Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

August 29, 2013

A “citation stacking" scheme, in which editors of certain Brazilian journals published articles cross-citing each others' publications in order to raise the journals’ “impact factors” – a measure of a journal’s influence based on the number of times its articles are cited – has been discovered, Nature reported. The four Brazilian journals are among 14 that have been suspended from the Thomson Reuters ranking of journals.

“We’ve been caught wrong-footed,” said Mauricio Rocha-e-Silva, a retired psychologist and former editor of one of the journals, Clinics. Rocha-e-Silva told Nature that the scheme emerged from frustration with the fact that an agency of Brazil’s national education ministry evaluates graduate programs based partly on the impact factors of the journals in which students publish; because emerging Brazilian journals are poorly ranked, researchers don't wish to publish in them and the local journals do not improve.

The article notes that the scheme is not limited to Brazilian journals -- journals in Italy and China are among those that have been sanctioned -- but only in the Brazil case has an explanation been put forward.

August 29, 2013

While some observers say academe is already moving to a post-MOOC era or one dominated by MOOC-like offerings that aren't really massive open online courses, the MOOC itself has a new symbol of recognition. Oxford Dictionaries, published by Oxford University Press, has now added MOOC as an official word.

Definition: "a course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people."

Origin: "early 21st century: from massive open online course, probably influenced by MMOG and MMORPG."

August 29, 2013

Oral Roberts University had a special feature planned for a chapel service last week: A bald eagle was supposed to be set lose and then fly to its trainer. As The Tulsa World reported, the eagle instead flew around the room for a bit, as students chanted "U.S.A.," and then crashed into a window. While the eagle recovered, many were shocked by what they saw.

 

 

August 29, 2013

The University of Liberia has announced that it will admit 1,800 students, even though they (like all 25,000 applicants this year) failed the entry exam, BBC reported. Officials have blamed the mass failures on lack of knowledge of English. It is unclear how the 1,800 who will be admitted were selected.

 

August 28, 2013

The Education Department's Office for Civil Rights has rejected charges that some protests against Israel at the University of California at Berkeley constituted illegal anti-Jewish bias, as some Jewish students and alumni charged. A letter from OCR found that the protests "constituted expression on matters of public concern directed to the university community. In the university environment, exposure to such robust and discordant expressions, even when personally offensive and hurtful, is a circumstance that a reasonable student in higher education may experience. In this context, the events that the complainants described do not constitute actionable harassment."

The University of California at Santa Cruz announced that a similar complaint against it had also been rejected by the department.

 

August 28, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Julian Agyeman of Tufts University explores how the concept of spatial justice can strengthen the economy and social fabric of communities. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

August 28, 2013

In a reversal, the general and academic English programs run by INTO Oregon State University have gained initial accreditation from the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA). Oregon State’s intensive English institute lost its CEA accreditation in 2009 after the university partnered with the private, Britain-based INTO University Partnerships to offer English as a second language and “pathway” programs for international students. As Teresa D. O’Donnell, CEA’s executive director, explained, the partnership at that point fell outside the scope of CEA’s accreditation, which encompasses university-administered programs and independent language schools but made no provisions for public-private partnerships like INTO OSU’s. CEA has since altered its policies to allow for accreditation of such joint ventures if there is a direct reporting line from the English program to the university administration – meaning, in other words, that the director of the English language program reports to, say, a dean. (O'Donnell said that it is permissible under CEA's policies for there to be joint reporting lines, as long as one of the lines is to the university administration.) 

“Many innovations in higher education are met with resistance at first so this adjustment in policy from CEA is a great step in opening up the model for how private companies and public institutions can partner,” David Stremba, managing director for North America at INTO University Partnerships, said in a statement.

The English language programs at Colorado State University and the University of South Florida, both of which have partnerships with INTO, are also CEA-accredited. The fourth and newest INTO site in the U.S., INTO Marshall University, in West Virginia, is accepting its first students this fall. 

August 28, 2013

An internal report at the University of Oxford raises concerns about the “severe reputational risk” posed by the admission of wealthy foreigners – including American study abroad students – as visiting students for “purely commercial reasons," The Telegraph reported. The report states that the visiting students, who are typically admitted to an Oxford college for up to a year through third-party entities and pay a tuition rate higher than the £9,000 charged to British students, do not have to meet the same admissions standards as regular Oxford undergraduates: “Although there is some assessment of their GPA [Grade Point Average] scores before they are admitted by each college, the transaction seems to be one of a purely commercial kind."

 

 

August 28, 2013

University advancement offices typically try to keep disputes out of the public eye, but the firing of a spokesman at the University of Arkansas has set off a very public dispute. The Bangor Daily News reported on the firing of John Diamond (for many years chief spokesman at the University of Maine System before he went to Arkansas) and charges he has made against his now former bosses at Arkansas. Diamond said that he was forced out because he insisted on complying with open records requests, and that he was uncomfortable at Arkansas because of inappropriate comments, some of which were about his religion (he is a Roman Catholic). Arkansas officials meanwhile held a news conference to deny the accusations and to accuse Diamond of not doing well at his job. Chris Wyrick, the official Diamond said made an anti-Catholic reference, denied doing so, but said that he asked Diamond “What time is the fish fry on Friday?” and that he did not view this as inappropriate.

 

August 28, 2013

Claudia Diaz, a senior anatomy lecturer at RMIT University in Australia, has come up with an unusual way to bring anatomy alive to students. As reported by The Age, she hires a man to strip to his underwear and to have his body painted so that it shows what would be visible under his skin. Creating "Anatomical Man," as he is called, appears to work, she said.

 

 

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