Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, June 24, 2013 - 3:00am

Professors at Hebrew University are objecting to a plan to add some single-sex courses (in which female instructors would not be permitted to teach male students) as part of a plan to attract ultra-Orthodox Jewish students, Haaretz reported. Israel is currently in the midst of a national debate on how to better integrate ultra-Orthodox Jews into society, and how to encourage more of them to get a (secular) higher education and to pursue employment. Some universities are adding gender-segregated classes to make these students more comfortable and there is a plan for Hebrew University to do so. But administrators -- facing widespread faculty opposition last week -- held off on seeking a vote on the idea. Professors say that segregated classes would be illegal, would discriminate against women and violates academic norms.

 

Monday, June 24, 2013 - 3:00am

The University of California at Berkeley is struggling to pay the bills on its newly renovated $321 million football stadium, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. A major part of the plan was to sell premium seats, at $40,000 to $250,000 each for use for 40 to 50 years. The university's plan for paying off the debt on the stadium assumed that, by this month, the university would have sold 2,902 of the seats. In fact, the university has sold only 1,857 seats, and 16 purchasers have stopped payments and are giving up their seats.

Monday, June 24, 2013 - 3:00am

FutureLearn, the British provider of massive open online courses, is planning to create "badges" that can be earned for each section of its MOOCs, Times Higher Education reported. This will make it easier for those who enroll to show that they have learned something even if they do not complete the course. Martin Bean, vice chancellor of the Open University, which created FutureLearn, said that it was "sad" when journalists talk about those who don't finish MOOCs as "dropouts." He said that these badges might change that. "As a vice-chancellor I get very annoyed when I see people who don’t complete [courses] described in negative terms. We’re trying to design FutureLearn pedagogy around a 'mini-MOOC' model, shorter in duration and broken down into bite-sized pieces," he said.

Monday, June 24, 2013 - 3:00am

The latest leaks from Edward Snowden, provided to The South China Morning Post, focus on U.S. National Security Agency hacking of backbone computer networks at China's Tsinghua University. A Post article said that documents provided by Snowden showed the hacking to be "intensive." On one day, 63 computers and networks were hacked by the NSA.

Monday, June 24, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Donald Stewart of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry explains why he went looking for a new species of fish in a library. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Monday, June 24, 2013 - 3:00am

Today is another day that the U.S. Supreme Court might rule on a landmark decision on affirmative action in college and university admissions. The affirmative action case is by far the case in this Supreme Court term that was argued the longest ago (back in October) without a ruling yet issued. A hashtag based on the name of the plaintiff #waitingforfisher has turned up on Twitter. Numerous articles have cited various theories about what the delay could mean -- although the authors of those articles typically admit that they are guessing, since the Supreme Court doesn't leak.

One law blog -- Noncuratlex.com -- poked fun at all the impatience by publishing a fake news story in which Chief Justice John Roberts offered the real reason for the delays: "I want to put to rest all of the nutty conspiracy theories that have circulated around the Fisher case," the blog quoted Roberts as telling reporters. "Any speculation that the Court is struggling with drafting the opinion, or opinions, is pure nonsense. The truth behind the delay is far more mundane. As you may have guessed, we’re still waiting for the go-ahead from Madame Zena, the official Court Astrologer."

Monday, June 24, 2013 - 3:00am

Ashford University has begun a voluntary buyout program for non-faculty employees, said a spokeswoman for Bridgepoint Education, which owns the for-profit institution. Enrollment has tumbled at the university, which is also grappling with uncertainty about its regional accreditation. To reduce class sizes, Ashford has hired more faculty members while eliminating all of its teaching assistant positions, according to the company. Next month the Western Association of Schools and Colleges is expected to publicly announce whether Ashford has succeeded in a revised accreditation bid. The university's current regional accreditor is the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Friday, June 21, 2013 - 3:00am

Lincoln Educational Services this week announced that it will close five campuses in Ohio and Kentucky. The for-profit institution, which offers automotive technology and other academic programs, said legislation Congress passed last year to eliminate federal aid for "ability to benefit" students had resulted in dramatic enrollment declines at the five locations. That legislation prohibits students who lack a high school diploma or its equivalent from participating in federal aid programs. Shaun McAlmont, Lincoln's CEO, said in a written statement that the company was saddened that those students "continue to be marginalized by legislation that treats them differently than so-called 'traditional' students."

Friday, June 21, 2013 - 3:00am

McGraw-Hill Education plans to acquire adaptive learning software maker ALEKS. The software maker and the publishing giant have worked together over the past decade on math courseware for McGraw-Hill. ALEKS also has a standalone product, which McGraw-Hill said it will continue to offer in the "near term."

The acquisition marks McGraw-Hill's first since it was acquired by private equity firm Apollo Global Management. ALEKS is one of a number of companies trying to figure out how to make education software respond to and aid students.

Friday, June 21, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Valorie Salimpoor of the University of Toronto explains the neurology behind the human love of music. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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