Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

July 16, 2013

A new study by the American Sociological Association examines the success of new graduates in finding not only jobs but "career-track jobs" -- and urges departments to pay more attention to helping undergraduates prepare themselves for the job market. The report finds that sociology graduates do better than those in some other social sciences, but worse than graduates of professional programs like nursing. Since the recession, the percentage of sociology graduates who find "career" jobs has gone down. Departments are urged to spend more time talking to students about job issues, and the paper notes that at a time that students and their parents are very concerned about finding jobs, the health of departments can be improved by having a good track record in this area.

 

July 16, 2013

High school and middle school teachers think students' writing is affected by digital tools, for better and for worse, according to a survey led by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Of the 2,462 Advanced Placement and National Writing Project teachers surveyed, 68 percent said digital tools make students more likely to take shortcuts and 48 percent said students are writing too carelessly and quickly. But, at the same time, teachers said students' potential exposure to a broader audience online and the feedback they receive from peers encourage investment in writing and the process of writing. “These results challenge in many ways the notion that students’ writing skills are being undermined by their increasing engagement with digital tools and platforms,” said Kristen Purcell, the associate director for research at the Pew Internet Project. “Teachers do have concerns that digital tools are blurring the lines between formal and informal writing and see writing skills that need improvement, but they also see the benefit of students having more people respond to their writing and the increased opportunities for expression these digital tools offer.”

July 15, 2013

Saint Joseph's University, in Pennsylvania, announced last week that it will no longer require applicants for admission to submit SAT or ACT scores. John Haller, associate provost for enrollment management, said that the university has found that high school grades (even without standardized test scores) predict first-year student success. “We know there is a population of students with strong academic records in high school who have standardized test score outcomes below our middle 50 percent range who are likely to be successful and difference makers at Saint Joseph’s University,” said a statement from Haller. "There is ample statistical evidence demonstrating that standardized test scores can be shaped by environmental and cultural factors that make them an inaccurate predictor of academic success."

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 15, 2013

The Yuba Community College District, in California, has decided to leave the federal student loan program to eliminate a risk its students could lose access to Pell Grants, The Sacramento Bee reported. Only 275 of the district's 15,000 students borrowed last year, but the district's default rate, if repeated for three years, could subject Yuba to sanctions that might affect access to federal and state aid programs relied on by many students. Others, however, say that the college is over-reacting and that there is little risk of it losing aid eligibility.

 

 

July 15, 2013

Eric Fingerhut, former chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, was named Sunday as the next president of Hillel International, which operates programs for Jewish students at campuses throughout the world, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

July 15, 2013

Rumana Monzur, a student at the University of British Columbia who was blinded by her husband on a trip back home to Bangladesh, has finished her master's degree, The Canadian Press reported. It took Monzur two years to recover and to earn the master's degree in British Columbia. She is now planning to go to law school.

 

July 15, 2013

Israeli science and education officials are concerned about a new government study finding that only about one-third of those who earn Ph.D.s at Israeli universities eventually join the faculties of those institutions, The Jerusalem Post reported. Officials said that they believed the one-third figure reflected a brain drain problem, which they said should be remedied by providing more funds to Israeli universities and private research institutions to hire more Ph.D.s. Another data point of concern found that while 77 percent of new male Ph.D.s do their postdoctoral training abroad (most commonly in the United States), only half of new female Ph.D.s do so. Postdoc location is important because the best jobs in Israeli academe go to those with foreign postdoctoral training.

 

July 15, 2013

University of California regents appear to want to shake up the system with their choice of Janet Napolitano as the next system president, The Los Angeles Times reported. The university system -- unlike some others -- has not typically sought out non-academics for senior positions. Napolitano is currently secretary of homeland security and previously was governor of Arizona. Patrick Callan, president of the Higher Education Policy Institute, in San Jose, called Napolitano's hiring "a radical departure" for the university system, which he called "a very insular place in the way it looks for leadership."

Faculty groups sometimes question appointments of non-academics to presidencies. But Robert Powell, the faculty representative to the Board of Regents -- who had the opportunity to talk with Napolitano during the search process -- endorsed the selection. He noted that she supported public higher education in Arizona, has a strong record managing complex government organizations and is committed to transparency. Further, he said in a statement that she indicated strong support for the faculty. "She has deep respect for the faculty and she will listen to what we say," Powell said. "She knows that, as the core of what makes UC great, the faculty must have an environment in which they can thrive as scholars and teachers. And she is ready to engage the many challenges that face us all, such as meeting master plan obligations, promoting our research mission, diversifying our faculty and student body, and insisting on unparalleled academic excellence."

Not all faculty members agree, Christopher Newfield, professor of American culture at the University of California at Santa Barbara, outlined several objections, and rejected the idea that success in a political career necessarily made someone qualified to lead a university. "[A]lthough Ms. Napolitano appears to be a very senior manager with lots of political experience, she is unqualified to be a university president," Newfield wrote on his blog. "This would be obvious were the direction of appointment reversed: no mayor or city council would appoint a dean of Engineering as chief of the LAPD.  None would justify such a choice by explaining, in the words of Regent Selection Chair Sherry Lansing, that the engineering dean will be a great police chief because she 'has earned trust at the highest, most critical levels of our country's [engineering profession].' "

 

 

July 15, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Neil Segal of the University of Iowa reveals why having a baby could have you shopping for new shoes. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

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