WENR, March 2009: Americas

U.S Institutions Dominate Webometric Rankings

According to the biannual Webometrics Ranking of World Universities, the top 23 universities in the world are all American. First published in 2004, and originally conceived as a way of promoting open access to academic materials online, the Cybermetrics Lab, a research group based in Spain, seeks to measure “the performance and impact of universities through their Web presence” in their rankings.

Not surprisingly, considering it’s OpenCourseWare project, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology tops the list. Stanford University, Harvard University, the University of California at Berkeley, and Cornell University round out the top five. The University of Toronto, at No. 24, is the highest-ranked institution from outside the United States, and the University of Cambridge, at No. 28, registered as the highest-ranked European institution.

The Webometrics rankings score each university on four criteria, including the number of links to the institution’s Web site from other sites. These “inlinks” are ostensibly a good way of evaluating a site’s general impact on the Web community.

January 2009


Ministry Tests Compulsory Undergraduate Curriculum Requirements

The Brazilian Ministry of Education has initiated a project aimed at implementing a standard compulsory element to all degree programs, which should start with general training on societal, environmental, and public relations issues. At present, 26 Brazilian universities are participating in the project.

Ministry of Education
January 14, 2009


Community College Enrollments Soar in Tough Economic Times

Applications to community colleges across Canada are surging as laid-off workers and other mature students seek to develop their skills in the face of grim economic times. According to Colleges Ontario, a provincial association, applications to the province’s 24 community colleges for programs starting in January jumped 10 percent to 43,850 from 39,866 in the same month a year earlier. The increase was significantly higher than the norm.

The number of applications from mature or returning students rose 11.6 percent in 2009, outpacing the increase in the number of high-school applicants, which rose 9.7 percent. Demand was strongest for those programs that appear to offer job security even in tough economic times, such as police training, health care and early childhood education.

Similar enrollment increases have been seen across the country. At Bow Valley College in Calgary, which admits students year-round, applications for programs starting in May reached 500 this year, up from 300 last year. In Alberta jobs are hemorrhaging as oil companies scale back new development projects or cancel them altogether.

The problem for those seeking to upgrade their skills is capacity constraints. Ottawa’s Algonquin College turned away 6,000 qualified applicants last year, and the wait time for some trades in Manitoba was up to four years. With the economic downturn, even more prospective students will be disappointed. In response, the federal government pledged in its 2009 budget to spend a proposed C$2 billion expanding and repairing aging facilities at colleges and universities. The money is part of a C$12 billion infrastructure-spending plan aimed at providing fiscal stimulus to the weakened economy.

The Globe and Mail
February 4, 2009

Report Calls for New Toronto University

A report by the province’s advisory body on higher learning urges the province of Ontario to create a new teaching-only university in the Greater Toronto Area to help accommodate an estimated 25,000 extra students in undergraduate programs over the next 15 years.

The study, released in February by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, calls for the launch of a new undergraduate university somewhere in Greater Toronto – largely focused on arts and science – as well as an “open” online university, and suggests letting a handful of community colleges offer a wider range of degrees.

But the 30-page report suggests an avoidance of starting any more full-service universities, designing a new breed of “polytechnic” institutions for higher-level technical learning, or letting community colleges offer the first two years of four-year university programs, as is allowed in Western Canada.

The Toronto Star
February 13, 2009

Obama: Bad for Canadian Research?

A recent article in the Times Higher Education Supplement speculates that the U.S. brain drain to the north could reverse in the near future under Canadian budget cuts and a US presidential commitment to science.

At his inaugural address, President Barrack Obama emphasized his commitment to research, promising to bring the curtain down on years of neglect under George W. Bush. To the north things look less certain, with government funding for research stalling. This is seen by some as an ominous concurrence that threatens to reverse the recent brain drain that has seen scientists flee the U.S. for greener pastures north of the border.

According to official figures, the number of US academics who were granted work permits in Canada rose by 27 percent between 2002 and 2007. The fear is that many of these scholars, as well as top Canadian researchers, could be lured south by the prospect of a scientific rebirth in America under President Obama.

The Times Higher Education Supplement
February 12, 2009

United States

Higher Percentage of Foreign-Born Attaining Advanced Degrees Than Native-Born

According to a new Census Bureau report, “Educational Attainment in the United States, 2007”, a higher percentage of foreign-born residents in the United States have obtained advanced degrees than native-born Americans.

In 2007, 11 percent of foreign-born residents reported they had obtained at least a master’s degree, whereas only 10 percent of their native-born counterparts had done so. Statistics from the American Community Survey, which annually collects data with a methodology similar to the Census Bureau’s, also indicate that geographic location plays a big role in determining who obtains a bachelor’s degree.

The Northeast saw the highest percentage of degree-earning residents, with 32 percent of both foreign- and native-born residents earning a degree. But there were some disparities in other regions of the country. In the West, foreign-born residents had fewer degrees than did native-born residents (24 percent and 31 percent, respectively), whereas in the Midwest, 31 percent of foreign-born and 26 percent of native-born residents had degrees.

Census Bureau
January 29, 2009

Brave New University

Internet giant Google has teamed up with the North American Space Agency (NASA) to create a new school for future entrepreneurs. Ray Kurzweil, an American inventor who has stated plans to live forever, has been appointed chancellor of the Singularity University, based at Nasa’s Silicon Valley campus in California.

The institution gains its name from a controversial 2005 book by Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near. In it, he argues that the exponential advance of technology will transform society by giving rise to computers that are more intelligent than humans. The leap in computing power will drive rapid advances in other fields, he claims, that together could solve the problems of climate change, poverty, famine and disease.

The new institute will offer programs in artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and biotechnology, and is due to begin instruction this summer. The school is backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, among others. Google has already contributed more than $1m to the institution, and several other major companies are planning to contribute at least $250,000. NASA has agreed that the school can use buildings at its Ames Research Centre in Moffett Field, close to the offices of the US technology giants Google, Yahoo, Intel Corp and Cisco Systems.

A nine-week course at Singularity University will cost $25,000. Details of the new, non-accredited institution were unveiled at the annual Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) conference in Long Beach, California, in February 2009.

The Guardian
February 4, 2009

U of Minnesota Looks to Build International Enrollments

The University of Minnesota has stepped up its international recruitment efforts after a 2006 internal report showed the institution had the smallest percentage of international undergraduates of any university in the Big Ten. In 2006, just two percent of the student body was comprised of international students, while several state schools, such as St. Cloud State and Winona State, had at least double that.

Since then, the university has worked to double its percentage of international students, hoping those students will bring diversity to campus and help the university increase its international prominence. Recruitment efforts have seen increasing numbers of staff and alumni traveling abroad to meet prospective students and sending e-mails to promising high school students in dozens of countries.

These efforts have begun to pay off, with a five-fold increase of international student enrollments between 2000 and 2008, primarily from China, South Korea and India. This fall, about 5.5 percent of freshmen were international students, while Minnesotans made up 64.8 percent of the freshmen.

The Star Tribune
February 5, 2009

Recruiters Abandon Business Schools

Those getting ready to graduate from business school are finding the recruiting season even worse than most had anticipated, reports the Wall Street Journal. Fewer companies are coming to campus, with limited, if any, job prospects.

In a survey by the MBA Career Services Council, an association of business-school career offices, 56 percent of business schools reported a significant decrease in recruiting this winter. Job-posting activity has slowed, with 70 percent of schools saying activity was down more than 10 percent. Internship recruiting has also slowed significantly, according to survey findings released in February, 2009.

For international students, this year’s search is even more challenging. Work-visa restrictions coupled with dwindling recruiting opportunities have left international graduates with few options.

Wall Street Journal
February 10, 2009

Recession Special: Save $40,000 With A Three-Year Bachelor’s Degree

Hartwick College, in New York, has announced that it will allow students to complete their bachelor’s degrees in three years. By taking 18 credits a semester, plus 4 credit hours in a special term each January students are enrolled, students can reach the 120 required credits in less time.

This approach will avoid the need of some three-year programs to require coursework every summer. Because Hartwick students will pay the same whether completing 30 or 40 credits a year, those who opt for the three-year option will see their college costs cut by one fourth. Tuesday’s announcement by Hartwick comes at a time of increased interest by politicians and some educators in three-year degrees. Hartwick’s optional three-year program, which formalizes an approach some students already pursue individually, will begin this fall, allowing both current and new students to enroll.

Three-year undergraduate degrees are the norm in Europe, but for the most part, students there have an extra year of schooling before going to a university, apply to a particular department and do not take general-education courses.

The New York Times
February 25, 2009


Law on Education Passed

The Law on Education, approved by the Senate in December 2008, comprises the definition, aims and purposes of the Uruguayan education system (including higher education) and lists which are the national bodies in charge of the sector.

Ministry of Education and Culture
December 2008

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