Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - 3:00am

A state panel on Tuesday recommended that Rutgers University and the academic units of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey be merged, reviving a proposal that has periodically surfaced in the state, The Star-Ledger reported. Generally, the panel recommends an enhanced role for Rutgers in the state and greater efforts to keep the best New Jersey high school students in the state for college. The task force, which was headed by former Gov. Tom Kean, presented a broad range of recommendations about public higher education in New Jersey. Its report can be found here.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - 3:00am

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Tuesday upheld injunctions issued by a lower court that would allow a blind law school graduate to use assistive technology software when taking the bar exam. The decision is the latest on the question of what accommodations people with disabilities are entitled to when taking state licensing exams for various professions.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - 3:00am

The American Sociological Association, which recently announced that it couldn't meet in Chicago as planned this summer due to labor strife, has found a new home for its next annual meeting: Caesars Palace, in Las Vegas. While disciplinary meetings may not typically flock to meeting sites known for gambling, Ceasars meets a key requirement: it is a union hotel where contracts are in effect until 2012. The sociologists will gather in Vegas August 20-23.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011 - 3:00am

Arkansas is the latest state in which pro-gun advocates are seeking to make it possible to carry weapons on campuses. Arkansas Carry is seeking legislative support for a bill to override a 2003 attorney general's opinion that colleges and universities could legally ban concealed weapons from their campuses -- even weapons held by permit holders -- if the institutions posted signs to that effect, Arkansas News reported. While state law does refer to some entities having this right to ban weapons, Arkansas Carry says that the reference is meant to cover private businesses, not colleges and universities.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011 - 3:00am

India's government is planning the country's first comprehensive survey of higher education, The New York Times reported. The effort is being conducted out of the belief that a lack of reliable statistics about students and colleges hinders the development of the best policies.

Monday, January 3, 2011 - 3:00am

Italy's parliament gave final approval in December to a controversial set of reforms for the nation's universities, The Wall Street Journal reported. The reforms would involve evaluating the quality of university research and of university efforts to train students for available jobs -- and funding formulas would change to reward institutions that do well and to cut funds to the others. Total government support for higher education is expected to be drop significantly over the next year, and many students and faculty members who have been taking to the streets in protests say that the changes will only exacerbate overcrowding and other problems created by years of inadequate budgets.

Monday, January 3, 2011 - 3:00am

One of the hot ideas in higher education accountability circles is that public universities should have their financing based in part on how successful they are. A fight in Indiana may demonstrate how difficult that could be. The state is planning to distribute some of its support for public colleges based on an incentive formula, rewarding colleges for higher graduation rates, educating more low-income students and other goals. But as The Indianapolis Star reported, public universities that would not do well under the formula are questioning its fairness.

Monday, January 3, 2011 - 3:00am

David Noble, a history professor at Canada's York University and one of the most outspoken critics of distance education, died last week at the age of 65, The Globe and Mail reported. In the book Digital Diploma Mills and in other writing, Noble argued that online education depersonalized higher education and eroded its quality. Noble was an activist on many issues, frequently finding himself in the middle of large public controversies. He led a campaign, for instance, to stop York from calling off classes on Jewish holidays, arguing that the practice discriminated against non-Jewish students. In 2007, Simon Fraser University, in British Columbia, settled a lawsuit by Noble, who accused the university of blocking his candidacy for a job there because of his views. As part of the deal Simon Fraser expressed "sincere regret" for the way it had treated Noble.

Monday, January 3, 2011 - 3:00am

Congress and many state legislatures will convene for their 2011 terms within the next week, with one overriding priority dominating their agendas in most cases: cutting spending to try to bring the budgets of their states (or in Congress's case, the country) into better balance. Those efforts are certain to create challenges for colleges and students, as higher education funds are one of the largest areas of many states' budgets that are not constitutionally mandated, and Congressional Republicans are promising significant cuts in non-military domestic spending. A Wall Street Journal article today -- citing House Republicans' plans to rescind some federal spending already approved -- predicts that "the top targets could be programs whose budgets saw a jump under Democrats, like foreign aid and Pell Grants for ... college students."

Monday, January 3, 2011 - 3:00am

A new report from the National Science Foundation suggests that the elimination of mandatory retirement for science, engineering and health doctorate holders over the age of 70 employed in higher education had minimal effects. Authors Thomas B. Hoffer, Scott Sederstrom, and Deborah Harper found that the retirement rate for those 71 to 75 dropped about 4 percentage points between 87.5 percent 1993 and 1995 (the end of mandatory retirement was in 1994) and stayed below 85 percent from 1995 to 2003. But other results from the study suggest that other factors are at play. Compared with 1993, degree holders at younger ages -- who never would have been covered by mandatory retirement laws when they were in effect -- also saw slight declines in retirement rates in the years after 1993. This runs counter to what many expected in 1993, says P. Brett Hammond, an expert in higher education retirement policy. In short, as Nirmala Kannankutty, an adviser on the project, put it to Inside Higher Ed via e-mail: "Retirement is a fairly complex process to look at." So while the change in mandatory retirement clearly had some impact, the report by Hoffer, Sederstrom and Harper suggests it was limited and difficult to pinpoint.

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