‘Free’ higher education: the quality dilemma

Posted in Fees, access and admissions on June 30th, 2009 by steve

Ireland“Today’s Irish Times carries an opinion piece by a Gerard Horgan, described only as someone who ‘works in the education sector.’ The article, entitled ‘Free education can benefit all of society’, takes issue with the idea of the reintroduction of university tuition fees, principally on two grounds: that fees will hurt those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and that they will lead to increased indebtedness of students. I am sure this is a well-intentioned piece of writing, and as I have mentioned before, I am myself not hugely comfortable with the principle of tuition fees. But the arguments he uses here are weak and the analysis is incomplete …” (more)

[Ferdinand von Prondzynski, University Blog, 30 June]

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Bad Writing Contest

Posted in Life on June 30th, 2009 by steve

USA“The results are in for the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for 2009. The annual award – from the English department at San Jose State University – honors the worst opening sentences for imaginary novels. This year’s winner, David McKenzie, offered the following …” (more)

[Inside Higher Ed, 30 June]

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Minister Kim Carr confronts dodgy science

Posted in Research on June 30th, 2009 by steve

Australia“The Rudd government is considering a specialist independent body to deal with the hardest cases of scientific fraud, according to Innovation, Industry, Science and Research Minister Kim Carr. ‘We are considering a research integrity advisory board,’ said Senator Carr, who said he hoped the details could be settled before the next academic year. ‘We need to establish the legal framework … and the appropriate legal indemnity for the chair and panel members … and the specific revisions to the (Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research) to take into account any new review mechanism …’” (more)

[Bernard Lane, Australian Higher Education, 1 July]

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Free education can benefit all of society

Posted in Fees, access and admissions on June 30th, 2009 by steve

Ireland“I have been following the debate over the reintroduction of university fees and am sufficiently moved to write to you on this topic. There are two main issues with this move on behalf of the university authorities and the Government. Firstly, there is the concern about the impact such a policy would have on students from economically disadvantaged areas. The reintroduction of fees may discourage and prevent bright students from impoverished backgrounds from making an important contribution …” (more)

[Gerard Horgan, Irish Times, 30 June]

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Developing rhetoric

Posted in Life on June 30th, 2009 by steve

Ireland“… Anyway, the point of all this is that rhetoric – the art of persuasive speaking – is such an important skill in the academic environment. Few academics are trained in it, and if we’re honest not all of them do it well. Too often we believe that the intellectual cohesion of what we say should be enough, and that our skills in communicating it are of no great importance, or possibly even a sign that the academic pedigree of the content is deficient. I have never bought that: I believe that as lecturers we must be able to inspire, impress and entertain; these rhetorical devices help to engage the student and make the subject-matter memorable …” (more)

[Ferdinand von Prondzynski, University Blog, 29 June]

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A Principal Component Analysis of 39 Scientific Impact Measures

Posted in Research on June 30th, 2009 by steve

USA“The impact of scientific publications has traditionally been expressed in terms of citation counts. However, scientific activity has moved online over the past decade. To better capture scientific impact in the digital era, a variety of new impact measures has been proposed on the basis of social network analysis and usage log data. Here we investigate how these new measures relate to each other, and how accurately and completely they express scientific impact …” (more)

[Scholarship 2.0, 29 June]

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Public wages up 3.4% in year

Posted in Governance and administration on June 29th, 2009 by steve

Ireland“The number of people employed in the public sector has risen by 20,000 over the last three years, while average weekly earnings have jumped 12%, according to figures released today … All areas within the education sector rose by around 10%, except for third level where average earnings rose by 17.9% from €928.81 to €1,095.36 per week …” (more)

[Patrick Logue, Irish Times, 29 June]

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The Evidence on Online Education

Posted in Teaching on June 29th, 2009 by steve

USA“Online learning has definite advantages over face-to-face instruction when it comes to teaching and learning, according to a new meta-analysis released Friday by the US Department of Education. The study found that students who took all or part of their instruction online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through face-to-face instruction. Further, those who took ‘blended’ courses – those that combine elements of online learning and face-to-face instruction – appeared to do best of all. That finding could be significant as many colleges report that blended instruction is among the fastest-growing types of enrolment …” (more)

[Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, 29 June]

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Queen’s £43,000 bill for staff trip

Posted in Governance and administration on June 29th, 2009 by steve

UK“Queen’s University has spent tens of thousands of pounds on sending its senior staff on two separate trips to the Far East to confer honorary degrees, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal today. The news comes as the university — which will receive £110m in public funding in 2009/10 — announced it was to lay off more than 100 staff and axe its German department …” (more)

[Victoria O’Hara, Belfast Telegraph, 29 June]

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Graduation: no animals killed

Posted in Life on June 29th, 2009 by steve

UK“… In fact I have never been to a graduation ceremony at all, not even my own – for any of my degrees (I just got the certificate through the post, in absentia as we say). When I was first graduating with my BA, I just couldn’t face all the rituals – the dressing up in the fur-lined hood, the clasping the fingers of the ‘praelector’, the Latin and the hand-clasping with the vice-chancellor (or the vc’s deputy – the top-dog understandably doesn’t sit in the senate house for three days presiding over this). I also couldn’t face organising the whole show for a pair of divorced parents …” (more)

[Mary Beard, A Don’s Life, 29 June]

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Brian Cowen’s Innovation Taskforce, Innovative Policy

Posted in Governance and administration on June 29th, 2009 by steve

Ireland“… This is excellent, laudable stuff. This is the way of the future, surely. So why is it that this quango is being added on top of the bodies in Enterprise Ireland, the IDA, the HEA, Science Foundation Ireland, the entire Dept of Enterprise Trade and Employment and the multiplicity of business networks already out there? It isn’t the most innovative route to innovation in the economy it seems to me, a suspicion backed up by a glance at the membership list …” (more)

[Irish Election, 29 June]

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Low numbers shut French course

Posted in Teaching on June 29th, 2009 by steve

UK“While universities have been warning of a surge in applications for courses this autumn – some language courses are struggling to attract applicants. The University of the West of England is to stop courses in French, Spanish and Chinese this year because they received only 39 applicants. The university has seen a 14% rise in applications for other subjects …” (more)

[BBC News, 29 June]

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Debating innovation

Posted in Governance and administration on June 29th, 2009 by steve

Ireland“A few days ago on June 18 the Oireachtais (Irish Parliament) Joint Committee on Education and Science held a session on ‘Business Innovation and Research’, and heard presentations from invited persons on the topic of research as a driver of economic development. One of those invited was Professor Frank Gannon, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland. From the report (which can be read here) there was a lively discussion. It makes for interesting reading, because the politicians present were making a serious and constructive attempt to understand the significance of investment in science research, and while the questions were probing they were not hostile …” (more)

[Ferdinand von Prondzynski, University Blog, 29 June]

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Innovation taskforce appointed to advise Government

Posted in Governance and administration on June 29th, 2009 by steve

Ireland“Taoiseach Brian Cowen has announced the appointment of an innovation taskforce to advise the Government on its strategy for positioning Ireland as an international innovation hub and to assist in making the ‘smart economy’ a reality. The taskforce is to advise the Government on options to increase innovation and entrepreneurship and to ensure that investment in science, technology and research translates into high-value jobs and sustainable economic growth …” (more)

[Colm Keena, Irish Times, 29 June]

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900 apply for limited number of places at Teagasc colleges

Posted in Teaching on June 29th, 2009 by steve

Ireland“The demand for places in agricultural colleges has increased dramatically, with over 900 applicants looking for limited places in the system. According to Teagasc, the agriculture and food development authority, applicants for the 2009/2010 courses have increased by 40% this year. The Kildalton centre in Co Kilkenny has received 250 applications for 105 places, and Ballyhaise centre in Co Cavan has received 150 applications for 100 places …” (more)

[Seán MacConnell, Irish Times, 29 June]

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Portobello Law School hit by resignations

Posted in Governance and administration on June 29th, 2009 by steve

Ireland“A number of law lecturers have resigned from Portobello Law School following an investigation by the company’s owners into staff complaints. Portobello was acquired by Dublin Business School (DBS) two years ago. DBS, which is owned by the US-based company Kaplan, has more than 9,000 students, of whom 300 are studying law. The annual fee for a full-time law course is €5,700. Last March, staff in the law faculty at Portobello raised a number of issues with senior management at Kaplan Higher Education. DBS said the complaints were ‘largely procedural and administrative in nature’ …” (more)

[Kieron Wood, Sunday Business Post, 28 June]

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Unions warn that UCD plans to sack staff will damage economy

Posted in Governance and administration on June 28th, 2009 by steve

Ireland“Ireland’s largest university has clashed with unions over plans to sack research staff. University College Dublin (UCD) last week briefed Unite, the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT), and SIPTU on the proposals, which have sparked outrage. Union leaders and research­ers warned any such redundancies will have ‘serious implications’ for Ireland’s third-level sector. The unions have argued that over a quarter of the research staff in the college are eligible for permanency in their field, but the college has moved to ensure there are no permanent staff contracts as the funding crisis deepens …” (more)

[Jennifer Bray, Sunday Tribune, 28 June]

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TCD to turn listed bank building into bar

Posted in Governance and administration on June 28th, 2009 by steve

Ireland“Trinity College Dublin is set to expand into Temple Bar and renovate buildings on Anglesea Street and Foster Place in order to build a new bar and restaurant. The former Allied Irish Bank premises is set to be revamped from a banking hall into a trendy bar which will span two floors. The entire development will stretch across seven buildings. Also included in the extensive plans are proposals for a retail outlet on ground-floor level …” (more)

[Jennifer Bray, Sunday Tribune, 28 June]

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Mobile phones in class

Posted in Teaching on June 28th, 2009 by steve

Ireland“By way of update to my recent post about laptops in class, here’s Torill Mortensen thinking with her fingers about recent research on the consequences of mobile phones going off in class: …” (more)

[Eoin O’Dell, Cearta, 28 June]

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Students strike for education

Posted in Governance and administration on June 28th, 2009 by steve

Germany“Students at secondary and higher education institutions staged campaigns throughout Germany calling for a better education policy last week. The ‘education strike’ focused on a new, six-semester bachelor degree courses and plans to shorten secondary education without any substantial reform of contents in either sector. There were calls for an immediate abolition of tuition fees and protests over poor student-teacher ratios and studying facilities. Students also objected to a policy of ‘neglecting the masses and promoting elite education’. Addressing a rally in Berlin, Stefanie Graf of the Socialist Association of Students claimed that ‘Bologna has failed. We want to decide what we study ourselves – for at least eight semesters’ …” (more)

[Michael Gardner, University World News, 28 June]

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