WENR, July/August 2009: Americas
International Effort to Beat Diploma Mills
In recognition of the fact that diploma mills are essentially stateless, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have issued a joint set of guidelines on “effective practice” in preventing the spread of disreputable institutions. The guidelines deal with a range of topics, including how to define diploma mills, agreeing on the importance of the role of quality assurance bodies, and finding ways to share information about these institutions with the public.
UNESCO already has a number of tools students and admissions officials can use to verify the legitimacy of a given institution. One is an Internet listing of higher-education institutions “recognized or otherwise sanctioned by competent authorities in participating countries.”
So far, 23 countries are participating in the joint effort to beat diploma mills, including China, the United States, Britain, Australia, and Japan, as well as developing countries like Kenya and Nigeria.
– CHEA News Release
June 24, 2009
Research Publications Booming in Emerging Nations
According to a comparative study of 52 developing countries conducted for the UNESCO Forum on Higher Education, Research and Knowledge, academic publications in many developing nations have been booming in recent years. Publications produced in China grew 13-fold between 1996 and 2006 to reach 53,000, and the country now spends 1.4 percent of gross domestic product on research and development. Even more impressive increases were seen in South Korea (23-fold increase to 22,380) and Iran (28-fold to 3,710) during the same period.
The study, “Comparative Study on National Research Systems: Findings and Lessons,” shows that there is a definite correlation between economic growth and the development of science and research infrastructure. However, it also shows that some nations are outperforming others. In India, for example, between 1987 and 2006, output increased less than two-fold, while it allocated 0.8 percent of gross domestic product to research and development. In 2006, India produced just 19,290 publications.
The top ten producers of research among those surveyed, as measured by total publication volume, were: China (53,000 publications), South Korea (22,380), India (19,290), Taiwan (13,700), Brazil (13,000), Israel (9,900), Singapore (5,250), Mexico (5,320), Argentina (4,337) and South Africa (3,850).
The study offers some regional trends, suggesting that Asia is catching up faster than other regions, although about one-third of countries in the region remain uncommitted to research. In South America research output remains good, but there are significant geographical discrepancies, with most Andean countries lagging furthest behind. Central American countries and the Caribbean seem less interested in research, with the two exceptions of Costa Rica and Cuba.
In Africa, except for South Africa and North Africa, the gap between the continent and other continents is “huge,” according to the study. However, over the past 10 years a few countries have shown noticeable growth – the Maghreb countries and also Botswana, Cameroon and Ghana, and some very poor countries such as Burkina Faso, Malawi and Mali.
– UNESCO Forum
Private Higher Education Provision Booming in Latin America and Around the World
According to a new study, private universities have been opening campuses in Latin America and around the world at an increasingly rapid rate in recent years to meet demand that public universities have been unable to fulfill.
“Half a century ago there were very few countries with private higher education. Now there are very few countries which do not have it,” said NV Verghese, head of governance and management in education at UNESCO’s International Institute for Education Planning. While presenting his study on private higher education provision, A New Dynamic: Private Higher Education, at the UNESCO Conference on Higher Education in June, Verghese said private higher education was the fastest growing sector in education. Indeed, he noted that its market share had increased to approximately 30 percent of all higher education enrollments, even though public provision is still expanding in many countries.
Growth in private universities has been particularly strong in the countries of the former Soviet Union, in East Asia and in Latin America. Many Asian countries, including India, as well as many English-speaking African countries, now rely more heavily on private higher education providers than the United States whose private providers have had a steady market share of 20 to 25 percent over the last few decades. Indonesia, Japan, Philippines and Korea have more than 70 percent of enrolled students in private institutions.
Chile, with almost 75 percent of tertiary enrollments being in the private sector, leads other countries in Latin America with regards to private enrollments, while Brazil and El Salvador have more than half their students in private institutions. On average, students in private institutions in Latin America have grown from around 40 percent in the 1970s to almost 50 percent now and this has coincided with unprecedented expansion in public universities as well.
The proportion of students in private universities is lowest in Western European, Francophone African, and Arab countries at less than 10 percent of enrollments while only 3 percent of Australian students are in private universities.
– University World News
July 12, 2009
New Universities to Engage Students from Region
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said in June that two of the 16 universities currently under construction in Brazil would be tuition-free institutions open to students from other Latin American countries and African nations.
“We’re building a university for Latin America, which will have students and professors from Brazil and all the other Latin American countries, so there’s a good mixture from all Latin America and we do away with borders,” Lula said in a speech during a public ceremony in the northeastern state of Sergipe.
The Federal University for Latin American Integration, or Unila, one of Lula’s long-standing projects to promote closer regional ties is already under construction in Foz do Iguaçu. The institution will lie where the borders of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina meet. A student body of 10,000 is envisioned, half of whom would be from Latin American countries outside of Brazil.
“We’re also building a university in the city of Redencao in (the northeastern state of) Ceara, where the first slave release occurred, and which will be a university that will have half Brazilian students and the other half from the African continent,” the president added.
– Latin American Herald Tribune
June 13, 2009
A Grading Fate Worse than ‘F’
While an F grade should be avoided at all costs, students at Simon Fraser University can now be graded at an even worse standard. If students are caught cheating, they could end up with a grade worse than a fail.
The British Columbia University’s Board of Governors and Faculty Senate approved a new failing grade. The “FD,” meaning failed for academic dishonesty is to be reserved for cases of plagiarism and other forms of academic cheating, according to the Simon Fraser University News, a university publication. The “FD” policy went into effect in May.
Only department chairs can hand out the grades, which will remain on students’ transcripts until two years after they graduate. At that point, the grades will become mere fails.
– SFU News
April 30, 2009
1,600 New Scholarships for Latin America
The Canadian government announced in April a new scholarship program for students in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Emerging Leaders in the Americas Program (ELAP) will award up to 1,600 new scholarships for Latin American and Caribbean students to pursue studies or research in Canada.
According to a government news release, “the goal of this scholarship program is to support the development of human capital and promote a next generation of Leaders in the Americas while strengthening linkages between post-secondary institutions in the regions and those in Canada.”
– International Scholarships Canada
Network Promoting Canadian Education Abroad Folds
The much-maligned Canadian Education Centre Network (CECN) ceased operations at the end of June. The private, independent non-profit company, that has been promoting and marketing Canada as a study destination for close to 15 years, was originally funded with grants from the federal government, although that money dried up a few years ago, and the network has been struggling financially ever since. Reportedly, CECN never really gained much traction among the key players and institutions in Canadian higher education, with many of the country’s biggest universities bypassing CECN to do their own recruiting.
– Higher Edge
July 2, 2009
4-Year Islamic College Planned for Berkeley, California
Plans are afoot to transform the Berkeley-based Zaytuna Institute and Academy, an Islamic educational institute founded in 1996, into a four-year school that would be known as Zaytuna College. According to Inside Higher Ed, the college would be the first four-year, accredited, Islamic college in the United States.
“Part of the process of indigenising Islam in America is for the community to begin to develop its own leadership from inside the country, develop its own scholars,” said Hatem Bazian, chair of the management board for Zaytuna College and a senior lecturer of Near Eastern studies at the University of California at Berkeley.
“There is a growing need in the Muslim community to provide a variety of trained specialists to fulfill a growing and diverse community infrastructure and institutional framework,” Bazian said – to work as imams, as chaplains, or within the growing network of Islamic non-profit organizations. Currently, Bazian said, American students who seek a high-level Islamic education must study in the Muslim world.
The college currently offers classes, but not for university credit.
– Inside Higher Ed
May 20, 2009
Outsourcing International Enrollments at Oregon State University
Seeking to dramatically increase enrollments from overseas, Oregon State University (OSU) recently announced a partnership with a private British company, INTO University Partnerships, to create INTO OSU, a new entity jointly held by Oregon State’s foundation and INTO. The move has resulted in a loss of accreditation for OSU’s English Language Institute from the Commission on English Language Programs (CEA).
The move was first announced at the annual conference of NAFSA: Association of International Educators in May. Under the terms of the arrangement, OSU retains control of academics, while INTO OSU manages the university’s international education-specific programming and recruitment activities. The goal is to double enrollments to about 2,000 within five years.
INTO has developed a number of partnerships with British universities in recent years, but Oregon State is its first U.S. partner. Under the arrangement, the university collects tuition and the two stakeholders share the expenses and profits associated with the INTO OSU international programming.
The programming changes include the addition of a “Pathway” program or a transitional “first-year experience” in which international students would take a mixture of academic English courses , first-year OSU courses, and supportive “bridge” courses. Students who complete the Pathway program successfully would gain sophomore status at Oregon State. So far, 120 students have applied for the first class of Pathway students this fall, however, the expansion and ownership change has resulted in the loss of the CEA accreditation.
– Inside Higher Ed
May 27, 2009
Study: Most Colleges Trying to Send More Students Abroad, Not All Succeeding
At the end of May, the Institute of International Education released a white paper on expanding study abroad capacity at U.S. colleges. Based on the findings of a 2008 survey conducted by IIE and the Forum on Education Abroad, it was found that 83 percent of institutions are actively trying to send more students abroad. Most colleges, however, expect short-term growth to be relatively modest – with 77 percent expecting a growth of 1 to 25 percent over the next two years. However, over the next 10 years, 45 percent of institutions expect growth exceeding 25 percent.
– Institute for International Education
Paid recruiting Agents to Undergo Screening
The American International Recruitment Council adopted new protocol in May that would set new standards of ethical practices and a system for certifying overseas recruiters. This is a sign that the use of paid recruiting agents may be taking a step into the mainstream of U.S. international recruitment efforts.
The new nonprofit group will begin a pilot certification process of an initial group of eight overseas recruitment agencies. Among other criteria, they will be evaluated on their financial sustainability and management, the openness of their business practices, and their knowledge of the American education system.
Despite being commonplace in other top education exporting countries such as Australia and Britain, the use of paid recruiting agents to draw students to U.S. colleges has long been controversial. The council believes the use of agents has been seen as controversial for the wrong reasons and is misunderstood, leading to missed opportunities in the recruitment of international students.
The pilot program began in June and it is assessing agencies from Australia, China, India, the United States, and other countries. If successful, the certification process will be opened to all international students recruiters from next year.
– The Chronicle of Higher Education
May 27, 2009
State Department to Expedite Visa Processing for Academics and Students
The U.S. State Department announced recently that it is moving to speed up the visa-application process for foreign students and scholars. Facing a large backlog of visa requests, the department has hired additional staff members to process visa applications and it has also revamped policies to accelerate reviews, said David Donahue, deputy assistant secretary of state for consular services.
Academic groups and scientific organizations have complained that overseas researchers seeking to obtain or renew visas have frequently encountered months-long delays. Tougher visa rules were established after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
– The New York Times
June 2, 2009
Standardizing Learning Requirements at Schools Across the Union
Each of the 50 states that make up the Union has autonomy over high school curricula, and standards can vary greatly from state to state. Concerned that U.S. students continue to perform poorly compared to their international peers, 46 states have agreed in principle to develop a set of rigorous criteria — the Common Core State Standards Initiative — designed to prepare high school graduates for college and the workforce. Students would be required to learn the same material for common subjects in all states signatory to the initiative. The four states yet to sign up are Alaska, Missouri, South Carolina and Texas.
Officials say the stakes are high, given that U.S. students are losing their edge in an increasingly global economy. For example, out of 30 industrialized countries participating in the Programme for International Assessment (PISA) in 2006, U.S. 15-year-olds ranked 25th in math. American students are approximately a year behind their peers in the countries that perform best in mathematics.
The Council of Chief State School Officers, which represents state education agencies, working with the National Governors Association, is planning to develop broad standards by July covering curriculum content, professional development, testing and student support. Specific grade-by-grade expectations will reportedly be made public by the end of the year and be ready for implementation in 2010.
– USA Today
June 1, 2009
National Research Council Finally Releases Doctoral Ranking Methodology
While the rankings are yet to be released, the methodology behind the much anticipated doctoral rankings by the National Research Council were finally published in July. After years of debate and delays, graduate schools now know how they will be assessed when the rankings do come out in the next few months.
The last time these rankings were released, in 1995, the emphasis was on peer review by means of reputational surveys. According to the newly published methodology, this year’s ranking will be much more focused on data measuring faculty quality, the student experience, and diversity. Rankings will be issued on those broad areas (and many more specific ones) as well as an overall ranking for each discipline evaluated at various universities. The focus of the new ranking is on disciplines, so criteria weighting will vary from discipline to discipline.
In recognition of the fact that individual placings often mask miniscule differences in ranking scores, departments will be grouped in broader ranges than individual placings. According to NRC officials, this approach will encourage people to avoid the oversimplification of some rankings and to focus on a wealth of data, parts of which may be more important to some than others.
– National Research Council
July 8, 2009