Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 4:26am

California officials will today announce a program in which San Jose State University and Udacity, a provider of massive open online courses, to create online courses in remedial algebra, college-level algebra, and introductory statistics, The New York Times reported. The courses will be offered to San Jose State and community college students. In the pilot stage, only 300 students will be enrolled, but the effort is seen as a way to potentially reach large numbers of students in a state where many public colleges and universities don't have room for eligible students.

Monday, January 14, 2013 - 3:00am

New data on international student enrollments released by the United Kingdom’s Higher Education Statistics Agency offer insight into the effects of changes in visa policies, including the elimination of a post-study work option. The total number of international students in the U.K. increased by 1.6 percent in 2011-12, a slowdown from the 5.5 percent growth rate reported the year before.

There was a significant rise in the number of students from the U.K’s top sending country, China (up 16.9 percent). However, the number from India, the second-largest sending country, dropped 23.5 percent. There were also double-digit decreases in the numbers of students from Pakistan (-13.4 percent from the year before), Ireland (-10.5 percent), and Poland (-14.1 percent).

The U.K. experienced a small drop in the number of international graduate students (from 213,685 in 2010-11 to 209,710 in 2011-12). In a statement, Jo Beall, the British Council’s director of education and society, said the decline in international graduate enrollments was “of real concern as international students make up the majority of numbers in many post-graduate courses and research teams in the STEM [science, technology engineering and mathematics] subjects. Attracting the brightest and most ambitious post-graduate and research students is critical if the UK is to maintain its quality reputation for research and innovation.”

Beall added: "The UK’s overall growth in international student numbers of 4,570 is tiny compared to recent U.S. figures of a growth of 41,000 students over the same period. This suggests that we are beginning to lose out in an incredibly competitive market.”

Monday, January 14, 2013 - 3:00am

The American Association of University Professors has updated guidelines for librarians to reflect their changing roles as teachers and researchers. The joint Statement on Faculty Status of College and University Librarians now includes language on technology in the library and recommends that institutions adequately compensate librarians for the 12-month cycles in which they typically work.

It also recommends that colleges and universities involve librarians in governance issues, such as curriculum development, said Deanna Wood, a reference librarian and associate professor of reference at the University of New Hampshire who helped draft the updated guidelines. That way, students won’t enter the library to do research and find “there’s nothing there to support it.”

The revised statement also reaffirms an earlier version’s call to consider librarians involved in teaching and research as faculty members and lauds their role as independent guardians of intellectual and academic freedom. Wood said while she and many fellow librarians at public land-grant universities are tenured faculty, the practice is rarer at private universities. It’s unclear what percentage of librarians are tenure-track faculty nationwide, she added.

A joint committee of AAUP and Association of College and Research Libraries members drafted the updates to the original, 1973 guidelines, which were approved by both groups last year.

Monday, January 14, 2013 - 3:00am

While Lake Superior State University releases an annual list of words to ban, Wayne State University offers lists of words that need more use. This year's list includes "dragoon," "fantods," "mawkish" and "natter." Definitions, background and the full list are available here.

 

Monday, January 14, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, François Blanchette of the University of California at Merced reveals the math behind the warmth of a penguin huddle. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Monday, January 14, 2013 - 3:00am

Much mystery still surrounds last month's unexplained decision by the Morgan State University board to first announce that it was not renewing the contract of David Wilson as president, and then -- following considerable outcry on campus -- to give him a one-year extension. A memo by the board chair, Dallas R. Evans, outlines his views, and they are quite critical, The Baltimore Sun reported. "He does not provide the inspiring and insightful leadership the university requires nor has he created a clear and consistent vision for the campus," said the memo. It also accused Wilson of siding with the state and against Morgan State supporters who have sued, charging that Maryland is not providing appropriate support for its historically black colleges. The memo also says that Wilson is responsible for the "turmoil that has beset the Morgan community over the last four weeks," with Evans saying that he had "sufficient reason to believe that Dr. Wilson was involved in its orchestration." Evans and Wilson both declined to comment on the memo, which was leaked to the Sun.

Monday, January 14, 2013 - 3:00am

The Oregon Employment Relations Board has ruled that graduate research assistants at Oregon State University are employees and have the right to collective bargaining, The Corvallis Gazette-Times reported. The university has maintained that the research assistants should be seen primarily as students, and thus ineligible for unionization. The ruling clears the way for a vote by the research assistants on whether they should be represented by a local chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, which already represents teaching assistants at Oregon State.

 

Monday, January 14, 2013 - 3:00am

John F. O'Brien, dean of New England Law, Boston, a free-standing law school, may be the highest paid law dean in the United States, and some wonder why, The Boston Globe reported. He earns more than $867,000 a year. Board members of the law school praise his work. And O'Brien noted that because the law school isn't attached to a larger institution (as most law schools are), he has to deal with issues other deans don't. But the Globe noted that tuition is going up at a time that demand for lawyers is going down. "It’s a remarkable sum to pay a dean of a law school, never mind the dean of a bottom-ranked law school," said Brian Z. Tamanaha, author of the 2012 book Failing Law Schools.

Monday, January 14, 2013 - 3:00am

The University of Buckingham, in England, has ended a relationship in which it validated degrees for a Ugandan university due to concerns about pending legislation in Uganda’s parliament that would impose harsh prison sentences as a punishment for gay sex. In a statement released last week, Buckingham said it had suspended its relationship with Edulink, which owns Victoria University, in Kampala. “We have both become increasingly concerned about the proposed legislation in Uganda on homosexuality and in particular the constraints on freedom of speech in this area,” the University of Buckingham said.

Victoria University also released a statement in which David Young, the acting vice-chancellor, said “there are fundamental differences between the two nations’ respective laws regarding equality and diversity, which cannot be reconciled.”

The relationship between Buckingham and Victoria dates to the latter university's founding in 2011. According to the BBC, Victoria is attempting to make arrangements to transfer the approximately 200 students affected by the suspension to other institutions. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013 - 11:41am

Aaron Swartz, who was a leading and controversial figure in the hacking movement and the push to make journal articles free, committed suicide Friday at the age of 26, CNET News reported.

A federal grand jury in 2011 indicted Swartz for the theft of millions of journal articles through the JSTOR account of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Authorities said that he used an MIT guest account, even though he didn't have a legal right to do so. Many open access advocates considered him a hero, but had he lived for his trial, he faced millions of dollars in fines and decades in prison. Swartz's suicide came days after JSTOR announced a major expansion of free access to content from 1,200 journals. While there has been some speculation online that his legal troubles may have led to his suicide, friends have noted online that Swartz battled depression (and was public about doing so).

JSTOR on Saturday issued a statement in which it called Swartz "a truly gifted person who made important contributions to the development of the Internet and the web from which we all benefit." The statement said that JSTOR "regretted being drawn into [the legal case] from the outset, since JSTOR’s mission is to foster widespread access to the world’s body of scholarly knowledge."

The statement also noted that "Aaron returned the data he had in his possession and JSTOR settled any civil claims we might have had against him in June 2011."

Prior to the indictment, Swartz was already a major player in public discussions about technology and he had founded a company that now makes up a key part of Reddit. Here is Swartz's biography on his website.

Here are links to some of the online commentary about Swartz's legacy and his death:

Swartz's ideas about information and technology (prior to the JSTOR legal battle) were twice the subject of pieces by Inside Higher Ed columnist Scott McLemee. Those pieces may be found here and here.

After Swartz was indicted, Inside Higher Ed blogger Barbara Fister wrote "A Modest Proposal Inspired by Aaron Swartz."

 

 

 

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