Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 10, 2013

The Consortium of China 9 Research Universities has joined with three other international associations in releasing a statement of 10 characteristics of research universities, including -- notably within a Chinese context -- a commitment to academic freedom.

Specifically, one of the characteristics identified in the "Hefei Statement on the Ten Characteristics of Contemporary Research Universities" is "[t]he responsible exercise of academic freedom by faculty to produce and disseminate knowledge through research, teaching and service without undue constraint within a research culture based on open inquiry and the continued testing of current understanding, and which extends beyond the vocational or instrumental, sees beyond immediate needs and seeks to develop the understanding, skills and expertise necessary to fashion the future and help interpret our changing world."

Other characteristics identified in the statement include autonomy, a commitment to civil debate, and a dedication to research integrity.

The Association of American Universities, the Group of Eight Australia, and the League of European Research Universities joined with the leaders of nine elite Chinese research universities in sighing the statement at the C9 consortium's meeting in Hefei, China. 

October 10, 2013

Two days after massive open online course provider Coursera announced the creation of a Chinese-language web portal, edX on Thursday unveiled a new consortium of Chinese partner universities during an event in Beijing. 

Some of the universities that will join the initiative, called XuetangX, include Beijing Normal University, China Agricultural University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, National Tsing Hua University, Tsinghua University, the University of Science and Technology of China, and Zhejiang University. The first online courses will launch on Oct. 17. 

EdX also announced an initiative to work with French universities on Oct. 3. 

October 9, 2013

Desire2Learn on Tuesday announced an upgraded version of its learning management system has begun rolling out to the company’s roughly 750 clients. The newest version of the Learning Suite reflects the series of startups Desire2Learn has acquired in recent months, including group collaboration software created by Wiggio.

John Baker, president and CEO of Desire2Learn, said one of the major goals of the new platform is to smooth out the technical difficulties of collaborating across different applications and websites. Instead of logging in to access their online documents on one site and their photos on another, users will be able to tie those credentials to their Learning Suite account.

The platform also features support for institutions to create their own massive open online courses without the use of a MOOC provider. The upgrade will come at no charge to Desire2Learn’s existing customers.

October 9, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Richard Boylan of Rice University explores the connection between prison reform and a reduction in social aid programs. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

October 9, 2013

Large numbers of students who have transferred to a four-year institution from a community college before earning an associate degree may be eligible to receive that credential, according to a newly released study from the Office of Community College Research and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The report, which is dubbed "Credit When It's Due," looked at the potential for "reverse transfer" policies in 12 states, finding that 27,000 students who had no credential four years after transferring would have been eligible for an associate degree. 

October 9, 2013

Three researchers will share the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems." The winners are Martin Karplus of Université de Strasbourg and Harvard University, Michael Levitt of Stanford University and Arieh Warshel of the University of Southern California.



October 9, 2013

Princeton University's new president, Christopher L. Eisgruber, has appointed a faculty committee to review the institution's grading policies. In response to concerns about grade inflation, the university in 2004 adopted a policy stating that each department, over time, award no more than 35 percent of its grades in the A-range. The policy has been widely praised by educators who worry about grade inflation, but many Princeton students have been frustrated by it. In his charge to the committee, Eisgruber wrote: "Since the implementation of the policy ten years ago, the number of A-range grades awarded across departments has become much more consistent. Likewise, the grade inflation of the late '90s and early 2000s has been halted. Yet concerns persist that the grading policy may have unintended impacts upon the undergraduate academic experience that are not consistent with our broader educational goals."



October 8, 2013

Evan Dobelle, president of Westfield State University, on Monday answered questions that had been due to state officials the prior Thursday about his spending on numerous foreign and domestic trips, and a pattern in which inappropriate charges were billed to the university or its foundation. As Dobelle was filing his defense, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said he had "very, very serious concerns" about Dobelle's spending, and the head of Westfield State's foundation disputed Dobelle's claims of fund-raising success, The Boston Globe reported.

Dobelle then defended himself on a YouTube video in which he said he doesn't like to travel, but does so only to advance the university's interests, and he suggested he was just seeking the same type of due process the governor has received when people have made accusations against him.


October 8, 2013

Massive open online course providers Coursera and edX will this fall launch new initiatives to expand their platforms abroad.

Coursera on Tuesday announced it will partner with the Chinese Internet company NetEase to create Coursera Zone, a web portal that will make the MOOC provider’s content available to Chinese students. NetEase operates the website 163.com, which is the world’s 27th most visited site, according to Alexa.com’s Internet rankings. Coursera Zone will feature course synopses, discussion forums and student testimonials in Mandarin Chinese.

In France, edX’s open source code will power a national online learning platform that will be available to the country’s more than 100 universities. The platform, announced last week by the French Ministry of Higher Education, will feature 20 courses that will start in January 2014.

October 8, 2013

Officials at Georgia Institute of Technology are investigating an e-mail sent by a Phi Kappa Tau member to his fraternity brothers on "luring your rapebait," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. "The institute does not condone this type of behavior and continues to provide resources and education designed to create a supportive campus environment for all students, even those who exercise extremely poor judgment," said the statement. The e-mail, which appeared on several websites Monday, outlines strategies for getting women drunk and having sex with them.


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