Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, June 14, 2013 - 3:00am

Students at two-year institutions display "astounding variation" in their patterns of enrollment, according to a new study by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College. The research, which tracked more than 14,000 students at five community colleges over 18 semesters, showed that students often switch back and forth between full- and part-time status. They also regularly spent time away from being enrolled. Continuous enrollment was particularly linked to earning an associate degree, according to the research, while full-time enrollment was associated with transfer to four-year institutions.

Friday, June 14, 2013 - 3:00am

You'll find no shortage of reports and ideas about how to reform graduate education -- shorten time to degree, make options outside the professoriate more attractive, etc. Few of the proposals come from those with arguably the biggest stake in the results: graduate students themselves. But the National Science Foundation has sought to change that, with its Innovation in Graduate Education Challenge, which offered grad students awards for their ideas about strengthening graduate education and academic professional development. 

Thursday, the NSF announced the winners of its challenge, drawn from more than 500 teams that submitted proposals. The winning entries, which earned prizes ranging from $1,000 to $3,000, included several aimed at improving how scholars communicate their findings and the value of their work to the public and a plan to create a web portal that would help graduate students manage their progress to a degree and find mentors and jobs.

 

Friday, June 14, 2013 - 3:00am

Faculty members at St. Cloud State University have noticed an increasing number of instances in where failing or low grades were removed from students' transcripts without the professors being consulted, Minnesota Public Radio reported. Devinder Molhotr, the provost, said that it has become clear that proper protocol -- which would include faculty consultation -- hasn't always been followed. He said that a "very specific protocol" should prevent future problems.

Friday, June 14, 2013 - 3:00am

Periodic debates break out among historians over whether the field of military history receives sufficient attention. In an effort to promote the field, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation has announced a new $50,000 prize for the best military history book each year. Josiah Bunting III, president of the foundation, said in a statement: "It is our hope that the establishment of this prize will draw public attention to the field's continuing utility as an important staple of education in international politics, diplomacy, and conflict, and to assist in the restoration of military history to an important place in university curricula. If we do not learn from the conflicts of the past, we will be doomed to repeat them. For the sake of all, we cannot allow this area of scholarship and thinking to atrophy in the United States or abroad."

 

Friday, June 14, 2013 - 3:00am

In a decision that could have ramifications for medical researchers, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that isolated human genes could not be patented, though it said synthetic genes could be eligible for patents. Researchers hailed the decision, saying it brings clarity to a fast-changing area of research and opens that area up to greater investigation.

“The right to control exclusively the use of a patient’s genes could have made it more difficult to access new tests and treatments that rely on novel technologies that can quickly determine the sequence of any of the estimated 20,000 genes in the human genome,” said Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, in a statement. “Such approaches form the cornerstone of the rapidly emerging field of personalized medicine, in which diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive strategies can be tailored to each person’s unique genetic makeup.”

The case attracted attention from the higher education community, with multiple research and law groups weighing in on it at various levels. Groups such as the American Medical Association opposed the right to patent genes. The Association of University Technology Managers, a group that represents technology-transfer officers, supported the right.

Thursday, June 13, 2013 - 3:00am

Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, was sharply critical of the for-profit sector during a hearing Wednesday of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. The hearing was on the U.S. Department of Defense's tuition assistance program for members of the U.S. military. Durbin, who has tangled with for-profits before, grilled Frederick Vollrath, the assistant secretary of defense for readiness and force management, over the Pentagon's oversight of the program. For-profits received half of the $660 million the federal government spent on military tuition assistance last year. Yet Durbin said only 200 department counselors are on hand to help the 200,000 military students who receive tuition assistance. And he said the department audits only 1 percent of participating colleges each year.

Thursday, June 13, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Thomas Wartenberg of Mount Holyoke College reveals the philosophical thought that exists in children’s picture books. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, June 13, 2013 - 3:00am

A new Romanian-based website aims to crack down on research misconduct worldwide -- by encouraging scholars to submit work that they think might be flawed and soliciting other academics to review the work, Times Higher Education reported. The site, integru.org, describes itself as an "international collaborative effort working to uphold academic integrity and ethical values," leaning on the expertise of scholars in various fields because there is no international authority to judge academic misconduct.

Thursday, June 13, 2013 - 3:00am

Next week, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is scheduled to release a report -- requested by members of Congress -- on the state of the humanities and social sciences. But as The New York Times noted, the timing is anything but favorable. In the last week, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences has seen numerous articles in The Boston Globe and elsewhere noting that the academy had applied for grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities stating that Leslie Berlowitz, the head of the academy, has a doctorate. She does not. The academy is investigating the reports just as it is gearing up for the report's release. Berlowitz was one of the key figures in preparing the report.

Thursday, June 13, 2013 - 3:00am

The University of Toronto is moving ahead with controversial plans to replace real grass on some of its athletics fields with artificial turf. Numerous Canadian luminaries have been rallying against the plan, and some hoped they had found a way to block it: having the fields in question (complete with their real grass) be declared a "heritage landscape." The Globe and Mail reported that the plan didn't work, and that the City Council rejected the designation. The university maintained that artificial turf would help students, since the natural grass frequently becomes muddy. One City Council member criticized the way the issue had become so divisive and political. Denzil Minnan-Wong said the issue demonstrated “that anything good, any great program, policy, anything great in this city that the city touches turns to crap. We’ll turn any good news story into a controversy and a bad news story."

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