Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 3:00am

The National Science Board added its voice Tuesday to the chorus of groups and agencies expressing concern about the future of public research universities. Its report, Diminishing Funding and Rising Expectations: Trends and Challenges for Public Research Universities, argues that declines in state funding, which it documents, "threaten the ability of major public research universities to educate new scientists and engineers, recruit and retain the best faculty and students, and continue performing top-quality research."

Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Jason Fridley of Syracuse University explains how and when many invasive plants outcompete indigenous species. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 4:23am

Colleges in Division III of the National Collegiate Athletic Association are increasingly attracting athletics director candidates from Division I universities, USA Today reported. Officials say that they are leaving programs with much larger budgets to apply for Division III jobs out of frustration with the scandals and pressures of big-time programs.

"While I may not be dealing with multi-million dollar budgets, household-name coaches [and] me-first donors ... I am seeing the last bastion of true college athletics every day: student-athletes playing truly for the love of the game," said Scott Koskoski, athletics director of Division III Chatham University, who formerly held positions in Division I programs at the University of Denver and Temple University.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 4:25am

The psychometric test used by Israeli universities to admit students has for the first time asked students to write a short composition, Haaretz reported. Educators said that they wanted a writing sample to reflect the role of writing in the university curriculum, and many students who took the test said that they were pleased to have the chance to demonstrate their composition skills.

 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 3:00am

The 10-person commission charged with plotting the future of the University of North Texas at Dallas released its recommendations Monday, largely backing a consultant's advice that the university focus on hybrid learning, minimizing the time to degree, and aligning courses of study with regional needs.

In 2011 the university commissioned 10 leaders from higher education, business, and local government, including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, to develop a strategy to expand the university from 2,000 students to 16,000 students while decreasing the cost of education and improving graduation rates. The Commission on Building the University of the 21st Century reviewed reports from the consulting firm Bain & Company, brought in on a pro bono basis in 2011 to suggest long-term plans for the 11-year-old institution, and from a group of faculty and staff who, critical of Bain’s analysis, drew up their own recommendations. While Bain advised increasing teaching loads and freshmen enrollment while decreasing the array of majors and integrating online courses, the faculty plan proposed focusing on transfer and underprepared students, developing a liberal arts core, and emphasizing research.

The commission’s recommendations, which its members will vote on a vote of who? dl Tuesday, largely fall in line with Bain’s suggestions. The 10 strategies the commission lists include developing hybrid courses that blend in-person and online instruction, increasing freshman enrollment, providing students with the option for year-round instruction, and working with local business leaders to develop degree programs that mesh with local workforce needs. The report states that the university will have a student focus and will value teaching over research, but acknowledges as one of its guiding principles, “Faculty play a key role in the success of students and UNT Dallas,” and suggests a comprehensive development program to engage faculty and staff in this “new model.”

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 3:00am

Bridgepoint Education Inc. announced Monday that its Ashford University has eliminated 450 positions in admissions and reassigned 400 other admissions employees, half to student services and half to a new department of "student inquiry." The moves are aimed at improving student success, the company said. Ashford is facing a two-pronged accreditation challenge. It is attempting to comply with compliance requests from its current regional accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, following a rejected bid for accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges senior college commission.

Ashford says the department of student inquiry will "work with prospective students to ensure they are sufficiently prepared for the demands of a university education."

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill discusses an ongoing archaeological dig in Israel that recently unearthed an ancient mosaic floor. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 3:00am

An associate dean at the University of San Francisco’s School of Management resigned from her post due to concerns about the recruitment of large numbers of Chinese students with low levels of English language proficiency and the effect of this on the overall educational experience, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The former associate dean for undergraduate studies, Dayle Smith, remains on USF’s management faculty; she did not return messages seeking comment on Monday. The university’s provost, Jennifer E. Turpin, told Inside Higher Ed there was disagreement as to whether advising support for international students should be located within the business school (reporting to Smith) or be centrally administered (reporting to the vice provost of student life). USF has opted for the latter strategy. A new universitywide advising center is up and running.

There are 781 Chinese students at USF this fall, up from 589 one year ago. A total of 143 freshmen were admitted conditionally due to their English language levels. Turpin said that the university has actually strengthened its requirements for regular (as opposed to conditional) international admissions. In addition to requiring a Test of English as a Foreign Language Score of 79, USF has added a new requirement that students must have a score of at least 17 on each of the subsections. Students with TOEFL scores below that cutoff are admitted conditionally, and must enroll in intensive English coursework, she said.

Monday, September 24, 2012 - 4:23am

Christopher Newport University, following a protest letter from the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, may change its protest policy, The Daily Press reported. The university requires groups planning a protest to provide notice 10 days in advance. Last week, the university refused to grant an exception to the rule when some students wanted to protest a visit by Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential candidate. Ryan's visit was announced only a day in advance, so there was no way those who wanted to protest could have met the university's 10-day requirement. "It is very disconcerting that an institution of higher education, which is supposed to educate young people, has instead abridged their constitutional rights," said Claire Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia. In response to the ACLU letter, the university has invited the student government to propose changes in the protest rule, and has said that it will try to have changes in place soon, given that the election season may lead to other situations similar to the Ryan visit.

 

Monday, September 24, 2012 - 3:00am

Saylor.org, a clearinghouse for open educational resources (OER), announced on Thursday that it has teamed up with Google to offer its recently unveiled line of free online courses through Google's new massive open online course (MOOC) platform. Google leaped into the MOOC fray earlier this month with Course Builder, which it has pitched as an "open-source," do-it-yourself platform for colleges and individuals that want to adapt their courses to the trendy MOOC format.

Saylor.org, which is run by the nonprofit Saylor Foundation, recently announced it will be opening 240 peer-reviewed courses. It also announced partnerships with Excelsior College and StraighterLine that could give learners who take those courses pathways to formal college credit. Right now the Saylor courses live on their own website; the organization has not yet promised to migrate the lot of them to Google's platform -- just one for now, an introductory course in mechanics.

Google is not the only MOOC platform provider that has expressed an interest in letting other developers and course designers build freely on its code. edX, a nonprofit MOOC provider funded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been talking about making its own software platform similarly "open source."

Google's arrival in the fray has produced some unusual bedfellows. Peter Norvig, the company's director of research, has been involved with Udacity, a for-profit MOOC provider that grew out of an open teaching experiment Norvig led last year with Sebastian Thrun, a colleague of Norvig's at both Google and Stanford. Google has now made Norvig a figurehead for Course Builder, and he has been talking up a potential collaboration with edX. "edX shares in the open source vision for online learning platforms, and Google and the edX team are in discussions about open standards and technology sharing for course platforms," wrote Norvig in a blog post for Google.

"We're all still experimenting to find the most effective ways to offer education online," he says in a video introducing Course Builder. "And that's why we're so excited to be offering this initial set of tools: so that there will be more of us trying different approaches and learning what works."

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