WENR, November 2014: Americas

Brazil

University Completion Rates Fall for First Time in a Decade

There was a 5.7 percent drop in the number of Brazilian graduates last year compared with 2012 – the first decline in the number of university leavers since 2003. Some 991,000 students graduated in 2013, a drop of almost 60,000 on 2012, despite the number of students enrolled on programs across the country increasing to 7.3 million.

Among the disciplines to register a decline in graduates were education, health and science, according to this year’s Higher Education Census, released by the Ministry of Education in September. The census shows that the fall in graduates in 2013 occurred mostly within 14 institutions, subject to “supervisory” action by the authorities, sometimes enforcing cuts in the number of student places.

Higher education experts questioned whether the decrease was down to financial difficulties among graduates, prompting them to drop out, or whether Brazil had reached the limits of growth after a period of rapid expansion in student numbers.

José Henrique Paim, the education minister, said that guaranteeing the quality of courses was as important as expansion. “[The drop in graduate numbers] is not worrying because there is a greater concern about quality,” Mr. Paim said in a statement issued by the Ministry of Education.

Times Higher Education
September 25, 2014

Canada

Ottawa and Shanghai Medical Schools to Build Joint MD Program

The University of Ottawa’s dean of medicine, Dr. Jacques Bradwejn, was in Shanghai in late October to inaugurate a new program at a Shanghai medical school that’s an exact copy of the one he runs.

“This program is very exciting because it’s the first time it’s ever been done in China, and it’s for Chinese students, the best that they have, initially 30 students in first year, in English,” he says. “This program has received Shanghai district support. It’s like provincial support. And two days ago it has received what they call central support from Beijing, which means it is a national program.”

The new MD program at Jiao Tong University will also include joint research and exchanges. It’s the first agreement of its kind in China, Bradwejn says.

“The health system, especially on the hospital side, is ultramodern and ultraefficient,” Bradwejn says. “They’re very effective. They’ve gained experience in many procedures. One advantage they have is they have high volumes of cases, whether it’s emergency cases or operating room cases.”

The idea is that University of Ottawa doctors and students will go and see a cornucopia of unusual and complex cases in months that they might take years to see in Ottawa. The first group of medical students are to head to Shanghai next summer for a prototype program. On the flip side, China’s system for front-line medicine is weak. They can learn from us how to train family doctors and prevent illness, Bradwejn says.

Ottawa Citizen
October 14, 2014

United States

Common Ap No longer Requires ‘Holistic’ Reviews

The Common Application, used by 549 colleges worldwide, will no longer require member institutions to conduct “holistic” reviews of applicants, the organization announced in September. The change in policy will allow institutions that do not require admission essays or recommendations to join the 549 colleges worldwide that use the standardized online admission form, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

Officials of the Common Application discussed the change, effective with the 2015-16 admissions cycle, during a session at this year’s National Association for College Admission Counseling’s conference. The change is based on feedback from admissions officers and high-school counselors eager to increase access and to reducebarriers to university entry.

In short, the announcement marks a significant shift for the Common App, which has long maintained that holistic review and access went hand in hand. Late last year, Scott Anderson, the Common App’s senior director for policy, described the organization’s philosophy this way: “We fully believe there’s a best way to admit students to college, to use holistic review, and we provide a service to make that happen.”

In changing its membership criteria, the nonprofit organization essentially has responded to a longstanding criticism: that if the Common App were truly common, it would be open to the many institutions that do not ask applicants for all the things that the nation’s most selective colleges do.

The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 19, 2014

New, Free English Language Test Enters the Fray

EF Education First, one of the world’s largest English language training providers, has announced it will move into standardized testing with the launch of a free online examination that aims to rival established testing brands with its scope and accessibility.

The company has not specified a target number of test-takers it hopes to reach, but Minh Tran, Director of Research and Partnerships, said EF expects that the number of people taking the EFSET  “will at least match, if not exceed” those taking the IELTS and TOEFL given it is “of equal accuracy and quality.”

Tran added that EF will promote the exam among its own students. “We expect that we’ll have millions internally and millions externally.”

The test is being delivered online, which Tran says will allow for greater user autonomy, removing the need for traditional test centers and close monitoring.

“We really see this as a shift of power from the test-maker to the test-taker, so the test-taker can now decide when, where, why and how they take the test,” said Tran.

Because responsibility is in the hands of the learner, EF said security isn’t an issue. “If all that they want to know for themselves is what their English level is, that’s what the EFSET is for,” said Tran.

However, the company has expanded marketing efforts to target both education institutions and government ministries, especially in countries that may lack the resources to pay high prices for language testing. In these cases institutions using the test for official purposes will control how the exams are administered and regulated the company said.

– The PIE News
September 25, 2014

SEVP Offers Guidance on Pathway Programs for Foreign Students

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) posted new draft guidance regarding the certification of pathway programs for international students in September. The guidance defines a pathway program as a “postsecondary program of study combining nonremedial and remedial coursework to prepare a student who is unable to meet the requirements for admission into a degree program.”

It specifies that SEVP can certify a pathway program only if it consists of at least one nonremedial course per session and if all the student’s nonremedial courses are applicable toward graduation requirements. The guidance also stipulates that in pathway programs that consist of an English as a Second Language component, all schools involved in the ESL portion of the program must be in compliance with the Accreditation of English Language Training Programs Act.

SEVP will be accepting public comments on the draft guidance for a 45-day period from the end of September.

Inside Higher Ed
September 26, 2014

Confucius Institutes Close

Pennsylvania State University and the University of Chicago announced within a week of each other in September that they would not be continuing their agreements to host a Confucius Institute, a center for Chinese language and cultural training funded by the Chinese government.

In confirming that Penn State will be ending its Confucius Institute agreement at the end of this year (Dec. 31), the dean of Penn State’s College of the Liberal Arts cited goals that are inconsistent with those of Hanban, the Chinese government agency that administers the institutes.

Broadly speaking, the Confucius Institutes, which are located at about 90 U.S. universities, have been controversial for reasons related to academic freedom and institutional autonomy. The American Association of University Professors issued a statement this summer urging universities to cease their involvement with Confucius Institutes unless they can renegotiate their contracts to ensure certain terms are met. The AAUP statement said that in hosting the institutes “North American universities permit Confucius Institutes to advance a state agenda in the recruitment and control of academic staff, in the choice of curriculum, and in the restriction of debate.”

Inside Higher Ed
October 1, 2014

Study: Type of Awarding Institution Significant Factor in the Hiring Process

A study released in September by the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that the type of college one attends can have an impact on employment odds.

The study used fictional résumés to measure the chances of getting an interview for various jobs, enabling the comparison of people with identical backgrounds except for the institutions they attended. Those with a bachelor’s degree in business from a for-profit online institution were 22 percent less likely to receive a callback from a potential employer than those who had attended non-selective public institutions. The gap disappears, however, for for-profit institutions that have a physical campus and a strong local presence.

National Bureau of Economic Research
September 2014

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