Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

July 15, 2013

Rumana Monzur, a student at the University of British Columbia who was blinded by her husband on a trip back home to Bangladesh, has finished her master's degree, The Canadian Press reported. It took Monzur two years to recover and to earn the master's degree in British Columbia. She is now planning to go to law school.


July 15, 2013

Israeli science and education officials are concerned about a new government study finding that only about one-third of those who earn Ph.D.s at Israeli universities eventually join the faculties of those institutions, The Jerusalem Post reported. Officials said that they believed the one-third figure reflected a brain drain problem, which they said should be remedied by providing more funds to Israeli universities and private research institutions to hire more Ph.D.s. Another data point of concern found that while 77 percent of new male Ph.D.s do their postdoctoral training abroad (most commonly in the United States), only half of new female Ph.D.s do so. Postdoc location is important because the best jobs in Israeli academe go to those with foreign postdoctoral training.


July 15, 2013

University of California regents appear to want to shake up the system with their choice of Janet Napolitano as the next system president, The Los Angeles Times reported. The university system -- unlike some others -- has not typically sought out non-academics for senior positions. Napolitano is currently secretary of homeland security and previously was governor of Arizona. Patrick Callan, president of the Higher Education Policy Institute, in San Jose, called Napolitano's hiring "a radical departure" for the university system, which he called "a very insular place in the way it looks for leadership."

Faculty groups sometimes question appointments of non-academics to presidencies. But Robert Powell, the faculty representative to the Board of Regents -- who had the opportunity to talk with Napolitano during the search process -- endorsed the selection. He noted that she supported public higher education in Arizona, has a strong record managing complex government organizations and is committed to transparency. Further, he said in a statement that she indicated strong support for the faculty. "She has deep respect for the faculty and she will listen to what we say," Powell said. "She knows that, as the core of what makes UC great, the faculty must have an environment in which they can thrive as scholars and teachers. And she is ready to engage the many challenges that face us all, such as meeting master plan obligations, promoting our research mission, diversifying our faculty and student body, and insisting on unparalleled academic excellence."

Not all faculty members agree, Christopher Newfield, professor of American culture at the University of California at Santa Barbara, outlined several objections, and rejected the idea that success in a political career necessarily made someone qualified to lead a university. "[A]lthough Ms. Napolitano appears to be a very senior manager with lots of political experience, she is unqualified to be a university president," Newfield wrote on his blog. "This would be obvious were the direction of appointment reversed: no mayor or city council would appoint a dean of Engineering as chief of the LAPD.  None would justify such a choice by explaining, in the words of Regent Selection Chair Sherry Lansing, that the engineering dean will be a great police chief because she 'has earned trust at the highest, most critical levels of our country's [engineering profession].' "



July 15, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Neil Segal of the University of Iowa reveals why having a baby could have you shopping for new shoes. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


July 15, 2013

Saint Joseph's University, in Pennsylvania, announced last week that it will no longer require applicants for admission to submit SAT or ACT scores. John Haller, associate provost for enrollment management, said that the university has found that high school grades (even without standardized test scores) predict first-year student success. “We know there is a population of students with strong academic records in high school who have standardized test score outcomes below our middle 50 percent range who are likely to be successful and difference makers at Saint Joseph’s University,” said a statement from Haller. "There is ample statistical evidence demonstrating that standardized test scores can be shaped by environmental and cultural factors that make them an inaccurate predictor of academic success."

July 15, 2013

The University of Macau is relocating to a much larger campus in Zhuhai, where it will be the first academic institution in mainland China to have officially negotiated an uncensored Internet connection, The New York Times reported. Despite its mainland location, the campus will be governed by the laws of Macau – a semi-autonomous region of China (like Hong Kong). Students who commute from Macau to the campus will do so through an underwater tunnel and without undergoing the usual immigration checks. Concrete barriers will separate the campus from the rest of China.

An associate professor of law at the University of Macau quoted in the article described the situation as “curious”: “This piece of land is not legally an enlargement of Macau, but in practice, it is,” Jorge A.F. Godinho told the newspaper. “There won’t be a border or Internet censorship or anything.”

July 12, 2013

The University of Chicago is moving its Asian M.B.A. program from Singapore to Hong Kong, The Wall Street Journal reported. The move reflects the growing demand from people in China for M.B.A. programs, and a desire to be closer to China.


July 12, 2013

Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, will become the next president of the University of California System, The Los Angeles Times reported. The choice is unexpected because Napolitano, formerly governor of Arizona, is not an academic. But the Times reported that board members believe her Cabinet experience will help the system dealing with the federal government on many research issues.

In her current position, she has spoken about the importance of science and technology in promoting national interests. She published a Views piece in Inside Higher Ed in 2011 on this theme, adapted from a lecture she gave at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

At homeland security, she formed an academic advisory committee, created a website to help foreign students learn their options for enrolling in the United States and pushed for legislation to help "DREAM" students who were brought to the United States by their parents as children, without legal documentation.

July 12, 2013

Ontario’s top court has upheld a lower court ruling finding that George Brown College, in Toronto, was negligent in publishing a misleading description of its graduate international business management program, clearing the way for the awarding of damages to students, CBC reported. Almost 120 students, two-thirds of them international, had enrolled in the program, which was billed in a 2007 course calendar as providing students "with the opportunity to complete three industry designations/certifications in addition to the George Brown college graduate certificate." The students were distressed, however, to find that they would not automatically earn industry designations in international trade, customs services and international freight forwarding upon graduating from the program. While the university argued that a “reasonable student” who did his or research could be expected to have known that, Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba determined that the description "could plausibly be interpreted as meaning exactly what it said."

"Having paid a substantial tuition fee and related travel and living expenses, they could not afford the additional time or money needed to pursue the three accreditations on their own.” 

July 12, 2013

Blackboard, the classroom software company, may be heading in the right direction, judging from a question and answer session with top executives the company hosted for customers on Thursday.

The unusual ritual at Bb World of subjecting executives to public and not always positive feedback from clients has served as a big griping session for perturbed customers in previous years. The company has lost market share over the last several years, according to annual surveys by the Campus Computing Project, though Blackboard remains the largest provider of learning management systems to American colleges.

This week, clients who stood up to talk to the executives generally tossed aside those overarching gripes as things of the past. Blackboard CEO Jay Bhatt joined the company seven months ago following the departure of Michael Chasen, a co-founder.

Jean Mankoff, the director of learning technology support at Texas Woman's University who has attended 14 of the company's conferences, praised Ray Henderson, who joined the company four years ago. She said the company had lost its collegial feeling for several years until recently.

The company is not without issues, however. Mankoff said the company had too many different product lines and sometimes she feels like she is working with different companies when she tries to purchase each product. That's something Bhatt said he is working to fix. Another user complained a featured in one of the disparate product lines had been neglected.

Another customer complained the software has become so feature-laden that faculty have trouble using it, something Bhatt also said he is working to deal with. 



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