VCs Weekly Higher Education Digest: March 25, 2019

Robust HE systems – A bedrock for research capacity By Gilbert Nakweya UNIVERSITY WORLD NEWS

Building higher education systems that will support research capacity among young scholars in Africa’s institutions of higher learning will be critical in the quest for sustainable development and the building of greater research capacity on the continent, according to German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) President Professor Margret Wintermantel…. She said the continent has an average of 200 researchers per million people in comparison to the world average of 1,150 researchers per million.

Low number of scholars impedes regional economic growth By Gilbert Nganga UNIVERSITY WORLD NEWS

Sub-Saharan Africa will struggle to catch up with the rest of the world in economic expansion due to its comparatively low contribution to research and innovation…. One of the major factors inhibiting growth in research is the relatively small budget allocation to research and development by national governments. At 0.5%, expenditure on research and development in the region is far below the world average of 1.68%, according to DAAD figures.

Quality versus quantity – The great PhD debate By Gilbert Nakweya UNIVERSITY WORLD NEWS

Has Africa’s quest to rapidly expand its pool of PhDs compromised the quality and global competitiveness of its doctoral holders?... According to a research report funded by the British Council and DAAD on building PhD capacity in Sub-Saharan Africa, produced last year… PhD enrolments as a proportion to overall student population in Ghana, Kenya and South Africa are below 2%, with only Ethiopia recording 7.8% of the six countries studied (Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa).

KENYA: University academic workforce shows little ethnic diversity By Wachira Kigotho UNIVERSITY WORLD NEWS

Ethnic patterns in the academic workforce of the public universities in Kenya indicate that most jobs are currently occupied by members of only five major tribes in a country of 43 ethnic groups, according to data from the Commission for University Education (CUE). Analysing the data, Dr Lynette Kisaka, the head of quality auditing at the CUE, in collaboration with professors Ellen Jansen and Adriaan Hofman, both from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, found that ethnic workforce diversity in public universities has diminished.

Universities to be fined for awarding too many top degrees By Michael Savage, THE OBSERVER

British universities must slash the number of top degrees they award or risk undermining their world-class reputation, the education secretary has warned. Damian Hinds said there had been a steep and unjustifiable rise in the awarding of first-class degrees, urging universities to “reset the norm” by handing out a higher proportion of 2:1s. Offending universities could face fines, or even be prevented from awarding degrees at all. His warning comes after recent evidence of grade inflation in higher education.

Many Professors Want to Change Their Teaching but Don’t. One University Found Out Why By Beth McMurtrie THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION

Campus teaching centers often find that their first challenge is getting faculty members in the door. The second is convincing instructors that different forms of teaching, like active learning and group work, produce better results than a traditional lecture does. The third and perhaps greatest challenge is to help professors institute those practices in the classroom. After all, changing how you teach is tough — and not always successful on the first, second, or even third try.

How Learning Communities Can Keep Higher Ed’s Most At-Risk Students on Track By Katherine Mangan


Educators have long recognized that the barriers that trip up disadvantaged students are as much social and emotional as academic. Learning communities, which have been around for decades at both two- and four-year colleges, are designed to give students a sense of belonging and shared purpose along with intensive academic support. Now, as colleges seek to graduate more first-generation and underprepared students, some have found ways to make these learning communities more effective.

The Twitterization of the Academic Mind By Gordon Fraser THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION

Social media has made scholars impatient, vicious, and dull. Things fall apart fast these days, often on Twitter. One university… fired a faculty member for tweeting. Another… initially defended a faculty member who tweeted, although that professor later resigned. Scholars on Twitter have criticized academic articles. They have criticized each other. Twitter, it turns out, has many problems. Even its billionaire CEO acknowledges that it is a site for trolling, misogyny, and racism. We academics are merely fellow travelers. But do we have to be? I don’t think we do.

We need to relearn how to play nice in peer review By Daniel Harris UNIVERSITY AFFAIRS

Academia has emerged as an unassuming minefield of mental health hazards. Examples from the scholarly and lay literatures detail rampant depression, anxiety and panic symptoms among academics, especially graduate students. A recent study of over 3,000 PhD students in Belgium revealed that 32 percent were at risk of having or developing a psychiatric disorder. It was also found that compared to a highly educated general population, PhD students had 3.5 times the risk of lost self-confidence and 3.4 times the risk of feeling worthless.

Why Do Colleges Die? By Greg Toppo INSIDE HIGHER EDUCATION

Most colleges that fail are small, private and relatively nonselective, with “very particular or unusual missions” and graduation rates that are often as low as those at non-elite public universities, Sapiro said. Practically speaking, high dependence on tuition -- as high as 80 to 90 percent -- is a good sign that an institution will not likely survive for long. “Tuition alone has never, that I know of, kept any college sustainable,” she said. Scholar looks at history of U.S. higher education and finds that vulnerable colleges, most of them private, tend to close or merge when crisis pushes them "over the cliff."

A Harvard Professor Says Half of All Colleges Won't Exist in 10 Years (and Why a New Model Might Provide a Better Path to Career Success) By Jeff Haden

If you've ever used the word disruption to refer to innovations that create new markets and displace long-established companies and products, you might have Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen and his best-selling book The Innovator's Dilemma to thank. More recently, Christensen has predicted traditional colleges and universities are ripe for disruption, arguing online education will undermine their business models (because education is, ultimately, a business) to such a degree that many won't survive.

Building a Research Mind. Using data to set goals and make informed decisions By Caitlin Lukacs CURRENTS

Research, in general, is a fairly well-understood concept in the advancement world. Most people can describe it and even provide a reason or two why it's useful to integrate it into your work (regardless of the field). But what does it mean to have a research mind? Or to approach things with a research mindset?... being research-minded simply means you are objective-driven and intentional in making decisions. After all, if you don't have a question you're trying to answer or a goal you're trying to meet, how do you know what you're doing or what outcome you're looking for?

SOUTH AFRICA: Philanthropy – Making rich universities richer? By Mark Paterson UNIVERSITY WORLD NEWS

Fears have mounted that, in the competition among South African universities for third-stream income from philanthropists and international donors, the richer institutions are getting richer, while the poorer ones are falling further behind. Although the practice of ‘Advancement’ – the mobilization of resources and relationships to support long-term sustainability at an educational institution – has developed rapidly across the country’s universities, the new spoils have largely gone to the wealthier, historically advantaged institutions.

Protection from Legal Storms. Ethical or moral issues can derail advancement By Lori Burkhart CURRENTS

Whether it be a small business, intellectual property, or the stud rights to a thoroughbred horse, new and unique ways to give to education have exploded over the years, providing both opportunities and challenges to institutions looking to diversify their financial standings…. And if institutions don't keep abreast of these changes and trends in law, practice, and industry, they run the risk of damaging relationships with donors, ruining their reputation, and potentially facing legal challenges.

Changing Demographics and Digital Transformation By Ted Mitchell EDUCAUSE

Today it is fashionable once again (this occurs approximately every thirty years) to predict the demise of colleges and universities. I want to state right off that I am not even tempted to leap on that bandwagon. My prediction is that the next generation of higher education will be vibrant, thriving, and more important than ever to US social and economic progress—not because the sector will have remained the same but precisely because the opposite will have happened. Through changing demographics and digital transformation, the sector will have evolved in important ways.

NIGERIA: What can be done about poorly performing universities? By David Mba UNIVERSITY WORLD NEWS

Why are Nigeria’s universities in such a sorry state? Some would say it has to do with just one word – money. Sadly this is part of the reason. But not entirely. Nigeria’s universities have been under-funded for decades. Like a talented but under-achieving football team, they fail to achieve goals because the country hasn’t invested enough in their structure, their facilities and their people…. We found that the country’s universities lag well behind equivalent emerging global economies like South Africa, Egypt, Thailand, Turkey and Brazil. They also lag behind traditional world leaders.

Neoliberalism is not always a negative TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION

The world’s higher education systems are shaped by neoliberal policies. That fact is lamented by many academics, who dislike the consequences of the increased managerial oversight to which it gives rise. But is it really such a bad thing? The term “neoliberalism” refers to the introduction of market-like mechanisms into government organizations with the ostensible goal of making them more efficient and effective. One very significant manifestation of this in higher education is performance-based funding.

Global reputation of UK universities declines ahead of Brexit By Ellie Bothwell TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION

UK universities have continued to lose ground on their global reputations ahead of Brexit, while several other European countries, Canada and China have all improved on metrics of internationalization, according to Times Higher Education’s latest rankings analysis. Almost two-fifths (38 per cent) – or eight – of the 21 British universities that feature in the 2019 list of the world’s most international universities declined over the past year.

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