Europe's universities need to focus on teaching, and to assure that all professors and instructors know how to teach, says a new report from the European Union's High-Level Group on the Modernization of Higher Education. The report calls for "certified teacher training" for all instructors by 2020. A statement from the co-chairs of the working group said: "[M]any higher education institutions do not place enough emphasis on teaching in comparison to research, even though both are core missions of higher education. This needs rebalancing. The role of teaching in defining academic merit needs a stronger emphasis and recognition, especially in career terms. Ultimately, we should not forget that this is about the students -- how to offer them the best possible learning environment and education."
Higher Education Quick Takes
New York University is breaking new ground in compensation for higher ed executives and star faculty members by providing loans for vacation homes, The New York Times reported. President John Sexton received $1 million in loans for a home on Fire Island, while others have received assistance to buy second homes in other prime vacation areas. The article notes that many colleges provide homes for presidents, and some institutions in places like New York City -- where housing is expensive -- provide housing assistance for many others. But the article says that help for second homes is "all but unheard-of in higher education."
John Beckman, a university spokesman, told the Times: "The purpose of our loan programs goes right to the heart of several decades of sustained and successful effort at NYU: to transform NYU from a regional university into a world-class research residential university." The loans help attract and retain talent, he said.
Among the critics of the practice quoted in the article was Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, a former president of George Washington University who has been a defender of high salaries and benefits for higher education leaders. "That’s getting to be a little too sexy even for me, and I have a good sense of humor about these things," he said. "I don’t think that’s prudent. I don’t mind paying someone a robust salary, but I think you have to be able to pass a red-face test."
A former professor on Monday was named the 500th person on the "most wanted" list of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, The Los Angeles Times reported. The dubious distinction went to Walter Lee Williams, who formerly taught anthropology, gender studies and history at the University of Southern California, and won a teaching award there in 2006. He is wanted for multiple sex crimes against children abroad.
The Educational Testing Service today announced two new assessment tools to measure student learning. Test takers of the iSkills assessment and Proficiency Profile standard form will be able to earn an "electronic certificate which can be shared with an unlimited number of recipients in academia and beyond," the nonprofit testing organization said in a written statement. The profile assesses critical thinking, reading, writing and mathematics, while iSkills measures a student's ability to navigate and use information through digital technology. The certificates will be offered through colleges' testing programs, ETS said, as well as through StraighterLine, an online course provider.
Transylvania University announced Monday that R. Owen Williams will step down as president after the 2013-14 academic year. The statement from the university indicated that the board supported Williams and quoted the board chair, William T. Young Jr., as saying: “It is with regret that we accept his resignation.” Faculty members have been calling for Williams to step down, saying that he has cut them out of decision-making and in particular objecting to what they see as his applying new tenure standards to candidates before those standards were supposed to be used.
Only 16 percent of colleges that offer degrees in communications offer at least one online course in the subject, according to a new survey by the National Communication Association. The association noted that a few of the departments listed as not having a program have password-protected course listings and some of them might have a course.
FutureLearn was created this year as a MOOC platform for British universities, to counter the main American MOOC providers, which have plenty of non-American universities involved, but which are based in the United States. On Monday, FutureLearn announced it was admitting two non-British universities and embracing the idea of international MOOCs. The two members from outside Britain are Monash University, in Australia, and Trinity College Dublin, in Ireland. Also joining is the University of Edinburgh, which is already part of Coursera.
In a letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Monday, consumer advocacy groups, higher education associations and others asked the bureau to require that colleges give prior approval before students borrow private loans, saying that the bureau has the power to require full certification by institutions. Right now, students "self-certify," meaning they sign off on a form that includes information about federal student loans and other forms of financial aid. Requiring colleges to certify that they are aware of the loans, the groups argued, would help ensure that students have already maxed out their federal loan options (many private loan borrowers have not), because federal loans usually offer lower interest rates and more flexible repayment options than private loans.
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.