Higher Education Quick Takes
Curtin University, in Australia, is defending itself against criticism of an honorary degree awarded Friday to Rosmah Mansor, wife of Malaysia's prime minister, Najib Razak, AFP reported. The university says that the degree honored important work for early-childhood education. But critics say that Mansor is known for her expensive shopping, which is perceived as insensitive to the poverty faced by many people in her country. Following numerous critical postings about the honor on the university's Facebook page, officials blocked new comments.
Sudanese police raided the University of Khartoum Friday morning and arrested hundreds of students, Reuters reported. The university was closed two months ago, following protests, but many students have remained on the campus, waiting for operations to resume.
Dozens of students at Kean University walked out of class Thursday and marched to protest the decision of the institution's board to keep Dawood Farahi as president even though several of his résumés contained inaccuracies, The Star-Ledger reported. Students said that they were outraged that the board did not see the issue as one over which a president should be dismissed. A board statement said that trustees were concerned, but that they saw the issue as an old one, and not sufficient to end what they consider to be a successful presidency.
Michael Reilly, who heads a council of Washington State's six public university presidents, was named Wednesday as the new executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. In his current role, Reilly represents the interests of the six universities before state leaders. He previously served in admissions and student affairs roles at California's Humboldt State University; Central Washington, Washington State and Seattle Universities in Washington; and Iowa State University. At AACRAO, where he'll begin work June 1, Reilly will succeed Jerry Sullivan.
American University adjuncts have voted to unionize and to be represented by the Service Employees International Union. A memo from the university's provost, Scott A. Bass, said that the vote to unionize was 379 to 284. The memo said that the university would respect the vote, and would not file any appeals of the election. The SEIU Local 500 website includes statements from numerous adjuncts about why they wanted a union.
The Education Department's advisory committee on accreditation is seeking comment on a draft of its final recommendations for Education Secretary Arne Duncan on how the system of higher education quality assurance might be revamped. The draft final report, which was published in Friday's Federal Register, was previewed in an article on Inside Higher Ed this month. The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity will solicit comment on the draft report and then hold an April 13 teleconference to discuss and possibly act on the report.
A new research paper from the American Sociological Association compares the job markets (primarily but not exclusively in academe) in social science disciplines. Looking at the most recent jobs data (based on postings with disciplinary associations), the association found that sociology appears to be experiencing the most robust recovery in job listings (up 28 percent), followed by political science (up 12 percent), history (up 10 percent) and economics (up less than 1 percent). Using the same data (which may be incomplete as many jobs are not posted with the disciplinary associations), the study also calculated a ratio of new Ph.D.s to open rank faculty positions for the four fields. Economics appears in this comparison to have the most favorable job market for new Ph.D.s, with 0.7 Ph.D.s per open rank position. The figures are 1.1 to 1 for political science, 1.3 to 1 for sociology, and 2.1 to 1 for history.
A group of U.S. senators on Thursday proposed legislation that would make it harder for for-profit colleges to enroll substantial numbers of veterans and active-duty members of the military without running afoul of federal financial aid rules. For-profits can collect up to 90 percent of their revenue from federal financial aid, but student payments from the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill and the Department of Defense's tuition benefit program do not count toward that amount. The new bill, introduced by Sen. Tom Carper, a Democrat from Delaware, would change the formula and count that revenue as federal dollars. Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, introduced a companion bill in the U.S. House.
The proposed legislation follows a similar bill, introduced last month by Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, that would reduce to 85 percent the amount of federal aid revenue for-profits can receive, and also count military tuition aid toward the federal side of the equation. Both bills face long odds, due to Republican opposition and the legislative doldrums of a presidential election season.
California regulators have shut down the Institute of Medical Education, a for-profit institution with 250 students, citing operational, accreditation and financial problems, the Associated Press reported. An official of the institute said that the closure was "ridiculous," and that it might sue the state. Many students who showed up for classes Thursday -- only to find the institute shut down -- told the Bay Area News Group that they were scared they would be unable to transfer any of their credit and get back any of the money they had paid for classes that could be worthless to them.