WENR, April 2010: Americas
Free Online Course Materials Multiply Across the Globe
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology began the revolution in 2000 when it established its OpenCourseWare program through which many of the institution’s courses and materials were made freely available online. Today, schools — including top names like Harvard and Stanford in the United States and Oxford and Cambridge in Britain — are continuing to add to the stock of free academic material through platforms that include iTunes U, youtube.com/edu, in addition to institutional sites.
The OpenCourseWare Consortium now includes over 200 institutions worldwide and offers materials from more than 13,000 courses. The idea driving the movement, reports The New York Times, is that information should be freely shared. However, with the recession squeezing university budgets, open course programs might not be so free for long.
Utah State University’s four-year-old OpenCourseWare program attracted 550,000 page views last year, making it one of the most popular in the United States, according to Marion Jensen, its former director. The annual cost of the site was $125,000, or a mere 0.05 percent of the university’s $226 million budget. However, in July of last year the university cut off financing for the program, citing budget constraints. The OpenCourseWare content is now being hosted on the [email protected] Web site, the Utah State branch of a digital content repository that allows various institutions to share cutting-edge research and knowledge.
And that raises the question, how can professors and universities afford to give away the course materials that are their very livelihood? The answer, says James D. Yager, senior associate dean for academic affairs at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, lies in why students pay to attend university in the first place. What OpenCourseWare offers, he notes, is not the full university experience: “We don’t offer the course for free, we offer the content for free,” Mr. Yager said by telephone in February. “Students take courses because they want interaction with faculty, they want interaction with one another. Those things are not available on O.C.W.” Not to mention that credentials are only on offer to paying students.
But there are certainly people and institutions who are looking to transform the O.C.W. model to something more akin to online degree programs. Professor James C. Taylor at the University of Southern Queensland, Australia, has been working to set up an online community of academic volunteers who would interact with students the way professors do in the classroom. With this additional support, students would come closer to approximating a residential or distance education experience at a fraction of the cost, while the university would extend its outreach to a wider group of people.
Other schools offer their materials as recruiting and advertising tools, with data suggesting that prospective students who use or look at the materials frequently enrolling there. Top schools like MIT and Yale continue to cite philanthropic desires to spread knowledge as the strongest motivator.
– New York Times
March 30, 2010
National Economy and Education Sector Weather the Global Recession
Brazil’s GDP is estimated to have grown 1 percent at the depth of the global recession, at a time when other nations were either going bankrupt or making severe budget cuts. As a result, in 2009-10, the federal system of universities and technical colleges, which is free to all students, suffered no significant budget cuts, but rather an actual growth in expenditures. In addition, the federal government has kept the level of grants steady for poor students attending institutions in the private sector.
The federal government is continuing efforts to invest in the expansion of higher education as a key component of its bid to increase economic competitiveness. In the federal system, both universities and technical colleges are on track to double their number of students between 2005 and 2010. At the state level, the push has been mostly in the technical college system, which has grown four-fold in the last eight years.
This being an election year, it is likely that universities and schools will continue to receive healthy government investment.
– University World News
March 21, 2010
East Coast Needs to Attract More International Students to Fill Skills Gap
Atlantic Canada is forecast to have a shortage of skilled and professional workers amid an aging population, and the answer to the demographic problem could lie in not only recruiting more international and out-of-region students but also in persuading them to stay after they graduate, according to a new paper published by the Association of Atlantic Universities.
The four provinces that make up Atlantic Canada are home to 17 universities that already attract many international students, and they, along with most other Canadian institutions, have increased their recruiting efforts in recent years. But many graduates who opt to stay in Canada choose to live in major urban centers like Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver. The paper suggests that the region take steps to become more attractive as a place for educated immigrants to settle.
– Association of Atlantic Universities
Simon Fraser U. Looking for U.S. Accreditation
British Columbia’s Simon Fraser University is currently under accreditation review by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, an agency for colleges in the United States. Simon Fraser was prompted to do so because it is joining the National Collegiate Athletic Association, but its decision also points to the lack of any national accreditation agency in Canada, Maclean’s has reported. In some cases, the magazine reported, differing provincial requirements mean that some universities’ degrees are accepted as valid in some but not all parts of the country.
SFU officials have also cited brand image in terms of academic quality and the value of an SFU degree for alumni abroad as also being motivators for the move. The university also hopes to improve its own internal assessment and accountability mechanisms as part of the process, according to officials.
– SFU news release
March 11, 2010
Government Officials in Ontario Target Increased Enrollments from Abroad and Domestically
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty in his March ‘Speech from the Throne,’ called for 20,000 new postsecondary places in 2010, in addition to aggressive recruitment efforts abroad to bring greater numbers of foreign students to Ontario institutions of higher education.
The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) criticized the premier’s plan in a news release released shortly after McGuinty’s speech, saying that 20,000 new seats will not even come close to meeting demand from the Greater Toronto Area alone in the next five years, which is estimated at between 45,000 to 75,000 students. In addition, the OCUFA said that it would be unfair to increase international enrollments without the allocation of appropriate funds to hire new faculty and add appropriate classes. The funding, according to the Faculty Association must come from public dollars and not “on the backs of international students.”
– OCUFA news release
March 8, 2010
Troubled Indigenous University Gets Funding Lifeline
Canada’s only aboriginal-run university will receive funding from the Saskatchewan government, under an announcement that came one week before the institution’s money was set to run out. The province has reached an agreement that will restore C$5.2-million (US$5.2 million) in funding for troubled First Nations University of Canada (FNUC), and is pledging to pressure the federal government to follow its lead.
The aboriginal school, plagued for years by allegations of financial mismanagement, will be given four years of funding under the agreement, with money flowing through an accounting firm during the first year.
The University of Regina, which already has a relationship with the school and shares a campus with it, will oversee its finances in the following three years.
Both the federal and provincial governments suspended FNUC’s $12 million in funding earlier this year as the university struggled with various issues, an action that if not reversed by March 31 all but assured its end. In recent years, there have been numerous dismissals and departures of top administrators, allegations of misuse of funds, repeated deficits and declining enrollment. However, in March, provincial officials signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Regina and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations which would see provincial funding flow to FNUC again.
The university has approximately 800 students at its main campus in Regina and satellite campuses in Prince Albert and Saskatoon.
March 30, 2010
Globe and Mail
March 31, 2010
Schools Central to $100m Reconstruction Plan
Chile unveiled an initial, US$110-million-dollar post-earthquake and tsunami reconstruction plan in March which focuses on immediate priorities, such as providing shelter to families, restoring school attendance and creating jobs in coastal areas that bore the brunt of the catastrophe, government spokeswoman Ena Von Baer said.
The reconstruction plan calls for putting all Chilean children back in school as quickly as possible, with as many as 840,000 Chilean children unable to attend school in the immediate aftermath.
“The funds will be used for minor repairs (to schools) so classes can resume before April 26, and also to set up social infrastructure including temporary colleges,” said Education Minister Joaquin Lavin. He also announced a government grant of 60 dollars a month over six months to some 20,000 university students whose homes were damaged or destroyed by the earthquake. Lavin estimates that the reconstruction of public schools and private colleges will cost the government 3 billion dollars.
– Agence France Presse
March 20, 2010
Rebuilding an Education System
A report was released in late March detailing the damage done to Haiti’s university system by a major January earthquake, and it offers a very bleak assessment. The report, “The Challenge for Haitian Higher Education: A Post-Earthquake Assessment of Higher Education Institutions in the Port-au-Prince Metropolitan Area,” also calls for international collaboration in rebuilding the country’s higher-education system, as an essential component in transforming the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation.
The quake killed an estimated 121 to 200 university employees and between 2,599 and 6,000 students, according to the report by the Interuniversity Institute for Research and Development, a respected Haitian think tank. Of the 32 major universities surveyed in Port-au-Prince, 28 were destroyed and four were severely damaged, says the report. In all, the report estimates, 87 percent of the country’s universities—those concentrated in the capital and surrounding areas—were destroyed or rendered unusable.
The report highlights the low level of quality of Haitian higher education prior to the earthquake—in particular, the severe lack of scholarly research, the overwhelming concentration of universities in the capital, a shortage of faculty members, and minimal training of professors, only 10 percent of whom held graduate degrees. In addition, 90 percent of universities are private, many of them of such questionable quality that “they are universities in name only,” the report said. It added that 67 percent of Haiti’s 145 universities lacked government accreditation.
The report recommends strategies for the rebuilding process, including the involvement of foreign universities in creating online classes for Haitian students to enable them to graduate, despite the lack of physical infrastructure. Looking to the future, the report suggests that the government establish a regulatory body to oversee higher education, while also redistributing universities away from the capital.
– Interuniversity Institute for Research and Development
IAU Launches University Reconstruction Effort
The International Association of Universities has launched an initiative focusing on providing support to Haitian higher education through its Leadership in Higher Education Reform (LEADHER). The IAU, a division of UNESCO, is asking members to submit, by May 21, 2010, collaborative and/or planning projects that may lay the groundwork for future, longer term partnerships for reconstruction.
– IAU Bulletin
3-Year Degrees Gaining a Foothold
Colleges in the United States have been investigating the idea of three-year bachelor’s degrees for a few years now, and the urgency to get programs up and running has been particularly evident during the current economic recession.
In March, Stanley Ikenberry, interim president of the University of Illinois, said that the university had begun studying whether it would make sense to offer three-year bachelor’s degrees and would release a report in six months. In the month before that, Arcadia University, Holy Family University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and, in partnership, Georgia Perimeter College and Georgia Southwestern State University all introduced formal three-year programs that will begin this fall. Besides the institutions that have made announcements this spring, the University of Houston-Victoria, the University of Washington, Lipscomb University and a few others have introduced three-year degrees in the last year or so.
Many colleges have for decades actively offered applicants and students guided paths toward earning their bachelor’s degrees in three years, though relatively few students take that route. But economic and geopolitical realities have helped the three-year degree gain traction.
At Arcadia the requirements for an accelerated degree are identical to those needed to earn a four-year bachelor’s; they are simply condensed into less time. Admission will be limited to “high ability students,” who must maintain a 3.0 G.P.A. to remain in the program. Students will take a heavier course load each semester and spend the summers of the program fulfilling other degree requirements: a service project and a major-related internship, perhaps outside the United States. Offerings will start with five majors — business administration, communications, international business and culture, international studies, and psychology — whose course sequences have been mapped out to ensure that students will be able to fulfill all requirements in the abbreviated time.
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro began its “UNCG in 3” program in February in response to an increasing number of “questions from students who wanted to go through an accelerated process,” said Steve Roberson, dean of undergraduate studies. Only students who enter with a minimum of 12 college credits are eligible to join.
March 11, 2010
U.S. Study Abroad Numbers in Asia Remain Weak
Despite the region’s growing global significance, students in the United States still greatly prefer to study in the more familiar environs of European countries than in Asian countries that might be considered a little too foreign. Just 11 percent of American college students who go overseas choose an Asian country, with more than half still choosing European destinations.
Educators in the United States say the numbers remain small because the hurdles to studying in Asia are many. Few U.S. students have studied Asian languages, and fewer still are proficient enough to function in a non-English-language classroom. In addition, professors often have stronger relationships with colleagues in Europe, leading them to develop programs and study abroad opportunities in Europe rather than Asia. And many Asian institutions are focused inward, building their capacity to serve domestic students rather than seeking to recruit from abroad.
There are signs, however, of growing academic interest in the region. More Americans are learning Asian languages, Chinese in particular, and at younger ages. The number of U.S. students studying in Asia has risen by nearly 200 percent over five years. But substantial growth will happen, experts say, only when American colleges fashion more-robust linkages with universities in the region, engage faculty members, and embed overseas education in the curriculum. Asian institutions, meanwhile, must become more adaptable to Americans, offering student services, short-term programs, and English-language instruction.
Some institutions in the region, and some countries, are more open to American students than others.
English-speaking India would seem like an obvious destination, but it has enrolled relatively low numbers of international students, just 3,146 Americans in the 2007-8 academic year, compared with China’s 13,165. Other countries in the region are seeking to bolster their international numbers. Universities in Japan and Korea, where birthrates are low, see foreign students as a way to fill slots, while countries like Singapore, where instruction is in English, want to attract top talent to position themselves as hubs of knowledge and innovation. China has actively courted international students, offering scholarships and setting up Confucius Institutes at foreign universities to promote Chinese language and culture.
– The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 14, 2010
Prep Schools Recruiting Abroad
The Washington Post reports that aggressive international recruiting efforts are becoming commonplace for U.S. prep schools eager to enroll from among rising numbers of East Asian students capable of paying full tuition fees and eager to get a head start on an American university education. More private schools are posting ads in foreign newspapers, redesigning their websites in multiple languages and taking part in recruiting fairs where they promise to provide language training and the right mix of coursework and extracurricular activities to enhance college applications.
Federal government data show that 35,000 foreign students attend primary or secondary schools in the United States, not including one-year cultural exchange programs or short-term language courses. For American private schools, the rising interest from East Asia comes at a key moment. The recession has forced many U.S. families to reconsider whether they can afford the costs of tuition and lodging. Charitable giving and endowments also have suffered, and many schools are grappling with fewer applications and, in the worst cases, the possibility of closure.
In the United States, public high schools charge tuition for those on student visas and limit enrollment to one year, so most attend private schools. Sandy Spring Friends School in Montgomery County, Maryland has 54 foreign students, including 11 who arrived from China in January after a fall recruiting fair. Montrose Christian School in Rockville increased its foreign enrollment from about 30 students to 44 this year and appointed its first dean of international students. At Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax City, 31 teens have student visas, up from 13 five years ago.
– Washington Post
March 30, 2010
International Applications to Grad School Rise
Applications to U.S. graduate schools from abroad are up 7 percent in 2010 versus the year prior, according to a new survey released by the Council of Graduate Schools. However, most of the growth appears to be coming from China, as it did last year, while applications from the next two countries sending the largest numbers of foreign graduate students to the United States – India and South Korea – continue to be flat to down. Growth from the Middle East continues to be strong.
Programs at doctoral institutions are seeing increases, while master’s universities are seeing drops in applications. The Council of Graduate Schools’ report cautions against reading too much into the master’s institution decline, given that a relatively small percentage of international students apply to such programs, making large fluctuations likely.
The biggest application increases are at institutions with already large international student bodies, suggesting that name recognition and alumni word of mouth are key drivers of international enrollments.
The 7 percent total gain for 2009-10 builds on gains of 4 percent in applications the prior year and 6 percent the year before that. It should be noted that applications do not necessarily yield enrollment gains, which will be analyzed later in the year by the Council, which also counts offers of admission in its annual three-part study.
Changes in International Graduate Applications, 2006-10
|2006 to 2007||2007 to 2008||2008 to 2009||2009 to 2010|
|Country of Origin|
|–Middle East and Turkey||+17%||+14%||+22%||+18%|
|By Field of Study|
|–Arts and humanities||+8%||+7%||+5%||+6%|
|–Physical and earth sciences||+12%||+7%||+2%||+10%|
Nathan Bell, director of research and policy analysis for the Council of Graduate Schools, notes that with regard to China, consistent double-digit percentage increases are widely understood to be due to, “a rapid increase in degree production at the undergraduate level in China [where] there is a capacity issue in which they can’t accommodate the numbers of students who want a graduate education.”
– Council of Graduate Schools
April 6, 2010