Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 10, 2017

Inside Higher Ed is pleased to release today our latest print-on-demand compilation, “Admissions, Retention, Success: Tools Colleges Need.” You may download the free booklet here, and you may sign up here for a free webcast on the themes of the booklet on Tuesday, Nov. 7, at 2 p.m. Eastern.

October 10, 2017

Colorado College announced Monday that the assets of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center will transfer to the college. The center includes an art school, theater and museum with a renowned Southwest and Spanish Colonial collection. The arts center's assets are valued at $175 million.

October 10, 2017

Researchers studying research have found that some research proposals can be ineffective for research at large, according to new research.

Funding proposals that require scientists to declare what about their project will be “transformative” to their field can set back the field as a whole, according to a study from Oregon State University researchers. Sarah Gravem, a postdoctoral scholar in integrative biology and lead author of the study, said asking scientists to attempt to shift the paradigm in every proposal is not only unrealistic, but potentially harmful.

One of the problems with the emphasis on transformative research is that it results in less money funding incremental research, which is needed to make the baby steps required to transform a field.

The National Science Foundation defines transformative research as “driven by ideas that have the potential to radically change our understanding of an important existing scientific or engineering concept or leading to the creation of a new paradigm.”

The push by the NSF and other for transformative research was rooted in wanting to propel the U.S. ahead of other countries when it comes to scientific inquiry, Oregon State researchers said in a release announcing their study. However, the result has been staking bets on long-shot proposals instead of concrete, less flashy research.

“To start out with that transformative question is a backward way of thinking,” Gravem said. “Surely you have to think big to come up with big answers, and everyone is striving for that, but truly transformative research is an unobtainable standard to place on people at the proposal stage. Trying to make every project paradigm shifting can mean ignoring the incremental and basic science that eventually goes into shifting paradigms. It’s a detriment to ignore the building blocks in favor of the building.”

October 10, 2017

ResearchGate, a popular social networking site for researchers, has come under fire from publishers because of the way scientists share their research on the platform.

Last week, a group of scholarly publishers, called the Coalition for Responsible Sharing, published a statement saying that their attempts to negotiate with ResearchGate over papers shared in breach of copyright had failed, and that they had been “left with no other choice but to take formal steps to remedy the illicit hosting of millions of subscription articles on the ResearchGate site.”

The coalition, which includes publishers Elsevier, the American Chemical Society, Brill, Wiley and Wolters Kluwer, said that it would begin to issue notices to ResearchGate requesting that infringing content be removed from the site. Additionally, the statement said that the American Chemical Society and Elsevier “are asking the courts to clarify ResearchGate’s copyright responsibility.” Science reported that a lawsuit had been filed by the publishers at a regional court in Germany, where ResearchGate is based.

Meanwhile, publisher Springer Nature on Oct. 9 published a joint statement with ResearchGate, which said the two parties were “cautiously optimistic” that they would find a solution to sharing scientific journal articles online, while at the same time protecting intellectual property rights. They invited other publishers and societies to join the talks.

October 10, 2017

The U.S. embassy has suspended all nonimmigrant visa processing in Turkey after the arrest of a consulate employee, prompting Turkey to respond by stopping visa processing for Americans, The New York Times reported.

In a statement Sunday the U.S. embassy in Ankara said it had immediately suspended processing for nonimmigrant visas -- which include visas for visiting students and scholars -- due to what it described as “recent events” that “have forced the United States government to reassess the commitment of the government of Turkey to the security of U.S. mission facilities and personnel.”

Turkey, in turn, issued an almost identical statement in which it said it was suspending all visa services for American citizens at its U.S. consulates and embassy due to “recent events” that “have forced the Turkish government to reassess the commitment of the government of the U.S. to the security of the Turkish mission facilities and personnel.” Turkey said the restrictions would apply to visas in passports, visas issued at borders and electronic visas.

The Times reported that the U.S. consulate employee who was arrested, Metin Topuz, has been accused of having links to Fethullah Gülen, whom the Turkish government blames for a failed coup attempt in July 2016. Gülen has denied involvement. Topuz has been accused of espionage and of “attempting to overthrow the Turkish government and Constitution.”

More than 10,000 Turkish students were enrolled in American universities in 2015-16, making Turkey the 13th-leading country of origin for international students in the U.S., according to the Institute of International Education’s annual “Open Doors” report.

October 10, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Krista Ingram, associate professor of biology at Colgate University, examines how when you go to sleep or wake up can affect your decision-making process throughout the day. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

October 9, 2017

The Quality Assurance Commons for Higher & Postsecondary Education is a new group that is exploring alternative approaches to accreditation in higher education. With funding from the Lumina Foundation and through the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, the QA Commons last week announced a pilot project to assess higher education programs at 14 institutions around the country.

The project, which features a broad range of participating colleges, including public universities and community colleges, will focus on the employability of students.

Ralph Wolff, who formerly led the WASC Senior College and University Commission, a regional accreditor, is founder and president of the QA Commons. He said the project is designed to close the gap between higher education and employers.

“Work as we know it is changing, so it’s increasingly challenging -- and important -- to ensure higher education experiences appropriately prepare graduates for the 21st century,” Wolff said in a written statement. “A growing body of evidence tells us that the so-called soft skills are the ones employers want most but struggle to find. We are calling them ‘essential employability qualities,’ because they are critical to immediate and long-term success in the world of work.”

Essential employment qualities the group will seek to gauge include:

  • People skills such as collaboration, teamwork and cross-cultural competence;
  • Problem-solving abilities such as inquiry, critical thinking and creativity;
  • Professional strengths such as communication, work ethic and technological agility.
October 9, 2017

The U.S. Department of Education is scrutinizing an aspect of the proposed acquisition of Kaplan University by Purdue University, The Washington Post reported Friday. Purdue, however, said the reported potential regulatory problem is not an issue.

Purdue is seeking to create a new online university through its complex deal with Kaplan, a for-profit that enrolls roughly 30,000 students. As Inside Higher Ed has reported, one of the biggest controversies and likely the highest regulatory hurdle for the arrangement is the extent to which the boundary-pushing new university will behave like a public institution.

Mitch Daniels, Purdue's president and a former Republican governor of Indiana, has said the state will not pay for the new university, which will be supported solely through tuition and fund-raising. Although the new university technically will be a state institution, Indiana's Legislature exempted it from some public records requirements. And while state universities are subject to less scrutiny from the federal government because states are on the hook in the event of a financial collapse or other problems that would require the forgiveness of student loans, it's unclear if that would be the case for Purdue-Kaplan, which Daniels has promised poses "virtually no financial risk to Purdue or the state."

However, as observers had predicted, it appears that the Education Department will require Purdue to absorb liabilities that Kaplan accrued prior to the proposed acquisition.

The feds last month granted initial approval to the deal. But a department official, in a letter the Post obtained, said Purdue and Indiana will be responsible for Kaplan's liabilities. Those could include tuition refunds or covering loan balances, the newspaper reported.

The department will not finalize its approval of the deal unless Purdue agrees to "assume responsibility for liabilities resulting from the operation of Kaplan University as an educational institution, whether they are known or unknown, and whether they accrue prior to or after the closing of the transaction," the official wrote, adding that those liabilities "constitute an instrumentality of the state of Indiana for the purpose of the department’s regulations."

Purdue said its contract with Kaplan states that the for-profit will cover its liabilities from prior to the deal's closing. The public institution also said the department acknowledged the liability arrangement and did not challenge it in the letter.

"The Department of Education recognizes that the parties can agree -- and in fact already have -- that Kaplan is responsible for pre-closing liabilities," a Purdue spokesman said via email. "This agreement shields both Purdue and Indiana taxpayers from financial risk."

The university said the contract was structured to conform with a federal requirement for a single institution to be responsible for liabilities as part of the standard change in control process.

"Contrary to the article's assertion, there was nothing for the department to 'take issue' with, since Purdue doesn't, and never did, have any problem with the department's position," Purdue said. "Indeed, Indiana's own enabling legislation is consistent with the department's position. There's simply nothing new here."

Indiana's state government has formally backed the deal. The Higher Learning Commission, which is the regional accreditor for both Purdue and Kaplan, also must sign off on the arrangement for it to move forward. Experts have said that decision poses the biggest challenge for the new university.

October 9, 2017

Kennesaw State cheerleaders kneeling before a game Saturday.Several cheerleaders at Kennesaw State University took a knee during the national anthem Saturday before the institution’s football team played Texas Southern University.

The incident drew ire from the Cobb County sheriff, Neil Warren, who told the Marietta Daily Journal that the students were “ill informed” and that “KSU needs to get busy educating these students on more than just passing their classes. They need to learn all that the flag truly represents.”

Columnist and activist Shaun King tweeted Saturday that families of the cheerleaders told him they were being harassed by law enforcement.

Kennesaw State spokeswoman Tammy Demel didn’t address King’s tweet or Warren’s statement directly but said that the university respects both the anthem and the free speech rights of the cheerleaders.

“Kennesaw State University believes that it is important to honor the national anthem,” Demel said in an email. “It is equally as important to respect the rights of individuals as protected under the First Amendment."

October 9, 2017

Nobel Prize medalRichard H. Thaler was named this morning the winner of the 2017 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics. Thaler, a professor at the business school of the University of Chicago, was honored "for his contributions to behavioral economics."


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