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Examining bluegrass’s move from hollers to university halls

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 07/13/2017 - 00:00

Bluegrass music has its roots in rural Appalachia. In recent years, however, its growing popularity has also helped bring it to the classroom, prompting debate and discussion about its origins and those who are taking it into the mainstream, both via the lecture hall and the concert stage.

“Do the available opportunities represent real choices for students, or are they more effective marketing as colleges seek to recruit adolescents burning with a fever to succeed in music?”

“Does a college degree function to offer more choices or narrow opportunities?”

Those are some of the questions raised by Ted Lehmann, well-known in the bluegrass world for his writing and blogging on music, in a recent post on the roots music website No Depression. In his column “Bluegrass Goes to College, But Should It?” Lehmann brings up a number of questions about bluegrass’s changing role in a changing America.

“The question I want to address, or at least introduce, here is whether going to college benefits students entering bluegrass programs and how it might affect the music itself,” he wrote.

The study of roots and bluegrass music is rather limited, but Lehmann highlights undergraduate programs with a roots focus at Morehead State University, Berklee College of Music and East Tennessee State University. Bethel University has a bluegrass band in its performing arts program, though not a specific bluegrass major.

Speaking to Inside Higher Ed, Lehmann said that he does think bluegrass belongs in college just as much as other music programs. But the genre’s rising prominence, and the gulf between its origins and its current trajectory, are things that people should keep in mind and discuss.

“In the last month or two, I’ve been particularly burdened by class issues and how they influence music,” Lehmann said, citing J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy and Joan Williams’s White Working Class. Both books focused on a demographic that was widely watched in elections around the world as right-wing populism gained ground, signaling cultural, political and social gaps that many were previously unaware of. Vance’s book, published during the 2016 presidential campaign, has been assigned to multiple colleges for their freshman common reading programs.

More and more, from Lehmann’s experience, roots musicians are coming to the scene with more classical training. It would be common, 25 years ago, for roots musicians to be unable to read music, Lehmann said. When he got his start blogging about and photographing musicians in 2003 -- Lehmann considers himself a “newbie” -- things were changing, but slowly.

“You’d ask them that question [about being able to read music] and they’d say, ‘Well, a little bit, but not enough to hurt me,’” he said. “In other words, ‘I’m not going to lose my improvisational awareness.’”

To be clear, Lehmann isn’t saying that roots musicians who receive an education are worse off, or can’t improvise, but rather that the changing educational environment around bluegrass, and a lack of awareness of the class and social gaps in the bluegrass music, could lead to a change in the music.

His column, and the questions it raised, garnered attention across the bluegrass world. Professors from East Tennessee State University -- Nate Olson, Daniel Boner and Jack Tottle, bluegrass musicians themselves -- released a video discussion addressing the column, and their own experiences with bringing bluegrass music to the institutional level. ETSU offers an undergraduate major in bluegrass, old time and country music studies through its department of Appalachian studies.

They largely defended bluegrass’s movement to the collegiate level. Tottle brought experiences he had in the past fighting the stigma that bluegrass wasn’t progressive or forward thinking and therefore didn’t deserve an academic presence. At the same time, Olson did bring up guarding against institutional “compromise,” making comparisons to jazz.

“A lot of academics have argued this, that as jazz has become more institutionalized, it’s kind of lost its characteristics,” he said in the video. “I think [bluegrass] is a fragile thing that we’re trying to be very careful about, that we don’t want these very special characteristics about bluegrass music to be compromised. That’s something we have to pay a lot of attention to, and be diligent about.”

The jazz comparison is especially interesting given how much progress it’s made into traditional conservatories, such as Oberlin College or Juilliard. Like bluegrass, it’s more modern than classical music but has been embraced at the top level.

Olson grew up playing the fiddle in a family band since the age of 5. It wasn’t until he went to high school, playing in the school’s orchestra, that he learned how to read music. He now holds a doctorate from Columbia University -- he wrote his thesis on fiddling and folk music in higher education -- and told Inside Higher Ed that the teaching bluegrass at the collegiate level comes with challenges.

“Look at conservatories, their job is too conserve a music tradition,” he said. “And while there is some of that in bluegrass music, there’s another part that’s pushing the boundaries. We want to cultivate artists that can shape it, that are relevant to the world right now.”

“Often when nonclassical music becomes institutionalized, they lose their cultural heritage.”

As for the pushback against introducing bluegrass to higher education, Olson said he’s seen it come not just from the bluegrass community, but also from more traditional music professors. And, like Lehmann, he said he’s raised his own questions about what bluegrass’s embrace -- if limited -- by higher education means: What credentials count when hiring professors to teach in a subject that’s traditionally nonacademic?

“We need to be careful so that the tradition remains a living tradition,” he said.

Lehmann said the discussion he prompted in the bluegrass community has been civil so far, which he was thankful for (not what you “usually see on Facebook”). And though he raised questions about class disparities between roots music and higher education, the answers are far from clear.

“If you’ve got good solutions to class issues in America, tell me what they are,” he said with a laugh.

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University leaders say they need to improve communication on science with public

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 07/13/2017 - 00:00

WASHINGTON -- Views on higher education are becoming increasingly hostile among certain Americans, and scientists say some of the blame rests with them. They aren't apologizing for their work, but for their failure to promote public understanding of it.

Discussion about community outreach and proving research’s positive impact on society dominated much of the discussion at the State of American Science forum held in Washington Wednesday, organized by the Science Coalition and the Association of American Universities. The concerns were raised by the 12 provosts and vice presidents of research from universities across the country, especially in light of a recent Pew study finding that 58 percent of Republicans see colleges as having a negative impact on the country’s direction, a dramatic uptick among members of a party that control the presidency, both chambers of Congress, the majority of statehouses and the majority of governors’ mansions.

“In particular, I think universities and colleges have to step up in ways that scientists have also not stepped up, just really [to] communicate,” said Eric Isaacs, vice president for research, innovation and national laboratories at the University of Chicago.

“I think we have not done a great job,” he said. “I think we’ve sort of assumed, at the universities, that people understood what we’re doing. And we think about education, people understand that, but less so [do] they understand the impact our research has.”

In many ways, researchers are indeed engaging more. Gary Ostrander, vice president for research at Florida State University, said that for a position like his to have a dedicated communications staff was unheard of in the past, but the advent of social media and the internet has changed that. Still, he said, the gulf between higher education and its perception among the GOP was concerning.

“I think the messaging is important, but I also think the audience is important,” said Robert Clark, provost and senior vice president for research at the University of Rochester. “I think one of the things that we, as institutions, have to be cognizant of is that the general population doesn’t always broadly understand what we are communicating.”

The various vice presidents agreed that, often, research isn’t disconnected from the public's interests, nor does it require vast scientific knowledge to understand. However, Its practical, everyday applications -- whether to business, agriculture or medicine -- aren’t being highlighted well enough. Isaacs pointed to the partnership between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Life magazine in the 1960s -- bringing photos of mankind’s new frontier to the masses -- as perhaps the best example of outreach and engagement done right.

To be fair, only so much is in the control of scientists and researchers. The past few years have seen a flare-up in liberal and leftist student activism -- often reported heavily on conservative media outlets, which, like their liberal counterparts, have flourished and expanded in number online.

This makes it easier for culture wars -- real or perceived -- whether they're about free speech, diversity and multiculturalism, racism or political correctness, to go viral. Elitism, often tied to academe, has been a polarizing political force around the world as populist waves have made headway -- and produced victories -- in elections in ways previously unseen.

“Americans are not that special,” Denis Wirtz, vice provost for research at Johns Hopkins University, said about the country’s embrace of populist political messaging during the 2016 election. But if researchers can’t clearly come up with answers for colleges' contributions to society, others will.

“The current administration is providing easy answers, such as ‘Let’s cut indirect costs,’” he said, referencing proposed cuts to overhead costs needed to support research that have been widely panned by the science leaders and were rejected in a draft of a House of Representatives appropriations subcommittee bill.

"It’s a mistrust of universities, and I think compounding factors are high-cost universities, graduates going into the work force and not finding jobs, and for-profit universities that have really created all kinds of issues.”

On the other hand, colleges have always been hotbeds for politically tumultuous movements. If there’s so much negativity, shouldn’t science and research’s benefits -- especially in ways that could find conservative sympathies, such as their contribution to national security and the private sector, as well as the communities they’re physically located in -- be able to push back against the negative rhetoric?

“I think scientists have tended to roll their eyes when people say, ‘I don’t believe it,’ rather than roll up their sleeves,” Wirtz said. “[But now] I see faculty come to my office, come to our federal relations office, asking, ‘How do I communicate to Congress, how do I communicate to people?’ There is a sea change.”

Budget Cuts, Travel Ban

Largely, the various vice presidents weren’t too worried that Trump’s budget would be adopted, although if it was, they made clear that the proposed cuts would severely harm research funding. The real budgeting power, however, comes from Congress, and institutions are more hopeful on that front.

“Yes, we’re concerned about the cuts in the EPA” and the Department of Energy, said Stephen Cross, the executive vice president for research at Georgia Tech. “But I think science is going to be well funded. What a wonderful opportunity for us to start communicating the impact of what we’re going to do over the next four years. Shame on us if we don’t do it.” (Early indications on biomedical research funding came Wednesday from the House of Representatives’ appropriations subcommittee that oversees health programs.)

Cross added that an unseen benefit to the Republicans’ preference toward cutting regulations could be that burdens on universities and research are lifted.

While the research on climate change might take a hit against an administration that pulled out of the Paris climate accords, the EPA and the Department of Energy still have research pursuits, such as the DOE’s supercomputing sector. Research, though it might face increased resistance, can still prove not only its own worth, but that of universities, those gathered said.

“Imagine if the Manhattan Project were done by [private] industry,” Isaacs said. “It just would not have happened the way it did -- you’re not going to get a private company to mount that kind of massive campaign.”

Mood around the Trump administration’s travel ban was grim, although many at the forum said its actual effects are likely to be seen in the fall. Regardless of how many scholars, researchers and students are actually barred from enrolling in the U.S. because of the ban, the biggest concern was the atmosphere it might create.

“The science we do is very international,” Isaacs said. “If we stop allowing people into this country, it’s going to feel like we’re trying to withdraw from the world.”

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Harvard faculty committee recommends Greek, other clubs be eliminated

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 07/13/2017 - 00:00

In a continued effort to reduce discrimination among campus groups, a Harvard University faculty committee has recommended fraternities, sororities and other exclusive clubs be shut down and students not be allowed join them, even though they are already off campus and lack university recognition.

Harvard’s decision comes at a time of scrutiny for Greek systems and demands they combat drinking and sexist treatment of women. The Harvard proposal, however, goes farther than most, calling for the elimination of Greek chapters and clubs that only admit men or women.

The report from a committee of Harvard professors and administrators calls for students to be barred from Greek organizations and final clubs, which are already not affiliated with the university, with the intent to phase them out entirely by 2022.

This follows a policy last year from Harvard President Drew G. Faust that drew significant backlash from Greek life and supporters of the storied final clubs.

Faust announced students who joined these organizations would be blocked from holding leadership positions in other campus clubs or on athletic teams. Certain academic opportunities would also be limited -- students could not receive a recommendation from the college dean for prestigious scholarships. She acted based on reports of harassment of women at club events.

Should Faust accept the guidance from the committee, which was formed to study the issue of “unrecognized single-gender organizations,” this rule would be eliminated and replaced with the new, stricter policy.

“A year has passed since the announcement of renewed action by the university to address the pernicious influence of these organizations, yet it appears many of them wish to wait it out. Some have even responded with an increased zest for exclusion and gender discrimination. This leads the committee to believe that, without strong decisive action, little positive change is likely to occur,” the report reads.

The committee does note that some of the groups moved to be coeducational, but said that even if membership of all the organizations were to become gender neutral, some of their practices are still counter to the university’s principles.

A proposed policy is modeled off those at both Williams College and Bowdoin College. Williams students cannot join a fraternity -- they face punishment up to expulsion, a policy that has existed since 1962. A similar rule was enacted at Bowdoin in 1997.

Draft language for Harvard’s policy is as follows:

“Harvard students may neither join nor participate in final clubs, fraternities or sororities, or other similar private, exclusionary social organizations that are exclusively or predominantly made up of Harvard students, whether they have any local or national affiliation, during their time in the college. The college will take disciplinary action against students who are found to be participating in such organizations. Violations will be adjudicated by the administrative board.”

The administrative board also judges students who may have committed student conduct code violations.

Also under consideration was a policy similar to Princeton University's, which prohibits freshmen from trying to join a fraternity or sorority. The committee considered this a “half measure” that did not effect positive change in the same way.

The report contains an unsigned letter from a Harvard student who participated in one of the final clubs -- the student said that the organizations encourage inequity, and advocated for their abolishment.

“Admittedly, many organizations are exclusive. But not all forms of exclusion are equivalent. The benefits of selective admissions arguably outweigh the costs of exclusion. Being surrounded by a limited number of diverse and talented peers allows students to learn from each other and form close friendships. If Harvard succeeds in its mission to educate ‘citizens and citizen leaders’ to build companies, lead governments, treat patients and teach students, society benefits,” the letter reads.

One member of the committee, professor of biology David Haig, wrote in a dissenting opinion that the committee only relied on testimony from students opposed to such clubs.

“I have received numerous comments from present and former, male and female, students describing the positive contribution of the clubs to a sense of belonging at Harvard and relatively few comments supporting the sanctions,” Haig wrote.

Representatives from groups that would be affected by the change could not be reached for comment but are likely to be displeased, as when Faust first announced the original policy in May 2016.

The free speech group the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sharply criticized both the first announcement and the new recommendation.

FIRE Executive Director Robert Shibley said in an interview Wednesday that the recommendation opens the door for students to be treated like “academic criminals,” simply for trying to congregate with like-minded people.

“It’s about freedom of association -- there will always be organizations that somebody objects to, social or political, religious organizations, but when you sent the precedent of total control of the social lives of students, you’ve opened the door,” he said. “And apparently they’ve got to be punished.”

Shibley would not comment if FIRE would pursue legal action, but said it would work with Harvard students and faculty, many of whom dislike the actions the university has taken, he said.

A spokeswoman for the all-male Porcellian Club had also blasted the Faust’s initial rule in The Washington Post.

“We are disappointed with this unfair and punitive decision that attacks Harvard’s own students because they make a choice to freely assemble at unaffiliated, off-campus, private organizations,” the spokeswoman told the Post.

The recommendation will eventually be presented to Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith, and then Faust.

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US: DHS rumoured to back annual student visa renewals

The PIE News - Wed, 07/12/2017 - 09:18

Senior officials at the US Department of Homeland Security have reportedly been discussing proposals which would require international students to reapply for permission to stay in the US each year, according to The Washington Post.

The plan is in the preliminary stages, officials reportedly said, but it is being contemplated in order to strengthen national security.

DHS has not officially confirmed the specific changes are being discussed, but spokesperson David Lapan said in a statement that international student visas is one area the department is looking at.

“This appears to be a duplicative and unnecessary process that would undoubtedly have a detrimental effect on our nation’s competitiveness”

“DHS is exploring a variety of measures that would ensure that our immigration programs — including programs for international students studying in the United States — operate in a manner that promotes the national interest, enhances national security and public safety and ensures the integrity of our immigration system,” he said.

Lapan declined to comment further to The PIE News.

Jill Welch, deputy executive director for public policy at NAFSA, said that while she hasn’t seen details of a draft DHS proposal, the suggestion of this kind “would have grave consequences for our national security, foreign policy and economic interests, as well as America’s scientific and innovative strength.”

“As reported, this appears to be a duplicative and unnecessary process that would undoubtedly have a detrimental effect on our nation’s competitiveness,” she said.

NAFSA urged DHS to consult with it and other industry stakeholders “before making any rash decisions that can have potentially irreversible consequences”, she added.

This is not the first time that international students would face the brunt of immigration changes since President Trump’s election in November last year.

A number of international students and university faculty were affected by the initial implementation of two executive orders announced at the start of the year, limiting travel from several mostly Muslim countries.

Brett Bruen, president of the consulting firm Global Situation Room, who served as a former US diplomat and director of global engagement at the White House, said that US higher education has endured a tough six months.

“Subjecting foreign students to intrusive and unnecessary annual checks will only further dissuade them from choosing the United States,” he told The PIE News.

And a policy which entails international students to reapply for permission to stay each year would also require a significant amount of resources, Bruen added.

“This would likely raise the cost of student visas”

“This would likely raise the cost of student visas and take away valuable assets from other national security imperatives,” he said.

The latest figures from SEVIS show that as of May this year, there were 1.18 million international students studying in the US.

This number has been steadily on the rise, up 2% on the previous year.

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Inspired buys schools in Europe, expands in Kenya

The PIE News - Wed, 07/12/2017 - 09:14

Premium international schools operator Inspired has acquired two international schools in Italy and Ticino, the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland.

The acquisitions of IS Como and IS Ticino take the London- and Johannesburg-based group’s network to 35 schools – 27 premium international schools and five early learning schools – teaching upwards of 18,000 students in Europe, Australia, Latin America and Africa.

“These two excellent and growing schools are providing a superb international education in their own thriving communities”

Founded in 2002, IS Como in Fino Mornasco, close to Lake Como in northern Italy, teaches some 300 students from 38 countries.

It teaches the International Baccalaureate curriculum in English, and aims to add the IB Diploma program to its offering from 2018.

IS Ticino is a much younger school, opening in 2014 to teach the IB curriculum to students aged 3-11, making it the only IB Primary Years Programme provider in the Swiss region of Ticino.

The acquisition is part of an aggressive expansion within Europe. It comes less than a year after Inspired acquired a Belgian school and two other K-12 providers in Italy: St Louis School of Milan and International School of Europe Group, which together teach some 3,500 students.

“These two excellent and growing schools, which are providing a superb international education in their own thriving communities to international and local families, will now be able to benefit from the international best practice that belonging to Inspired’s global network will bring,” commented Nadim Nsouli, Inspired’s founder and chairman.

Inspired also plans to open a new school in Rundu, Kenya later this year. Brookhouse Runda will be a sister school to Inspired’s existing Kenyan school, Brookhouse Karen.

The first cohort of primary school students will begin at Brookhouse Runda in September 2017, along with those in their first year of secondary school.

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Purwanto Subroto, Ministry of Higher Education, Indonesia

The PIE News - Wed, 07/12/2017 - 06:34
Indonesia’s higher education sector is stepping up its internationalisation efforts, but with more than 4,000 universities in the country, the Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education has to balance its resources carefully. But international branch campuses, joint degrees and study abroad are all in its sights, says deputy director for higher education cooperation Purwanto Subroto.

The PIE: What is your role at the Ministry of Education?

PS: The main target I have is to work on cooperation between Indonesia and foreign universities. I also work with other foreign institutions – I have good cooperation with the British Council and other agencies to promote more cooperation on higher education. We also encourage our universities to work with certain programs like faculty or student exchange.

“If universities want to run international cooperation, they must achieve a certain level of quality”

Right now there’s a good trend at many Indonesian universities. Of course, we have some standards for the universities who want to do international engagement, because we have to keep the quality on this kind of collaboration. So universities that have this kind of standard can run international cooperation – for example, joint degree programs, double degree programs, summer schools.

The number of universities in Indonesia is quite large – we have around 4,000 universities. But of course, only a few of them are ready for international cooperation. I think that now we have about 150 universities that are ready to do more.

The PIE: How do you measure the quality of education when there are so many universities?

PS: We have an independent body, the National Accreditation Agency for Higher Education, that assures the quality of study programs: we have A-accreditation, B-accreditation, C-accreditation and so on. So the top one we call A-accreditation and universities try to achieve this level.

The PIE: And how do you judge when a university is ready to undertake international cooperation?

PS: If they want to run some kind of international cooperation, they must achieve a certain level of quality. For example, if they have a study program that’s at least B-accredited, they can run international cooperation.

One of the indications that I see for the universities to undergo cooperation is they establish an international office. I think this is quite common for a lot of universities to prepare themselves for international cooperation, and we suggest they have this. Through this office we can share a lot of information and also do workshops to enhance their capacity to run international cooperation.

“The universities that have a good performance and profile, we encourage them to go for international cooperation”

We are also now doing Indonesian university rankings. The universities that have a good performance and profile, we encourage them to go for international cooperation. So we promote them at international events and we give them more opportunities. We cannot do it for all universities, but at least we can have some Indonesian universities known internationally.

The PIE: What are some of the challenges for Indonesian universities trying to internationalise?

PS: Maybe the biggest issue is the budget, the funding; at the government we cannot provide a huge amount of funding because we have so many universities. So we encourage some Indonesian universities to promote, by their own, these kinds of programs.

For example, when they develop joint degree programs, there is no problem when you have inbound students, but there’s a bit of a problem when you have outbound students. Because not many Indonesian students can go by their own funding, so we ask the universities to work with their partners to reduce the cost through tuition fee waivers and things like that. But I think now some Indonesian universities are doing quite well, they have more outbound students.

The PIE: Is encouraging Indonesian students to study abroad a priority for the ministry? And are there particular skills you want them to develop when they do?

PS: We are open to any skills – it just depends what they want to study. But we prioritise more science subjects because we want to have good people to develop our economy. And our government provides a lot of funding for studying abroad. One way we do that is through the LPDP division under the Ministry of Finance. This institution manages the education loan fund for our people to study for master’s and postgraduate courses abroad in priority areas like engineering, medicine and agriculture.

“There’s a bit of a problem when you have outbound students. Not many Indonesian students can go by their own funding”

But now we also want to have more and more opportunities for our people to study abroad on joint degree programs, and we provide funding for students to study on these programs. So this is becoming a trend. For example, in our ministry I myself manage joint meeting groups with Japan, Taiwan, the UK, Australia, to discuss the opportunities for joint cooperation with Indonesian universities.

The PIE: How many international students come to Indonesia each year?

PS: Currently, we have not so many. Maybe right now we have about 7,000-8,000 students annually coming for short term and full degree programs, mostly from Asian countries like Thailand, Cambodia. We also provide funding for some students from developing countries to study in Indonesia. Some come from Asian countries, Africa… So we hope that many foreign students from different countries will know more about Indonesia through these kinds of programs.

The PIE: And is the ministry working to increase this number?

PS: Yes, and also we work with the Immigration Department to ease the process of coming to Indonesia. For example, we’ve developed an online application for student visas to make the process of inbound students easier. We started that in the beginning of 2016. Before we did it manually, mailing in documents, but now everything is going quite well. Sometimes the issue is not getting the visa; the issue is the process, it takes a bit longer. That is why we’re now working with the immigration office to do everything online, to keep foreign students more comfortable studying in Indonesia.

And we have also signed some MOUs with countries like Malaysia that mean students can extend their visa rather than reapplying. After getting the visa, [it] gives them two years, and then they can extend it two times. So in total it is six years before they need to get a new one.

The PIE: A law was passed in 2012 to allow foreign universities to set up branch campuses in Indonesia – when will that come into force?

PS: There will be opportunities to do it, but not now. We already have a law that makes it possible for foreign universities to establish themselves in Indonesia, but now we are developing the regulations.

“We have a big number of institutions and, of course, there are some challenges about the policies”

Many universities, mostly from Australia, are coming to us, talking about this, and asking when. We do have a timeline, but we have to be careful on this one. We see the case in Malaysia; they stopped for a while to evaluate their existing branch campuses [there is currently a moratorium on new branch campuses setting up in Malaysia].

The PIE: Are people worried that foreign universities will come in and take resources away from the domestic universities?

PS: Not people, but institutions. We have a big number of institutions and, of course, there are some challenges about the policies. We are also concerned about Indonesian universities – we don’t want to create competition for them.

But as the government, we have to improve quality. We need quality education for our people so we may do a kind of invitation: as a pilot, we select some universities, send letters to them, and see if they have an interest in establishing a branch campus in Indonesia. And also we see the quality of the universities. We’ll see these are good universities and there are so many opportunities for our people to get education from these universities. It may not be open to anybody, but maybe if we select some we’ll see over the next one or two years how that goes.

And, of course, we’ll look at not only the university but what kind of study program they can offer. We may even select the location – it’s better if you want to establish a campus, it’s better if you do it here. As a government, we can do that. We do not want to make Indonesian universities collapse. As a government, we have to save our institutions as well.

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Career Planning in College ‘Should Not Feel Like Going to the DMV’

Roadtrip Nation is known for its bright-green RVs that take students on career journeys. Mike Marriner, a founder of the group, describes how it continues to expand its mission to help people prepare for their lives after graduation.

AUIDF: int’l grads of Australian universities earn higher salaries back home

The PIE News - Wed, 07/12/2017 - 03:19

International graduates of Australian universities are accessing employment at comparable rates to their domestic counterparts and upon returning home experiencing a boost in their earnings, according to a report released by the Australian Universities International Directors’ Forum.

The International Employment Outcomes report, which looks at the outcomes of the 2012 and 2014 graduate cohorts, found those who returned home were more likely to be earning above the median local salary, with the groups earning on average A$54,000 and A$42,000 respectively.

Meanwhile, 79% of international students were in full-time employment three years after completion of studies and 67% were employed a year after graduation.

“It may highlight that the expectations on salary are higher than reality”

“When compared with similar surveys for domestic students, the results indicate that graduate employment trends for international graduates are comparable to their domestic peers,” AUIDF representative and University of Melbourne executive director international Carmel Murphy said.

Murphy told The PIE News the results were a clear indication “that Australian universities are preparing students well for employment with the right graduate attributes”.

Importantly, however, the report does not specify employment rates per location, with less than half of respondents from either cohort located within Australia at the time. Roughly half were in their home country, with the rest either in a third country or unknown location.

The results also don’t show the extent to which the introduction of the 2013 post-study work rights influenced employment figures, as only a small proportion of students surveyed would have had their student visa issued after November 2011 and therefore been eligible for the visa stream.

Cate Gribble, senior research fellow at RMIT, said while research she conducted independently of the report indicated it was more likely international graduates were struggling to find employment within Australia, it was highly dependent on qualification and sector.

In particular, Gribble said students within regional health care were at an advantage when finding work.

“International graduates in nursing are highly sought after in regional locations because they can’t get sufficient local nurses, and often they see the value in employing international nurses for a variety of reasons,” she said.

The report reflected Gribble’s views, finding half of the respondents worked in one of four sectors: education and training, finance and insurance, health care and social assistance, and professional, scientific and technical services.

In terms of overall satisfaction, 81% of respondents said they believed their Australian degree was worth the financial investment and 84% agreed the content of their studies helped develop their skills and readiness for the workplace.

Interestingly, in contrast to the report finding international graduates achieved higher average incomes back home, only 60% of respondents said they believed their qualification helped them earn that higher salary.

“We need to continue to provide the right opportunities for students within and outside the curriculum”

Murphy said the reasons for this discrepancy were difficult to unpack and could be due to several factors, including location and expectations.

“It may highlight that the expectations on salary are higher than reality. It would be interesting to see if this percentage changed a few years out, rather than at recent graduate level,” she said.

Gribble hypothesised the discrepancy highlighted the increasing demand for graduates both within and outside of Australia to have additional skills and experiences outside their studies.

“While in the past an overseas qualification would have been an automatic entry into the labour market and a good job, that’s decreased over time,” she said.

“Returning graduates also need that package of qualification, work experience, and demonstration that they’ve got other skills and attributes as well.”

Both Gribble and Murphy said Australian universities needed to keep working to ensure international graduates are satisfied with their studies and having their expectations met.

“We need to continue to provide the right opportunities for students within and outside the curriculum,” Murphy said.

Graduate employability continues to be an ongoing concern for international students in Australia, with the Council of International Students Australia last year calling for an industry wide approach to tackling the issue.

The post AUIDF: int’l grads of Australian universities earn higher salaries back home appeared first on The PIE News.

Historian alleges coordinated criticism of her latest book, which is critical of radical right

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 07/12/2017 - 00:00

Collusion, alternative facts, shadowy billionaires: the words sound ripped from the political headlines, but they also describe the controversy surrounding Duke University historian Nancy MacLean’s new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America (Viking). And story keeps unfolding, with MacLean’s critics alleging inaccuracies and other problems with her book, MacLean in turn alleging a coordinated attack against her by libertarian scholars with ties to dark money, and others still accusing MacLean of trying to dishonestly promote favorable online book reviews.

MacLean declined comment on the matter through her publisher, which said it hopes discussions will soon return to the content of the book. Her named critics, meanwhile, deny any coordination in their takedowns of her work.

“The allegations she raised are fanciful and potentially libelous,” said David Bernstein, University Professor of law at George Mason University, who recently wrote unflatteringly about MacLean’s book in a post on a blog at The Washington Post. No one “urged me, asked me, beseeched me, paid me or otherwise tried to influence me to blog about the book.”

Some nevertheless say they worry that swarm-style attacks on progressive scholars’ works -- especially in an era of online harassment of professors and plummeting public trust in academe -- could become a new normal. MacLean, they say, is the victim of just such an effort.

There’s “absolutely no question that left-wing scholars and scholarly ideas are under attack,” said Jacob Remes, an historian and clinical assistant professor at New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study. Citing a recent pattern of threats against liberal professors, Remes said cases involving even more vulnerable faculty members “show how we need to defend scholarly norms and insist that debates over scholarship remain that -- scholarly debates -- and not become Fox News-like partisan free-for-alls.”

Referring to MacLean’s case in particular -- in which she's asked supporters to police websites for seemingly inauthentic comments about her book, and supporters have called out her critics for not disclosing their ties to anti-regulation, libertarian philanthropist Charles Koch -- Remes added, “Voting down one-star reviews from people who clearly haven't read a book, or asking that beneficiaries of Koch largesse identify themselves as such in reviews, seems a small way of doing that.”

A Book for the Times

MacLean, the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke, released her new book last month to immediate praise. Democracy in Chains traces the roots of capitalist libertarianism -- the kind today embodied and funded by the Koch and his brother, David -- back to the late Nobel Prize-winning economist James McGill Buchanan, who taught at George Mason. Her thesis is that Buchanan was the architect of a long-term plan to take libertarianism mainstream, raze democratic institutions and keep power in the hands of the wealthy, white few.

Unsurprisingly, the book resonated with many critics, who tended to describe it as a book for our time (one NPR review called it "2017 Bingo"). But others began to take issue with MacLean’s scholarship, describing it as another symptom of an alternative facts-driven era. One of the first negative reviews, by Russell Roberts, the John and Jean De Nault Research Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, accused MacLean of deliberating taking out of context the work of Tyler Cowen, the director of the Koch-funded Mercatus Center at George Mason. (Roberts has taught economics at George Mason, a favored campus of the Charles Koch Foundation, whose growing financial influence in academe is well-documented; George Mason accepted nearly $48 million from Koch from 2011 to 2014 alone, according to a 2016 Associated Press report. The university's law school also was last year renamed after the late, conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as part of a $30 million deal involving funds from Koch and an anonymous donor.)

“She ignores anything in Cowen’s essay that conflicts with her portrayal of Cowen as a sinister enemy of American institutions and democracy,” Roberts wrote, explaining that MacLean had, for example, suggested that Cowen had once written that the free market would be better off with fewer democratic checks and balances. In fact, Cowen had written that while such a change could lead to good outcomes, it could also lead to “very bad” ones.

MacLean responded to Roberts, accusing him of selectively quoting and misrepresenting statements from her own book (and questioning if he actually read it). Ultimately, she asked, “Is it true that Koch-subsidized libertarian scholars, including Buchanan and Cowen, have posed democracy as a problem for their arch version of capitalism?”

Soon, though, the criticism came rapid-fire, with a number of academic reviewers with either past or present ties to the Koch Foundation making similar claims against MacLean: misleading quotations; questionable links between people, events and ideas; and a misunderstanding of some of the economic theory underpinning her arguments. Jonathan Adler, the Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law at Case Western Reserve University and a graduate of George Mason’s law school and one-time visiting professor there, published a running account of the allegations in a Washington Post blog post on the same day Bernstein published his piece in the Post. Soon even MacLean’s Duke colleague Michael C. Munger, a professor of political science, economics and public policy, called her out.

In an article for the Independent Institute, Munger said MacLean had crafted a well-written but merely speculative history, such as by including imagined conversations between historical figures that come across as real.

The problem with history, of course, is that many narratives about a few cherry-picked events and documents are ‘plausible,’” he wrote. “The task of the historian is to try to distinguish among plausible accounts ‘through careful sifting of evidence and respectful encounters with opposing points of view.’ There is none of that here. Even a casual familiarity with the basic facts of James Buchanan’s life and scholarship, and of the growth and success of the public choice movement, reveal far simpler, and more plausible, explanations.”

Many of MacLean's supporters question the critics, however, who they argue are offended by a tough look at libertarian heroes.

Ideological Comment War

Apart from the academic reviews, MacLean and others said, anonymous critics were trolling her online, posting uninformed, biased reviews of Democracy in Chains on Amazon. In a social media post that MacLean did not authenticate to Inside Higher Ed, but which has been widely shared online by her supporters, she allegedly asked friends and colleagues to help defend her book against an apparent coordinated attack.

“I really, really need your help,” MacLean is said to have written. “This will sound nutty, I know, but it’s actually happening: the Koch operatives and the riders of their academic ‘gravy train,’ as James Buchanan called it, are working very hard to kill Democracy in Chains -- and to destroy my reputation (as they have done to climate change scientists and others bearing inconvenient truth).”

By using the Post blog posts, the note says, critics "make it appear to the ordinary web surfer that the [newspaper] itself is trashing my book when it’s really the Koch team of professors who don’t disclose their conflicts of interest and the operatives who work full-time for their project to shackle our democracy. The other side was getting top placement because their team was clicking and reclicking and sending embedded links, and the velocity of their activity drove up their links.” (It should be noted that the blogs in question are affiliated with the Post, but authors' views are solely their own.)

The note suggests that supporters can help by googling MacLean and her book and clicking on “real” listings to push them above allegedly paid returns, and promoting as "helpful" Amazon reviews that appear authentic. "The operatives are juking the Amazon stats so that their hit jobs (by people who in nearly every case never read the book) come up first by the number of 'helpful' votes," it says. MacLean also warned readers about a propaganda-style wiki page set up by someone with a pseudonym.

“People: this is real,” the post reads. “I won’t be the last they set out to get."

MacLean did not respond to a request for hard evidence of the Amazon review gaming. But there is an unusual preponderance of top five-star and bottom one-star scores for Democracy in Chains. Back-and-forth-style comments on the reviews abound, amounting to what Connor Gibson, a research associate for Greenpeace, called an "ideological comment war." MacLean’s Wikipedia page already includes much of the controversy surrounding her book.

"They want her publisher to fear promotion, and that's a real threat, since bookstores are also inclined to drop promo efforts if Amazon reviews are low," Gibson said.

Some academics on social media have said that they support MacLean but question asking supporters to police her online reviews. And it appears that the online review police don’t like it either: Fakespot and Trustwerthy, Amazon review authenticity analytics sites, downgraded the book’s rating, to a D and 1.5 stars, respectively.

Still, it’s not hard to imagine that such a close reading of her book by so many scholars with affiliations to Koch -- largely undisclosed in the critiques -- could be some kind of conspiracy.

Asked why he didn’t disclose the fact that he’s received Koch-funded grants within his review of MacLean’s book, Munger said he’s never hidden the relationship (the grants are included on his faculty webpage, for example). Moreover, he said, he wasn’t defending Koch within the piece, just Buchanan.

No Knowledge of Coordination

“I have no knowledge of any coordination” among MacLean’s critics, Munger said. “My interpretation is that MacLean's near total lack of knowledge of basic political science simply independently offended many different people.”

Phillip W. Magness,  a historian and former academic program director at the Koch-affiliated Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason, and another of MacLean’s public detractors, said History News Network invited her to respond to his critique at that site. (She hasn't.) Magness also said he knew of no coordinated attack, “only that Buchanan was a widely respected scholar who she has misrepresented to the point of caricature. It can't be surprising that his many former students, faculty colleagues and friends would scrutinize a book that makes bombastic and conspiratorial charges against him.”

Gibson, the research associate at Greenpeace, tracks Koch-funded higher education programs. The fact that scholars have not cited their ties to Koch while using their academic affiliations to respond to MacLean is a fundamental problem, he said. And given that Koch money is central to MacLean’s narrative, he added, disclosure would matter in any kind of response to the book.

“This is how these guys get away with a guise of independence when their research hits the public realm, or the policy maker's desk,” he said, noting that many of the critiques he’s read focus solely on MacLean's preface -- the least referenced, most dramatized section of the book.

“MacLean has plenty of her own disclaimers in the book, often at times, I think, voluntarily undercutting her own legitimacy as an expert in this subject matter, for the sake of making it clear when she resorted to speculation or educated guesses,” Gibson said. “The rest is strongly footnoted. About a third of the entire text is references at the end.”

Gibson said that MacLean calls into question the entire premise of public choice economics, Buchanan’s field, with which many of her critics are affiliated. So they’re fighting like their professional lives depend on it, he said, and they’re fighting dirty.

Culture War on Academe

“The criticism is actually an incredible case study in the very thing that MacLean is exposing -- these guys are getting called out on wrapping very unpopular policy lobbying with words that the masses are more likely to support, to the point of dishonesty,” Gibson said. Government needs to “stay evil,” and universities need to stay "too liberal" for critics to maintain their legitimacy.

L. D. Burnett, a teaching fellow in history of the University of Texas at Dallas who has defended MacLean on social media, referred requests for comment to a recent blog post addressing more attacks on the legitimacy of liberal academics more generally.

“The ‘culture war’ against higher education has been an astroturfed conflict, a well-funded propaganda campaign bankrolled for decades” by billionaires such as the Kochs, Burnett said. “‘Conservative’ figures from the business world (there is nothing conservative about unfettered capitalism that commodifies everything and makes ‘the market’ the arbiter of all moral questions) have funded a decades-long attempt to delegitimize higher education in the eyes of American citizens.”

Karl Jacoby, a professor of history at Columbia University who also has called public attention to MacLean’s case, said libertarians’ attacks on those who disagree with them are nothing new. But what makes MacLean’s case important “is the precedent that it sets,” he said via email. “If the current critiques end up undermining her book, it will embolden libertarian/conservatives to adopt similar tactics next time someone writes a history that calls into question some of the accepted tenets of their movement.”

As for questions some have raised about MacLean’s academic integrity in asking supporters to police online book reviews, Jacoby said authors try to “game” the Amazon review process all the time. It may be “something of a moral grey area,” he added, “but it is certainly not a major violation of ethics. It’s not as if she was interfering in the academic review process.”

Jacoby emphasized that debate about scholars’ historical methods is welcome. Yet the critiques of Democracy in Chains he’s read so far “have not grappled with these questions of historical method — perhaps not surprising, since almost all come from non-historians.” To say that MacLean’s selectively quotes from Buchanan’s writings, as Munger does, for example, “is a meaningless critique: all historians distill out key quotes from an otherwise vast body of documents. Similarly, Munger’s assertions that one has to exhibit ‘charity’ towards one’s subject and take their writings at face value would seem laughably naive to most historians.”

Tony Forde, a spokesperson for Viking, said via email that both MacLean and the publisher were declining comment on attacks on her credibility, “in hopes that they remain in their respective spheres, and we can reassert focus on the book itself. … We’re hoping to keep the attention on the book itself and the history it reveals, rather than the attacks that have appeared online.”


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Texas Legislature requires colleges to use popular reform approach to remedial education

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 07/12/2017 - 00:00

A wave of remediation reforms has swept across the country in the past few years, and now Texas has passed a law that features a popular approach to developmental education.

Last month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law the use of corequisite remediation as the required model for students in developmental education courses. Corequisite remediation places students in college-level, or gateway, English and math courses, but pairs those courses with additional supports.

“We took a look at the models around the country and saw a number of states where the corequisite models are working better than the other jumble of developmental educational models,” said Raymund Paredes, commissioner of higher education for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. “We know Tennessee is doing well with the model. Colorado is doing well. We looked at the data and said we need to try something different.”

More than half of students in the state’s community colleges -- approximately 54 percent -- take developmental education courses.

The new law gives all of the state's public colleges and universities that have developmental education programs until 2018 to have 25 percent of their developmental students enrolled in a corequisite course. The mandate increases to 50 percent by 2019 and by 2020 to 75 percent.

Paredes said the gradual scaling up will give those colleges that prefer other remedial reforms an opportunity to try their approaches, gather data and demonstrate to lawmakers that other models are just as or more effective. But if they can’t, the Legislature could decree that 100 percent of remediation be corequisite, he said.

Early research in Tennessee, which was one of the first states to scale up corequisite remediation in math, writing and reading for its community colleges, showed significant increases in students passing college-level courses.

Nearly 20 other states are moving to do the same, but without a legislative mandate, said Bruce Vandal, senior vice president for strategy, math pathways and corequisite remediation at Complete College America, which has been a major advocate for the reform.

“I know a particular state with a bill ready to drop, but after you see it in Texas, it’s fair to say other legislators will take notice,” he said.

Some critics have voiced concerns about corequisite remediation. They question whether or not it helps students who score the lowest on academic readiness exams and say the reform only works with additional financial resources. But the approach has caught on as passage rates have increased.

“Students scoring a 13 or below on the ACT are still passing college-level courses at much higher rates with the corequisite model than they were in the older model,” Vandal said.

Under the previous approach to remediation, for Tennessee students who scored no more than a 13 on the ACT in math, less than 3 percent completed a gateway math course, a CCA report found. But in two years of using corequisite remediation, 58.3 percent of students passed the gateway math course despite scoring a 13 or lower on the math ACT.

But some in Texas remain concerned about the new state law.

Austin Community College, for instance, is launching a pilot corequisite math course in college algebra this fall that will enroll 200 students, said Carolynn Reed, the math department chair for the college.

“It’s a pretty radical change,” Reed said. “It’s a total change in curriculum. You can’t just put the two courses together. There are different [corequisite] models, and we’re learning what is allowed and not allowed under the law.”

The Austin pilot will use two instructors who will co-teach each corequisite course. But it can be a challenge to figure out which of the current adjunct professors meet the qualifications to teach the courses, she said.

“We have adjuncts that are only qualified to teach developmental math and adjuncts only qualified for college-level courses and some who have qualifications for both,” Reed said, adding that it’s easier for those who are qualified to teach college-level courses to get the qualifications to teach the developmental classes, but it’s more difficult for those adjuncts with just the developmental qualifications to do the reverse, which requires a master’s degree.

“A lot of this is still very unknown, and we’ll probably know more once we try something in the fall, but it’s a mix of excitement in trying something new … and a mix of concern about the unknown and how this will affect adjuncts and our students,” she said.

The Austin pilot courses will meet five days a week for a total of seven hours, and that level of instruction may not work for every student.

“It’s very intense,” Reed said. “We’re concerned for the students at our community college who are part-time -- they have to work and have commitments outside of school, so they may not be able to commit to coming to school five days a week.”

Paredes said one of the good things about the bill is that there are different types of corequisite approaches the colleges can offer.

“We’re not suggesting we all do corequisite education in Texas the same way,” he said. “Some will do it by offering more tutoring, others will have more paired courses, some will have supplemental instruction. There are a lot of approaches, and one of the things we’ll do with the coordinating board is monitor all the strategies and identify the approaches that work best.”

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Study shows students more likely to graduate from wealthier institutions

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 07/12/2017 - 00:00

Students are more likely to graduate from colleges that are more expensive and have larger budgets, a new study out of Oregon State University shows.

Researchers examined the demographic and graduation data of more than 400 four-year colleges and universities from both the 2007-08 and 2014-15 academic years, relying on the federal Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

The focus was on institutions that generally accepted a large majority of their applicants -- 80 percent -- known as broadly accessible institutions. These colleges tend to enroll a higher number of Latino students in particular, some of whom come from impoverished and inadequate educational backgrounds. Thus, it is unsurprising that their graduation rates would already be lower, the study states.

The average six-year graduation rate at these institutions hovers around 40 percent, compared to 56 percent at more selective colleges.

Gloria Crisp, an associate professor in the Oregon State College of Education; Erin Doran of Iowa State University; and Nicole Alia Salis Reyes from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa helped write the report, recently published in the journal Research in Higher Education.

The professors found that when institutions charged higher tuition rates and academic-related fees than other institutions, and their instructional and student-related expenses were larger than those at other institutions, students had a better chance of graduating.

“There are a lot of variables that factor into whether a student will graduate, but many of them are economic,” Crisp said in a statement. “That tells us that the way to raise graduation rates is through support, both of the student and to the institution.”

The study criticizes the funding mechanisms set up in many states -- at least 32 of them -- where money hinges on a college's completion numbers. This is measured by graduation rates, student retention levels or the number of credit hours completed.

“Present findings highlight the importance of properly accounting for enrollment intensity, socioeconomic status and the racial/ethnic composition of an institution’s student body in considering performance-based funding policies for postsecondary institutions. We expect that the current direction of state policies that are increasingly attaching funding to graduation rates and related measures will have unintended consequences … such as encouraging institutions to increase their admissions requirements, effectively reducing college access for underserved groups,” the study reads.

Other findings:

  • As more women enrolled, the graduation rate went up, but this was a trend only more recently, in the 2014-15 data.
  • More of the broadly accessible institutions than other colleges served minority students, black students and Latino students.
  • Where an institution was located -- whether it be urban, suburban or rural -- did not influence graduation rates.
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Author discusses ideas in his new book, 'The Toxic University'

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 07/12/2017 - 00:00

John Smyth has a call to arms for academics frustrated by trends in higher education in the United States, Britain, Australia and elsewhere. Smyth has had it with politicians and university leaders who focus on cutting spending and finding new revenue through business ties. Smyth is currently visiting professor of education and social justice at the University of Huddersfield, in Britain. And he’s an emeritus research professor of education at Federation University Australia. He thinks the trends in those nations apply in the United States as well.

Smyth makes his case in The Toxic University: Zombie Leadership, Academic Rock Stars and Neoliberal Ideology (Palgrave Macmillan). He responded to questions via email.

Q: Do you consider the conditions you describe to be present throughout Western nations? Are there any places resisting the forces you write about?

A: Yes, sadly the forces of neoliberalism that would have us believe that universities ought to operate like profit-making businesses -- engaged in cutthroat competition, run as ruthless corporations, where the market is the arbiter and regulator of all things -- has become the prevailing norm in Western countries, especially Anglo countries like the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. This lemming-like behavior seems to have little basis in evidence, but there is a singular lack of political will and courage to oppose it. The econometric model that has been imposed is an alien interloper that is totally destroying the relational basis of universities as cultures and organizations.

The question about where the places are that are resisting this paradigmatic urge is an interesting one. In short, it is hard to find whole countries that have been able to resist what Pasi Sahlberg in Finland called the GERM (global educational reform movement). It is more an issue of how far and how fully different places have bought into it -- and to some degree all Western nations are within the grip of this juggernaut. My feeling is that some of the Nordic countries have bought into it less than the Anglo countries, but even there the indications are that politicians seem unable to resist the allure of it and it really has become the only game in town, internationally speaking.

That is not to say that there are not some perfectly viable alternatives around, such as Mondragon University in the Basque area of Spain, and various movements committed to preserving the idea of democratic public higher education, such as the Council for the Defense of British Universities and its Australian equivalent. There are also other groups like the Cooperative Universities movement. However, the effect of the underlying logic of attempting to commodify both research and teaching, in the cryptic words of Rob Watts in his Public Universities, Managerialism and the Value of the University, “can only end in the kind of grief that results when pigs are encouraged to fly.”

Q: Would you define “zombie leadership”?

A: As I explain in a whole chapter of my book, a zombie is something that is dead but still gives the appearance of being alive. The field of economics is a good illustration of this, as John Quiggin demonstrates in his book Zombie Economics. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman put it, “Zombie ideas … are policy ideas that keep being killed by evidence, but nonetheless shamble relentlessly forward, essentially because they suit a political agenda.”

When applied to leadership, what we have occurring in universities is a complete detachment of what passes as academic leadership from an understanding of the essence of the work of academics and students. There is simply no evidence that commodifying higher education in some kind of mythical race to the top has any effect whatsoever in improving what goes on inside universities -- indeed, the reverse is the case. Even the IMF as the major celebrant of neoliberal economics has recently recanted. The whole panoply of league tables, performance indicators, impact factors, measurement, image and impression management, and the like, as it exists in higher education, is fake.

University administrators and policy makers who purport to believe in it and promulgate it are in effect caught up in a form of witchcraft they do not understand -- and I say this as someone who was trained an economist, but now works as a sociologist! What is expunged, of course, as a result of this zombie leadership, is any understanding that universities are supposed to be places of courageous social critique, not places manacled by and subservient to market forces.

Q: You note that while the condition of many academics has worsened, “stars” are doing well. Why is this?

A: The answer is pretty simple. Academic superstars are seen as important emblems with which universities can sustain the myth that the competitive way is working, that some institutions and departments are top dogs, and that hierarchies are the evidence that the market does indeed sort things out. Recruiting and constructing superstars is also a backdoor way of blaming those deemed not to have made it, and to make it look as if success has to do with personal attributes and the application of effort, while conveniently ignoring the structural conditions necessary for success as an academic. As U.S. sociologist C. W. Mills put it so neatly in his Sociological Imagination, "public issues" (such as adequately supporting the work of university academics) are recast as "personal trouble" (lack of individual effort). In other words, constructing superstars, who are given privileges unimagined by rank-and-file academics, shifts the blame onto individuals while allowing austerity measures to be implemented with little room for opposition.

Q: Politicians and many university administrators say that their policies are needed because governments can't or won't support higher education adequately. How would you answer that argument?

A: Adopting stupid policies is no reason for excusing a lack of political will and imagination. We need to get the message across through the political process that if university administrators, politicians and governments willfully refuse to accord higher education the policy priority it deserves, then they need to step aside and allow those who do have a vision to do the job to take over. The excuse that there is insufficient funding for higher education is a complete nonsense. I have yet to hear of the military-industrial complex in any advanced country engaging in the equivalent of a cake bake to raise funding!

Q: What can rank-and-file academics do to resist what you see as the toxic university?

A: Again, this is not rocket science. There is insufficient space to do justice to this here, but as I indicate in two chapters of my book, academics and the wider community need to get the message across that as advanced democratic civilized societies we have had enough of this "failed experiment," and it is time to move beyond the current crop of infantile policy responses that are being imposed on universities. This can happen, as I indicate in the book, by rank-and-file academics simply saying politely to academic administrators that the way they are operating is no longer efficacious, and educating them as to the alternatives -- and I go into how that might work in some detail that goes beyond simply being militant.

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New presidents or provosts: Bellarmine Buena Vista ECU Ithaca Lane New England Radford UC Davis WGU Washington

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 07/12/2017 - 00:00
  • Shirley M. Collado, executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer at Rutgers University at Newark, has been selected as president of Ithaca College, in New York.
  • Richard Cummins, president of Columbia Basin College, in Washington, has been named chancellor at WGU Washington.
  • Susan M. Donovan, executive vice president at Loyola University Maryland, has been appointed as president of Bellarmine University, in Kentucky.
  • Graham E. Glynn, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Fort Hays State University, in Kansas, has been chosen as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Radford University.
  • Margaret Hamilton, vice president for academic affairs, institutional effectiveness and planning at Camden County College, in New Jersey, has been selected as president of Lane Community College, in Oregon.
  • James Herbert, executive vice provost and dean of the Graduate College at Drexel University, in Pennsylvania, has been named president of the University of New England, in Maine.
  • Gary S. May, engineering dean at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has been appointed chancellor of the University of California, Davis.
  • Joshua D. Merchant, vice president of development and alumni engagement at the University of North Florida and executive director and CEO of the UNF Foundation, has been chosen as president of Buena Vista University, in Iowa.
  • Katricia G. Pierson, provost and vice president of academic affairs at East Central University, in Oklahoma, has been selected as president there.
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re:Learning on Video

The Chronicle’s re:Learning video series explores the new education landscape with innovators from within and outside academe.

France to open new international schools amid post-Brexit charm offensive

The PIE News - Tue, 07/11/2017 - 09:01

Three new international schools are set to open over the next five years in and around Paris, to accommodate the children of expats the French government is hoping to attract as it slashes financial and regulatory burdens on the banking sector to capitalise on Brexit.

Speaking at the national mint, the Monnaie de Paris, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe laid out France’s ambitions to scoop up international business that is considering pulling out of the UK in light of the country’s impending departure from the EU.

“You can regret this Brexit decision or welcome it, but it’s a fact”

“You can regret this [Brexit] decision or welcome it, but it’s a fact,” he said. “You have to deal with it.”

The opening of the lycées internationals in the Parisian region of Île-de-France was announced alongside a raft of measures to attract foreign businesses that will want to continue operating in the EU post-Brexit.

The measures include lowering the corporate tax rate from 33.3% to 25% by 2022, getting rid of a 0.3% levy on financial transactions, scrapping the €150,000 tax bracket and excluding bonuses from the calculations of redundancy pay for stockbrokers.

The move is in line with newly-elected President Emmanuel Macron‘s efforts to show France is business friendly, in contrast with his predecessor François Hollande, who famously described the financial sector as the “enemy”.

The measures aim to “make our position more competitive and attractive”, Philippe said.

“Companies must find the desire to settle and develop on our soil rather than elsewhere.”

Speaking alongside the prime minister, Paris regional president Valérie Pécresse addressed the banking sector in English.

“To investors, and to those disappointed by Brexit, I want to say that we are ready to roll out the blue, white and red carpet for you,” she said. “Welcome back to Europe.”

“Companies must find the desire to settle and develop on our soil rather than elsewhere”

The new schools were initially proposed in a 10-year emergency strategy published in February that claimed one in three high schools in the region are “outdated”.

The €5bn plan aims to create 20,800 new school places by 2027 by adding 12 new lycées (including the three international schools), building 32 new boarding schools and extending a further 23 existing lycées.

While the bulk of the funding will go towards these renovation and construction plans, 20% will be used to maintain existing schools.

The first of the new international schools to open in Île-de-France will be converted from an existing high school in Paris’s La Defense business district, the Lycée Lucie-Aubrac de Courbevoie.

A second school will open in Saclay, an area south of Paris that has ambitions to become a “global innovation cluster”, by 2021, followed by a third in Vincennes in 2022.

Daniel Filatre, rector of the Academy of Versailles, and Agnès Evren, Île-de-France vice-president in charge of education and culture, have been charged with implementing the education plan.

The post France to open new international schools amid post-Brexit charm offensive appeared first on The PIE News.

UCLA to roll out online master’s degrees

The PIE News - Tue, 07/11/2017 - 05:49

UCLA has announced it will develop an online platform and launch a suite of online degrees starting next year targeting students around the world.

UCLA Global Online is expected to enrol its first intake of students in 2018 and will offer degrees and certificates at the master’s level with entry requirements that mirror the existing requirements for the university.

Despite the university’s global brand, Wayne Smutz, founding dean of UCLA Global Online, said the university has yet to conquer the online learning market.

“One of our challenges will be how do we make that work internationally”

“We have a lot of research activities around the globe that we do that make us international,” he told The PIE News. “Our brand is very strong internationally but we don’t really deliver education internationally.”

He pointed out that while other prestigious universities in the US deliver MOOCs and online short courses, universities of that calibre are not fully-fledged in the online learning market for full degrees.

“In the last year, we’ve seen a real opening up of the international space to online around the world,” he said.

“And while it’s not completely open there are hints that that door is starting to crack and I think that makes the timing right to become more internationally-oriented.”

The platform will incorporate programming from UCLA’s traditional academic curriculum alongside practical education through the university’s continuing education arm, UCLA extension, which Smutz also heads up.

“We have those two different kinds of content that we’re going to provide,” he said.

“My view is we want to give people choice, because that’s what the internet allows you to do. We want to provide them with lots of choice within a single platform.”

The practical application of the curriculum also gives students the ability to expand their professional networks, said Smutz.

“One of our challenges will be how do we make that work internationally, and we’re thinking about that,” he commented.

The platform aims reach 10,000-15,000 students in the space of five years, and the subjects offered are expected to reflect the biggest industries in Los Angeles.

“We want to be able to use Los Angeles and its prestige in many different areas to attract people to what we have to offer,” he said, nodding to the importance of entertainment, business and engineering industries to the city.

The post UCLA to roll out online master’s degrees appeared first on The PIE News.

UK commits £100m to attract researchers

The PIE News - Tue, 07/11/2017 - 03:10

The UK’s Minister for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson, has confirmed the government intends to invest £100m in a Global Talent Research Fund to attract more highly-skilled researchers to the UK.

The Ernest Rutherford Fund will provide scholarships for highly-skilled early-career and senior researchers both from developed and emerging research powers including India, China, Brazil, and Mexico.

Initially, the Rutherford Fund is to be administered by Innovative UK and the Research Councils. However, in 2018, the brief will be taken over by the newly established UK Research and Investment agency.

“We practise in international landscapes, we are internationally diverse”

The fund is to receive £100m which is a part of the £4.7bn in research and development funding dedicated to attracting international specialists announced in the 2016 Autumn Statement.

At the launch event, Johnson underlined that talented researchers are welcome in the UK, while the fund will send a strong signal that “even as we leave the EU, we are open to the world and will reinforce our ambition of making the UK the go-to country for innovation and discovery”.

The newly appointed chief executive of UKRI, Sir Mark Walport, also emphasised the importance of internationalisation, collaboration, and diversity for the agency in order to make the UK a preferable research destination.

“Research is a global activity,” he said. “We practise in international landscapes, we are internationally diverse and much of the science that is done today is of the international nature, both through the instruments that are needed which cannot be funded by any one nation alone and also by the desire of researchers to work with the best counterparts wherever they are.”

The post UK commits £100m to attract researchers appeared first on The PIE News.

In dramatic shift, most Republicans now say colleges have negative impact

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 07/11/2017 - 00:00

Republicans have soured on higher education, with more than half now saying that colleges have a negative impact on the United States.

An annual survey by the Pew Research Center on Americans’ views of national institutions, released this week, found a dramatic attitude shift on higher education among Republicans and people who lean Republican, with the change occurring across most demographic and ideological groups.

Two years ago, 54 percent of Republicans said colleges had a positive impact on the country’s direction, with 37 percent rating higher education negatively. That ratio shifted to 43 percent positive and 45 percent negative last year.

The latest version of the survey, conducted last month among 2,504 adults, for the first time found a majority (58 percent) of Republicans saying colleges have a negative effect, compared to 36 percent saying they have a positive effect.

A gradual increase in the number of Democrats and Democratic leaners who view higher education positively helped counterbalance the increasingly negative take by Republicans. In the latest version of the survey, 72 percent of Democrats viewed colleges positively (up from 65 percent in 2010) compared to a negative response from 19 percent this year.

Pew also found an increasing partisan divide on views about the national news media, although not as rapid a shift as Republicans’ take on higher education.

The public’s overall views on national institutions -- including churches, banks and labor unions -- did not change much in this latest installment. On higher education, 55 percent of all respondents had a positive view.

The partisan stratification is apparent even within the GOP. Nearly two-thirds of conservative Republicans (65 percent) said colleges have a negative impact, compared to 43 percent of moderate and liberal Republicans.

Viewers of right-leaning news media might not be surprised by Pew’s findings. Virtually every day Fox News, Breitbart and other conservative outlets run critical articles about free speech disputes on college campuses, typically with coverage focused on the perceived liberal orthodoxy and political correctness in higher education.

For example, Breitbart on Monday riffed on a report from The New York Times about a 35 percent enrollment decline at the University of Missouri at Columbia in the two years since racially charged protests occurred at the flagship university.

Bogus right-wing outlets also often target higher education. A fictitious story about California college students cutting off their genitals to protest Trump’s Mexican border wall plan recently made the rounds on purported news sites and social media.

In addition, Republican politicians in recent years have pushed back on the four-year degree, saying that not all jobs require the credential. Some also question the value of four-year degrees and criticize increasing college tuition levels.

Research has shown, however, that a healthy majority of faculty members and students in higher education skew liberal, particularly at four-year institutions. And debates over the value of college tend to revolve around four-year institutions.

Whatever the cause, a wide range of Republican voters are buying in to skepticism about higher education.

Younger Republicans tend to be much more positive, with 44 percent of 18- to 49-year-olds saying colleges have a positive effect on the way things are going in the country. And more than half (52 percent) of Republicans aged 18 to 29 view colleges positively.

Even so, the share of Republicans under 50 who have a positive view of higher education has fallen by a whopping 21 percentage points since 2015.

Likewise, positive views of colleges among Republicans who hold a college or graduate degree declined by 11 percentage points, from 44 percent to 33 percent, during the last two years. It dropped by 20 percentage points (from 57 percent to 37 percent) among Republicans who do not have a college degree.

Based on income levels, Republicans are less positive about higher education the more money they make. Just 31 percent of those who earn at least $75,000 a year in family income view colleges positively, compared to 34 percent in the $30,000 to $74,999 range. And 46 percent of Republicans making less than $30,000 gave higher education positive marks.

Democrats tend to view colleges positively, with the survey finding comparable majorities across age, education and income. However, Democrats have a different dynamic than Republicans when income is factored in, with wealthier respondents viewing higher education more positively than their lower-income peers.

The findings are both a wake-up call and an opportunity to ask better questions about conservatives' waning confidence in higher education, said Alison Kadlec, senior vice president and director of higher education and work force engagement for Public Agenda.

“Is the precipitous drop in conservative regard for postsecondary education reflecting a decline in confidence in higher education attainment as a sure path to socioeconomic mobility, or is this more about perceptions of ‘liberal bias’ in higher education among conservatives?” she said via email. “Are these attitudes more an expression of backlash against rising cost of college and student debt load, and the accompanying belief that colleges are businesses that care more about their bottom line than students (as we’ve found in our research), or is this about the rise of an emboldened anti-intellectualism in the wake of the last presidential election?”


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Survey data point to widespread problems for female and minority scholars in astronomy

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 07/11/2017 - 00:00

Harassment of women in astronomy has been an open secret for some time, but reformers faced a data problem. That is, others in the field wondered if harassment went beyond mere anecdotes -- as alarming as some of the stories were.

Women’s advocates in astronomy now have an answer for the skeptics: yes. According to “Double Jeopardy in Astronomy and Planetary Science: Women of Color Face Greater Risks of Gendered and Racial Harassment,” women in the field -- and women of color in particular -- often experience inappropriate remarks and harassment at work. The study was published Monday in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

“The results were initially worse than expected, as somebody who’s been working in and around these issues for some time,” said study co-author Christina Richey, an astrophysicist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and former chair of the American Astronomical Society’s Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy. “It’s a little disheartening, but at least as we present this information it’s an opportunity for that gut-check moment. It forces conversations to start."

Joan Schmelz, deputy director of the Universities Space Research Association’s Arecibo Observatory, who worked to expose harassment in her field long before a series of scandals made headlines, said she’d long awaited the results of the study. But they didn’t come as a surprise.

“This is behavior women have to deal with, day in and day out, as we strive to do our work as astronomers,” she said. “We need to establish professional standards of behavior and then hold all astronomers accountable.”

Richey’s co-authors for the study were Kathryn B. H. Clancy, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who published a widely cited 2014 study on harassment in scientific fieldwork; Katharine M. N. Lee, a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at Illinois; and Erica M. Rodgers, a research scientist at the Space Science Institute.

Beyond assessing the scope of harassment, the researchers wanted to study who is most affected. Drawing on the theory of intersectionality, the researchers guessed that the “multiple marginality” of women of color makes them more vulnerable to inappropriate comments, harassment and assault than their white colleagues. Their internet survey of 474 astronomers’ and planetary scientists’ experiences with harassment within the last five years supported the hypothesis.

‘Double Jeopardy’ and Missed Opportunities

In nearly every significant finding, the authors wrote, “women of color experienced the highest rates of negative workplace experiences, including harassment and assault.” Some 40 percent of women of color surveyed, for example, reported feeling unsafe in the workplace as a result of their gender or sex, and 28 percent reported feeling unsafe as a result of their race.

Some 18 percent of women of color and 12 percent of white women even reported skipping professional events because they didn’t feel safe attending.

“Our results suggest that the astronomy and planetary science community needs to address the experiences of women of color and white women as they move forward in their efforts to create an inclusive workplace for all scientists,” the study says. Never “has awareness of hostile workplace behaviors in the sciences been so strong, and the possibility for change so great. We are living in a time when advances in the culture of science could match the advances in science and technology.”

This, they authors say, “should lead to an increase in the diversity of questions we ask, hypotheses we test, in the way we interpret our data and the priorities we make in our disciplines. These data point to a problem, but they also point to a solution. More than ever before, we have the opportunity to create conditions for the best possible science to happen.”

The survey's questions on personal experience asked about negative language, perceptions of safety and responses to harassment (for example, if respondents reported it, and what happened). Participants were asked to identify how often they heard negative comments from their peers, supervisors or others about themselves or anyone else. Negative comments could relate to sexual orientation, race, sex, gender, femininity or masculinity, physical or mental ability, or religion.

Concerning safety, respondents were asked if they felt unsafe at work in relation to any of those characteristics. The researchers also wanted to know whether respondents skipped study- or work-related events due to such feelings. And had respondents encountered verbal or physical harassment, and from whom, they asked.

Survey participants were recruited via a variety of disciplinary publications. While the resulting sample was nonrandom, the researchers say it was nonetheless a meaningful cross section of the discipline, since assault and harassment often go unreported.

Eighty-four percent of the sample identified as white, and 67 percent were female. The goal, of course, was to oversample women, but the researchers did lament not having attracted more participants of color from whom to draw even more meaningful results.

Fixing a Hostile Climate

Over all, 88 percent of respondents reported hearing negative language from peers at their current position, 52 percent from supervisors and 88 percent from others. Thirty-nine percent said they’d experienced verbal harassment, and 9 percent reported experiencing physical harassment.

More than one-quarter (27 percent) reported feeling unsafe, and 11 percent said they’d skipped a professional event for that reason. Skipping study or work events due to feeling unsafe was also associated with hearing negative comments from peers and supervisors, experiencing verbal harassment and physical harassment.

As expected, women were more likely to have experienced negative comments, harassment or assault than men. Students and postdoctoral fellows pinged higher on some questions than their more senior counterparts, but not all.

Regarding the “double jeopardy” hypothesis about women of color, they were most likely to experience verbal harassment related to their race. Women of color and white women experienced verbal harassment related to gender equally (44 percent and 43 percent, respectively). Men and women of color were significantly more likely than the sample over all to miss classes, meetings, fieldwork or other professional events because they felt unsafe.

Richey said astronomy has an opportunity to lead in seeking solutions to a problem that no doubt affects other sciences, to varying degrees. The paper recommends “multilevel” solutions, including adopting codes of conduct or related education for all employees and trainings across institutions. Diversity and cultural awareness training also is necessary, she and her co-authors say. Leaders in the field must model appropriate behavior, and any offenders must be sanctioned justly and swiftly. Women of color in particular should be allowed to create peer networks, and otherwise be supported by their departments.

DiversityEditorial Tags: Sciences/Tech/Engineering/MathImage Source: WikipediaImage Caption: Christina RicheyIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 3Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, July 11, 2017Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: Documenting Harassment in Astronomy

OpenStax is latest publisher to build online learning platform

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 07/11/2017 - 00:00

OpenStax, the free textbook publisher based at Rice University, is expanding beyond books.

The publisher on Monday launched Tutor Beta, an online learning platform. Initially available in three courses -- biology, physics and sociology -- this fall, OpenStax plans to expand it across all the subject areas in which it publishes content.

“We’ve been very excited about the success we’ve had and the momentum we’ve been able to build up on providing access to high-quality learning materials over the last five years … but students and instructors need more than just content,” Richard Baraniuk, founder of OpenStax, said in an interview. “Technology has evolved to the point where it’s possible to provide rich feedback to students and instructors about students’ learning progress and use that to improve learning outcomes.”

OpenStax has over the last five years established itself as one of the leading publishers of open educational resources. The publisher’s portfolio includes 35 titles across nearly a dozen high school- and college-level subject areas, according to its website, and about two million students have used the books in their courses. OpenStax estimates it has since 2012 saved students more than $155 million, compared to if those students had purchased commercial textbooks.

Daniel Williamson, managing director at OpenStax, said the publisher has come close to doubling those numbers each year it has been in business. Last year alone, for example, OpenStax served about 1.3 million students, saving them $136 million, he said.

Tutor Beta breaks OpenStax’s textbooks into smaller chunks, testing students with short answer and multiple-choice questions. The platform also feeds information about how students are learning to instructors. OpenStax is working to integrate Tutor Beta with major learning management systems, a feature slated to go live in fall 2018.

In other words, Tutor Beta resembles many the online learning platforms offered by other publishers -- another sign that the textbook industry broadly is endorsing a future in which traditional course content is packaged with digital extras. It also brings OER providers a step closer to answering the assertion by traditional publishers that they offer add-ons and services that publishers who give away their titles for free aren't able to provide.

“This is definitely the way that the entire industry is going,” Baraniuk, the Victor E. Cameron Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rice, said. “In the past, students were reading a paper text, working on homework on paper, handing it in physically and getting graded physically. Now, as more and more students are doing all of these tasks digitally, we have a real opportunity to give them real-time analytics of how they’re progressing in their course, help point out misconceptions they might be having and provide analytics to instructors so they can optimize for individual learners and the entire class.”

Students and faculty members who use OpenStax’s titles “exist on a continuum,” Williamson said. Some prefer to use the digital textbooks on their own, which can be accessed online or downloaded for free. Others use the books in combination with OpenStax’s more than 40 technology partners, which include companies such as Chegg and major commercial textbook publishers. The launch of Tutor Beta adds another option, he said.

Importantly for OpenStax, Tutor Beta also represents a new revenue stream -- $10 per student per course. The publisher generally relies on grants from foundations to launch new titles and product offerings, then generates recurring revenue from selling print copies and collecting fees from its technology partners.

Grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, and the Maxfield Foundation funded the development of Tutor Beta. Other foundations that have supported OpenStax include the Calvin K. Kazanjian Economics Foundation, the Leon Lowenstein Foundation, the Michelson 20MM Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

“We are always going to be reliant upon foundational support for any type of expansion, whether it’s content or technology,” Williamson said. “We don’t ever imagine self-supporting the creation of new features or new content. However, our goal … is that we can build an ongoing, sustainable business model.”

OpenStax is already seeing signs of that happening for its textbook line, where the publisher is “closing in on sustainability” -- perhaps as soon as next fiscal year, Williamson said. Pricing Tutor Beta at $10 a course is intended to create a similar sustainable revenue stream for OpenStax’s technology offerings, he said.

“Our goal is really to keep the price as low as possible to make sure every student has access to the content,” Williamson said. “While there is a $10 price tag, that’s still, we think, a tremendous value, and hopefully something every student can afford.”

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