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By 2020, They Said, 2 Out of 3 Jobs Would Need More Than a High-School Diploma. Were They Right?

The widespread prediction came true earlier than expected, although the significance of that is a mixed bag. And where the trends are going from here is equally fuzzy.

How political can a college president be?

Inside Higher Ed - 13 hours 21 min ago

Last month Paul LeBlanc, president of Southern New Hampshire University, endorsed Senator Michael Bennet for the U.S. presidency.

Bennet is a Democrat from Colorado, though you’d be forgiven for not knowing his background. He currently is polling at about 0 percent in the Iowa caucus and so far has only qualified for two of seven Democratic debates.

“I really appreciated Michael’s thinking about higher education,” LeBlanc said in an interview. “He’s going deeper than simply shouting, ‘Free college.’”

But LeBlanc acknowledged Bennet’s long odds.

“During the primary, that doesn’t matter to me so much,” he said. “I want to vote for somebody who would be really be good in the position.”

The endorsement was rare for a university president. But it comes amid what seems like the rise of a new kind of college leader.

To be sure, public attention is still mainly devoted to the Ivy League, elite research institutions and public flagships. But Southern New Hampshire’s enrollment is now more than 130,000 students, most of them online. It is one of the nation's three largest universities by enrollment, along with Arizona State University and Western Governors University. The average American today might know more about SNHU than about whichever college is ranked fourth in US News & World Report. The University of Chicago, you might say, doesn’t advertise on ESPN.

These universities represent the rise of a new model in higher education. And as they percolate into public consciousness, their presidents move further into the spotlight. LeBlanc will take over in March as chair of the board of the American Council on Education, higher education's umbrella association. Farther south, Liberty University, now boasting an online enrollment of roughly 100,000 students, can claim it has one of the most well-known college presidents in recent memory. Jerry Falwell Jr., whose late father personified the modern conservative evangelical movement, makes it into the news as often for his political opinions as for scandals that have dogged him of late.

One of SNHU’s most popular TV ads, aired over 54,000 times, is a tearjerker starring LeBlanc himself. “Stand up if you’re the first in your family to go to college,” he asks the crowd at an SNHU commencement ceremony as part of the ad. “Stand up if you’re a mother or a veteran,” LeBlanc says. Graduates openly weep while accepting their diplomas.

“The world in which we live equally distributes talent,” he says in the spot, “but it doesn’t equally distribute opportunity.”

Lions or Lambs?

Neither LeBlanc nor Falwell is the first president to wade into politics. Both, in separate interviews, referred to Theodore Hesburgh, the Catholic priest and president of the University of Notre Dame who blasted the Oval Office over civil rights and the Vietnam War, as somewhat of an forebearer. And former politicians often have found a home in the president’s office, with perhaps the most notable example in recent years being Mitch Daniels, former Republican governor of Indiana and current president of Purdue University.

LeBlanc said his political choices still take some balance. For example, his endorsement video for Bennet was filmed on a public sidewalk because it could not be shot on the SNHU campus. He stressed that it was his endorsement as a citizen, not as a university president.

“I have to be very, very careful to separate out and be neutral in terms of my official role in the university’s position,” he said.

He referenced the popular lament that university presidents, once lions on politics, are now sheep, sneaking quietly to the top so as to not make enemies.

“I talk to so many of my colleagues who don’t feel like they can be very public around their political views,” he said. “The fallout from public stances can be more caustic, more pronounced, with social media supercharging all of that. It’s really fraught territory for many people.”

Indeed, research suggests that in the last decade, college presidents have been getting fired more often as boards have become more activist or aggressive. For example, Carol Folt, former chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, had her resignation accelerated by the board there last year when she announced she would be taking down Silent Sam, the campus’s Confederate soldier monument abhorred by a loud chorus of students. Margaret Spellings, formerly the UNC system president, left shortly after Folt. And at the University of Wyoming last year, the board found itself searching for its fourth president in six years after firing Laurie Nichols.

LeBlanc himself stirred up some controversy by wading into the political discourse in 2017. After a white supremacist riot in Charlottesville, Va., turned deadly that summer, LeBlanc put out a statement to the university community. The alt-right marchers, he wrote, “are to be reviled,” while the countermarchers “were there to protest the evil that is the alt-right and defend American values.”

“There were some of our employees who were upset and felt that I was painting Trump supporters with too broad a brush,” he said. “I’ve learned from that.”

The standards of civility he says he adheres to have lost some currency on college campuses, as activists, arguing that existential threats don’t warrant friendly debate, do their best to shut down some discussions. Engaging with conservative students and making them feel included on campus is a goal, LeBlanc says.

But ultimately, he’s not sure his students, many of whom are taking classes online, really care.

“They’re busy working adults, they’ve got kids, they’ve got jobs, they’re trying to get through their program,” says LeBlanc.

The National Stage

Falwell, who prominently supported Trump in 2016 and is all in on his re-election, agrees that most students aren’t paying attention to his politics. But Falwell thinks being outspoken has helped Liberty’s enrollment.

“For every student we lost, we probably gained two because we’re openly conservative,” he said. “But that’s not why I do it.”

Falwell said it’s not exactly what he believes that matters to students, but rather his growing celebrity.

“It’s just the excitement of Liberty being at the center of a national discussion,” he said. “Liberty is seen as relevant on the national stage, and I think that’s what caused the enrollment to continue to increase.”

LeBlanc says he’s not at all afraid of his views making SNHU a target of Republican lawmakers. His political stance might just give him less influence on that side of the aisle, he suggests. Falwell, however, said the concern is already realized because Liberty is the target of Democrats.

As one example, he noted that Virginia governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, proposed in his state budget eliminating tuition assistance grants for students in online programs, which would directly impact Liberty, located in Lynchburg.

“The very people they claim to champion are the ones they are harming,” he said. “Those who claim to be tolerant are usually the most intolerant.”

Ultimately, LeBlanc said, he is political because it is necessary.

“My own involvement is an attempt to say to students, ‘This is important. You need to have a voice.’”

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Politics, legal fights muddy picture for defrauded student loan borrowers

Inside Higher Ed - 13 hours 21 min ago

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives were able to pass a measure last week expressing opposition to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s borrower-defense rule. But because of politics and both ongoing and upcoming legal battles, the vote did little to clear up what will happen to students who are asking for their loans to be discharged because they were defrauded by colleges.

Hardly clear are two questions: how to deal with the backlog of more than 200,000 borrowers, most of whom attended for-profit institutions, who’ve been waiting for the Education Department to process their requests for debt forgiveness.

Also uncertain is how cases will be handled in the future. A new rule proposed by DeVos that would make it harder for borrowers to get relief is set to go into effect in July, but it will likely be challenged in the courts before then.

In terms of dealing with the current backlog, DeVos in December raised the concerns of advocacy groups by announcing that the department will begin excusing only a portion of the debt owed by students, even after they’ve been determined to have been defrauded. The move would be a departure from the Obama administration, which sought full relief for defrauded students.

To advocates, DeVos’s new attempt would mean many borrowers would only get a portion of the relief they would have been entitled to under the Obama administration, said Abby Shafroth, a staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, and Beth Stein, senior adviser at the Institute of College Access & Success.

Eileen Connor, legal director of Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending, told The New York Times when the new proposal was announced that it would file a legal challenge.

Meanwhile, a previous attempt by the Trump administration, in December 2017, to begin giving only partial relief was temporarily blocked in 2019 by a federal court, which ruled that the borrowers' privacy rights were violated because the department used their federal earnings data from the Social Security Administration.

That case is still continuing, however. The department has appealed the injunction against the first partial-relief plan to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California, which could conceivably approve the first partial-relief plan.

Should the courts end up blocking both the first and second partial-relief plans, the amount of relief will depend on what standard was in place when a borrower took out the loan.

In ordering the injunction, Federal Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim barred the Education Department from trying to collect from some Corinthian Colleges graduates. But last October, Kim held DeVos in contempt of court for continuing to collect from the students after the Education Department acknowledged in a court filing that it had improperly sought to collect on loans from more than 16,000 students. More than 1,800 of those students were subject to involuntary collections like wage garnishment or seizure of tax refunds.

Beyond the question of whether the department can give only partial relief to defrauded students, also unresolved is how difficult it will be for thousands of other borrowers who are expected to file for relief in the future.

Currently, applications are judged under standards set up by the Obama administration. But DeVos and some Republican lawmakers complained those standards are too lenient and balk at estimates they’d cost $42 billion over the next decade.

So DeVos in August announced her own rule, which describes how to handle claims for loans made after July 1.

“The rule corrects the overreach of the prior administration, gives students and borrowers the relief that they’re owed, and restores fairness and due process, saving taxpayers $11.1 billion over 10 years,” a department spokeswoman said in a statement last week.

But critics say DeVos went too far and made it too difficult for defrauded students to get relief -- for instance, by requiring they prove institutions intentionally defrauded them.

Whether Congress takes action is anyone’s guess.

Last week, the House, 231 to 180, voted to block the rule, sending the measure to the Senate.

“Even in cases where the schools clearly violated the law, the burden of proof on the defrauded student is so absurdly unrealistic, it would take a team of lawyers for the student to have a shot at proving intent and misconduct from the school,” Representative Susie Lee, a Nevada Democrat, said in arguing last Thursday for the resolution she sponsored opposing the new standards.

Six House Republicans joined Democrats in passing the measure, which gave advocates some hope of getting it through the Republican Senate.

But even if does pass, the measure is expected to be vetoed by President Trump.

Congress could then still decide to block the new rule as part of a broader Higher Education Act reauthorization, which would deal with a range of issues from increasing Pell Grant spending to further simplify student loan applications.

A version by Democrats that was approved by the House education committee in October would block DeVos’s tougher system and, instead, strengthen the method used by the Obama administration by setting clearer timelines for handling claims.

However, the Republican majority in the Senate would have to agree to include it in a reauthorization bill. With differences over a number of other issues, it’s unclear if the House and Senate will even be able to agree on a reauthorization for the foreseeable future, Stein said.

If Congress doesn’t take action, DeVos’s tougher standards would stay in place.

Yet DeVos’s tighter standards also are expected to face a legal challenge, meaning those standards, too, could be headed to the courts.

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Iranian student bound for Northeastern removed from U.S. despite court order

Inside Higher Ed - 13 hours 21 min ago

An Iranian student with a visa to attend Northeastern University was denied entry to the United States last weekend at Boston’s Logan International Airport and removed from the country despite a court order blocking his removal, his lawyer said.

Immigration lawyers and advocates for Iranian Americans say they have seen a rise in cases of Iranians with valid visas being turned away at airports, at either the port of departure or entry.

Ryan Costello, policy director for the National Iranian American Council, said he is aware of about two dozen such cases since August. He attributed the trend to heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

“August was when it was clear this was happening on a somewhat wide scale,” Costello said. “Prior to that, many students had complications in securing visas and getting the timing right so they could start their semester on time, but we didn’t really see kind of this wide-scale rejection of individuals who had already secured their visas. I think this is something new, and it’s happened within the last six months.”

The Northeastern student, Mohammad Shahab Dehghani Hossein Abadi, attempted to enter the U.S. on Sunday but was held back by Customs and Border Protection agents for secondary questioning, at which point CBP officials detained him, revoked his student visa and issued an expedited removal order, according to an emergency petition filed Monday evening by his lawyers in U.S. District Court for Massachusetts.

Later Monday night, a federal judge, Allison D. Burroughs, issued an order blocking CBP from removing Hossein Abadi pending a court hearing scheduled for Tuesday morning. But lawyers for Hossein Abadi said he was removed from the country on a plane bound for Paris after the order was issued.

“We filed the petition around 7:30ish, then Judge Burroughs from the federal district court issued a stay order at 9:27, and then from our understanding he departed at 10:03,” said Kerry Doyle, a lawyer for Hossein Abadi.

On Tuesday morning, Judge Richard G. Stearns dismissed the petition to keep Hossein Abadi in the U.S. as moot.

“Obviously, we want to hold CBP accountable for what appears to have been their refusal to follow the district court’s order, so we will be pursuing a filing with Judge Burroughs in the coming days,” Doyle said. “As to the case as a whole, we’re keeping all of our options open.”

Doyle said the documentation she has seen from CBP suggests that Hossein Abadi was deemed inadmissible because CBP officials thought he intended to immigrate to the U.S., in violation of the terms of his student visa, which requires individuals to demonstrate that they have no intention of staying in the country permanently.

"We see no evidence whatsoever to back that up," Doyle said of the finding that Hossein Abadi intended to immigrate.

In a statement it issued on Tuesday, CBP did not address why Hossein Abadi was denied entry or comment on allegations that it ignored the court order mandating that he remain in the agency's custody.

"Every applicant for admission is subject to inspection upon arrival in the United States," the agency said. "The issuance of a visa or participation in the visa waiver program does not guarantee entry to the United States. Upon arrival at Logan Airport on Sunday, January 19, [Hossein Abadi] was deemed inadmissible and processed for expedited removal and return to his place of departure. During today’s hearing, the court ruled that the matter is now moot as the subject was never admitted into the United States, the subject is no longer in custody, and the court does not have jurisdiction to order his return."

Hossein Abadi, who is 24 years old, was set to enroll in a bachelor's degree program at Northeastern University. Northeastern officials said in a statement that they had reached out to the student directly and had been in contact with members of their congressional delegation.

"Twenty-four hours after learning that our student was detained and sent back overseas, we still have not received a satisfactory explanation from Customs and Border Protection for this action," Northeastern said in its statement. "We believe that a clear explanation is needed, especially because the deportation took place after a 48-hour extension was granted by a federal judge. Only in the most extreme instances should students have their academic pursuits interrupted by government intervention."

According to court documents, Hossein Abadi first applied for a U.S. visa in 2018 and waited for “nearly a year” while his application was held up for “administrative processing,” which typically entails additional security screening. His visa was granted approximately a week ago.

David Ware, an immigration attorney, said Iranian students hoping to travel to the U.S. are frequently subject to long delays while their visa applications undergo administrative processing, which he described as a euphemism for security checks.

But even a student who makes it through the security check and gets a visa isn't guaranteed entry. Ware described an "epidemic" of people "who passed the security checks that are generated by the consulate but then are denied entry by CBP and are sent back, such as this young man."

"Under our law, CBP has a second bite at the apple to determine admissibility," Ware said. "The consulate has the first bite in the apple, and they put the person through a security check. The consulate determined through various agencies of the U.S. that this person was not a risk to U.S. security. Then CBP turns around and revokes their visa and sends them home. Usually, what CBP will tell you is something came up in the encounter with the CBP officer in the U.S. that indicated to the CBP officer that the visa had been erroneously granted, and there was indeed some problem with the individual. It could have been a security issue, or it could have been some other issue."

The Los Angeles Times and The Guardian have reported on other visa revocations involving Iranian students this academic year. The Los Angeles Times reported on about 20 such cases, most involving students admitted to University of California campuses. Most of the students learned of the revocations when they showed up at airports for their flights to the U.S.

The case involving Hossein Abadi is reminiscent of a similar case at the start of the academic year involving a Palestinian undergraduate student bound for Harvard University, Ismail Ajjawi, who was initially denied entry into the U.S. upon his arrival in Boston. Ajjawi, who was ultimately admitted to the U.S. after Harvard intervened, said CBP officials questioned him about his religious beliefs and about social media posts from Facebook friends that expressed political opposition to the U.S.

Ajjawi's case attracted widespread attention and concern, as did the new case involving Hossein Abadi. Among those weighing in supporting Hossein Abadi were Democratic presidential candidate and Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren and U.S. representative Joe Kennedy III, also of Massachusetts.

"Turning away those who make this nation a better place is no way to govern," Kennedy said on Twitter. "This president treats every immigrant as a terrorist -- that’s not what this nation was founded upon. Let him stay."

Iranians in general are barred from coming to the U.S. under President Trump's travel ban, although there is an exception to the ban for Iranians coming on student visas. The number of students from Iran declined by 5 percent during the last academic year, according to data from the Institute of International Education's annual Open Doors survey on international enrollments. Iranians make up the 13th-largest group of international students in the U.S. The majority, almost three-quarters of them, study at the graduate level.

"I certainly think the U.S. is doing long-term damage to our ability to recruit really bright people, bring them here and have them excel in institutions of higher learning across the country," said Costello of the National Iranian American Council. "It's likely that a lot of brilliant people are going to go to Canada, they’re going to go to Europe, they’re going to go elsewhere because our national policy is one of discrimination against Iranians."

Foreign StudentsEditorial Tags: IranForeign Students in U.S.Image Source: Courtesy of American Civil Liberties Union of MassachusettsImage Caption: Demonstrators in support of Mohammad Shahab Dehghani Hossein AbadiIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Northeastern UniversityDisplay Promo Box: 

New presidents or provosts: Brandywine Keuka Lancaster Limestone Mobile Queen's San José Stout

Inside Higher Ed - 13 hours 21 min ago
  • Monica Baloga, vice president for academic administration at the Florida Institute of Technology, has been selected as provost at Limestone College, in South Carolina.
  • Lonnie A. Burnett, interim president of the University of Mobile, in Alabama, has been named to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Katherine P. Frank, vice president of academic innovation and professor of English at Central Washington University, has been named chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Stout.
  • Bradley Fuster, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs at Keuka College, in New York, has been appointed to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Mark F. Green, vice dean for graduate studies and recruitment at the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science at Queen’s University, in Ontario, has been promoted to provost and vice principal (academic) there.
  • Andy Schofield, pro vice chancellor and head of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Birmingham, in Britain, has been chosen as vice chancellor at Lancaster University, also in Britain.
  • Rowena M. Tomaneng, president of Berkeley City College, in California, has been selected as president of San José City College, also in California.
  • Marilyn Wells, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Minnesota State University, Mankato, has been appointed chancellor of Pennsylvania State University's Brandywine campus.
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Chronicle of Higher Education: Purdue Global Has Had a Rocky Start. Is It Growing Pains or a Sign of Trouble?

A $43-million loss last year was due in part to marketing costs. And the institution expects to turn a profit this year.

Chronicle of Higher Education: 'Teaching Gives Me Credibility With Students,' Says an Administrator

After Jeff McKlurken became an administrator at the University of Mary Washington, the professor of history and American studies wanted to continue teaching.

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UK gov’t extends funding for int’l exchange

The PIE News - Tue, 01/21/2020 - 09:47

The UK’s education secretary Gavin Williamson announced a one-year extension to an international school exchange program during the Education World Forum in London.

Launched last year, the £2.5 million program is geared towards secondary schools students from disadvantaged backgrounds, although it will now be expanded to include primary school children.

“While we welcome the announcement, it must be backed up with a commitment to continue participation in Erasmus+”

According to Williamson, 138 schools have organised international exchanges through the program to “countries as far-ranging as Austria to Zambia”.

“For decades now, children across the world have been making overseas trips to meet their fellow pupils, making lifelong friendships along the way and having a much deeper understanding of what that country is about than anything they could ever learn in a textbook” he added.

Earlier this month, UK members of parliament voted against a clause which would have required the government to seek to negotiate continuing full membership of the Erasmus+ program.

However, British prime minister Boris Johnson has downplayed fears, stating that “there is no threat to the Erasmus scheme” while speaking in the House of Commons last week.

In response to Williamson’s announcement, Erica Ramos, vice president of the National Union of Students said that NUS hope it indicates that the UK government will be negotiating for the UK’s continued membership of Erasmus+ as a priority.

“It makes no sense for the government to extend funding for exchange programs for school children while removing opportunities for them later in life by not committing to the continuation of Erasmus+ after we leave the European Union,” he said in a statement.

“All students should have access to programs that allow them to expand their cultural knowledge, exchange cultures and experience the world regardless of age.

“With Erasmus+ students in the UK generating £390 million for the UK economy each year, its essential that the government confirms its commitment to the UK’s continuing involvement in Erasmus as soon as possible.”

“Just over a week from now, the UK will leave the EU”

During his speech, Williamson also reiterated the government’s commitment to international collaboration and its education strategy, saying it aims to increase inbound international student numbers to 600,000 by 2030.

“The UK has always been an outward-looking and global nation, with a proud history and record when it comes to education and innovation,” he added.

“Just over a week from now, the UK will leave the EU. This is the perfect opportunity to march forward and be the global leader in educating children, young people and adults.”

The post UK gov’t extends funding for int’l exchange appeared first on The PIE News.

Course search platform launches with Trees for Degrees project

The PIE News - Tue, 01/21/2020 - 07:15

A new global university course search platform, Studee, has launched in the UK, with the aim of transforming the way international students find higher education courses overseas while addressing the “elephant in the room” – the industry’s carbon footprint.

The disruptive platform, set up by “Britain’s best boss” – Chris Morling, founder of comparison site money.co.uk – along with Simon Andrews of BigChoice Group, matches prospective students with multilingual advisors who provide guidance from “application to enrolment”.

“I’m addressing the elephant in the room – the fact international education has negative consequences for our environment”

Studee is the new generation company formed with BigChoice Group origins – and it is aiming to “be the world’s number one choice for students to study anything, anywhere and to maximise the education and life opportunities for students by making studying abroad simple”, according to CEO Morling.

Additionally, Studee will plant trees for every student enrolled, via its Trees for Degrees project with Plant-for-the-Planet, to contribute towards absorbing the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere when students fly.

According to Studee, the process of international enrolment at universities is “outdated and not fit for purpose for today’s centennials”, who rely on technology more than previous generations.

This is also the generation that is likely to most suffer from today’s climate emergency, it stated.

“Studee is reinventing the way international students find a university by making it simple and deeply personalised whilst adding transparency in an industry which in recent years has sadly suffered some corruption and has largely ignored the climate crisis,” Morling said.

“Education is the most powerful way to positively change the world but I’m also addressing the elephant in the room – the fact international education has negative consequences for our environment,” he added.

“Our goal is to plant one million trees over the coming years and transform the way international students find their dream university abroad.

“This generation of students will bear the brunt of climate change and they need the option of studying abroad in an environmentally conscious way without doing lasting damage to our planet,” he added.

Chris Morling previously set up the money.co.uk website. Photo: Studee

The Trees for Degrees project is at the heart of the business and a top priority for the company for this reason, Morling continued.

Studee will also be working with charities to provide scholarships to students – the first organisation it will work with is Prospect Burma.

Morling, who launched money.co.uk in 2008 before selling to ZPG plc in September 2017 in a £140m deal, plans to disrupt the international education market by utilising his experience creating websites that drive high volumes of quality traffic with exceptional user experience.

Co-founder Andrews has in-depth knowledge of the education sector, which will be an additional boon for the company, a statement by Studee indicated.

Offering courses at 200 universities in 40 countries, Studee is aiming to “combine a deeply personalised online solution with real person support” assisting students.

“We’re working towards a completely new way for students to better understand which programs are best for them”

“Our international student advice centre based in Ecuador supports over 1,000 students per day, via a number of channels including phone, WhatsApp, online chat and email,” Morling told The PIE News.

Available 24 hours a day, Studee advisors help with visa advice, program application queries, country-specific entry-level requirements, what scholarships are available, which program to choose and which programs might have the biggest impact on their career, he added.

“In addition, we’re working towards a completely new way for students to better understand which programs and universities are best for them,” Morling claimed.

“The end goal is to take the leg work out of finding a university for international students. We want to make the whole process as simple as possible.”

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Canada: EC opens 30+ school on west coast

The PIE News - Tue, 01/21/2020 - 05:09

English language provider EC English Language Centres has expanded its offer specially catering to students aged 30+ with a new school in Vancouver – the company’s first on the west coast of Canada.

Adding to the success of EC’s 30+ schools in London, Malta, New York, Toronto and Dublin, the latest school to open in Canada is the company’s sixth 30+ school in five countries.

“The people at the helm in EC Vancouver 30+ are full of enthusiasm and drive for this school”

“The opening of EC Vancouver 30+ is a great achievement for all of us at EC, allowing us to bring our wonderful 30+ experience to this remarkable city,” EC’s CEO, Andrew Mangion, said in a statement.

“It is thanks to the dedication of our teachers, staff and partners and, of course, our students, that makes this possible.

“At EC, we believe that our people are our strength and our growth in recent years is testament to that. The people at the helm in EC Vancouver 30+ are full of enthusiasm and drive for this school so we know that the students here are in strong, capable hands,” he added.

The 30+ school offers more mature students an independent space to “learn and grow”, with its own classrooms and curriculum, and its own co-working space or student lounge.

Student benefit from a “sense of community [that] develops to create a supportive bond,” according to the provider.

The school opened January 8 and is already welcoming its first cohort of students.

“This school, like all EC 30+ schools, has been designed with the needs of the mature student at its core, offering dedicated classrooms and a student lounge that is ideal to network in, catch up on some work or top up study after class,” centre director at EC Vancouver 30+, Martha Delgadillo said.

“The curriculum is also brimming with exciting classes and activities. I speak for us all at the school when I say that 2020 has begun with an enthusiasm to carry through the year.”

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More admissions officers checking social media

The PIE News - Tue, 01/21/2020 - 03:26

More than a third (36%) of admissions officers said they visit applicants’ social media profiles like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube to learn more about them⁠, up from 25% last year, according to a poll conducted by Kaplan.

Almost 300 participants took part in Kaplan Test Prep’s 2019 college admissions officers survey, and the latest results follow a three-year decline in the practice since the high mark of 40% in Kaplan’s 2015 survey. This comes as teens are increasingly using newer social platforms such as TikTok and Twitch.

“Admissions officers have become more ideologically comfortable with the idea of visiting applicants’ social media profiles”

However, of admissions officers who said they have checked out an applicant’s social media footprint, about one in five (19%) say they do it “often” – significantly higher than the 11% who said they checked “often” in Kaplan’s 2015 survey.

Of the respondents who said they check social media to learn more about their applicants, 38% said that what they found has had a positive impact on prospective students.

Meanwhile, 32% said that what they found had a negative impact. Both of these figures have fluctuated slightly over the past few years.

The Kaplan survey found that although less than half of admissions officers visit applicants’ social media profiles, 59% —slightly higher than last year’s 57% —consider it “fair game”, while 41% consider it “an invasion of privacy that shouldn’t be done”.

College applicants are notably more accepting of this practice than admissions officers; in a separate Kaplan survey completed last year, 70% of college applicants said they believe it’s “fair game” for college admissions officers to check social media profiles.

“In tracking the role of social media in the college admissions process over the past 11 years, what we’re seeing is that while admissions officers have become more ideologically comfortable with the idea of visiting applicants’ social media profiles as part of their decision-making process, in practice, the majority still don’t actually do it,” said Sam Pritchard, director of college prep programs, Kaplan Test Prep.

“They often tell us that while it shouldn’t be off-limits, they are much more focused on evaluating prospective students on the traditional admissions factors like an applicant’s GPA, SAT and ACT scores, letters of recommendation, admissions essay, and extracurriculars.”

Pritchard said that Kaplan continues to believe that applicants’ social media content remains a wildcard in the admissions process, with what they post possibly being the tipping point of whether or not they’re admitted to the college of their choice.

“Our consistent advice to teens is to remain careful and strategic about what they decide to share. In 25 years, you’ll definitely remember where you graduated college from, but you’ll unlikely remember how many people liked that photo of what you did over winter break,” he added.

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The 2020 Inside Higher Ed Survey of Chief Academic Officers

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 01/21/2020 - 01:00

What chief academics officers think about the academic health of their institutions, the role of tenure, general education and much more.

Section: Assessment and AccountabilityCommunity CollegesTrending: 

AAUP finds Pacific Lutheran targeted adjunct for dismissal

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 01/21/2020 - 01:00

Pacific Lutheran University violated a longtime instructor’s academic freedom and due process when it summarily dismissed her earlier this academic year, according to a new investigative report from the American Association of University Professors.

The instructor’s alleged offense was offering paid music lessons to a student, despite the department chair’s directive against doing so. Yet the AAUP found that the instructor had arranged lessons with the student prior to the chair’s directive, and that other faculty members had previously done the same thing without punishment.

The report means that the AAUP could vote to censure the university -- which has otherwise clashed with its adjunct faculty over employment conditions and rights -- at the association’s next national meeting.

This investigation is also significant because it’s about the rights of a faculty member without tenure. These kinds of reports are still few in number, as the AAUP has traditionally investigated academic freedom and other complaints concerning tenured professors. They becoming more common, however, in a sign of the changing and increasingly part-time, untenured nature of the professoriate.

Jane Harty, the instructor at the center of the new report and well-known adjunct faculty advocate, said this week that Pacific Lutheran should be censured. Beyond her own case, she said, “What happened to my students is terrible, too.”

“This is about far more than part-time faculty rights," she added. "For one thing, why are a large number of faculty artificially kept at part-time for decades, without access to tenure, benefits, pension -- to say nothing of voting rights and the ability to contribute to governance?”

Harty said, "We mean nothing to the university, except to our students.”

Pacific Lutheran maintains that Harty’s dismissal followed the formal faculty governance process. “Many of the assertions and opinions expressed in the report are factually incorrect," it also said in a statement.

Because the matter pertains to personnel, Pacific Lutheran said, it’s university policy to decline to provide additional details.

Harty has long campaigned for the rights of Pacific Lutheran’s adjunct faculty members. She supported the unionization drive that resulted in a major 2014 National Labor Relations Board decision in their favor, for instance. And she said at a national organizing event that same year that she was making just $11,000 at Pacific Lutheran on a half-time appointment after decades of service.

Pacific Lutheran continues to fight the NLRB’s decision that adjunct faculty members who don’t have a religious function may unionize, saying that the university’s church affiliation puts it outside the labor board’s jurisdiction altogether. So it’s safe to say that Harty’s advocacy on this and other issues didn’t endear her to the institution. But did it turn the institution against her? That’s what the new AAUP report suggests.

Passed Over

“The manner in which the administration sought to dismiss her, the relatively minor nature of the misconduct in which she was alleged to have engaged, and the absence of any other evident basis for the action taken against her lend credibility,” the report reads, “to the notion that the administration’s action to dismiss her was based on considerations that violated her academic freedom.”

Speech “on any matter of institutional policy or action” is protected under principles of academic freedom, the report continues, citing the AAUP’s widely followed policy language on academic freedom. This speech “certainly includes speaking out on behalf of one’s colleagues or pursuing grievances related to potential instances of discrimination,” concludes the document.

Harty, a pianist with master’s of fine arts and doctor of musical arts degrees, began working at Pacific Lutheran, part-time, in 1978. She was appointed a senior lecturer on half-time appointment with benefits in 2001. In 2017, however, she and five other part-timers were appointed lecturers without benefits, as the department added a second tenured faculty line in piano.

The effective demotion added insult to injury, as Harty had previously applied for a tenure-track position at Pacific Lutheran three times, to see each appointment go to candidates with much less teaching experience. Harty -- echoing concerns by many adjuncts that hiring committees are ageist and biased against them -- says that she was once explicitly told that the university was looking for an “early career” hire. According to the AAUP, Harty twice filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and received right-to-sue notices. She did not pursue litigation, however. Harty says that’s because litigation would have been prohibitively costly. She was also by then involved in the unionization effort in affiliation with Service Employees International Union, after having co-authored a report on a survey of contingent professors on campus.

Private Lessons

Cut to 2018, when a student asked Harty for help studying collaborative piano, typically with vocal accompaniment. As this was not specifically represented among Pacific Lutheran’s course offerings, Harty says she told the student to ask the music department chair about enrolling in an independent study. The chair, Brian Galante, responded to the student that same day, saying via email that the university did not assign independent studies to contingent faculty members out of “fairness,” as these courses are not compensated. Galante also told the student that “there is no option for elective credit in this circumstance,” according to the report.

Understanding that there was little to no room to pursue collaborative piano within the university, the student arranged to study with Harty and a vocalist outside the university in the fall of 2018.

At the beginning of that semester, Galante sent an email to the department saying that he’d overheard students discussing the possibility of paid, outside lessons with faculty members. “While a faculty member may, with all good intentions, be tempted to enter into such an agreement, PLU faculty (full-time or contingent) may not take payment ‘under the table’ from, nor use PLU resources to teach, a current PLU student, even if that student is at the credit maximum,” Galante wrote. (Galante did not respond to a request for comment.)

He added, “A student should not, for example, register for one-credit of a lesson, and then pay for the other half hour privately in order to avoid tuition expenses and course fees. Imagine a similar circumstance where a student requests to pay cash to an instructor to take a biology class off the record. It wouldn’t happen.”

It can’t appear that a student or teacher is “undercutting the university,” Galante also wrote, directing professors to decline students’ offers of lessons for cash. “That is not good for the health of our budgets and our ability to plan appropriately for teaching loads. It also wades into murky ethical, legal and tax waters.”

Around the same time, Harty emailed the student a $420 invoice for the private instruction. The student’s mother eventually contacted campus student services to ask about the bill, and that office, in turn, contacted the music department. Harty called the student’s mother to explain the arrangement, and the student’s mother sent Harty a check.

Even though she didn’t believe that Galante’s policy email applied to a situation in which the department did not offer an area of study -- here, collaborative piano -- Harty nevertheless sought to avoid possibly conflict and returned the check.

In October 2018, a human resources administrator wanted to meet with Harty to discuss the matter. Harty says she was told that she’d “undermined the university” and that her case was being referred to the provost and president. Harty also says that when she tried to explain what happened, the human resources officer accused her of returning the check only because she’d been “caught.”

The next month, Pacific Lutheran sent Harty a letter saying she would be placed on unpaid leave at the end of the semester, through the end of her one-year appointment. The letter also said that Harty’s appointment would not be renewed. The letter cited Galante’s email and “long-standing expectations of the university.”

Harty wrote back to the provost, saying that she had a long record of dedicated service and that there had been no clear policy against private lessons. In response, the provost said that the decision stood.

Due Process?

In December 2018, the AAUP wrote to Pacific Lutheran about Harty, saying that she’d been summarily dismissed without any of the due process protections recommended by the association. President John Belton wrote back to the AAUP that Harty hadn’t been dismissed because contingent faculty members “are not guaranteed reappointment in the same manner as tenure line faculty and the notice periods applicable to tenure line faculty do not apply to the non-renewal of a contingent appointment.” Belton also accused Harty of seeking personal gain and violating “the duty of loyalty she has as a PLU employee under Washington law.”

After additional communications with the AAUP -- and notification that the association was planning a site visit to investigate the matter -- Pacific Lutheran agreed to give Harty what it called a formal dismissal hearing committee process.

An AAUP observer at the hearing expressed concern that the dismissal hearing was something of a sham, designed to support a predetermined outcome. The Pacific Lutheran hearing committee expressed some reservations in own report on the case, saying that while Harty had violated a department directive, the university failed to provide “the level of faculty review and due process inherent in the [Pacific Lutheran] faculty handbook.”

The committee did not address whether the charges against Harty were sufficient to warrant dismissal for cause, however. President Belton underscored that fact in a subsequent letter to Harty, saying that university bylaws permitted him to make his own recommendation to the university’s governing board when the hearing committee has not recommended dismissal. He later formally recommended her dismissal to the board, citing the unsanctioned private lessons and some new charges: that “every faculty member is expected to be committed to the mission and objectives of the university” and conduct “not consistent with excellence in teaching.”

Pacific Lutheran’s board voted to accept Belton’s recommendation in October.

The AAUP never executed the planned site visit that was stalled after the university agreed to a hearing for Harty. But an investigating committee reviewed the case and found that the university acted in violation of the AAUP’s widely followed Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, as the “nature of the misconduct in which Dr. Harty engaged and the summary nature of the administrative action lead to the inference that the real reasons for her dismissal may have stemmed from long-standing displeasure with Dr. Harty’s activities in defending her rights and the rights of others.”

Quoting the report, Harty said speaking out on "any matter of institutional policy or action is protected under principles of academic freedom" and that such speech "certainly includes speaking out on behalf of one's colleagues or pursuing grievances related to potential instances of discrimination."

She added that "my academic freedom to try to organize a faculty union, to protest the demotion of the senior lecturers, to file two EEOC complaints" were likely the real reasons for the "displeasure" of administrators, and the subsequent termination. And while it's "very hard to prove that," she said, "why else would PLU risk censure over such a minor infraction by an untenured faculty member at the lowest rank?"

 

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Missouri closes Confucius Institute after running afoul of visa rules

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 01/21/2020 - 01:00

The University of Missouri at Columbia recently announced it would close its Confucius Institute, joining the long and growing list of American universities that are cutting ties with their institutes.

Administrators at the University of Missouri said they were doing so after running afoul of U.S. Department of State policies on visas. About two dozen colleges have announced the closure of a Confucius Institute over the past two years as political pressures over the Chinese government-funded institutions for language and culture education have intensified.

Like many Confucius Institutes, Missouri’s is involved in outreach to K-12 schools; it places visiting Chinese teachers in local K-12 schools.

“We were notified by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs this past July that due to changes in State Department guidance, we would now be required to have a certified Mandarin Chinese language teacher in every classroom with a Confucius Institute staff member,” Mary Stegmaier, Missouri’s interim vice provost for international programs, said in a press release last week. “While Missouri-certified teachers were in the classroom with the CI staff, recruiting and supporting the necessary certified Chinese language teachers would be cost prohibitive.”

Missouri’s Confucius Institute teachers were coming to the U.S. on J-1 exchange visitor visas under the “intern” category instead of the “teacher” category.

“Unsupervised teaching in K-12 schools is restricted to the Teacher category. By allowing exchange visitors in the College and University Student Intern category to engage in unsupervised teaching, the University of Missouri-Columbia is circumventing the strict qualifications of the Teacher category -- a category for which the University of Missouri-Columbia is not designated as a sponsor,” the State Department wrote in a July 15 letter to the university.

“Student interns teaching Mandarin Chinese to minors in K-12 schools without proper supervision creates an area of concern,” a State Department official told Inside Higher Ed. “When teaching a Chinese language course, they should be working under the supervision of an American co-teacher well-versed in the instructional material and able to speak and read Mandarin Chinese. If the interns’ American co-teachers do not speak Mandarin Chinese, even when a co-teacher is in the classroom to supervise the student interns, they cannot evaluate the substance or quality of information and language skills the exchange visitor is teaching and would not fulfill the purpose of the College and University Student Intern category.”

Christian Basi, a University of Missouri spokesman, said the Columbia Public School District looked into sponsoring the instructors under the teacher category but determined it wasn’t feasible for financial reasons.

The University of Pittsburgh similarly announced last summer that it had suspended its Confucius Institute-run internship program in K-12 schools after hearing concerns from the State Department about visas.

The scrutiny of the visa statuses of Confucius Institute teachers comes along with broader scrutiny of the institutes, which increasingly have attracted the ire of Washington politicians who characterize them as outposts for Chinese government propaganda.

Many American colleges have closed their institutes as the political climate has changed. At least eight colleges closed their Confucius Institutes after Congress passed a spending bill, in 2018, barring colleges that host Confucius Institutes from also receiving monies through the Pentagon-funded Flagship Language program. Colleges that closed their Confucius Institutes for this reason include Arizona State, Indiana, San Francisco State and Western Kentucky Universities and the Universities of Hawaii at Manoa, Kansas, Oregon and Rhode Island.

Texas A&M University closed two Confucius Institutes in April 2018 in response to concerns raised by two congressmen that the institutes pose a threat to national security.

Two months earlier, in February 2018, U.S. senator Marco Rubio, of Florida, sent letters to the four colleges in the state that hosted Confucius Institutes, urging them to close. All four of those institutions -- the Universities of North, South and West Florida and Miami Dade College -- have since closed the institutes, citing various reasons (West Florida said its decision to close the institute was due to inadequate student interest and predated Rubio's letter).

Other institutions that have closed their Confucius Institutes over the past two years include North Carolina State University and the Universities of Michigan at Ann Arbor and Minnesota at Twin Cities, all of which cited reasons related to changing strategies for international programs. The National Association of Scholars, a group that is critical of Confucius Institutes, maintains a list, last updated in December, of 29 American colleges that have closed or announced closures of Confucius Institutes. All but a handful of these have made the decision within the last two years.

University professors had long been raising concerns about Confucius Institutes, even before the closures began, on academic freedom-related grounds. The professors argued that by creating the institutes, colleges ceded control over matters of curriculum to the Chinese government entity that supervises the institutes, Hanban. In many cases, Hanban screens the Chinese language teachers and provides curricular materials.

In 2014, the American Association of University Professors called on colleges to reconsider their Confucius Institute partnerships, saying the universities were permitting “Confucius Institutes to advance a [Chinese] state agenda in the recruitment and control of academic staff, in the choice of curriculum, and in the restriction of debate.”

The University of Chicago closed its institute in 2014 after more than 100 faculty signed a petition calling for its closure.

However, it wasn’t until lawmakers started raising concerns about the Confucius Institutes and writing restrictive language into spending bills that the quick spate of closures began.

Missouri senator Josh Hawley praised the Missouri closure in a recent tweet.

Pleased Mizzou is shutting down the #China Communist Party funded “Confucius Institute.” As the State Department warned Mizzou in July 2019, and as I have repeatedly stated, this program presented security risks for students & university as a whole https://t.co/7wgKLvC5W4

— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) January 15, 2020

Gao Qing, the executive director of the Confucius Institute U.S. Center, in Washington, said demand for Chinese language teaching outstrips supply in the U.S. and that American students will lose out as a result of the closures.

“The political environment is not a friendly environment for international work, educational, cultural or even people-to-people exchanges,” he said.

“It’s not simply the political pressure, but it’s also financial,” said Ryan Allen, an assistant professor of practice in educational studies at Chapman University in California, who focuses on comparative and international education. “If the university or their partners in the United States are having to give any resources or funding or space at all, then it’s a very easy choice to make the cut.”

“I think the Confucius Institutes are easy targets,” Allen said. “There’s a growing Cold War-type suspicion of Chinese students and scholars. If the Confucius institutes went away, I don’t think people like Marco Rubio or others who are concerned with Confucius Institutes, that their concerns would go away.”

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New presidents or provosts: Fond du Lac Grossmont-Cuyamaca Holyoke Kellogg Las Positas Lynchburg Manitoba Niagara Pacific Plattsburgh Walden

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 01/21/2020 - 01:00
  • Michael Benarroch, provost and vice president, academic, at Ryerson University, in Ontario, has been appointed president and vice chancellor at the University of Manitoba.
  • Adrien L. Bennings, vice president for finance and administration at Clovis Community College, in New Mexico, has been chosen as president of Kellogg Community College, in Michigan.
  • Christopher Callahan, dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, has been named president of University of the Pacific, in California.
  • Alexander Enyedi, vice president for academic affairs at Humboldt State University, in California, has been appointed president of the State University of New York at Plattsburgh.
  • Dyrell Foster, vice president of student services at Moreno Valley College, in California, has been selected as president of Las Positas College, also in California.
  • Stephanie Hammitt, interim president of Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, in Minnesota, has been appointed to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Alison Morrison-Shetlar, provost at Western Carolina University, in North Carolina, has been chosen as president of the University of Lynchburg, in Virginia.
  • William J. Murabito, interim president of Niagara County Community College, in New York, has been named to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Lynn Neault, vice chancellor of student services at the San Diego Community College District, in California, has been chosen as chancellor of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, also in California.
  • Rachel Rubinstein, professor of American literature and Jewish studies and former dean of academic support and advising at Hampshire College, in Massachusetts, has been selected as vice president of academic and student affairs at Holyoke Community College, also in Massachusetts.
  • Sue Subocz, vice provost for curriculum, product strategy, innovation and design at Walden University, in Minnesota, has been promoted to chief academic officer and provost there.
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Accommodation platform UniAcco raises $1m

The PIE News - Mon, 01/20/2020 - 08:59

Accommodation platform UniAcco has raised US$1 million in seed funding as it aims to become a leading platform for students to find housing in popular study destinations.

Out of India, the company offers students “premium personalised housing facilities” via established providers.

Founder Amit Singh and co-founder Sayantan Biswas said they are aiming to create the “one-stop solution” by providing concierge services including visa consultation, help for students to set up bank accounts, airport transfer and a pre-activated overseas mobile SIM.

“We want the students to have a hassle-free journey and just focus on their education”

It also provides a guarantor service to help “smoothen” the journey for students.

Investment and wealth management platform Adventum Offshore led the funding, which will help UniAcco to expand in the purpose-built student accommodation market over the next couple of years – beginning with the UK.

“The reason for our focus on the PBSA in the UK is that it’s one of the most organised PBSA [markets] and it fits well with our experience and partnerships in the UK,” UniAcco’s VP marketing & demand sourcing Abhishek Sharma told The PIE News.

“We have already managed to signup with most of the leading PBSA operators in the region,” he said, adding that the two-year post-study work visa announcement will add a “significant jump” in the number of international students enrolling in the UK primarily from India, China, and the Middle East.

Those markets are the company’s primary sourcing markets, Sharma explained, where UniAcco helps students to compare, consult and choose accommodation from several established property providers.

“India will be our largest market due to presence in India helps in forming strong affiliates tie up and establishing credibility with students and parents,” he noted.

The organisation is going to expand into Australia in 2020, and add the US, Europe and Canada in 2021.

“Migrating to a new country for students in itself is a daunting task, adding picking a college then applying to it and then the visa procedures, the financing aspects of this decision, an accommodation once you get there, a bank account is sure to drive students and their families scared out of their minds,” Sharma said.

“We at UniAcco try to smoothen this transition by helping the students in any which way we can.

“We want the students to have a hassle-free journey and just focus on their education. To facilitate this migration in a smooth fashion we have tied up with leading visa counsellors, the largest institutional lender in India for student loans and a leading UK Bank for opening their bank accounts in the UK,” he added.

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Greece aims to become south-east Europe “hub”

The PIE News - Mon, 01/20/2020 - 06:50

Universities in Greece should hedge their bets on English-language classical literature, philosophy and ancient history courses to help make Greece more of an international education hub, the country’s education minister Niki Kerameus has indicated.

By 2024, Kerameus hopes that between 40,000-50,000 international students will be taking part in such courses.

“In the past, Greek universities have been inward-looking institutions. We want to internationalise them and render them a hub for [tertiary] education in south-east Europe,” Kerameus told The Financial Times.

“Greek universities have been inward-looking institutions. We want to internationalise them”

“We are working with academic institutions, with governments and through personal contacts at universities abroad.”

She also indicated that universities would be offered additional state funding if they were to participate in the country’s internationalisation aims.

The National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA) announced a course specialising in Archaeology, History, and Literature of Ancient Greece in 2019.

The BA program, set to begin in September 2020, is the country’s first English-language undergraduate course at a public university and is tailored exclusively to non-EU students.

According to Maria Vardaki at NKUA’s department of European and International Relations, the program is designed to have a maximum of 100 international students per academic year.

“We expect – for the new BA program – non-EU students from all continents,” she noted.

“We’ve invested in assistance also from our Embassies in non-EU countries, we have registered on platforms like Studyportals, made it known through agents, consider participation in forthcoming university fairs and many other activities.”

NKUA also provide special programs for Chinese students for ancient history and classical literature.

In 2019-2020, 27 students from Chinese Universities Beijing Foreign Studies University, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies and Shanghai International Studies University attended for one year of classical studies.

“These students study under specific international agreements,” Vardaki said.

Tuition for the new BA program is €6,000 annually, but a number of scholarships will be provided for the course, she added.

“This program, pioneer as it is, is fully supported by the Hellenic Government and especially by the minister of education.”

Attracting international students is one focus for the current Greek government, and Kerameus added that more institutions should be encouraged to earn income from summer schools that charge students from overseas.

In a recent interview with Ekathimerini, president of the American College of Greece David Horner said his institution had been “pleased to offer [an] alternative to the Greek market”.

“Many of the current government’s initiatives in Greek public higher education – such as instruction in English, attracting international students to Greece, academic programs to better prepare students for market needs, developing students’ soft skills, partnerships with US universities – reflect practices and patterns that have been part of ACG for many years,” he noted.

“We would be pleased to share what we have learned from our experience with Greek public universities as they develop in the future to make Greece more of an international education hub.”

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S.Korea: Chinese students pay tuition via WeChat

The PIE News - Mon, 01/20/2020 - 04:41

Chinese students at 11 universities and higher education institutes in South Korea can now use online platform Top School Tuition to pay their school fees via the popular Chinese social media app WeChat, it was announced on January 8th.

WeChat, along with competitor AliPay, is ubiquitous in China when it comes to paying for anything. With cash becoming rarer and rarer, the services are used for everything from paying utilities and international flights to cinema tickets and groceries.

“WeChat Pay is the most familiar and convenient mobile payment method for Chinese students”

“WeChat Pay is the most familiar and convenient mobile payment method for Chinese students. It eliminates the time-consuming and tedious process of payment for international students,” said WeChat’s owner, Tencent, in a statement on its official WeChat account.

“Today, WeChat cross-border payment services are used in 60 countries and can support transactions in 16 currencies. Following the footsteps of Chinese students, WeChat payment’s intelligence capabilities have moved abroad to various industries such as education, catering and retail abroad.”

Chinese students in South Korea usually pay fees through international remittances or in cash.

In recent years, more universities – including in the UK, Thailand and Australia – have begun accepting payments through platforms accessible to Chinese students such as Alipay and UnionPay.

The 11 institutions include several in Seoul but so far no plans to extend the services to others have been announced.

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Aus bushfires: stakeholders speak out to reassure students, agents

The PIE News - Mon, 01/20/2020 - 02:58

The international education community across Australia has spoken out to reassure agents and international students regarding the bushfire crisis – reiterating that most study destinations remain safe, unaffected and continue to offer the “incredible study experience” the country is known for.

With education being Australia’s third-largest export industry, the continued international focus on the bushfires has raised concerns that the country’s reputation as a top study destination might be damaged due to the associated health and safety implications of the bushfires and smoke haze.

“One of the best ways you can help affected communities is by continuing to visit, study and do business with Australia”

In a post on the Study In Australia website, the government stressed that the industry is working together to ensure the safety and support of all current and incoming international students.

“One of the best ways you can help affected communities is by continuing to visit, study and do business with Australia,” the post read.

It stressed the importance of seeking the most up-to-date information prior to arrival: “due to the rapidly changing conditions, your university or institution is best placed to advise you on how fires may impact your studies and their operations.”

According to reports, the universities of Sydney and Wollongong were both forced to close some of their satellite campuses due to fire danger and Australian National University closed its main campus in early January because of the smoke.

The government’s message was reiterated by ELT association English Australia. CEO Brett Blacker noted that while fires have brought devastation, “they have also shown us the incredible resolve and strength of Australians, especially those working in our emergency services”.

“We are working closely with key government agencies to ensure that students and agents receive the right messages during this time,” he said.

“In our key markets, we will convey the message that most study destinations remain safe and unaffected by bushfires, emphasising that Australia is still a great place to learn English.”

Speaking to The PIE News, Blacker said the association was in close talks with government to ensure students are supported and safe.

“I fly to Melbourne next Tuesday to meet with Australia’s Education minister, the Hon Dan Tehan, and participate in a sector roundtable to discuss the current bushfire emergency from an international education perspective,” he said.

Blacker added that Australia’s international students have been involved in some incredible acts of kindness during the fires.

“We have seen Sikh volunteers donating meals and support in Gippsland and an international student who is a volunteer firefighter: Mark Yeong, a 22-year-old Singaporean studying at the University of Sydney,” he told The PIE.

The overwhelming majority of institutions are unaffected by the fires”

“‘To any students who are asking, “How can we help?” we say: continue with your plans. The overwhelming majority of institutions are unaffected by the fires and will continue to offer you the incredible study experience that our country is known for.”

In a social media post, Study Sydney reiterated: “The metropolitan areas of Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong are not currently threatened by fires but have experienced smoke haze on some days.

At this stage, we are expecting commencing and current international students to enrol with their education institution as planned at the start of the academic calendar.”

The devastating impact the fires are having on Australian wildlife has also prompted support from the sector, with Study Gold Coast announcing that each team member would be “sponsoring a koala.”

The @CWHFAU is one of the busiest in the world. With the current bushfire crisis stretching their resources like never before they desperately need our help. That’s why our team members are each sponsoring a koala. https://t.co/ZubEW3OqW8 #AustralianBushfires

— Study Gold Coast (@StudyGoldCoast) January 14, 2020

Blacker added that English Australia would “encourage all students to visit www.Australia.com for up-to-date advice on destinations in Australia and an interactive map of the fires.”

To support emergency service agencies or charities across Australia visit: 

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McGill professor resigns over university's investment in fossil fuels

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 01/20/2020 - 01:00

A professor at McGill University is voluntarily leaving his tenured job next month, in protest of the campus governing board’s recent vote against divesting from fossil fuels.

Gregory Mikkelson, the associate professor, is a philosopher and environmental scientist, which puts divestment squarely within the realm of his own research. But in an interview he said he also based his decision on what he calls McGill's antidemocratic governance system.

“Being in a school environment, you’re immersed in all these facts about the accelerating deterioration of our planet and how urgent it is to take strong measures to try to relieve and reverse these trends,” Mikkelson said, yet “my own institution refuses to take this small step.”

More than that, he continued, “this is the third time in seven years that the board has refused to divest from fossil fuels.” The first two times, Mikkelson said, McGill’s Board of Governors did so against “the strong basis in the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities” for divestment.

Most recently, in a decision announced in December, he continued, the Montreal board did so “in defiance and denial of an overwhelming mandate” from campus groups. Indeed, every employee and student organization that has considered divestment in recent years -- including the large, representative University Senate -- has voted in favor. Two other professors on the Board of Governors resigned as elected faculty representatives over the fossil fuel issue last year.

In a report that informed the recent vote, a commitee of the McGill board wrote in favor of  decarbonization, or reducing "overall carbon emissions of the endowment portfolio, by a percentage to be set against a determined reference index or benchmark," over divestment. Mikkelson argued that that is decarbonization is a murky goal that centers on the process of pulling fossil fuels out of the ground and not the far more deleterious effects of burning fossils fuels as a product. 

Cynthia Lee, McGill spokesperson, said via email that the university "is moving forward reducing the overall carbon footprint of its investment portfolio, including those within the fossil fuel industry." McGill also plans to "look at increasing its investments in clean technologies, renewable energy infrastructure and fossil-fuel-free funds to enhance its low-carbon investments."

Some 8.7 percent of the university's $1.7 billion Canadian, or $1.3 billion U.S., endowment fund investments are in the "larger energy sector," which includes renewable fuels, wind and solar, Lee said. About 1.9 percent of the portfolio includes investment in the equity of the top 200 coal, oil, gas and other companies listed in the Carbon Underground 200 index.

"Adopting a more carbon-conscious investment approach complements McGill’s far-reaching climate change and sustainability goals, including institution-wide efforts to achieve carbon neutrality across the University’s operations by 2040," Lee added.

Mikkelson, who is American, also described the “McGill problem” as part of a bigger “Canadian problem,” in which the country has adopted various environmentally friendly policies while continuing to allow and profit from increased production of fossil fuels, particularly via Canada's western tar sands.

That Mikkelson doesn’t have a plan for what’s next speaks to his conviction: tenured faculty positions are hard to come by. But he said he hopes to continue studying and speaking on the intersection of the natural world and economic growth, including biodiversity law. His faculty colleagues, meanwhile, have been “very supportive,” he said, acknowledging that his decision means “disruption” for them and for his students.

Asked what might move the dial on the fossil fuel issue, Mikkelson said the dial is already moving. Several large Canadian universities already have divested from fossil fuels, including the University of British Columbia, just this month. That endowment is roughly the same as McGill’s, he noted.

Mikkelson also contrasted McGill’s response to faculty calls for divestment with that of the University of California: in September, the massive system said that it was making its $70 billion pension fund and $13.4 billion endowment "fossil-free."

The California move followed years of campus protests and other campaigning against fossil fuels. But the university has said its ultimate decision was more about money than politics. Fossil fuels in the portfolio at this point amount to too much risk, it said.

McGill, meanwhile, has said that dropping fossil fuels is too risky. Yet that also conflicts with a recent working paper finding that colleges' and universities' financial concerns about divestment are overblown, if any risk exists at all.

Chris Marsciano, a co-author on that paper and a visiting assistant professor in education studies at Davidson College, said that four of about 100 Canadian colleges and universities have divested or plan to, in addition to British Columbia. About 45 of the approximately 1,400 colleges and universities in the U.S. have done the same or plan to, at least in part, he said.

Marsciano said he’d never heard of anyone resigning from a tenured position over fossil fuels, but that it would be a “brave move.”

“I expect that anyone with a track record strong enough to get tenured would have many options after resigning,” he added. “People with integrity and those who stand up for their beliefs tend to land well.”

 

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