Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 16, 2013

Members of the American Studies Association have voted to endorse a resolution backing the academic boycott of Israel. Out of a total of 1,252 votes, 66.05 percent of members endorsed the resolution, 30.5 percent rejected it, and 3.43 percent abstained. The association’s elected National Council had previously endorsed the resolution before turning the question over to members for an association-wide vote.

The American Studies Association is the second major American scholarly association, after the Association for Asian American Studies, to endorse the boycott of Israeli universities. A full story from Inside Higher Ed will appear tomorrow.

 

December 16, 2013

Universities U.K. has withdrawn controversial guidance it released last month on gender segregation at “ultra-orthodox” religious events on campus after coming under criticism from the prime minister’s office. The guidance, which was intended to help British Universities balance their legal responsibility to protect freedom of speech while also meeting the requirements of nondiscrimination law, said that in regards to a hypothetical case study in which an outside religious speaker requested seating segregated by gender, “a balance of interests is most likely to be achieved if it is possible to offer attendees both segregated and non-segregated seating areas."

However, last week a spokesperson for the prime minister said that David Cameron felt “very strongly” that guest speakers should not be permitted to address segregated audiences and urged Universities U.K. to review the guidance, as the BBC reported. Universities U.K issued a statement saying that it had withdrawn the case study in question pending a legal review.

"Universities UK agrees entirely with the prime minister that universities should not enforce gender segregation on audiences at the request of guest speakers,” Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the British presidential association, said in a statement. “However, where the gender segregation is voluntary, the law is unclear. We are working with our lawyers and the [Equality and Human Rights Commission] to clarify the position.”

December 16, 2013

California has been the site of much high-level political excitement about the potential of new models of online education to provide introductory or remedial courses at low cost. But The San Jose Mercury News reported that the leaders of the University of California and California State University Systems -- in a joint appearance Friday -- were skeptical. Janet Napolitano, the UC president, said she thought online education probably wouldn't solve issues related to providing most courses, but could be a useful tool for specialized courses. Timothy White, the Cal State chancellor, meanwhile called the much-debated experiment between San Jose State University and Udacity a failure, the article said. It quoted him as saying: "For those who say, 'Well, Tim, you'll save a lot of money if ... you do more things online,' that's not correct." (A spokeswoman for California State University said Monday that the quotes attributed to White were inaccurate, and that his comments were not about a specific campus.)

 

December 13, 2013

About 2,500 applicants to Fordham University were incorrectly told this week that they had been admitted, when in reality 500 of them had been rejected and another 2,000 had been deferred, The New York Times reported. The notification came with information about financial aid notices and arrived two days before the applicants had expected to hear from the university. The emails came from Student Aid Services, a contractor working with the university. Both the company and the university have apologized and said that they are trying to figure out what happened.

 

December 13, 2013

Late Wednesday the U.S. Department of Education released further revisions to its proposed gainful employment regulations, which would impose standards on vocational programs at for-profit institutions and community colleges. The new proposal dropped a loan repayment rate threshold that was added earlier in the negotiated rulemaking process, which is scheduled to conclude today.

The Education Department also released an analysis of how institutions would fare under the rules. Individual colleges were not named. The data showed that 13 percent of programs would fail under the standards. That number is more than double the amount that would have failed under the 2011 attempt to set gainful employment regulations.

December 13, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Bazbek Davletov of the University of Sheffield explains why Botox could be the next great pain medication. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

December 13, 2013

Research universities are using a wide range of tools to assess and improve undergraduate education, and they are adding methods for assessment and improvement, according to a survey released Thursday by the Association of American Universities. Institutions are mixing the use of quantitative data (such as graduation rates) with student surveys and other tools.

December 13, 2013

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research and a major force in global science, on Thursday voted to admit Israel as the first non-European full member nation, and as the first nation added since 1999. At a time that some academics in the United States and Europe are pushing to isolate Israel, the move by CERN was hailed by officials in Israel as a reflection of the strength of the country's scientific enterprise. Israel has been an associate member of CERN, a status countries must maintain for two years prior to consideration for full membership.

December 13, 2013

The University of Texas Board of Regents -- after long hours behind closed doors Thursday to discuss the performance of Bill Powers as president of the flagship campus at Austin -- decided to keep him on, The Dallas Morning News reported. Powers is popular with students and faculty members, but he has clashed with board members who are close to Governor Rick Perry, a Republican. Francisco Cigarroa, chancellor of the UT system, said after the meeting that relations between Powers and the board have become "strained," but that Powers was working to improve them.

The Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education, a group of business and civic leaders who have backed Powers, issued this statement late Thursday: “Bill Powers is an outstanding higher education leader for Texas and for the country. That his job was ever in question is a sad indictment of the current state of affairs in Texas, in which the undue influence of the governor’s office trumps common sense and good governance. It is our hope that moving forward all of the Board of Regents will support President Powers and focus on strengthening the entire system for the benefit of all Texans, without some of the board members disrupting the flagship."

Meanwhile, the Board of Regents at Texas A&M University is facing its own controversy. The board is scheduled to vote Saturday on an interim president for the flagship campus. Chancellor John Sharp has reportedly nominated Mark Hussey, the system's vice chancellor and A&M's dean for the College of Agriculture and Life Science, for the position, and Hussey has faculty support, The Bryan-College Station Eagle reported. But Governor Perry is reportedly pressing regents (all of whom he has appointed) to instead pick Guy Diedrich, the system's vice chancellor for strategic initiatives, and a friend of Perry's.

 

December 13, 2013

Overall enrollment in higher education fell by 1.5 percent in fall 2013, marking the second consecutive year of decline, the National Student Clearinghouse estimated Thursday in a report. Enrollments edged up over fall 2012 at four-year private and public institutions, by 1.3 and 0.3 percent, respectively, but dropped by 3.1 and 9.7 percent at community colleges and four-year for-profit institutions, the clearinghouse report said. No region gained students in year-over-year numbers, but the Midwest (-2.6 percent) suffered most with the other regions dipping by less than a percentage point. 

The report also provides data on enrollments by state and gender, among other counts.

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