Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010 - 3:00am

SunGard Higher Education announced Tuesday that, in partnership with rSmart, the technology giant would help colleges and universities buy and integrate the open-source Sakai learning platform into their SunGard enterprise systems. The move would appear to give SunGard, which has historically focused on administrative software, some entree into the learning management space by selling subscriptions to rSmart's integrated version of Sakai; the arrangement is also likely to be a boost for Sakai. “As our customers seek to address needs of their students and faculty, they have asked us to provide them with greater flexibility,” Fred Weiss, senior vice president of SunGard Higher Education, said in a news release. “Our partnership with rSmart helps achieve this as it provides access to a community-source system with a subscription pricing model." The move follows a similar corporate/open-source partnership announced last year between Datatel and Moodlerooms, a provider of hosting and services for Moodle, another open-source learning management platform.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 - 3:00am

The technology infrastructure of postsecondary institutions continues to improve -- but the gap between doctorate and nondoctorate institutions, as measured by bandwidth, is also growing, according to a report released by the National Science Foundation. The report contains a wealth of information about the cyberinfrastructure of colleges and universities, including data on the speed and types of institutions' connections to the Internet generally and to research networks in particular, and access to high-performance computing systems. While the data show that higher education as a whole is hurtling forward into better, faster technology, it is doing so unevenly, with the gap widening instead of shrinking. In 2005, 24 percent of doctorate-granting universities and 14 percent of non-doctorate-granting institutions had total bandwidth of at least 1 gigabyte; by 2007, those figures had risen to nearly 39 percent and 20 percent, respectively. (The study estimates that the numbers by 2008 had changed to about 50 percent and 25 percent.) And 62 percent of the non-doctorate-granting institutions had bandwidth of 100 megabytes or less, compared with just 24 percent of doctorate-granting institutions.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 - 3:00am

The president of Western Governors University is one of three recipients of the 2010 McGraw Prize in Education, which this year sought to recognize contributions designed to bring successful educational reforms to scale. The prizes, worth $25,000 each and awarded annually to people who've made a major contribution to improving education in the United States, are awarded by McGraw-Hill. This year's recipient in postsecondary education is Robert W. Mendenhall, president of Western Governors, for expanding the nonprofit, online institution to 20,000 students and building support for its model of competency-based education and training. The other recipients were Larry Rosenstock of High Tech High, in secondary education, and Christopher Cerf, creator of the children's television show "Between the Lions," in pre-kindergarten and elementary education.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 - 3:00am

A student wearing a suit and bearing a rifle began shooting Tuesday in a plaza at the University of Texas at Austin, firing several times into the air but hitting no one, before entering a campus library and killing himself, the Associated Press reported. Medical examiners identified the student as a sophomore mathematics major at the university, UT officials said.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 - 3:00am

A new white paper suggests better ways to promote collaboration in higher education between European and African institutions. The paper, with sections directed at governments, universities and development agencies, reflects work by the European University Association, the Association of African Universities, the Flemish Inter-University Council for Development Cooperation, the Norwegian Association of Higher Education Institutions, the European Access Network and the European Students’ Union.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - 3:00am

Colleges and universities reported $54.9 billion in spending on science and engineering research and development during the 2009 fiscal year, up 5.8 percent from the previous year, according to data released by the National Science Foundation. (Adjusted for inflation, that represents an increase of 4.2 percent.) The largest field within the total is the life sciences, at $32.8 billion, an increase of 5.1 percent. Among all subfields tracked, the largest percentage increase was physics, up 16.4 percent to $1.9 billion. Mathematics saw a 10.9 percent decrease, to $553 million.

In terms of which universities are spending the most on science and engineering R&D, the NSF found very little change. The top five institutions have remained the same since 2004: Johns Hopkins University (in large part because its totals include spending at the Applied Physics Laboratory), University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin at Madison, University of California at San Francisco, and the University of California at Los Angeles.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - 3:00am

Academics are well-represented among the 23 winners, named today by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, as new MacArthur Fellows for 2010. The awardees receive $500,000, no strings attached, and they didn't even have to apply. The winners include professors at the California Institute of Technology; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Cornell, Harvard, Oregon State and Stanford Universities; the University of California campuses at Berkeley, Davis, and San Diego; and the Universities of Chicago and Minnesota.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - 3:00am

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has never been known to hold back (even when that might be wise), but he seems even more willing to speak his mind in his waning weeks in office, with a veto message he issued Friday prime evidence of that. Schwarzenegger refused to sign AB 1889, which its Democratic sponsors described as mainly aimed at clearing up "technicalities" in controversial legislation enacted last year to reinstate California's regulatory system for for-profit and other vocational colleges. But the new legislation went well beyond mere cleanup, Schwarzenegger suggested in his veto message, taking particular umbrage at a provision that would require the new Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education to hire five new employees to oversee for-profit colleges -- an unusual effort by a legislature to dictate management by an executive branch agency. "This is both an inappropriate and unacceptable action to micro-manage and burden the implementation of regulatory policy," Schwarzenegger wrote.

He added, with what one can only imagine was a wide grin on his face: "If the author or interest groups wish to make staffing decisions for the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, I suggest they look into applying for the position of Bureau Chief. Applications can be obtained at: www.gov.ca.gov/appointments."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - 3:00am

David Kennedy, former principal of Robert Gordon University, plans to return an honorary degree he received from the Scottish university to protest its decision to award an honorary degree next month to Donald Trump, the BBC reported. The university says that it is honoring Trump for his "business acumen," particularly in Scotland. But Kennedy is among many in the region who are outraged by Trump's plans to build a golf course in the area -- over the objections of many local residents.

Monday, September 27, 2010 - 3:00am

Lloyd Jacobs, the president of the University of Toledo, has proposed dividing the College of Arts and Sciences into three new units, and the plan has angered many faculty members, The Toledo Blade reported. Some faculty members object to the idea itself, while others say that they didn't have enough input or that they don't trust the president (a former medical school administrator) to safeguard the arts and humanities.

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