Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, July 8, 2011 - 3:00am

A House of Representatives appropriations subcommittee on Thursday backed legislation that would provide $20 million less to the National Endowment for the Humanities in the 2012 fiscal year than the agency is receiving this year. The measure would allocate $135 million to the NEH, which would represent a reduction of 13 percent -- nearly double what the House panel proposed to cut from the Interior Department and other agencies covered the spending legislation. In an e-mail alert Thursday urging advocates for the humanities to oppose the measure, the National Humanities Alliance said that "these disproportionate cuts would compromise the agency’s ability to fulfill its mission." The National Endowment for the Arts would also receive $135 million under the subcommittee's bill, which the full Appropriations Committee is expected to take up next Tuesday.

Friday, July 8, 2011 - 3:00am

Amid numerous proposed cuts to language programs in higher education, the Executive Council of the Modern Language Association has issued a statement calling for colleges to provide students with the chance to become fluent in a second language. "[D]espite student demand for language courses and public recognition of the opportunities of globalization, many college language programs have been reduced, closed, or threatened with closure," the statement says. "These actions deny students critical learning opportunities and impoverish their education. Preventing students from participating in college-level language learning does them a profound disservice, diminishes our cultural capacities, and isolates the American public from the conversations of the rest of the world."

Friday, July 8, 2011 - 3:00am

One paper involving a Harvard biologist has been retracted, and another has been withdrawn, The Boston Globe reported. The retracted paper appeared in the journal Blood, and the withdrawn paper appeared in The Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Friday, July 8, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, St. Lawrence University's Robert Thacker discusses the work of author Alice Munro. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, July 8, 2011 - 3:00am

A new report by the Sutton Trust has added to concerns about inequities in Britain's elite universities, Times Higher Education reported. In the period of 2007-9, five schools accounted for 5 percent of all students admitted to the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford. That's the same share of the Cambridge and Oxford populations produced -- in total -- by 2,000 other high schools. The report notes that students at some high schools do much better on tests than do students at other high schools. But the analysis suggests that more than test scores are at play. For instance, the research found two schools with nearly identical scores by students on the national tests of academic performance. One school sent 65 percent of students to Britain's 30 top universities, while the other sent 28 percent.

Friday, July 8, 2011 - 3:00am

Evidence that Twitter-mania is taking hold, for better or worse, in higher education: The University of Iowa's business school is offering a one-year scholarship to the applicant for its M.B.A. program who, in the 140 characters allowed by Twitter, most successfully answers the question, "What makes you an exceptional Tippie MBA candidate and full-time MBA hire? Creativity encouraged!" According to an article in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, the innovation is designed to acknowledge the power of social media in business communication, and applicants can answer this way in lieu of the standard application essay, and one winner will get a one-year scholarship to the program at the Tippie School of Management, valued at $37,000.

"This would give us a lot more depth and show us more about a candidate than an essay would show," Jodi Schafer, director of recruiting and admissions for the school's full-time M.B.A. program, told the Press-Citizen. "We wanted to learn more about our applicants, wanted to get more than we could through a typical application. It's a better way to showcase a candidate's talent." Lest one worry that Iowa officials had not noticed that the standard tweet does not provide enough room for a whole lot of "depth," a news release about the contest notes: "You can go beyond the typical Tweet by connecting your Tweet to other social media such as blogs, video, Facebook, or a web page."

Thursday, July 7, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Amit Pai of the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences explains the problem of adjusting drug dosages for obese patients. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, July 7, 2011 - 3:00am

A dean at the University of Texas at Austin on Wednesday described as short-sighted and ineffective a set of policy proposals advanced by a conservative think-tank that have been embraced by many in government and some on the university system's Board of Regents.

The ideas put forth by the Texas Public Policy Foundation exemplify "the dangers of applying a business-style, market-based approach inside the classroom," wrote Randy L. Diehl, dean of the UT-Austin's College of Liberal Arts in the paper, "Maintaining Excellence and Efficiency at The University of Texas at Austin," which was released Wednesday.

"Though they may appear attractive at first glance, several of the proposals stand to undermine successful initiatives that already promote quality teaching," Diehl wrote, arguing that the university -- with its six-year graduation rate of 81 percent and in-state tuition of $10,000 per year -- was a national leader in providing an efficient, high-quality education. Some of the proposals in the foundation's seven "Breakthrough Solutions" were untested or found to be ineffective in states where they they been attempted, wrote Diehl, and enacting them threatened the university’s status as a top-tier university "in which research and teaching are inextricably linked in ways that are crucial to both missions."

The foundation said its intent in suggesting the proposal was to ensure that educating students was the central purpose of the state's universities. "While world-class research has its role at research universities, students should not be relegated to secondary status, which they are too often today," Heather Williams, higher education policy analyst for the foundation, said in an e-mail.

She added that reforming higher education is a long process and that proposals would adapt over time. "To focus on the Solutions in themselves, and to the exclusion of all else, would be to miss the ultimate end that they advance," Williams said. "If Dean Diehl or anyone else has better ideas to accomplish these goals, we invite them to present their alternatives for public discussion."

Thursday, July 7, 2011 - 3:00am

A dean at the University of Texas at Austin on Wednesday described as short-sighted and ineffective a set of policy proposals advanced by a conservative think tank that have been embraced by many in government and some on the university system's Board of Regents. The ideas put forth by the Texas Public Policy Foundation exemplify "the dangers of applying a business-style, market-based approach inside the classroom," wrote Randy L. Diehl, dean of the UT-Austin's College of Liberal Arts in the paper, "Maintaining Excellence and Efficiency at The University of Texas at Austin," which was released Wednesday.

"Though they may appear attractive at first glance, several of the proposals stand to undermine successful initiatives that already promote quality teaching," Diehl wrote, arguing that the university -- with its six-year graduation rate of 81 percent and in-state tuition of $10,000 per year -- was a national leader in providing an efficient, high-quality education. Some of the proposals in the foundation's seven "Breakthrough Solutions" were untested or found to be ineffective in states where they they been attempted, wrote Diehl, and enacting them threatened the university’s status as a top-tier university "in which research and teaching are inextricably linked in ways that are crucial to both missions."

The foundation said its intent in suggesting the proposal was to ensure that educating students was the central purpose of the state's universities. "While world-class research has its role at research universities, students should not be relegated to secondary status, which they are too often today," Heather Williams, higher education policy analyst for the foundation, said in an e-mail. She added that reforming higher education is a long process and that proposals would adapt over time. "To focus on the Solutions in themselves, and to the exclusion of all else, would be to miss the ultimate end that they advance," Williams said. "If Dean Diehl or anyone else has better ideas to accomplish these goals, we invite them to present their alternatives for public discussion."

Thursday, July 7, 2011 - 3:00am

A study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academic of Sciences raises questions about the reasons that highly educated women have fewer children on average than do less educated women. Conventional wisdom holds that the time spent earning advanced degrees limits the childbearing of women who do so. But the study -- based on detailed analysis of women in Norway -- found that the childbearing gaps result from those women who have children at young ages not pursuing more education. The research was conducted by scholars at Rockefeller University and the University of Oslo.

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