Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 18, 2013

A new paper based on survey data from scientists in 16 countries compares the relative strengths of the United States and other countries in attracting top Ph.D. talent. For obtaining a Ph.D. and selecting a postdoc, American universities continue to be highly regarded and benefit from the prestige of their academic programs and a perception that an American Ph.D. will help the careers of non-American scientist, the study found. But the survey found that Australia, Germany and Switzerland have made gains in recent years, relative to the U.S., in attracting Ph.D. students.

In selecting postdoc locations, non-Americans are discouraged from positions at universities in the U.S. by concerns over working conditions and fringe benefits, relative to opportunities elsewhere. "This finding will hardly come as a surprise to postdocs in the United States who lack paid health insurance coverage -especially for their families- and a formal family leave policy and have few if any specified holidays or vacation days," says the report, released today by the National Bureau of Economic Research. (Abstract available here.)

As a result, countries gaining against the U.S. in competition for top postdocs are Australia, Britain, France, Germany and Switzerland.

The authors of the paper are Paula Stephan of Georgia State University, Chiara Franzoni of Politecnico di Milano and Giuseppe Scellato of Politecnico di Torino.

 

 

February 18, 2013

Like many colleges, Brandon University, in Manitoba, has a contest at home basketball games: A student is picked at random and may either shoot from half-court or pick someone else to do so -- with a semester's tuition going to the student if he or she either makes the shot or picks someone who can. On Friday, Mason Kaluzniak was the student who had the chance to shoot or draft someone else present. Kaluzniak picked Gil Cheung, the men's basketball coach, who promptly won Kaluzniak a semester's free tuition.

 

 

February 18, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Larisa DeSantis of Vanderbilt University reveal what North America’s largest predators were eating just before they died out. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

February 18, 2013

Unions at several Michigan colleges and universities are exploring the possibility of agreeing now to extend contracts so that they can avoid for a few years some of the impact of the state's new "right to work" law, which bars anyone from being forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment, The Battle Creek Enquirer reported. Many in the unions fear their position will be weakened by the law, which takes effect March 27.

 

February 18, 2013

We can't say we're sure why this is taking off at Boston University or whether it will spread, but the hot Facebook page for BU students is Banana University, featuring photographs of and commentary about students eating bananas. And, of course, Banana University also has a Tumblr and a Twitter feed.

 

February 18, 2013

The Cooper Union, which has traditionally awarded full scholarships to all students but which last year started charging tuition to graduate students, is again considering tuition for undergraduates, The New York Times reported. The move to start charging graduate students was designed to keep undergraduate education free, but officials at Cooper Union said that financial challenges may make it impossible to remain tuition-free. Many student and alumni critics, however, say that an important tradition is at risk, and some question spending priorities by administrators.

 

February 18, 2013

Amid controversy about one of two finalists’ involvement in military prison systems, the University of Missouri at Columbia has halted its search for a new division executive director in its College of Education.

Dan Clay, college dean, sent out an email last week saying he "decided to not fill the position at this time" after receiving a recommendation from a faculty search committee and "input from other stakeholders,” The Columbia Daily Tribune reported.

The announcement followed a protest and additional community backlash related to retired Col. Larry James’ consideration for the post, after his name surfaced as a strong candidate earlier this month. Opponents cited the former Army psychologist’s work at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as disqualifying for an academic position. James, dean of the School of Professional Psychology at Wright State University, wrote about his experiences reforming both prisons’ treatment of detainees as their director of behavioral health in a memoir called Fixing Hell: An Army Psychologist Confronts Abu Ghraib. He maintains that numerous independent investigations have revealed no wrongdoing on his part.

A spokeswoman for Mizzou’s College of Education, told the Tribune it was "really a decision about both candidates," which also included Matthew Burns, a faculty member of the University of Minnesota Department of Educational Psychology. "Neither of the individuals was the right person at this time.”

James did not respond to a request for comment.

 

February 15, 2013

Advocates for college wrestling programs -- many of which have been dropped in recent years -- fear that the Olympic decision to drop the sport will lead to more team eliminations, The Chicago Tribune reported. "It will give athletic directors with tight budgets a new excuse," said Jim Scherr, a former Olympic wrestler. "Over a decade or two, the impact will be significant."

February 15, 2013

Science and engineering research space at research-performing colleges and universities increased 3.5 percent from fiscal year 2009 to fiscal year 2011, growing to 202.9 million net assignable square feet, according to a new analysis from the recent data from the National Science Foundation. The biggest growth was in facilities for biological and biomedial sciences, which saw an increase of 8 percent. Details about the study are available here.

 

February 15, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Chris Wolff of the State University of New York at Plattsburgh reveals how fear of the unknown shaped culture during the peopling of North America. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


 

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