Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 31, 2012

A New York Times article examines the potential for conflict of interest in Quacquarelli Symonds (known as QS) operating an international rankings system for universities and also a "ratings" system -- with the latter open to those who pay for an audit. The article notes that institutions that do poorly in international rankings (which tend to give the highest marks to research universities known around the world) are evaluated on different criteria, and are then awarded stars that they can use to boast and to recruit students. Two universities in Ireland are cited as examples of institutions that paid QS and now boast five-star ratings. Several international education experts are quoted expressing skepticism about whether the stars are meaningful. But the universities say that if they attract more students, their payments to QS will be worth it.


December 31, 2012

Many of the details on a possible deal between the White House and Congress to avert the looming "fiscal cliff" are still unclear -- including, most crucially for higher education, what (if any) spending cuts would be included. But a possible agreement on taxes, reportedly reached today between Vice President Joe Biden and the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, would extend the American Opportunity Tax Credit for college tuition for five years.

The tax credit, originally included in the 2009 stimulus bill, provides up to $2,500, of which $1,000 is refundable. It was scheduled to expire this week without Congressional action.

If a deal is not reached to avert the tax increases, many domestic discretionary programs — including some important to higher education — will see an 8.2 percent cut in 2013. In a statement Monday afternoon, President Obama said the future of the spending cuts remains unresolved, but said he would insist on a balanced approach to avert the across-the-board cuts.

December 30, 2012

Bowl attendance is dropping, according to an analysis released Sunday by USA Today. Through this year's first 19 bowl games, attendance is down by an average of 3,138, and six games have seen drops of at least 5,000. The article said that as bowls proliferate and some teams seem to be playing a bowl game every year, fans are unwilling to spend what it costs to travel to a second-tier bowl to root for a team that had an off year (but still won a bowl bid). Last week's Military Bowl, in Washington, had attendance of 17,835 -- the lowest for any bowl game since USA Today started tracking bowl attendance in 2004-5.


December 28, 2012

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday gave a speech calling for better standards and an enhanced private-sector role in higher education, Outlook India reported.

Mukherjee said that while ancient India had universities that were considered world leaders, many Indians today feel that they must leave the country to obtain the best possible higher education. He said that the country's top universities need to be able to compete in the top levels of international rankings, where their absence is the subject of much discussion in the country. "We must change the reality of our universities not figuring in the list of top universities of the world. Indian universities should aim at becoming top educational institutions in the world with global standards of research, teaching and learning," he said.

Further, he said that the country need more than its public universities. "It is important that the private sector also contributes its best to the provision of higher education in India," he said. "The private sector has played a key role in higher education in other countries across the world. Many top universities including Harvard, Yale and Stanford are the result of efforts of the private sector. There is no reason why Indian private sector cannot achieve similar results."


December 28, 2012

Florida A&M University lacked procedures and internal controls to prevent the kind of hazing that has been blamed for the death of a student in the marching band a year ago, a state investigation has concluded. The Orlando Sentinel said that the report -- released Friday -- was "sharply critical" of the university. Among the findings: The university's police department didn't communicate with the office that dealt with student disciplinary cases. So most hazing allegations reported to the police never made their way to the officials who were in charge of student conduct issues. Further, nobody at the university tracked hazing complaints, the report found. The university's lack of anti-hazing procedures violated state regulations and state laws, the report said.

Larry Robinson, interim president at the university, said officials were reviewing the report. He stressed that the university was already working on many of the issues identified. "There are no new categories of issues we had not already come to grips with," he said.


December 28, 2012

Morgan State University's board on Friday reversed itself, and extended the contract of President David Wilson by one year, The Baltimore Sun reported. The board's decision this month to oust Wilson -- after his contract expires at the end of the academic year, stunned and angered many students, faculty members and alumni. The vote to oust Wilson was 8-to-7, and board members repeatedly declined to explain why they wanted him gone. While the board's action on Friday came in response to an outpouring of support for the president, some of his backers were not impressed with the one-year extension on his contract. The head of a campus employee union told the Sun that the one-year extension was "a death sentence," and "just a smoke screen they put up."


December 26, 2012

President Obama on Friday named 12 scientists as winners of the National Medal of Science. The honor was created in 1959 and annually salutes excellence in chemistry, engineering, computing, mathematics, or the biological, behavioral/social and physical sciences. This year's winners and their institutions:

  • Allen Bard, University of Texas at Austin
  • Sallie Chisholm, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Sidney Drell, Stanford University
  • Sandra Faber, University of California at Santa Cruz
  • Sylvester James Gates, University of Maryland at College Park
  • Solomon Golomb, University of Southern California
  • John Goodenough, University of Texas at Austin
  • M. Frederick Hawthorne, University of Missouri at Columbia
  • Leroy Hood, Institute for Systems Biology in Washington State
  • Barry Mazur, Harvard University
  • Lucy Shapiro, Stanford University
  • Anne Treisman, Princeton University

President Obama also named individuals, a team and a company as winners of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation


  • Frances Arnold, California Institute of Technology
  • George Carruthers, U.S. Naval Research Lab
  • Robert Langer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Norman McCombs, AirSep Corporation
  • Gholam Peyman, Arizona Retinal Specialists
  • Art Rosenfeld, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
  • Jan Vilcek, New York University Langone Medical Center

Team: Samuel Blum, Rangaswamy Srinivasan and James Wynne, all from the IBM Corporation

Company: Raytheon BBN Technologies

December 26, 2012

Israeli authorities on Monday granted full university status to the Ariel University Center, a higher education center on the West Bank whose future has become a hotly debated issue in Israeli academic and political circles, The Jerusalem Post reported. Advocates for Israeli settlements on the West Bank have pushed for the center to be given the same status as other Israeli universities. But many Israeli academics -- professors and administrators alike -- have opposed the idea. Some have argued that the move will link Israeli higher education to the government's policies supporting greater West Bank settlement -- policies that many Israel academics abhor. Other academics have offered more practical criticism, arguing that there isn't enough money for the country to support an eighth full-fledged university. An editorial in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz said that the move undercut the independence of Israeli higher education.

Seeking to block Monday's decision, the Council of Presidents of Israeli Universities on Tuesday asked the High Court of Justice to block the elevation of Ariel. On Wednesday, the court rejected a request for an injunction to block the change in status.


December 24, 2012

The federal Office of Research Integrity has concluded that an Ohio State University pharmacology professor fabricated data in studies sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. The agency announced last month that two investigations by the university and its own inquiry had uncovered evidence that Terry S. Elton falsified data in five published papers, all of which the university recommended be retracted. Elton has been barred from participation in federal studies for three years.

December 21, 2012

Late Wednesday the U.S. Senate passed legislation aimed at requiring colleges to be more transparent about how they serve veterans. The bill, which was approved during gridlock on Capitol Hill, had received broad support from veterans' groups, for-profit institutions and advocates for traditional higher education. First introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Gus Bilirakis, a Florida Republican, the legislation was less sweeping than a related Senate bill that quickly stalled.


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