Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

July 15, 2013

The University of Macau is relocating to a much larger campus in Zhuhai, where it will be the first academic institution in mainland China to have officially negotiated an uncensored Internet connection, The New York Times reported. Despite its mainland location, the campus will be governed by the laws of Macau – a semi-autonomous region of China (like Hong Kong). Students who commute from Macau to the campus will do so through an underwater tunnel and without undergoing the usual immigration checks. Concrete barriers will separate the campus from the rest of China.

An associate professor of law at the University of Macau quoted in the article described the situation as “curious”: “This piece of land is not legally an enlargement of Macau, but in practice, it is,” Jorge A.F. Godinho told the newspaper. “There won’t be a border or Internet censorship or anything.”

July 12, 2013

Tufts University is attracting attention for one of its new essay prompts for undergraduate admissions, The Boston Globe reported. The prompt: "The ancient Romans started it when they coined the phrase 'Carpe diem.' Jonathan Larson proclaimed 'No day but today!' and most recently, Drake explained You Only Live Once (YOLO). Have you ever seized the day? Lived like there was no tomorrow? Or perhaps you plan to shout YOLO while jumping into something in the future. What does #YOLO mean to you?"



July 12, 2013

The University of Chicago is moving its Asian M.B.A. program from Singapore to Hong Kong, The Wall Street Journal reported. The move reflects the growing demand from people in China for M.B.A. programs, and a desire to be closer to China.


July 12, 2013

Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, will become the next president of the University of California System, The Los Angeles Times reported. The choice is unexpected because Napolitano, formerly governor of Arizona, is not an academic. But the Times reported that board members believe her Cabinet experience will help the system dealing with the federal government on many research issues.

In her current position, she has spoken about the importance of science and technology in promoting national interests. She published a Views piece in Inside Higher Ed in 2011 on this theme, adapted from a lecture she gave at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

At homeland security, she formed an academic advisory committee, created a website to help foreign students learn their options for enrolling in the United States and pushed for legislation to help "DREAM" students who were brought to the United States by their parents as children, without legal documentation.

July 12, 2013

Ontario’s top court has upheld a lower court ruling finding that George Brown College, in Toronto, was negligent in publishing a misleading description of its graduate international business management program, clearing the way for the awarding of damages to students, CBC reported. Almost 120 students, two-thirds of them international, had enrolled in the program, which was billed in a 2007 course calendar as providing students "with the opportunity to complete three industry designations/certifications in addition to the George Brown college graduate certificate." The students were distressed, however, to find that they would not automatically earn industry designations in international trade, customs services and international freight forwarding upon graduating from the program. While the university argued that a “reasonable student” who did his or research could be expected to have known that, Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba determined that the description "could plausibly be interpreted as meaning exactly what it said."

"Having paid a substantial tuition fee and related travel and living expenses, they could not afford the additional time or money needed to pursue the three accreditations on their own.” 

July 12, 2013

Blackboard, the classroom software company, may be heading in the right direction, judging from a question and answer session with top executives the company hosted for customers on Thursday.

The unusual ritual at Bb World of subjecting executives to public and not always positive feedback from clients has served as a big griping session for perturbed customers in previous years. The company has lost market share over the last several years, according to annual surveys by the Campus Computing Project, though Blackboard remains the largest provider of learning management systems to American colleges.

This week, clients who stood up to talk to the executives generally tossed aside those overarching gripes as things of the past. Blackboard CEO Jay Bhatt joined the company seven months ago following the departure of Michael Chasen, a co-founder.

Jean Mankoff, the director of learning technology support at Texas Woman's University who has attended 14 of the company's conferences, praised Ray Henderson, who joined the company four years ago. She said the company had lost its collegial feeling for several years until recently.

The company is not without issues, however. Mankoff said the company had too many different product lines and sometimes she feels like she is working with different companies when she tries to purchase each product. That's something Bhatt said he is working to fix. Another user complained a featured in one of the disparate product lines had been neglected.

Another customer complained the software has become so feature-laden that faculty have trouble using it, something Bhatt also said he is working to deal with. 


July 12, 2013

WASHINGTON -- A group of former presidents and chancellors of historically black colleges and universities have sent a letter to President Obama requesting more resources to make their institutions "comparable and competitive" with predominantly white colleges. The letter praises Obama's overall accomplishments, but goes on to say that "addressing the plight of the HBCUs has to be among the highest priorities" for the administration. Among the requests: locating the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities within the White House rather than the Education Department, and raising its director to the level of a deputy secretary; using the "bully pulpit" of the presidency to encourage support, including grants, for HBCUs; and directing the Office for Civil Rights to consider lawsuits against states that are in violation of the desegregation agreement.

July 12, 2013

The U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations passed a 2014 spending bill Thursday that largely reflects one approved two days earlier by the subcommittee that allocates funds for education, with one notable difference: the subcommittee’s version of the bill would have allocated $400 million to the Race to the Top program, while the full committee slashed that amount by $150 million.

Race to the Top, the Obama administration’s initiative focused on college affordability, was allocated $250 million in the Senate’s spending bill -- significantly lower than the $1 billion the administration requested for the program last year.

Funding for other education and research programs stayed the same in the full committee’s version of the bill. The bill allocates $850 million for the TRIO programs, which help low-income, first-generation college students prepare for postsecondary education. The bill also maintained the $31 billion provided to the National Institutes of Health, which would allow the NIH to allocate $40 million for the new brain research initiative. Under the bill, the total maximum Pell Grant would rise by $140 to $5,785.

July 12, 2013

A tentative deal reached late Wednesday night to tie interest rates on federal student loans to the market seemed ready to collapse late Thursday, after the Congressional Budget Office estimated the compromise's costs at $22 billion over 10 years, The New York Times reported. The proposal worked out in Wednesday's compromise would tie interest rates on subsidized undergraduate Stafford loans to the yield on 10-year Treasury bills plus 1.8 percentage points (rates for graduate and PLUS loans would be slightly higher), and the rates for all loans would be capped. But the carefully arranged deal, in which Congressional Democrats gave the most ground, could be threatened by the higher-than-expected cost estimate, which would make the loans unprofitable for the government. “It’s going to be difficult to find a middle ground,” one Democratic aide told the Times.

July 12, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Gerald Newsom of Ohio State University reexamines Admiral Byrd’s data to determine if he really reached the North Pole. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


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