Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 11, 2013

India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development announced on Tuesday that it is advancing a proposal to permit foreign universities to open campuses under the Companies Act. The ministry's proposal to allow foreign universities to register as companies appears to represent an attempt to bypass Parliamentary approval of the long-stalled foreign universities bill, which faces stiff political opposition. 

Under the proposed rules, foreign institutions wishing to set up campuses would have to be non-profit, accredited, and listed among the top 400 institutions in one of three major world university rankings. Each institution would have to maintain a corpus fund of at least 250,000,000 rupees, or almost $4 million.

At this point, Kevin Kinser, chair of the educational administration and policy studies department at the State University of New York at Albany, is skeptical that the proposal will become policy. “We’ve been down this road before,” said Kinser, who studies branch campuses. "There are announcements they are going to develop these policies to allow foreign universities to enter, but we haven’t really seen it come to fruition. I’m not going to be out there buying land or negotiating arrangements until something more concrete comes forward.”  

“There are a lot of political interests involved in this,” Kinser added, “and it’s not entirely clear where the actual support comes from for moving in this direction, and whether that support has the political ability to withstand the resistance.”

September 11, 2013

Michigan State University should not have removed a professor from classroom teaching based on a video showing him making anti-Republican statements, the university's chapter of the American Association of University Professors says in a statement released Tuesday. Video of William Penn making comments about Republicans led the university to remove him from the classroom. The AAUP statement says that the association "affirms the importance of mutual respect in faculty-student interactions," and the statement does not rule out the possibility that Penn's conduct was inappropriate. But the AAUP says that "a video, however apparently conclusive as evidence of offensive statements or disrespect to students, is not an adequate basis for immediate punitive action against a professor."

The statement continues: "A professor may well experiment with modes of presentation meant to shock. We are not prepared to agree that no professor may do that in the exercise of judgment about means of engaging students. We do not believe that what we know from the release of the video is sufficient as a basis to conclude that Professor Penn should not continue to receive the protections afforded by academic freedom. Indeed, we are concerned by the suggestion that one ten-minute video taken by a student of a professor in a class can be the basis for abbreviating the process leading to suspension of the professor from teaching responsibilities. The harm of a professor's controversial approach to stimulating students’ response, expressing his own take on one 'identity,' is minor compared with the chill on the classroom that arises from a rush to judgment in which there has not been an open fact-finding process or deliberation by a faculty body."


September 11, 2013

Learning management system provider Desire2Learn is putting its $80 million in venture capital funding to use, acquiring its third startup in less than a year. This week, the company announced it has acquired the adaptive learning company Knowillage, which produces LeaP, a system that can index an institution's academic materials. If a student is struggling with a particular topic, LeaP can suggest content that allows the student to attack the topic from a different angle.

Desire2Learn will integrate the technology into its learning system.

"With this system, the teacher will be able ... to ensure that everybody can have access to a tool that continually increases their competency in any given course, in any given concept," said Jeff McDowell, Desire2Learn vice president of marketing and business development.

Desire2Learn previously acquired Wiggio, which creates group management software, and Degree Compass, an analytics tool. McDowell described the acquisitions as "tuck-ins," and said Desire2Learn does not have any future acquisitions "in the hopper."

September 11, 2013

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Education Department’s attempts to regulate colleges and universities over the past several years provide good protections for students and taxpayers, the department’s independent investigatory arm has concluded.    

The report by the department’s inspector general was released on the second day of a negotiated rule-making hearing aimed at rewriting the department’s controversial gainful employment regulations. It finds that some type of gainful employment metrics are needed to hold colleges accountable and to protect taxpayer money. The report also applauds the department’s efforts to define a credit hour and require institutions of higher education to be authorized by the state in which they operate.

The inspector general’s office relied on its previous audits and investigations to produce the analysis. It did not appear to evaluate the impact of the regulations or weigh alternative rule proposals.

Representative George Miller, the ranking Democrat on the House education committee, sought the study from the Education Department’s inspector general in response to legislation being pushed by House Republicans to repeal those regulations and prohibit the Obama administration from enacting new ones. The proposal cleared the Republican-led House education committee in July on a mostly party-line vote, with one Democrat supporting the measure. 

September 11, 2013

Cornell University announced a $100 million gift to its medical college Tuesday. The donors -- for whom the medical school is already named -- are Joan and Sanford I. Weill and the Weill Family Foundation. The Weills have now given $600 million to the university.


September 11, 2013

Researchers are tapping into data on students to nudge students through college, according to a report released Tuesday by Education Sector.

Technology-driven behavioral nudges range from providing students with course recommendations based on the performance of past students to offering study advice via text messaging or counseling over the phone. “By giving students information-driven suggestions that lead to smarter actions, technology nudges are intended to tackle a range of problems surrounding the process by which students begin college and make their way to graduation,” said the report.

Some researchers found that sending reminders about placement tests, orientation and pre-college tasks via text messages to low-income high school graduates increased the likelihood students would be on campus in the fall.

The report, “Nudge Nation: A New Way to Prod Students Into and Through College,” advocated for further research on mining data for students’ benefits.

“Like many other technology initiatives, these ventures are relatively young and much remains to be learned about how they can be made most effective,” the report said. “Already, however, nudge designers are having a good deal of success marrying knowledge of human behavior with the capacity of technology to reach students at larger scale, and lower cost, than would be possible in person.”

September 11, 2013

An official with the U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday suggested that a panel of negotiators consider including a program-level cohort default rate as part of proposed gainful employment regulations, which would would measure the employment outcomes of vocational programs at for-profit institutions and community colleges. That metric would be a new addition to an annual debt-to-income ratio and a discretionary income ratio.

John Kolotos, the official, who is a negotiator for the rule-making session that began this week, said the department had not vetted the details on how a loan default rate would work. But the department already has an institution-level rate in place, and he said the feds consider a three-year program-level rate of 30 percent (and one year at 40 percent) to be a "viable addition" to gainful employment. It would be a stand-alone measure, he said, meaning academic programs would lose eligibility for federal aid programs if they crossed the threshold, regardless of how they perform on other measures. 

September 11, 2013

The University of North Carolina’s public television network is defending its appointment of the controversial author Orson Scott Card to its Board of Trustees.

UNC-TV released a statement clarifying that the Board of Trustees is not involved in the editorial process after backlash from Card’s appointment. Card received national attention over political writings published in Greensboro’s Rhinoceros Times, where he compared President Obama to Hitler and Stalin, WRAL reported. Card, author of the award-winning books Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead, is also vocal about his opposition to same-sex marriage and “Leftaliban” in higher education and the news media.

“There have always been board members with a variety of opinions and backgrounds on the UNC-TV Board of Trustees, and the membership of the board is always changing," UNC-TV's statement said. "What has not changed is UNC-TV’s commitment to its mission of providing excellent public television programming for all the citizens of North Carolina."

September 11, 2013

Converse College, a South Carolina college with about 700 undergraduate students, joined the club Tuesday of 10 or so other institutions that have "reset" their tuition rates. The college said it would reduce its tuition by about 43 percent to $16,500 for students in fall 2014. The college said the new sticker price is actually close to the average cost students pay anyway. Colleges generally list higher rates than they charge most students.

September 11, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Mitchell Aide of the University of Puerto Rico explains how electronically bugging a tropical forest can provide insight about the native species. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.



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