Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011 - 3:00am

University of Oxford officials found themselves in the uncomfortable position of publicly debating with Britain's prime minister over his assertion that the elite institution had enrolled only one black Brit in 2009, BBC News reported. Prime Minister David Cameron made his comment during a public session in answer to a question about the impact of greatly increased fees that British institutions have begun charging as part of a new approach to university financing. Cameron said: "I saw figures the other day that showed that only one black person went to Oxford last year.... I think that is disgraceful. We have got to do better than that."

University officials disputed the statement, the BBC reported, saying that only one British undergraduate from that year's class had self-identified as "black-Caribbean," but that another 26 had identified themselves as either "black-African" or "black-other," among others who characterized themselves as mixed race with some black heritage. In total, in 2009 22% of Oxford University students were from ethnic minorities, the institution said.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011 - 3:00am

The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, one of Korea's top universities, has seen four student suicides since January, The Wall Street Journal reported, and a faculty member killed himself over the weekend, prompting more discussion of why so many have taken their own lives.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011 - 3:00am

La Salle University has suspended Jack Rappaport, a statistics professor at its business school, amid an investigation of allegations that he hired strippers to perform lap dances during an extra credit seminar he held on "the application of Platonic and Hegelian ethics to business," The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Students paid $150 to attend the seminar, and the university is refunding the money. Rappaport could not be reached for comment. The incident was first reported by Philadelphia City Paper, which quoted students as saying that three dancers, wearing bikinis and high heels, performed lap dances on Rappaport and on some students. Two students who spoke anonymously to the Inquirer, however, said that while scantily clad dancers attended the class, they did not perform lap dances.

Monday, April 11, 2011 - 3:00am

A survey of students at eight colleges and universities in North Carolina found that 17.4 percent are current users of hookahs, water pipes that have grown in popularity in recent years. Researchers at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center who conducted the study say that students seem unaware of health risks associated with the practice.

Monday, April 11, 2011 - 3:00am

Disgraced financier Bernard Madoff recently gave a jailhouse interview to The Financial Times in which he said that one of his activities behind bars may soon be advising business schools. The article says: "Several business schools have approached him, he adds, and asked him to work on ethics courses. He likes that idea; Harvard and Northwestern are in his sights." The feelings may not be mutual. A spokeswoman for Northwestern's business school said that the institution is not engaged in any discussions with Madoff. (UPDATE: A spokesman for Harvard's business school said Monday morning that there was "no truth" to the idea that it was having any talks with Madoff.)

Monday, April 11, 2011 - 3:00am

The Obama administration and Senate Democrats have rebuffed an effort by Congressional Republicans to use pending budget legislation to hamper the Education Department's ability to implement regulations requiring for-profit colleges and other vocational programs to ensure that their students are prepared for "gainful employment." Few details are available at this point about the compromise reached late Friday night between the White House and Congressional negotiators over a spending bill for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year; it is not entirely clear, for instance, how the legislation will affect federal student aid and research programs, although a post on the White House blog said the deal maintained the maximum Pell Grant at $5,550. The post also says that the deal will force the White House to abandon its effort to "double the funding of key research and development agencies," but still permits "strong investments in National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Science Foundation and the Office of Science."

But a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada confirmed Sunday that the legislation would not contain a provision sought by a group of House members that would bar the Education Department from using any of its fiscal 2011 funds to carry out the controversial gainful employment rules, a new version of which the department is poised to release. The measure would have effectively delayed implementation of the regulations until October at the earliest. Opponents of the measure urged members Saturday to continue to push for the provision, but the Reid spokesman said it was dead.

The gainful employment provision was one of 66 "policy riders" that House Republicans sought to attach to the 2011 budget legislation, "and this was one they pushed for," the spokesman said. "But Sen. Reid and the White House firmly said no."

Monday, April 11, 2011 - 3:00am

Leading Australian universities are creating new positions to recruit and retain indigenous students, The New York Times reported. Indigenous people make up 2.4 percent of the population but 1.25 percent of students entering universities, according to a recent study by the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne.

Monday, April 11, 2011 - 3:00am

Conrad Volz, director of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Healthy Environments and Communities, is leaving his position, saying that the university wants him to focus on teaching and research, and not to be an advocate in environmental debates, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported. (He has been a critic of Marcellus shale drilling, and has drawn fire from its supporters.) University officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Monday, April 11, 2011 - 3:00am

A long article in The Washington Post examines the ties between The Washington Post Company, the newspaper and Kaplan Higher Education. The article notes that while many credit Kaplan with providing the company with a secure financial base at a time of declining journalism-based revenue, the relationships have not always been smooth and have led to uncomfortable scrutiny. "Post Co. executives blame outside forces, including a drop in political support for private-sector education companies and 'financial and corporate agendas,'" the article says. "They also acknowledge missteps. Current and past officers say The Post Co. did not keep close-enough tabs on its fast-sprawling education unit, even as it focused heavily on customers who were poorer and thus at the riskier end of the business. But they say serving that disadvantaged population is important."

Monday, April 11, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Purchase College's Meagan Curtis discusses similarities in how emotion is conveyed through music and speech. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

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