WENR, August 2006: Americas
Universities Refuse to Aid in the Ranking Process
Eleven of Canada’s institutions of higher education have declared that they will not participate in the university rankings process taken on each year by the popular magazine Maclean’s. The universities in opposition to the rankings mailed a letter signed on behalf of each to Maclean’s expressing “considerable reservations” about the methods used by the magazine to compile their rankings and the consequent validity of the results. Presidents of the universities signing the letter also worried that the widely acknowledged league tables were misleading to potential students choosing a university.
Editors at Maclean’s defended the fairness and transparency of their methodology and assured the public that they will continue to publish unbiased university rankings that include all Canadian universities, including those that refuse to cooperate with the popular publication. One prestigious university that did not sign the letter condemning the rankings process, McGill University, commented that they had traditionally worked with Maclean’s to improve their rankings and would continue to do so.
The letter of opposition was signed by the presidents of the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary, the University of Lethbridge, the University of Manitoba, the University of Toronto, McMaster University, the University of Ottawa, the University of Montreal and Dalhousie University.
— The Globe and Mail
Aug. 15, 2006
New Survey: Students Prefer Small Colleges
The results of a new student survey by Maclean’s magazine suggests that Canadian students prefer the intimacy of a small campus over the obscurity of large multi-college schools.
Although the newsmagazine has published annual rankings for many years, this is the first time it has conducted an extensive survey of student opinion. Released in June, the student issue is based on responses from 54,000 students who took part in three large surveys: the National Survey of Student Engagement, the Canadian Undergraduate Survey Consortium and Maclean’s own survey.
Results of the survey suggest that students prefer smaller colleges with an undergraduate focus to larger comprehensive universities. Results are available from: www.macleans.ca/universities/index.asp.
Government Expected to Discipline Underperforming Universities
The Secretary of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Ligia Amada Melo, has announced that her office will level sanctions against all universities in the Dominican Republic who are found to not meet the country’s quality assurance benchmarks. Speaking at a ceremony at Centro Universitario Regional de Santiago this month, Melo assured those in attendance that universities found to produce professionals unprepared for the marketplace will be shut down by the government. The Secretary expressed concern at the skill level of some recent graduates from Dominican institutions of higher education, and pledged that her office would do what was necessary to raise the standards at all universities in the nation.
— El Nuevo Diario
Aug. 2, 2006
Cuba and Mexico Reinforce Education Ties
At the tenth meeting of Mexican and Cuban University Presidents this summer, the two countries agreed to implement innovative alternatives aimed at bolstering their academic cooperation. Sponsored by Mexico’s National Association of Universities and Higher Institutions and Cuba’s Ministry of Higher Education, delegates traded ideas on how the two countries could establish funds to support collaboration on joint scientific projects. According to the President of Mexico’s National Technical College, Jose Enrique Villa Rivera, the objective of the meeting was to generate concrete programs based on the favorable relationship Cuba and Mexico experience in the field of education. Mr. Villa Rivera also announced the creation of a joint doctoral program in human resources that will be administered at both Cuban and Mexican institutions.
— Cuban News Agency
June 14, 2006
USC to Open Nation’s First Sino-US Relations Research Institute
The University of Southern California (USC) has developed more than 50 cooperative programs with institutions in China, including a distance education program with Tsinghua University and an MBA course with Shanghai Jiaotong University, and therefore seems well placed to develop the first interdisciplinary research institute in the United States to study U.S.-China relations. On a recent tour of China, aimed at further developing academic ties, USC President Steven B. Sample told the Xinhua news agency that the institute would be established by the end of the year at USC’s Los Angeles campus, and would offer undergraduate and graduate programs.
— Xinhua News Agency
May 24, 2005
University of Washington Sets Up Shop in the UAE, Eyes the Rest of the World
The University of Washington (UW) signed a deal last month with officials in Abu Dhabi that will send professors from UW Educational Outreach, the continuing education branch of UW, to teach graduate students at the United Arab Emirates Academy. Washington officials aim to make this just the first step in a mission to “globalize” UW’s offerings and educational opportunities for students at home and abroad.
In Abu Dhabi instructors from UW will teach certificate courses in fields such as business, communication, English and hospitality to mainly female students, in addition to training local teachers. Many more women than men graduate from tertiary institutions in Abu Dhabi each year, but due to social pressures few women have the opportunity to travel abroad to study. Officials on both sides hope that the agreement will help remedy this situation by offering women the opportunity to study under foreign faculty without having to leave the country. UW officials say the programs would be largely or entirely self-funding — eliminating the need for state tax dollars — and that the international ties would ultimately benefit students in Washington by sparking new exchange programs and cross-cultural exposure.
Since appointing its first provost of global affairs last winter, the University of Washington has considered increasing its global presence in a variety of countries. The university recently passed on an offer from Chinese partners to create a 10,000-student campus in Nanjing, but still hopes to establish an outpost in China. One possible deal in the works would allow for the formation of a joint UW- Sichuan University environmental research center. UW is currently in the process of securing a legal trademark on its name in the country.
University President Mark Emmert has also expressed interest in forming partnerships with institutions on the Indian subcontinent. Despite goals to expand across the globe, Emmert ensures that if the university does decide to expand worldwide it will be a “very targeted and very efficient” process.
— The Seattle Times
August 2, 2006
International Educators Group Calls for National Strategy to Attract International Students
NAFSA: Association of International Educators issued a report in June urging government officials and international education stakeholders in the United States to develop a national strategy to attract international students and scholars in order to prevent the further erosion of the U.S. position in competing for global academic talent.
The report, Restoring U.S. Competitiveness for International Students and Scholars argues that the visa restrictions set after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, and the lack of a national strategy are causing the United States to lose out as numerous countries around the world have been implementing proactive recruiting strategies to attract international students while adjusting immigration and work laws to create a more welcoming climate for incoming academics and students.
While acknowledging improvements in visa processing, and welcoming the frequent statements by high-ranking officials about the importance of international students to key U.S. interests, the report cites developments in global education and U.S. policy that have combined to diminish the United States’ ability to attract students and scholars from around the world – and thus to ensure its future security, economic vitality, and global leadership. The report recommends two areas for particular attention: coordinating the efforts of different branches of the U.S. government, and the removing of excessive governmentally imposed barriers.
— NAFSA news release
June 19, 2006
Under New Law Students Enrolled in Foreign Online Education Programs no Longer Eligible for Financial Aid
American students enrolled in education programs offered over the internet, or any other form of “telecommunications,” by foreign institutions are no longer eligible to apply for federal financial aid to help pay tuition, under new regulations that took effect in early July. The law does not affect students who use financial aid to travel abroad and attend foreign colleges, nor does it affect traditional programs that use “telecommunications” to supplement face-to-face lectures at a foreign school.
— The Chronicle of Higher Education
June 30, 2006
Universities Endeavor to Introduce Students to Study Abroad in their First Year
After years of survey results indicating that incoming students are reticent about the prospect of traveling abroad for a portion of their education, a pair of American universities are implementing freshman year study abroad introductions to acclimate their student body for international study.
Both Purdue University in Indiana and Michigan State University (MSU) have started to offer what they call overseas immersion programs to their first-year students. The programs occur before the beginning of the fall semester for incoming freshman and consist of short, activity-packed trips to a foreign destination where students participate in broad lectures offered by faculty experts and related field trips designed to give them a taste of another culture. While the trips are in large part leisurely, the goal of the exercise is to prepare students to take advantage of study abroad opportunities later in their academic careers. International study advisors are bullish on the program for more reasons than one, however, claiming that the program creates a more internationally minded student body and encourages students to pursue foreign languages throughout their education. These trips also allows students from a variety of concentrations the opportunity to share in a learning environment they might have never experience together in their academic future.
Though this approach to promoting study abroad is very new, Michigan State has already seen positive results. Only 28 precent of all MSU graduates study abroad, but 70 percent of the students who participated in the first round of summer abroad programs three years ago have since studied overseas during their college career.
— Inside Higher Ed
July 28, 2006
Congress Looks to Deal with Diploma Mills
A bill was introduced to the House of Representatives by Betty McCollum (D-MN), Tim Bishop (D-NY), and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) July 28 aimed at addressing the growing number of diploma mills and the corresponding increase in credentials fraud. The legislation represents the first comprehensive attempt on the part of Congress to deal with the problems of fake academic degrees issued by bogus institutions.
H.R. 6008 — the “Diploma Integrity Protection Act of 2006” — defines academic credentials used for purposes of federal employment as those issued by institutions of higher education that are accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. In addition to immediately codifying these changes, the proposed legislation requires the Secretary of Education to convene a task force to study the phenomenon of diploma mills and issue recommendations.
August 2, 2006
State Moves Funding Model from Loans to Grants to Widen University Access to the Poor
Moving from a merit-based system to a means-tested system, the Venezuelan government is putting US$56.5 million into grants and increasing fourfold the number of recipients. Instead of awarding its annual allotment of over 3,000 talent-based scholarships, the Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho Foundation will this year distribute grants to 15,500 students. In addition, the debts of some 24,000 past beneficiaries will be forgiven at an estimated cost of nearly $85 million. In lieu of financial repayments students will be expected to repay their scholarships through volunteer work. Other recent measures aimed at increasing higher educational opportunities for Venezuela’s lower echelons of society have included the opening of four new universities with majority enrollments from among the poor.
— The Chronicle of Higher Education
June 2, 2006