Higher Education Quick Takes
The University of Birmingham, in Britain, has withdrawn a job advertisement seeking people to be unpaid research assistants, Times Higher Education reported. Birmingham withdrew the ad after the university was criticized for not paying people in the position. Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, the primary faculty union in Britain, said that not paying researchers “undermines the principles of equal pay and is discriminatory."
In a new report the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning describes various "showcase" models of competency-based degree programs, which are efficient at eliminating redundant coursework or unnecessary degree requirements. There are a variety of sound approaches to competency-based education, the report found, which ensure the quality of a degree by focusing on outcomes rather than the amount of time students spend on coursework. The council also encourages the use of student assessments, which can be used to measure students' prior learning.
Businesses owned by two trustees of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Board were awarded contracts for nearly $14 million from system universities in the last five years, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported. Guido Pichini, one of the trustees, said that there was nothing wrong with the practice. "They went through the bidding process without me. I don’t oversee any of the contracts," he said. Celestino Pennoni, the other trustee, did not respond to requests for comment.
On the last business day before the interest rate was scheduled to double on new federally subsidized student loans, Congress approved a bill to keep the interest rate at 3.4 percent for another year. The extension, which cost about $6 billion, was included as part of a highway bill that passed both houses with large majorities.
However, some changes to the student loan program took effect Sunday. Subsidized loans for graduate students, cut last August in the deal to increase the federal debt ceiling, are no longer available. And the "grace period" on subsidized undergraduate loans -- under which the government paid the interest for six months after students left college -- has been eliminated as well.
Also, students receiving Pell Grants lose eligibility after 12 semesters, not 18 -- including those already in the program who have passed the limit.
International applications at top universities in Hong Kong are seeing sharp increases, The New York Times reported. Foreign applications are up 55 percent at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, 50 percent at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and 42 percent at the University of Hong Kong. (Most universities in Hong Kong keep separate statistics for those from Hong Kong, from the rest of China, and the rest of the world, so these are figures for that latter category.)
Marilyn Haring, dean of the College of Education at Purdue University from 1991 to 2001, is so upset by the university's selection of Governor Mitch Daniels as the next president that she has removed a $1 million bequest from her will, The Journal and Courier reported. Haring cited the governor's lack of experience in academe. "I regard the appointment of Mr. Daniels as a travesty and insult to academics," she said. Haring added that "his record is a political one, not an academic one. Purdue has been widely respected for its many academic accomplishments by faculty, professional staff, students, and alumni — not for its politics." Purdue officials have said that they originally sought a president with an academic background, but came to believe Daniels could do the most to advance the university.
New e-mail records suggest that Joe Paterno, the late head football coach at Pennsylvania State University, may have influenced the decision by the university not to report allegations of possible sexual abuse of a child by Jerry Sandusky, who last month was convicted of dozens of counts of such abuse, The New York Times reported. The e-mail records suggest that senior Penn State officials -- after receiving a report of inappropriate behavior by Sandusky -- were considering reporting him. But the records suggest that, after one official talked to Paterno, that plan was abandoned.
The University of California at Santa Cruz on Friday opened an exhibit showcasing some of its Grateful Dead archive, and The Los Angeles Times reported that the display is already being called "Dead Central." Interest from the public and scholars is high. Archivist Nicholas Meriwether was hired from a pool of more than 400. Meriwether, who is 47, said he could spend the rest of his life documenting for the archive the many items that keep arriving.