Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

June 17, 2013

Scientists in Russia are objecting to the addition of a theology department at the National Research Nuclear University, in Moscow, RIA Novosti reported. Many researchers see the move as inappropriate at a secular university and inconsistent with the focus on science at the institution. Leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church, however, say that the administration thought of the idea of adding the department, and that it will offer a wide range of programs.

 

June 17, 2013

Since 2006, the athletics department at the University of Colorado at Boulder has paid nearly $9.8 million in severance payments to former coaches and other employees, The Boulder Daily Camera reported. The payments are generating scrutiny because the department currently has a $7.5 million deficit. Jerry Peterson, a physics professor and chair of the Boulder Faculty Assembly, said that "we all recognize that the Boulder campus is facing tight financial times, and that [nearly] $10 million -- even if it's over several years -- is a loss to academics."

 

June 17, 2013

Texas Governor Rick Perry vetoed Friday a bill that would have required appointees to the state's higher education governing boards to attend "a training program that provides instruction in ethics, conflict-of-interest law, and the role of a governing board in a higher education institution or system and that is conducted by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, by the system office of a university system, or by the office of a governing board that does not govern a university system" before they voted on personnel or governance matters. The current law does not require any kind of formal training. The bill would have also prevented the governor from making interim appointments to the board while the legislature was out of session.

The UT system's board has become the epicenter of a perceived conflict about the shape and direction of higher education in the state, particularly the University of Texas at Austin. Multiple reports over the past few years have suggested that the governor is pushing the regents to remove UT-Austin President William Powers, who has criticized some of the governor's views on higher education. In February the governor appointed three regents to fill vacancies. The Senate confirmed those appointees in May. (This story has been updated to correct the bill's requirements and the status of the appointees.)

 

June 17, 2013

WASHINGTON -- The Education Department is hoping to streamline its process for reviewing and recognizing accrediting agencies to focus more on what it considers key criteria -- 25 of the 95 factors that include accreditors' standards and how they are applied, as well as the agencies' fiscal health. While the streamlined standards won't be in effect for another two years, they're likely to be a relief to accrediting agencies, who have grumbled in recent years that the department has grown increasingly "granular" in evaluating accreditors for official recognition.

"This will result in a better, more targeted process that is simpler and less burdensome for accrediting agencies, NACIQI and the federal government," Martha Kanter, the under secretary of education, wrote in a blog post. "It is our hope and expectation that these improvements will also enable the postsecondary institutions they accredit to focus additional time and effort on quality enhancement and value."

June 17, 2013

Chen Guangcheng, the dissident from China who has held a fellowship at New York University for the last year, said that NYU was kicking him out because of concerns that his criticism of China was harming the university's interests there, The New York Times reported. While speculation about Chen's departure has circulated for several days, his statement Sunday was Chen's first on the matter. He and others have noted that NYU has a new campus in Shanghai and that many NYU faculty members need visas to travel back and forth to China. “The work of the Chinese Communists within academic circles in the United States is far greater than what people imagine, and some scholars have no option but to hold themselves back,” Chen said. “Academic independence and academic freedom in the United States are being greatly threatened by a totalitarian regime.”

NYU responded with its own statement, denying that Chinese politics had anything to do with Chen's departure. The issue was simply that his fellowship was over, the university said. “We are very discouraged to learn of Mr. Chen’s statement, which contains a number of speculations about the role of the Chinese government in N.Y.U.’s decision-making that are both false and contradicted by the well-established facts,” said an NYU spokesman.

 

June 17, 2013

The budget bill for California higher education for the coming year will include increased reporting requirements, but not a direct linkage between increased funding and accomplishing certain goals, The Los Angeles Times reported. Governor Jerry Brown had wanted public higher education -- as a condition of more money -- to improve graduation rates, enroll more low income students and freeze tuition. But higher education leaders said that those goals might not be possible given the severity of budget cuts over the last decade. Legislators generally accepted that argument.

 

June 17, 2013

Students who enroll at a Roman Catholic college are more likely to receive a degree within four years than their peers at public or for-profit institutions, and graduation rates at Catholic colleges also exceed the rates at private nonprofit colleges in general, according to a report released Friday by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. The report found higher four-, five- and six-year graduation rates for all entering students at Catholic colleges than the average for the public, for-profit or private nonprofit sectors.

June 17, 2013

Six Chinese students studying wine-making in the Bordeaux region of France were attacked Saturday morning in an incident the country’s interior minister has condemned as xenophobic, Reuters reported. One student was seriously injured after being struck in the face by a bottle. Two suspects have been arrested.

June 17, 2013

Goddard College is cutting faculty and staff pay to deal with a $550,000 deficit in a budget of less than $13 million, The Rutland Herald reported. Goddard is a nontraditional college where students have relatively short residency periods at the Vermont campus and work remotely with faculty members on individualized academic programs. Officials blamed the deficit on enrollment declines. The pay cuts will be tiered, with no reductions for those earning up to $30,000. The college will also be suspending retirement contributions, and eliminating severance pay, but no layoffs are planned.

 

June 17, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Amy Kelley of Mount Sinai School of Medicine examines the average Medicare recipient’s medical expenses during the last five years. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

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