30 octobre 2011

The U.S. Should Adopt Income-Based Loans Now

http://chronicle.com/img/chronicle_logo.gifBy Kevin Carey. A new generation of student debtors has seized the public stage. While the demands of the Occupy Wall Street movement are many, college lending reform is near the top of every list. Decades of greed, inattention, and failed policy have created a growing class of young men and women with few prospects of landing jobs good enough to bear the weight of their crushing college loans. Some activists have called for wholesale student-loan forgiveness—a kind of 21st-century jubilee. That's unlikely. But there's something the federal government can do right now to help students caught by our terribly unjust higher-education financing system: End all federal student-loan defaults forever by moving to income-contingent loans.
The concept is simple. Right now, students pay back their loans on a fixed schedule, typically amortized over 10 years. Since people usually make less money early in their careers, their fixed monthly loan bill is hardest to manage in the first years after graduating (or not) from college. People unlucky enough to graduate during horrible recessions are even more likely to have bad jobs or no jobs and struggle paying back their loans. Not coincidentally, the U.S. Department of Education recently announced a sharp rise in loan defaults. Under an income-contingent loan system, like those in Australia and Britain, students pay a fixed percentage of their income toward their loans. Payments are automatically deducted from their paychecks by the IRS, just like income-tax withholding. Self-employed workers pay in quarterly installments, just as they do with their taxes. If borrowers earn a lot, their payments rise accordingly, and their loans are retired quickly. If their income falls below a certain level—say, the poverty line—they pay nothing. After an extended time period of 20 or 30 years, any remaining debt is forgiven.
In other words, nobody ever defaults on a federal student loan again. The whole concept of "default" is expunged from the system. No more collection agencies hounding people with 10 phone calls a night. No more ruined credit and dashed hopes of home-ownership. People who want to enter virtuous but lower-paid professions like social work and teaching won't be deterred by unmanageable debt. And by calibrating interest and payment rates, the federal government can make the program no more expensive than the current cost of subsidizing loans and writing off unpaid debt. The only losers are the repo men. The concept has been proven to work—Australia and Britain have used it for years—and both liberals and conservatives have reason to get on board. The Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman proposed the idea all the way back in 1955.
Indeed, income-contingent loans are such a good idea, one might wonder why they don't exist already. Historically, administrative complications have been a major culprit. Until last year, the federal government managed most student loans by paying private banks to act as lenders and then guaranteeing their losses. The IRS would have had to maintain relationships with scores of different lenders, relying on banks for notification of who owes how much and disbursing money hither and yon. Income-contingent loans would have created a huge bureaucratic headache.
But in 2010, Congress abolished the old system, cutting out private banks. Now the federal government originates all federal loans. The IRS would have to deal with only one lender: the U.S. Department of Education. In other words, there is a new opportunity to overhaul the way students repay their college debt that didn't exist until this year. It's true that students who pay over long periods of time will pay more interest, and that the taxpayers will bear the cost of partially forgiven loans. But under the current system the federal government is already eating the cost of defaulted loans, and low-income students who can't repay loans are often hit with fines and penalties that dwarf the cost of extra interest.
When federal loans were first created, nobody imagined they would become standard practice for financing college. As late as 1993, most undergraduates didn't borrow. Now, two-thirds take on debt, and most of those loans are federal. The average debt load increased over 50 percent during that time. Nor is repayment an isolated problem. One recent study found that the majority of American borrowers—56 percent—struggled with loan payments in the first five years after college. In Britain, by contrast, 98 percent of borrowers are meeting their obligations. Because student loans can almost never be discharged in bankruptcy, defaulted loans can haunt students for a lifetime. Some senior citizens theoretically could have their Social Security checks garnished to make good on old student debt. That is insane.
A similar-sounding federal program, called income-based repayment, is now on the books and is scheduled to become somewhat more generous starting in 2014. But the program is administratively complicated, involving income-eligibility caps and requiring students to reapply every year. This points to another major advantage of income-contingent loans: simplicity.
Even with the government as the sole source of federal loans, many graduates still have to navigate a thicket of different rates, terms, lenders, consolidation options, and schedules in order to meet their obligations. Some fall behind not because they're unwilling or unable to pay, but because they can't get the right check to the right place at the right time. An income-contingent system would remove all of that hassle, making repayment simple and automatic, and setting college graduates free to get on with the important business of starting their lives. The student-loan system has grown into an out-of-control monster tearing at the fabric of civil society. In Chile, student anger over an inequitable, unaffordable, profit-oriented higher-education system led to nationwide protests and violent confrontation just months ago. Now the seeds of similar unrest are sprouting here.
Income-contingent loans won't solve the escalating college prices, state disinvestment in higher education, and overall economic weakness that are driving more students into debt. But they offer a simpler, fairer, more efficient, and more humane way of allowing students to repay loans that aren't disappearing from the higher-education landscape anytime soon. They could be put in place quickly at no extra cost to the taxpayer. In a dismal fiscal environment, there are few deals this good.
The students at the barricades are right to be angry. They didn't run the economy into the ditch. They didn't create the system in which a college degree is all but mandatory to pursue a good career, and loans are often unavoidable. But they have to live with it. Income-contingent loans are one way to give them the help they need. Kevin Carey is policy director at Education Sector, an independent think tank in Washington.

Posté par pcassuto à 00:05 - - Permalien [#]

16 octobre 2011

Latin American universities - Pulling rank

http://media.economist.com/sites/all/themes/econfinal/images/the-economist-logo.gifBy H.J., SÃO PAULO. THE current issue of The Economist includes an article about the state of universities in Latin America. The region as a whole has low education standards. Its students do extremely poorly in the OECD’s PISA evaluations, which test what 15-year-olds are able to do in the basics: reading and understanding a text in their own language, and applying mathematical and scientific ideas to everyday situations. It also has a particularly perverse way of doling out cash, spending proportionally less on primary education, which benefits everyone, and more on tertiary, which is the reserve of the few. (Brazil spends more than five times as much per university student as it does per primary-school pupil, by far the highest ratio in the world. In second place, Mexico spends three times as much.)
That money goes mostly to the children of well-off families, who are able to afford private schooling and therefore do well in university entrance exams. And it is usually doled out with little oversight from either governments or students, who generally have too little information about quality to push for improvements, and don’t have the power to make a difference anyway. University staff in most countries are unsackable civil servants, while rectors are elected and hence tend to run on a platform of continuity.
The São Paulo state universities that are pulling ahead of the pack are doing so with the help of generous state funding, which allows them to scoop up the region’s best researchers. They are also specialising. Brazil is emerging as what Demos, a British think-tank, describes as a “natural knowledge economy”: one that boosts the value of its plentiful commodities by the application of technology, such as making biofuels from sugar cane. That in turn makes it possible to gather a critical mass of researchers in one place.
One of the big three ranking organisations, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), has produced a ranking of Latin American universities, the top ten of which we published in the print issue. The full list is available here. Other ranking organisations are looking carefully at the region too. Times Higher Education, a specialist weekly magazine, says it has enough data to produce a Latin American ranking. But it is still working on its methodology: its global top 200 makes up just 1% of the world’s higher education institutions, which all compete in the same global market for students and professors. Including many more institutions would mean having to find new ways to compare a much more diverse bunch. Until the magazine is sure it can do it fairly, says Phil Baty, its deputy editor, it will move cautiously.
QS relies much more heavily than the other ranking organisations on measures of reputation, which allows it to move swiftly into new regions. However, that carries the disadvantage of potentially over-rating large institutions, especially those whose names include countries or capital cities, such as the University of Buenos Aires or the National Autonomous University of Mexico. They have hundreds of thousands of students apiece and sound like you must have heard of them, even if you have not. Still, a start has now been made on opening the region’s universities to greater scrutiny. That can only help them to improve.

Posté par pcassuto à 18:17 - - Permalien [#]

Cambridge Election Isn't Academic as Four Compete to Be Chancellor

http://globalpatriot.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/the-wall-street-journal-logo.gifBy FRANCES ROBINSON. Billionaire Lord vs. Corner Store Owner; One Candidate Vows to 'Sink All the Boats'. CAMBRIDGE, England—Cambridge University's chancellorship, a ceremonial post created in 1246, has long passed serenely among aristocrats, bishops, generals and princes. Dons in dark gowns would meet in ivy-covered colleges to orchestrate the transition. Now, the Internet age has spoiled all that.
Prince Philip, 90 years old, best known as the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, is standing down after 34 years in the role. But instead of a neat succession, a rambunctious four-way campaign has unfolded. The candidates: a billionaire Lord and former politician, a stentorian Shakespearean actor, a socialist vegetarian lawyer and the immigrant owner of a corner store. It is the first time the university has had to hold an election for the post since 1847. In 1950, Air Chief Marshal Arthur Tedder almost had to contest the election against Jawaharlal Nehru, but the latter withdrew, as he was busy being the first prime minister of India.
If events had gone according to plan, Lord Sainsbury of Turville, 70, would already be the 108th chancellor of the world's fourth-oldest university. The university's nomination board selected the Eton-educated heir to the U.K.'s Sainsbury supermarket chain, expecting him to be elected unopposed in July. His Gatsby Charitable Foundation recently gave $125 million to build Cambridge a new laboratory to study plant development.
But the world has changed quite a bit since rebel dons from rival Oxford established Cambridge in 1209. Online campaigns by graduates have brought about the contested vote this year. It only takes the signatures of 50 qualified graduates to nominate a candidate.
Therefore, on Friday and Saturday, under the watchful eye of London's Electoral Reform Services, the four go head-to-head for the honor of wearing the chancellor's gold lace brocade robes.
"He's got absolutely no issue with there being an election," a spokesman for Lord Sainsbury said. "He's enjoying the chance to reconnect with people in Cambridge and find out what they want from the role of chancellor."
Lord Sainsbury, a former minister in Tony Blair's Labour government and a big donor to the party, says he's "not a tribal politician," and would use the role to be a "unifying force for faculty, students and staff."
Abdul Arain, 46, was the first to announce that he would compete for the job. Mr. Arain's retail empire is smaller than Lord Sainsbury's. It consists entirely of the Al-Amin store, post office and halal butcher shop on the city's Mill Road. But Mr. Arain insists his candidacy is about more than his opposition to plans to open a Sainsbury's branch across the street from him.
"The university's a world-class institution at the forefront of academia," he said, standing in front of shelves stacked with family-size cans of mangoes and imported prawn-flavored chips. "I want to encourage people who are not the typical student, show them the door is open," says the neatly bearded grocer who has been in the United Kingdom for 30 years.
A group of alumni used a Facebook group to nominate Brian Blessed, 75, an eccentric Shakespearean actor known for his big beard and booming voice, with a long résumé including the 1999 movie "Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace" and the 1980 cult film "Flash Gordon."
After reciting a rousing speech from Shakespeare's "Henry V" and declaring that "Cambridge is Camelot," Mr. Blessed, who says he is the oldest man to trek to the North Pole, sets out his vision for the role. This includes bringing "King Lear" to the masses by performing it in discount stores.
Standing at a lectern where Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan had stood before him, Mr. Blessed outlined his plans for the job. "I could come and jump off the Mathematical Bridge and sink all the boats," bellowed the oversized thespian, referring to the elegant wooden bridge over the Cam River. "Especially the ones with lovely ladies in, then I can rescue them!"
Mr. Blessed, the son of a coal miner, has supporters flying in from Boston to vote for him. He will spend election day in a pub called the Eagle, which is full of graffiti by the pilots of the Memphis Belle and other U.S. airmen who drank there in World War II.
"Brian's been in a few times," said barman Adam Gaynor drawing a pint of India Pale Ale. "To be honest, we get a lot of famous people, Stephen Fry was here the other week, and Crick and Watson, who discovered DNA, used to sit at that table over there."
The fourth candidate is a last-minute entry from Michael Mansfield, Queen's Counsel, a 70-year-old socialist lawyer who has represented accused Irish Republican Army bombers and former Harrods store owner Mohamed Al-Fayed during the inquest into the deaths of his son Dodi and Princess Diana in 1997. Mr. Mansfield says he would use the role to protest cuts in government funding for U.K. universities and a controversial rise in tuition to £9,000 ($14,192) from about £3,300.
"I find it astonishing that we are regressing into making students pay for their education," Mr. Mansfield says. Tuition was introduced in the U.K. in 1998. "Oxford and Cambridge universities should say to the government, don't blackmail us into making students take on debt…especially in the current economic environment."
University authorities have organized the election, taking into account modern developments such as the secret ballot, while preserving traditions like providing cups of tea and sandwiches for voters.
All holders of a master's degree are eligible to vote, excluding recent graduates and current students. A university spokesman says about 150,000 are eligible to vote. Because voting must be done in person, while wearing academic gowns, a turnout of only about 8,000 is expected.
The race is expected to be close for a job that involves making speeches in Latin and promoting the university (Prince Philip held dinners for the purpose at Windsor Castle). And negative campaigning hasn't been a big feature of the competition. "I've not met the other lads, but they sound super," Mr. Blessed boomed in the union society's oak-paneled debating chamber.

Posté par pcassuto à 14:39 - - Permalien [#]

El espacio de diálogo de América Latina y Caribe para la Educación Internacional

http://www.lachec.edu.co/comum/images/logo-lachec.jpgXIII Encuentro anual de la Red Colombiana para la Internacionalización de la Educación Superior – RCI. Cali, Colombia, Centro de Convenciones Valle del Pacífico, 26, 27 y 28 de Octubre de 2011. III Jornada Latinoamericana y del Caribe para la Internacionalización de la Educación Superior - LACHEC 2011 es una actividad realizada conjuntamente por el Ministerio de Educación Nacional, el Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, la Red Colombiana para la Internacionalización de la Educación Superior RCI, la Asociación Colombiana de Universidades ASCUN e ICETEX.
Contará entre sus actividades con:
Rueda de alianzas universitarias.
Conferencias magistrales con expertos mundiales en educación internacional.
Exposición de oportunidades internacionales.
Paneles y mesas de trabajo.
Actividades de networking.
Recorido por los campus universitarios de Cali para delegados internacionales.
http://www.lachec.edu.co/comum/images/Rci1.gifPresentación del evento:
En América Latina, el fenómeno de la internacionalización fue vinculado a los planes estratégicos de educación superior en los años 90 y tomó mayor reconocimiento una vez que la Declaración Mundial de la Conferencia sobre Educación Superior en el siglo XXI de la UNESCO, Paris 1998, explicita la dimensión internacional como uno de los contenidos fundamentales para la Educación Superior.
Diez años después, la Conferencia Regional de Educación Superior CRES 2008,  declara que a través del conocimiento mutuo y de la percepción compartida de ser una región diversa, multicultural, interdependiente y multidimensional en su misma problemática latinoamericana y caribeña, podremos reconocernos como actores en un mismo entorno y como agentes de cambio.  Lo anterior, unido a los criterios de diálogo intercultural y de cooperación internacional (CMES 2009), nos brinda el escenario de acción para consolidar nuestro compromiso con la reducción de la brecha en materia de desarrollo, las iniciativas conjuntas que mitiguen las repercusiones negativas del éxodo de competencias y fomente la circulación de las mismas, el fortalecimiento de la comprensión mutua y de la cultura de paz.
No cabe duda que nuestro campo de estudio, la Internacionalización de la Educación Superior, se convierte pues en un elemento constitutivo de la integración en América Latina y del Caribe y de ésta a su vez, con la inserción de nuestra región a procesos de mundialización.
LACHEC 2011, convoca a que tengamos un espacio de diálogo que nos sea propio y de auto reconocimiento para la educación internacional en ALyC, para que con una misma identidad, compartamos experiencias, transfiramos conocimiento, propiciemos alianzas y complementemos fortalezas en el llamado que nos hace la misión de internacionalizar nuestras IES y los sistemas educativos en nuestros países.  Más allá de toda ésta pretensión y por qué no decirlo, que éste espacio de encuentro sea también una invitación para que miembros de la educación superior de otras latitudes, se vinculen a los procesos que en educación internacional estamos gestando en ALyC.
Sean todos bienvenidos a Cali, Sultana del Valle y Sucursal del Cielo, ciudad en la cual consolidaremos “El espacio de diálogo de América Latina y el Caribe para la Educación Internacional”.

Posté par pcassuto à 00:00 - - Permalien [#]

02 octobre 2011

Universitary reform, Latinamerican universities and reform

http://www.universidad.edu.uy/css/augm_seminario/images/II_seminario_texto.jpgII International Workshop University, Society and State: Universitary reform, Latinamerican universities and reform. From 16-11-11 to 17-11-11. Montevideo, Uruguay. Organized by the Association of Universities Montevideo Group. This Workshop aims to account for different activities such as teaching, research and extension, which promote actions that foster transformation toward new forms of teaching and learning. The final goal of this conference is to generate debate regarding different social issues and the role that public universities, civic society and different state actors can have. This seminar is directed to researchers, students, professors and people interested.
Temas: La universalización de la Educación Superior y Renovación de la Enseñanza, Contribución de las universidades al desarrollo integral de la Región, Cogobierno como modelo de gestión y gobierno universitario.

Cogobierno como modelo de gestión y gobierno universitario
Cogobierno y autonomía son dos principios definitorios de la reforma universitaria latinoamericana. Casi un siglo ha pasado desde los sucesos de la Reforma Córdoba y han sido diversos los caminos que las universidades de la región han recorrido.
Las universidades latinoamericanas no han sido ajenas a los diferentes climas políticos sociales y culturales de los países, en estos, el cogobierno y la autonomía han evolucionado, asumiendo diferentes formas y generando gran diversidad de experiencias. Para que estos principios sigan vigentes como modelo de gestión universitaria, es imprescindible repensarlos creativamente a la luz de los cambios que han ocurrido en la sociedad. Se trata de aprender de lo ocurrido y sugerir su actualización, teniendo en cuenta los desafíos futuros que tienen los países y las Universidades.
La universalización de la Educación Superior y Renovación de la Enseñanza
Multiplicar el acceso efectivo a la enseñanza avanzada es una meta definitoria de la Reforma Universitaria. Así como la defensa de la educación superior como un bien público fue una bandera de las universidades latinoamericanas en las décadas pasadas (Conferencia UNESCO 1998 y 2003), la idea de generalización de la enseñanza es una bandera propositiva para el futuro. Ello exige ampliar cuantitativamente la oferta educativa y mejorarla cualitativamente. Se trata de conocer y discutir sobre de que forma las universidades de la región y los sistemas educativos de los países, piensan y encara en la práctica este asunto.
La renovación de la enseñanza trata de dar cuenta de actividades que desde la enseñanza, la investigación y la extensión, promuevan acciones que propicien transformaciones a partir de nuevos formatos de enseñanza aprendizaje, de manera que más estudiantes puedan avanzar en sus estudios con mejores resultados, atendiendo problemas como la desvinculación, la diversificación de la oferta de grado y postgrado, la flexibilidad de trayectorias curriculares, la coordinación con el conjunto del sistema terciario público, el acceso a sectores de población menos favorecidos, la mejora de la formación docente, y el aggiornamiento de la currícula de estudio a las nuevas realidades.
Contribución de las universidades al desarrollo integral de la Región
Las universidades pueden contribuir de manera diversa, al desarrollo integral de nuestros países. La Universidad pública, debe asumir compromisos y profundizar la contribución del mejoramiento de las condiciones de vida a través del desarrollo socio-económico, ambiental, cultural e integral de las personas. Para ello cuenta con capacidades académicas que propician la interacción con los Estados, las organizaciones sociales, el sector privado y el conjunto de la sociedad de forma de buscar caminos de desarrollo sostenible. Se procurará conocer las mejores experiencias de colaboración de las Universidades con la sociedad en su conjunto, pensando posibles caminos de coordinación para el desarrollo nacional y regional.

Posté par pcassuto à 19:20 - - Permalien [#]
Tags : ,

22 septembre 2011

New scoreboard for research and innovation

http://www.universityworldnews.com/layout/UW/images/logoUWorld.gifBy Geoff Maslen. Although research efforts by universities and private organisations are increasing across the globe, most research remains highly concentrated in a small number of US universities, according to a just-published OECD study that uses a new measure of research impact. Across disciplines, however, "a more diverse picture emerges".
The report, Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2011: Innovation and growth in knowledge economies, uses what it says is a new indicator of research impact "measured by normalised citations to academic publications across all disciplines".
Using this system, the report's authors say 40 of the world top 50 research universities are located in America, with some excelling in a wide range of disciplines. "Stanford University features among the top 50 for all 16 subject areas, and 17 other US universities feature in the top 50 in at least 10 scientific fields," the report states. But it also notes that "a more diverse picture emerges on a subject-by-subject basis with the US accounting for less than 25 of the top 50 universities in social sciences", a field in which the United Kingdom excels.
A chart in the report shows that although the US holds the dominant position in 11 of the subject fields, it falls away sharply in agriculture, earth and environmental sciences, pharmacology and the social sciences. "Universities producing the top-rated publications in earth sciences, environmental science and pharmaceutics are more evenly spread across the OECD economies," the report says, adding that those in Asia are starting to emerge as leading research institutions. China, for example, has six universities in the top 50 in pharmacology, toxicology and pharmaceutics while the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology is among the top in computer science, engineering and chemistry.
But although China has the second largest number of scientific publications after the US, the degree of scientific collaboration and the impact of its research are among the lowest. The OECD 'scoreboard' tracks trends in science, technology and industry as a way of understanding how innovation is evolving, and how countries are positioning themselves in the global knowledge economy. The report includes more than 180 internationally comparable quality indicators, including where jobs have been lost, top manufacturers, direct foreign investment and industrial diversification, along with a broad range of statistics for other major economies such as Brazil, China, India and the Russian Federation.
In the introduction, the report says the world's economies are facing some extraordinary challenges. The effects of the economic downturn are still being felt, with national debt levels rising and unemployment remaining high, it says.
 Accompanying this is continued globalisation of economic activities. "Its distinctive features are increasing international trade, deepening economic integration - especially in emerging economies - and greater geographic fragmentation of production processes generating ever more complex global value chains," the report says.
"In this new geography of growth, international competition from new players is eroding the lead of more established economies. Environmental pressures challenge the sustainability of our existing growth models and longer life expectancy is putting a greater strain on the capability of health systems to meet the needs of an ageing population."
It says one way to measure technological innovation is through the commercialisation of inventions as reflected in patenting. While countries 'specialise' in certain economic activities, new OECD indicators based on linking patents with companies' information reveal the benefits of a broad industrial base and a strong university sector for the development of key enabling technologies.
The report's writers argue that innovation will play a major role in lifting economies out of the economic crisis, as well as finding new and sustainable sources of growth and competitiveness. But, if lodging high-quality patents is any indication of innovation growth, the report says the quality of patent filings has fallen dramatically over the past two decades.
"The rush to protect even minor improvements in products or services is overburdening patent offices. This slows the time to market for true innovations and reduces the potential for breakthrough inventions," the report says, adding that patent quality declined by an average of around 20% between the 1990s and 2000s, a pattern seen in nearly all countries studied.
"Studying patent quality in different sectors has also allowed the OECD to assess which countries are doing best in innovation. The UK, for example, produces semiconductor and environmental technology patents that are above average in quality. Korea has a competitive advantage in ICT-related innovations. And Germany is strong at innovating in solar energy."
The report says patents from inventors in the US, Germany and Japan are the most highly cited, suggesting they are "true innovations" because they are being used by many firms in their products to generate further innovations.
But while these three countries produced about 70% of the top 1% of highly cited patents between 1996 and 2000, their share had fallen to 60% five years later.

Posté par pcassuto à 22:55 - - Permalien [#]

10 septembre 2011

Canada Prepares Young Researchers for Nonacademic Careers

http://chronicle.com/img/global-header-logo.gifBy Jennifer Lewington, Stratford, Canada. For young doctoral students in Canada, acquiring professional skills is increasingly essential. The supply of postgraduates outstrips the demand for full-time academics, and many students find themselves eyeing alternative careers in industry, government, or the not-for-profit sector. New training programs have sprung up in the past few years, with more on the way, designed to give them professional skills, such as communication, leadership, and intellectual-property management, for careers in industry, government, or academe.
"We see that the majority of our university graduates don't have an academic career, so we are sending the message to think about the future career of your trainees," says Isabelle Blain, vice president of research grants and scholarships at the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
Three years ago, her agency introduced the Collaborative Research and Training Experience Program, which provides $1.7-million over six years to leading university researchers who provide young scientists—from undergraduates to postgraduates—with professional-skills training, including opportunities to work in labs at other universities and in the private sector.
This year, the council financed 18 such projects, which will provide training to 300 students. The council developed the program after looking at a similar initiative introduced several years earlier by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and at other such programs in the United States. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, another Canadian government agency, expects to unveil its own professional-skills program next March.
One measure of the demand for such skills training is the growth in workshops, internships, and seminars offered by Mitacs, a national organization financed by government and industry to recruit, train, and deploy graduate students for the Canadian economy. In 2010, Mitacs offered a broad suite of programs to 3,000 graduate students, up from modest offerings in 2005.
"There has been a huge sea change in the Canadian system about these kinds of programs," says Arvind Gupta, chief executive of Mitacs and a professor of computer science at the University of British Columbia. "Partly it is recognition that we are no longer training Ph.D.'s to be professors." Mr. Gupta says industry needs highly qualified graduates who can communicate across disciplines and write a business plan—skills not typically taught in their academic specialties.
A recent survey by the Mining Industry Human Resources Council and the Canada Mining Innovation Council identified a lack of polished communication skills, business acumen, and leadership in otherwise highly qualified academics recruited to the industry. For example, Canadian mining companies work with aboriginal communities and need employees who can communicate, negotiate, and grasp legal issues, says Martha Roberts, director of research for the Mining Industry Human Resources Council. "If you blunder badly in any of those negotiations, you end up setting them back years."
Young researchers say they find the training invaluable. "Industry interests me more so now because there are fewer academic jobs," says Casey Gardner, a doctoral student in chemistry at McMaster University, who is participating in the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council's training program.
She is working with a professor at McMaster, along with students and researchers from other universities in Canada and Europe, to develop cell-based therapies to combat diabetes and other chronic diseases. Students also attend workshops on intellectual property, project management, and other topics applicable to careers in Canada's fast-growing biomaterials and biomedical-engineering industries.
The opportunity to receive such wide-ranging experience early in her career "is huge," says Ms. Gardner. As a chemist, she most values the opportunity to collaborate with researchers from medicine and other disciplines. "They have different ways of approaching problems," she says. "You learn to speak their language and you learn to look at your own problems from a different perspective." At McGill, Nadia Mykytczuk, a microbiologist and postdoctoral fellow, is involved in another project under the council's training program that aims to pave the way for a Canadian mission to Mars.
As part of her research, Ms. Mykytczuk has gone on field trips to the Arctic, working in cooperation with geologists, physicists, and astronomers to study microbial communities as potential analogues for life in places like Mars. Though her academic discipline is microbiology and molecular biology, she has presented papers to academics in other disciplines, and participated in formal intellectual-property collaborations between McGill and Canadian and foreign-government agencies and private labs.
The varied training opportunities, says Ms. Mykytczuk, represent "the best launching pad I could ever hope for." Her goal is to pursue a career in academe despite the scarcity of full-time jobs. She says the training programs have strengthened her academic portfolio and widened her network of contacts, thereby enhancing her competitiveness in future job searches. German Ph.D. student Hannes Dempewolf, an evolutionary plant biologist completing his studies at the University of British Columbia, credits landing a job at a United Nations affiliate to support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council's training program.
He received a $6,000 (U.S.) internship (available to international and domestic students) last summer that paid for a stint at the UN's Global Crop Diversity Trust in Rome. He says advisers at the university's biodiversity research center and the trust gave him hands-on training in writing proposals and synthesizing ideas. Without the internship, he says he would not have been able to participate in a successful grant proposal by the trust that now is able to hire him on a full-time basis.
"It was an opportune time for me to be there when the proposal was being written, and funded," he said, adding that he gained insight into what excites potential donors. As well, he learned the intricacies of writing proposals to fit UN funding criteria. "I had no clue about any of this before. It was incredibly useful to me to get that kind of background."
The new emphasis on broadening skills and knowledge of young researchers is winning praise elsewhere.
"Many academics do a disservice to graduate students by leading them to believe that the primary reason one does a Ph.D. is to pursue a job in academia," says Jay Doering, president of the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies, whose organization endorses the new focus on professional-skills training. "Maybe we should not be training students for academia but training them to have the skills they require."

Posté par pcassuto à 00:00 - - Permalien [#]

05 septembre 2011

Why Universities Often Ignore the U.S. Constitution

http://chronicle.com/img/photos/biz/icons/innovations-nameplate.gifBy Richard Vedder. In the Golden Age of higher education, defined as when I attended school (around 1960), colleges were viewed as oases of free speech with full respect for First Amendment rights. In 1964, for example, the school where I teach, Ohio University, allowed a hateful leader of the American Nazi Party to spill his venom on the campus, believing free and unfettered peaceful expression of ideas is the hallmark of a good university. The American Association of University Professors’ successful fight for tenure was predicated on the proposition that free expression of ideas without repercussions is critical to the functioning of a community of scholars.
How things change. Colleges today aid and abet the suppression of ideas that are not those accepted by the prevailing leftish establishment of intellectuals that dominate Ivory Towers. University speech codes are a prime example, and it is noteworthy that the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has never lost a lawsuit filed to end these outrageous assaults on freedom of speech and expression.
The latest outrage was prompted by the Obama administration’s assault on due process in campus judicial hearings. The Office of Civil Rights has stated that in campus rape cases, it “strongly discourages” universities to allow the accused to confront and cross-examine the accuser, a basic right of citizenship. If the accused is found innocent, the accuser can appeal to a second panel—double jeopardy, explicitly outlawed in the Constitution in formal legal proceedings.
Worse, the standard used to evaluate claims must be “predominance of evidence,” which roughly says that if a jury is 60 percent sure the accused is guilty, but 40 percent not sure, they should find him guilty anyhow. And, I forgot to mention, the judge and the jury are one and the same, and not randomly selected.
Now, this is not unexpected behavior from an Obama administration so out of sync with the American people, as recent polls show. But as Peter Berkowitz put it brilliantly in a Wall Street Journal commentary, where are the professors, the deans, and the college presidents? Why are they not fighting this outrage, this assault on the rule of law and sacred and long-held Anglo-American legal principles? (By the way, I predict that the courts ultimately will throw out some or all of this foolishness, when groups like FIRE or the Institute for Justice get the right case to litigate.)
I think there are three reasons for university inaction: money, hubris, and institutional independence. College presidents probably would not sell their mothers or daughters into prostitution if the money was good, but I am less sure about cousins, nieces, and nephews. College presidents will abandon principle and fighting for justice if the bribe for their silence is large enough.
As to hubris: Many academics think that they are truly super smart and that this gives them uniquely superior wisdom to make decisions for the good of lesser human beings. The intellectual mind is often an intolerant, closed mind, one that is more authoritarian than democratic in character. Thus if the University Establishment believes that rape is such a horrific crime that the ordinary and, to them, archaic, rules of fair play and due process should no longer apply, so be it.
Finally, to protect universities from intolerant public protests and political interference—in short, to protect academic freedom—society has given them a lot of independence (which really means lack of accountability). Thus to them the regular judicial procedures need not apply. Ironically, it was the Supreme Court, in Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819) that greatly reinforced this independence (New Hampshire was rebuffed trying to force Dartmouth into becoming a state-supported college).

Posté par pcassuto à 11:18 - - Permalien [#]

Privatization Overtakes the Original Logic Behind Public Universities

http://chronicle.com/img/chronicle_logo.gifTo the Editor: Roger Pielke Jr. ("The Problem With In-State Tuition" The Chronicle, July 24) suggests closing his state-university budget gap by raising in-state tuition to out-of-state levels.
Not included is a proposal for raising the family incomes of the in-state students proportionately; his suggestion is that a state might subsidize its resident students directly. It seems doubtful to me that a state will prefer a complex program of direct evaluation and subsidy to the simple expedient of funding its university to do the job for it, or that a state has the money in any case (the states are hurting too).
The original logic of state universities was that they would be accessible to the less affluent of a state's citizens, increasing the state's employable talent pool in areas not reached by private education, and thus eventually paying the state back for its initial subsidy—or, rather, investment. That logic is violated at the point where a student cannot combine summer work with a campus job and emerge every June tired but debt-free. Many "state" institutions passed that point years ago, and what we are currently seeing looks to me a lot like the privatization of public higher education. Professor Pielke's suggestion amounts to one more step down that path. Some will undoubtedly be inclined to follow him. I wish them well.
But the whole situation seems to be in flux: there are a lot of ideas out there (some of them you report in that same issue) for connecting education and students. What the future will be like, or how many educational futures there may be, I don't know.
But for consideration: if the typical state university were founded de novo next week, would it have its present shape? Would it include such high-ticket items as facilities for industry- and government-sponsored research? Spectator athletics? Or might these and other functions be differently distributed across the economic landscape? I suspect they might, and I sense from reading the newspaper that they are already beginning to be. Should be fun to watch.
E. Bruce Brooks, Research Professor of Chinese, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Amherst, Mass.

Posté par pcassuto à 10:10 - - Permalien [#]

28 août 2011

The Decline of Private Higher Education

http://www.albany.edu/dept/eaps/prophe/image/image001.gifBy Levy, Daniel. The Decline of Private Higher Education. No topic in private higher education study has attracted as great attention globally as has growth. This is appropriate as private growth has soared to nearly a third of the world’s total higher education enrollment. But while private growth continues to be the dominant trend, important declines in private shares have emerged. These must be analyzed and understood.
What is private decline depends partly on definition. For the most part declines occur in private enrollment shares, rarely in absolute numbers. Declines also sometimes occur in private subsectors rather than in the private sector overall. Some declines are merely transitory. Short of actual decline we also find notable slowing of private growth rates.
After citing notable historical examples of private decline, we focus on contemporary social factors and political factors. The social factors revolve around two main dynamics: diminution of social distinctiveness or groups that have fueled private growth; demographic changes that fall hard on private sectors. On the political side we consider political regime change and regulation, then shifting to analysis of hefty multi-dimensional expansion within the public sector.
None of these dynamics reverses the continued dominant tendency of private growth but they do provide counter-tendencies important to grasp and with potential to accelerate.

Posté par pcassuto à 17:02 - - Permalien [#]