Higher Education Quick Takes
Carolyn A. (Biddy) Martin is leaving the chancellor's position at the University of Wisconsin at Madison for the presidency of Amherst College. Martin has been at Madison for three years, during which she had notable successes early on in building student support to pay more for improved undergraduate education. But in the last year, she has been a key player in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to gain significant independence for Madison from the university system. Martin argued that the changes were needed for Madison to compete with the best research universities nationwide, but other campuses said that the system would be hurt if Madison left. Martin, an advocate for low-income students and more diversity in higher education, noted in the announcement of her move to Amherst the extent to which the college has a strong commitment on those issues, as well as an outstanding academic reputation.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the state's controversial new law barring most collective bargaining by public employees -- including those at the University of Wisconsin -- could take effect, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Further legal challenges to the law are possible, but the Supreme Court's ruling represents a major victory for proponents of the law. A lower court had thrown out the law, based on the view that a legislative committee that reviewed it did so in violation of open meetings requirements. The Supreme Court found that was not the case.
The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, is today releasing a report that is harshly critical of nonprofit colleges, charging that common practices (such as running programs at the same tuition levels, when some have much larger enrollments than others) create "profits" at nonprofit colleges. "Undergraduate education is a highly profitable business for nonprofit colleges and universities. They do not show profits on their books, but instead take their profits in the form of spending on some combination of research, graduate education, low-demand majors, low faculty teaching loads, excess compensation, and featherbedding. The industry’s high profits come at the expense of students and taxpayers," says the report, written by Vance H. Fried, the Riata Professor of Entrepreneurship at Oklahoma State University.
Many attendees of large scholarly gatherings complain that sessions in which long papers are read aloud rarely excite the audience. One solution is the "precirculated paper," in which scholars give out the paper in advance and spend less time reading aloud at the actual meeting, and more time in discussion. The American Historical Association has been encouraging this option for its annual meeting, but announced this week that it was suspending the practice. Among the problems: those who signed up for the option didn't submit their papers on time, those papers that were circulated weren't read in advance, and not enough attendees understood the concept.
Britain is planning to cut the number of student visas it issues by 260,000 over the next five years, Times Higher Education reported. Government officials say that the changes are needed to end abuses of the system, but university officials said that the reductions would discourage enrollments from abroad, including the enrollment of full-paying students that the institutions want to attract in a period of steep budget cuts.
The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents approved last week the new bachelor of applied arts and sciences degree, which will be the first four-year degree to be offered at the state’s two-year colleges. The degree, which was proposed last year, is “designed to help place-bound adult learners obtain a bachelor’s degree in their communities.” Though it still requires accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission and curriculum and policy development by UW Colleges faculty, system officials say the degree could be offered as early as fall 2012. Applied baccalaureate degrees are offered in 39 states, according to recent research.
Kudzu is out of control on Davidson College's paths and trails, and officials fear that the growth could lead to walkers or runners tripping. After various human and machine efforts failed to match the kudzu, the college has rented 30 goats, which have been tasked with eating the problem away, WCNC News reported. The college is spending $3,000 to rent the goats, which eat 12-18 pounds of kudzu a day.
The National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment is today releasing a survey of department heads on their views of assessment, which are consistent with the views of chief academic officers that much assessment is taking place, but which differ in some ways. Among the findings:
- For department heads, the primary "driver" for assessment is not outside approval (such as accreditation) but faculty desires to improve their programs.
- The vast majority of programs have learning outcome goals.
- Many assessment efforts are based not on standardized tests, but on "capstone" experiences and final projects.
- Assessment efforts would be helped by more support for faculty members.
- Unlike chief academic officers, who see a need for more faculty involvement in assessment, program heads see the faculty as already involved.