern Mississippi explains the relationship between Hurricane Katrina and the dolphin population along the Gulf Coast. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 3:00am

College athletes in contact sports such as football and ice hockey were more likely than peers in non-contact sports to perform worse than expected on tests measuring the ability to absorb new learning, according to a study published this week in the journal Neurology. The study, by Thomas McAllister of Dartmouth College's medical school, did not find differences in test results between the two groups of athletes at the beginning of the season, suggesting that head impacts from previous seasons did not appear to diminish thinking and memory skills in contact-sport athletes.

But where just 4 percent of the athletes in non-contact sports (such as crew, track, and skiing) performed worse than expected on the test of new learning after their playing season, 22 percent of contact-sport athletes did. (Players who had suffered concussions were excluded from the study.) Concerns about cognitive impairment due to head impacts has been escalating, most notably in football and most intensely at the professional and high school levels.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 3:00am

The Russian government is planning to launch a new program in which it will pay for 2,000 students a year to start degree programs in science, business and the social sciences abroad, but the students must pledge to return to Russia after graduation, Nature reported. The students can pick their university abroad, but it must be one of those ranked by Times Higher Education.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 3:00am

Officials at the University of Oxford's Brasenose College have become alarmed over students wearing pajamas to breakfast in the dining hall, BBC reported. As a result, a memo was sent to all students stating that "this practice evinces a failure to distinguish between public and private spaces in college." The memo added: "I trust that this slovenly practice will cease forthwith." Martha Mackenzie, president of Oxford University Students' Union, said that students wear pajamas to breakfast because "for students, the colleges become their homes over the three years that they're there, so that's why you can begin to see a more informal approach as they become more relaxed."

 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 4:28am

David Coleman, one of the chief architects of and advocates for the common core curricular standards under consideration by states nationwide, will become the next president of the College Board, The New York Times reported. The College Board is best known for the SAT and the Advanced Placement program, but Coleman said that he sees a broader mission for the organization, telling the Times that "the College Board is not just about measuring and testing, but designing high-quality curriculum.”

Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 3:00am

The election of François Hollande as France's president also marks a breakthrough in French higher education, Le Monde reported. Hollande is the first alumnus of HEC (a business-focused university) to become president, and he's the first French president to have attended a business school. (More typical educational backgrounds have been at the nation's elite military or civil service-oriented institutions.) Le Monde noted that "the HEC phenomenon" is evident in a range of powerful people in French society who are its graduates. They include business leaders, as is to be expected, but also Pascal Lamy, director general of the World Trade Organization; Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former managing director of the International Monetary Fund; Rémy Pflimlin, president of France Télévisions; and Louis Dreyfus, chairman of the executive board of Le Monde Group. The rise of these HEC-educated officials represents "profound change in the French elites."

 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 4:29am

With regents appointed by Texas Governor Rick Perry reportedly interested in ousting Bill Powers as president of the University of Texas at Austin, reporters asked Perry about Powers on Tuesday. The Associated Press reported that Perry declined to talk about the subject, saying only "I got a state to run," and adding that he doesn't focus on any one campus. Perry did say that the move by the University of Texas Board of Regents to freeze tuition (over the objections of Powers) sent a "good message" about controlling college costs. And Perry praised the $10,000 degrees several universities have started at his urging. (Many experts question whether these programs are sustainable and some see costs being shifted to other students.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 3:00am

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has cleared  the University of Missouri at Kansas City of wrongdoing after a former adjunct instructor accused the college of inflating an athlete's grade over his objections.

In a letter UMKC provided Inside Higher Ed Tuesday, an NCAA investigator writes that no violations occurred, saying that the changing of the athlete's grade was done through a legitimate appeals process and without athletic department involvement. The grade change didn't affect the athlete's eligibility, the letter said. UMKC had denied wrongdoing from the start and said at the time that it would welcome an investigation.

In a written statement, UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton praised the NCAA investigation and criticized the news media for reporting on the "unsubstantiated allegations made by a single disgruntled part-time instructor."

"The fact that it took the organization only four working days to investigate the matter and come to this conclusion speaks volumes about the utter lack of substance to these baseless allegations," Morton wrote.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Leaf Van Boven of the University of Colorado at Boulder explains the gap between the perception of political polarization and reality. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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