Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, July 8, 2011 - 3:00am

A new report by the Sutton Trust has added to concerns about inequities in Britain's elite universities, Times Higher Education reported. In the period of 2007-9, five schools accounted for 5 percent of all students admitted to the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford. That's the same share of the Cambridge and Oxford populations produced -- in total -- by 2,000 other high schools. The report notes that students at some high schools do much better on tests than do students at other high schools. But the analysis suggests that more than test scores are at play. For instance, the research found two schools with nearly identical scores by students on the national tests of academic performance. One school sent 65 percent of students to Britain's 30 top universities, while the other sent 28 percent.

Friday, July 8, 2011 - 3:00am

Evidence that Twitter-mania is taking hold, for better or worse, in higher education: The University of Iowa's business school is offering a one-year scholarship to the applicant for its M.B.A. program who, in the 140 characters allowed by Twitter, most successfully answers the question, "What makes you an exceptional Tippie MBA candidate and full-time MBA hire? Creativity encouraged!" According to an article in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, the innovation is designed to acknowledge the power of social media in business communication, and applicants can answer this way in lieu of the standard application essay, and one winner will get a one-year scholarship to the program at the Tippie School of Management, valued at $37,000.

"This would give us a lot more depth and show us more about a candidate than an essay would show," Jodi Schafer, director of recruiting and admissions for the school's full-time M.B.A. program, told the Press-Citizen. "We wanted to learn more about our applicants, wanted to get more than we could through a typical application. It's a better way to showcase a candidate's talent." Lest one worry that Iowa officials had not noticed that the standard tweet does not provide enough room for a whole lot of "depth," a news release about the contest notes: "You can go beyond the typical Tweet by connecting your Tweet to other social media such as blogs, video, Facebook, or a web page."

Friday, July 8, 2011 - 3:00am

The National Science Foundation and the Agency for International Development on Thursday announced a new effort to promote research to promote global development. Projects will be selected through peer review, and the National Academy of Sciences will administer the program.

Thursday, July 7, 2011 - 3:00am

A dean at the University of Texas at Austin on Wednesday described as short-sighted and ineffective a set of policy proposals advanced by a conservative think-tank that have been embraced by many in government and some on the university system's Board of Regents.

The ideas put forth by the Texas Public Policy Foundation exemplify "the dangers of applying a business-style, market-based approach inside the classroom," wrote Randy L. Diehl, dean of the UT-Austin's College of Liberal Arts in the paper, "Maintaining Excellence and Efficiency at The University of Texas at Austin," which was released Wednesday.

"Though they may appear attractive at first glance, several of the proposals stand to undermine successful initiatives that already promote quality teaching," Diehl wrote, arguing that the university -- with its six-year graduation rate of 81 percent and in-state tuition of $10,000 per year -- was a national leader in providing an efficient, high-quality education. Some of the proposals in the foundation's seven "Breakthrough Solutions" were untested or found to be ineffective in states where they they been attempted, wrote Diehl, and enacting them threatened the university’s status as a top-tier university "in which research and teaching are inextricably linked in ways that are crucial to both missions."

The foundation said its intent in suggesting the proposal was to ensure that educating students was the central purpose of the state's universities. "While world-class research has its role at research universities, students should not be relegated to secondary status, which they are too often today," Heather Williams, higher education policy analyst for the foundation, said in an e-mail.

She added that reforming higher education is a long process and that proposals would adapt over time. "To focus on the Solutions in themselves, and to the exclusion of all else, would be to miss the ultimate end that they advance," Williams said. "If Dean Diehl or anyone else has better ideas to accomplish these goals, we invite them to present their alternatives for public discussion."

Thursday, July 7, 2011 - 3:00am

A dean at the University of Texas at Austin on Wednesday described as short-sighted and ineffective a set of policy proposals advanced by a conservative think tank that have been embraced by many in government and some on the university system's Board of Regents. The ideas put forth by the Texas Public Policy Foundation exemplify "the dangers of applying a business-style, market-based approach inside the classroom," wrote Randy L. Diehl, dean of the UT-Austin's College of Liberal Arts in the paper, "Maintaining Excellence and Efficiency at The University of Texas at Austin," which was released Wednesday.

"Though they may appear attractive at first glance, several of the proposals stand to undermine successful initiatives that already promote quality teaching," Diehl wrote, arguing that the university -- with its six-year graduation rate of 81 percent and in-state tuition of $10,000 per year -- was a national leader in providing an efficient, high-quality education. Some of the proposals in the foundation's seven "Breakthrough Solutions" were untested or found to be ineffective in states where they they been attempted, wrote Diehl, and enacting them threatened the university’s status as a top-tier university "in which research and teaching are inextricably linked in ways that are crucial to both missions."

The foundation said its intent in suggesting the proposal was to ensure that educating students was the central purpose of the state's universities. "While world-class research has its role at research universities, students should not be relegated to secondary status, which they are too often today," Heather Williams, higher education policy analyst for the foundation, said in an e-mail. She added that reforming higher education is a long process and that proposals would adapt over time. "To focus on the Solutions in themselves, and to the exclusion of all else, would be to miss the ultimate end that they advance," Williams said. "If Dean Diehl or anyone else has better ideas to accomplish these goals, we invite them to present their alternatives for public discussion."

Thursday, July 7, 2011 - 3:00am

A study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academic of Sciences raises questions about the reasons that highly educated women have fewer children on average than do less educated women. Conventional wisdom holds that the time spent earning advanced degrees limits the childbearing of women who do so. But the study -- based on detailed analysis of women in Norway -- found that the childbearing gaps result from those women who have children at young ages not pursuing more education. The research was conducted by scholars at Rockefeller University and the University of Oslo.

Thursday, July 7, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of Virginia lacks the legal authority to apply its ban on guns on campus to those who have concealed carry permits, according to an opinion released by Ken Cuccinelli, attorney general of Virginia, The Virginian-Pilot reported. While Cuccinelli said in his opinion that he was trying to explain the law, and not to comment on its wisdom, some of his remarks suggested a view that colleges should not try to keep guns off campus."It certainly can be argued that such policies are ineffectual because persons who wish to perpetrate violence will ignore them, and that the net effect of such policies is to leave defenseless the law-abiding citizens who follow these policies," he wrote. University officials said that they were studying the opinion.

Thursday, July 7, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Amit Pai of the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences explains the problem of adjusting drug dosages for obese patients. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011 - 3:00am

The law school and business school of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities are considering a plan that would have them give up state funds and gain more control over their spending, The Star Tribune reported. A number of professional schools of leading public universities have made such a move or considered it -- but the idea can be controversial.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011 - 3:00am

The Middle East Studies Association is calling on Yale University to agree to an independent investigation of whether the Bush administration played any role in the university's decision not to offer a position to Juan Cole, a Middle East expert at the University of Michigan whose blog attracts a wide readership with his critiques of U.S. foreign policy. The candidacy of Cole for the position at Yale led to a flurry of lobbying by conservatives against his appointment. The Middle East Studies Association, in a letter to Yale officials released Tuesday, noted a recent report in The New York Times that some in the Bush administration were trying to discredit Cole at the time he was up for the Yale position. The letter argues that these reports require an investigation of whether they played any role in what happened to his candidacy. Yale officials were not available for comment.

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