Higher Education Quick Takes
The British Council has joined with Futurelearn, the United Kingdom’s homegrown MOOC (massive open online course) platform. Futurelearn now has 19 partners, including 17 U.K. universities, the British Library, and the British Council, which promotes British higher education internationally.
“The British Council has been bringing the UK’s education sector to people around the world for almost eighty years, so it’s very exciting that with Futurelearn we’re able to expand that to millions more people through the MOOC platform,” the organization’s chief executive, Martin Davidson, said in a statement. “We hope that our recognized experience in English language learning and delivering assessments and examinations in nearly a hundred countries will contribute to making Futurelearn even more attractive for ambitious learners around the world.”
Futurelearn marks the first significant entry of a foreign player into the MOOC market, which heretofore has been dominated by elite American universities. The first Futurelearn courses are expected to be offered later in 2013.
Ten of the former Florida A&M University band members who were charged in May with felony hazing for the death of drum major Robert Champion are now being charged with manslaughter, the Associated Press reported Monday. Prosecutors also said they have charged another two defendants with manslaughter. Champion died in November 2011 after other students on the university’s famed marching band, long plagued by a culture of hazing, “punched, kicked and suffocated” him on a bus during a trip.
Some Stanford University students are up in arms about a proposal to start some high-demand classes at 8:30 a.m., the San Jose Mercury News reported. More than 1,700 students have signed an online petition that calls the proposal -- which Stanford administrators hope will allow the university to use its facilities more efficiently -- "deplorable" and complains that students were not sufficiently consulted.
A few hours before President Obama signed an order officially instating across-the-board spending cuts Friday night, the U.S. Education Department issued guidance on what the automatic budget cuts would mean for federal financial aid programs. The Pell Grant is exempt from the mandatory cuts in 2013. But loan origination fees will increase immediately for new loans, by about 0.05 percentage points on subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans, from 1 percent to 1.05 percent, and by about 0.2 percentage points, from 4 percent to 4.2 percent, on Parent PLUS and Grad PLUS loans. The first disbursements of some grants — the TEACH Grant and Iraq-Afghanistan Service Grant — are also subject to cuts.
Funding will be reduced for the federal work-study program and for the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant beginning in the fall if sequestration remains in effect.
Presidents of many of Colorado's four-year universities sent a letter last month in which they urged legislators to oppose a bill that would allow the state's community colleges to offer bachelor's degrees in a select number of fields, The Denver Post reported. The presidents, signed by the leaders of the University of Colorado and Colorado State University Systems, among others, argued that the new degrees would create overlap in institutional missions and strain already limited state funding, the newspaper reported.
Nancy McCallin, president of the Colorado Community College System, cited significant unmet demand in fields such as dental hygiene and culinary arts and said that the state's higher education commission would have to approve any new degree programs, ensuring that there was not overlap, the Post said.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced Friday that it has cited Saint Mary’s College of California with a failure to monitor its men’s basketball program after a head coach was found to have knowledge of a former assistant coach providing impermissible benefits to recruits. The benefits, mostly centered on an international prospect, included travel, local transportation and the arrangement of host family accommodations, the public infractions report said. The assistant coach also provided private financial information to a second international prospect who was trying to get a student visa. The NCAA Committee on Infractions said the head coach was aware of the team’s impermissible training from non-college employees and some of the recruiting violations and ignored “red flags” that should have prompted “heightened vigilance,” such as the assistant coach’s previous dismissal from a two-year college because of improprieties.
The head coach, Randy Bennett, was also charged with failure to monitor and failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance, and the former assistant coach was charged with unethical conduct.
Penalties for Saint Mary’s include public reprimand and censure; four years’ probation beginning March 1; a five-game suspension for the head coach during the 2013-14 season; a prohibition of off-campus recruiting for the head coach during next season; a two-year show-cause order for the former assistant coach, meaning that any college that wants to hire him must make its case to the NCAA; reduction of team scholarships from 13 to 11 for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons; elimination of foreign tours by the team until the 2017-18 season; prohibition on multiple-team events until the 2015-16 season; and prohibition on skill instruction during the 2013-14 season, meaning no coaches may be present during training.
The board of the University of Virginia is once again taking steps that raise questions about micromanaging and undercutting President Teresa Sullivan, The Washington Post reported. The board and Sullivan recently exchanged drafts about the goals on which her performance will be evaluated. Helen Dragas, a board member who last year engineered the aborted move to oust Sullivan, gave Sullivan a highly detailed list of 65 goals. Sullivan responded by noting that university presidents typically receive broad goals from their boards, not detailed lists. Sullivan also responded -- according to e-mail messages the Post obtained -- by noting that 22 of Dragas's goals had not previously been discussed, that several required board action, and that one “requires me to do something that the General Counsel tells me I am not legally authorized to do.”
The chair of architecture at the University of Utah, Prescott Muir, has agreed to stay on, reversing his decision to leave the position, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Muir's departure was widely blamed by students and faculty members on Brenda Case Scheer, dean of the College of Architecture and Planning at Utah. She issued an apology for making decisions about Muir "without full information," and that apology cleared the way for Muir to stay on.