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Study: Student evaluations of teaching are deeply flawed

Inside Higher Ed - 18 hours 21 min ago

Student evaluations of teaching reflect students’ biases and are otherwise unreliable. So goes much of criticism of these evaluations, or SETs. Increasingly, research backs up both of those concerns.

On the other side of the debate, SET proponents acknowledge that these evaluations are imperfect indicators of teaching quality. Still, proponents argue that well-designed SETs inevitably tell us something valuable about students’ learning experiences with a given professor.

A new study -- which one expert called a possible “game-changer” -- seeks to cut through the noise by assuming the best of SETs -- at least, that which is supported by the existing literature. Its analysis assumes that the scores students give instructors are moderately correlated with student learning and the use of pedagogical best practices. It assumes that SETs are highly reliable, or that professors consistently get the same ratings. And it assumes that SETs do not systematically discriminate against instructors on the basis of irrelevant criteria such as their gender, class size and type of course being taught.

And even when stacking the deck for SETs, the study finds that these evaluations are deeply flawed measures of teaching quality.

New Question, Familiar Answer

Unbiased, Reliable and Valid Student Evaluations Can Still Be Unfair,” published in Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, was written by Justin Esarey and Natalie Valdes. Esarey, an associate professor, and Valdes, an undergraduate research fellow, both work in political science at Wake Forest University. They note -- rightly -- that their field has faced concerns about gender bias, including in student evaluations of female professors.

The problem transcends political science, of course, and many studies suggest that students perceive instructors differently based on factors beyond gender, such as race. (Political scientists Mirya Hollman, Ellen Key and Rebecca Kreitzer maintain a bibliography of relevant studies here.)

As the paper notes, “Using invalid, unreliable or biased student evaluations to make decisions about hiring and tenure is obviously harmful to students and faculty alike." Even worse, it says, “biased SETs could disadvantage faculty from underrepresented minority groups or punish faculty members who teach unpopular required courses.”

While these are “important problems,” the authors write, they shift gears and “ask a different question: if SETs are valid, reliable, and unbiased, what then?” Are SET scores without “demonstrable bias and moderately correlated with instructor quality a fair basis on which to judge a faculty member’s teaching performance?” If the answer to the latter question is no, then “there is a much bigger problem with the use of SETs than is commonly recognized.”

And no is indeed the answer: even under “ideal” circumstances, Esarey and Valdes write, SETs still yield an “unacceptably high error rate.”

Summing up his findings this week, Esarey said that unless the correlation between student ratings and teaching quality is “far, far stronger than even the most optimistic empirical research can support,” then common administrative uses of SETs “very frequently lead to incorrect decisions.” Those professors with the very highest evaluations “are often poor teachers,” he added, “and those with the very lowest evaluations are often better than the typical instructor.”

Consequently, Esarey said that he and Valdes would expect “any administrative decisions made using SET scores as the primary basis for judgment to be quite unfair.”

Experts in this area have long advised against basing high-stakes personnel decisions on student ratings of instruction alone. A number of institutions and professional groups have made commitments and policy changes to this effect. But SETs still have a major foothold in these processes on many campuses, as they are relatively easy and inexpensive compared to other means of assessing teaching quality. And because institutions invest relatively little time and few resources in their adjunct faculty members, these professors are disproportionately hired and fired based on student feedback.

Benefit of the Doubt

The current study is based on a computational simulation -- no actual professors were involved (or harmed). That allowed Esarey and Valdes to directly measure teaching effectiveness, which is still very hard to measure in real life. For the same reason, Esarey and Valdes were also able to assess how accurate are administrative decisions using SET scores to gauge teaching effectiveness.

As Esarey explained, “In our simulation, we know a faculty member's SET score and also their real teaching effectiveness. We computationally simulate thousands of faculty members and then compare them to one another the way that a department chair or dean might evaluate faculty members using SET scores in real life.”

A bit more technically, the complex computer model simulated one million instructors' student ratings along with their teaching quality percentiles, with varying correlation between the two measures. Then it used the simulated scores in realistic evaluation scenarios. First, Esarey and Valdes looked at “pairwise comparisons” of sets of hypothetical faculty members via SET scores. This mirrored “comparison of job candidates on the basis of their teaching performance or the comparison of a faculty member up for tenure to the teaching record of a recent (un)successful case,” according to the study.

Next, Esarey and Valdes compared an individual professor’s SET scores to the overall population of SET scores from all faculty members in the model. That, in turn, mirrored a procedure “where faculty members who are under-performing relative to their peers (e.g. whose scores are below a certain percentile ranking) are identified for administrative action as part of a tenure case or other systematic review,” the study says.

In so doing, the researchers found that even when the correlations between instructor ratings and faculty instructional quality or student learning is as significant as it's even been shown to be (about 0.43, based on a 1981 metastudy that has since been challenged), there remains a large difference in SET scores -- as much as 30 percentage points. This does not reliably identify the best teacher in the pairwise comparison.

Moreover, one-quarter of these simulated faculty members with SET scores at or below the 20th percentile in the peer comparison analysis “are actually better at teaching than the median faculty member in our simulation.”

Even those with exceptionally high SET scores can be “poor teachers,” the study says, as nearly 19 percent of those with SET scores above the 95th percentile are no better than the median professor at teaching.

Making “fair, accurate personnel decisions based on faculty instruction requires a measure of teaching performance that is substantially more related to student learning or instructional best practices than SET scores alone,” the study says. (The researchers confirmed their findings in a second, more advanced analysis.)

As for how SETs should be used within colleges and universities, the researchers make three recommendations. On a technical level, they advise removing any systematic gap in SET scores explained by noninstructional factors, such as gender, via regression adjustment or matched subsample analysis “before using these scores for any purpose.”

How to Use SETs

This kind of adjustment can’t “filter” out all idiosyncratic influences on SET scores, however, they say. They thus advise using a “combination of independent evaluators, interviews with students, teaching observations by experts, peer review of instructional materials and SET scores” to give “a much more accurate picture of a faculty member’s teaching proficiency when SET scores alone would be misleading.”

Averaging these multiple forms of evaluation can allow idiosyncratic variation in each one to cancel out, “resulting in further reduction of imprecision between the averaged assessment and a faculty member’s true teaching performance,” the study says.

Because this kind of multifaceted assessment is expensive, the researchers say that SETs “could serve as a low-cost mechanism for identifying” professors who need it -- but only “with the understanding that many faculty so identified will be excellent teachers.”

Last, the authors advise “caution in over-reliance on SET scores for any purpose.”

Joshua Eyler, director of faculty development at the University of Mississippi and author of How Humans Learn: The Science and Stories Behind Effective College Teaching, commented on a study draft prior to publication. Evidently pleased with the results, he’s the one who called the study a “game-changer” in the SET wars.

Eyler said this week that there is a big difference between asking students about a professor's "behaviors" -- whether they have a sense of humor or they're engaging -- and observing whether professors are using evidenced-based teaching strategies. That's because behaviors are rarely if ever correlated with student learning, whereas good strategies are.

With regard to SETs in particular, Eyler said that if an institution uses a form that poses real questions linked to student learning (and not behaviors), then SETS “have a role to play in providing formative, nonevaluative feedback for faculty.” Yet they “should simply not be used for summative evaluations and decisions about someone's career,” he cautioned, as the study makes clear that “even in a perfect world where we could somehow mitigate the bias of SETs, they would still be deeply flawed instruments.”

Esarey said he endorsed what he called "multi-modal" assessments of teaching. Echoing him, Eyler said that the best tenure and promotion practices "employ multiple modes of evidence for teaching effectiveness."

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NC-SARA report paints detailed picture of distance education landscape

Inside Higher Ed - 18 hours 21 min ago

Over 1.5 million students studied toward online degrees at institutions in their home state last year, according to new distance education data released today.

The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) has been collecting data on the number of out-of-state students studying online for the past four years.

This year for the first time the report includes in-state students studying online in addition to out-of-state students studying online -- painting a much fuller picture of the online learning landscape.

Data collected from NC-SARA’s 1,960 member institutions (from every state but California) show that 2.8 million students studied in fully online degree programs in 2019. Of these, 1.5 million were in-state students and 1.3 million were out-of-state students. Out-of-state online enrollment grew by 5 percent compared with the 2018 data.

Before NC-SARA existed, individual states used to collect online enrollment data, but it was difficult to get a national picture, said Cheryl Dowd, director for the State Authorization Network at the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies. “I appreciate that NC-SARA is providing consistency in the reporting,” she said.

While the federal Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) requires institutions to report their distance education enrollment, it does not break down that enrollment by state. “It’s helpful for states and institutions to see who is going out of state and where they’re going,” said Dowd. The NC-SARA database makes it possible to track which states students at specific institutions come from.

When it comes to picking a college, even online, proximity clearly matters to students. A 2019 survey by Learning House, Wiley Education and Aslanian Research suggested that online students are increasingly choosing to study close to home. The NC-SARA report shows public institutions accounted for 53.2 percent of the total reported online enrollment in 2019. The vast majority of these learners, 80 percent, are in-state students.

At private nonprofit institutions, however, a different picture emerges. At these institutions, 68 percent of a total 836,644 online students were enrolled from out of state. At private for-profit institutions, 92 percent of 475,505 students were out of state. Since 2017, online enrollments at for-profit institutions have declined by more than 100,000, despite a positive increase in 2018, the NC-SARA data suggest.

As public institutions tend to start out with a regional, rather than national, focus online, it makes sense that the majority of their online enrollments are in-state, said Dowd. Public universities tend to have strong local brand recognition and are typically slower than privates to market their online learning at a national level, she said.

With more than 47,000 students, the University of Maryland Global Campus had the largest fully online enrollment among public institutions, followed by Arizona State University and Purdue University Global. Western Governors University reported the largest online enrollment among private nonprofit institutions. The University of Phoenix reported the highest enrollment among private for-profit institutions, with 95,938 students.

In previous NC-SARA reports that did not count in-state online enrollment, no public institutions made the top 10 list of institutions by size of reported enrollment. This year, UM Global Campus came in at No. 6.

2019 Top 10 Institutions by Size of Reported Online Enrollment Institution Name State Sector Total Reported Online Enrollment

Western Governors University

Utah Private nonprofit

120,876

University of Phoenix Ariz. Private for-profit 95,938 Southern New Hampshire University N.H. Private nonprofit 95,832 Grand Canyon University Ariz. Private nonprofit 69,952 Liberty University Va. Private nonprofit 62,561 University of Maryland Global Campus Md. Public 47,537 Strayer University D.C. Private for-profit 43,765 American Public University System Minn.

Private for-profit

43,573 Ashworth College Ga. Private for-profit 41,329 Capella University Minn. Private for-profit 36,915

“The data confirm what we knew anecdotally to be true -- a lot of public institutions are serving their state citizens with online learning,” said Lori Williams, CEO and president of NC-SARA. “We know that campus-based students tend to go to schools within a 50-mile radius of their home, and we thought that something similar was happening online. Now we have the data to support that assertion.”

Members of NC-SARA agree to shared national standards that make it easier for them to offer online programing across state lines. There are 49 states participating in the agreement, with the exception of California. The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands also participate in the agreement.

Providing data to NC-SARA is a condition of being a member institution, said Marianne Boeke, director for policy research and state support at NC-SARA. This year the report had a 99.5 percent response rate, with exceptional circumstances preventing a small number of institutions from participating. “We’ve never had a repeat offender,” she said.

Boeke said she and her colleagues are mindful that they do not want to burden members with excessive data reporting requirements. But they want to make the data they collect as useful as possible to their state and institutional members, she said.

Tracking Learning Placements

This year, NC-SARA introduced a new addition to its report: exploring the number of students in online or on-campus programs participating in out-of-state learning placements. These include, for example, internships or clinical placements for students in medical fields. It’s a topical issue, given the looming federal requirement for institutions to make disclosures to all students about professional state licensure requirements, said Williams.

While NC-SARA institutions have been required to make professional licensure disclosures to students for some time, institutions still struggled to pinpoint how many students are engaging in experiential learning, said Boeke. “At the departmental level, administrators absolutely know where their students are and track them closely. But trying to filter that up to the institutional level has been tricky,” she said. “It’s going to take a while to get systems in place so that each institution can report this data efficiently and accurately.”

A total of 239,955 out-of-state learning placements were reported in 2019, but Boeke suspects this number is likely “on the conservative side.” The majority of these placements, 60.5 percent, were in health-related programs, followed by education (9.5 percent) and business (5 percent).

Some states and programmatic accreditors do collect information on where students find placements, particularly in highly regulated fields such as nursing, said Jennifer Mathes, interim CEO of the Online Learning Consortium. But it’s “not easy to pull that information together to get a national picture,” she said.

Both Mathes and Dowd said they would like to see these data being collected on a more granular basis in the future -- perhaps breaking down health-related placements by their associated program titles. But both said they understood that NC-SARA is being careful not to overburden their member institutions.

“They’re asking the right questions for their organization. I think they’ve got the balance just about right,” said Mathes.

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Western accreditor will consider approving colleges outside its region

Inside Higher Ed - 18 hours 21 min ago

And they're off.

Four months after the Education Department issued new rules that created the possibility of open competition among accrediting agencies -- and four months before the regulations take effect -- the accrediting body for California, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands announced Wednesday that it would consider approving colleges around the country. Among other things, the new regulations eliminate the historical restriction that regional accrediting agencies can accredit only colleges and universities located in their geographic regions (with exceptions for branch campuses of those institutions).

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges' Senior College and University Commission voted unanimously this month to "broaden our reach," its leaders said in a letter released today. The letter said that several of the colleges and universities that WSCUC already accredits had "asked if we would consider accrediting related institutions located beyond those areas," and that the commission had concluded that "saying yes to these requests is consistent with our mission of supporting institutions we accredit as they seek to reach new audiences and increase their effectiveness and sustainability."

While WSCUC officials are focusing for now on requests from currently WSCUC-accredited institutions that want to either move their campus or start a new institution out of the region, the commission has not ruled out any possibility -- including accrediting a university that is already accredited by an agency in another region.

"This is not an expansion move," Jamienne S. Studley, the Western commissioner's president, said in an interview. "This is initially a responsiveness and service move. It's also an effort to continue to promote our principles in an environment we could tell might be changing."

The rewrite of the rules governing accreditation by the Trump administration and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos -- which started out aiming for drastic changes and ultimately embraced more modest and arcane ones -- was largely supported by higher education leaders but strongly opposed by consumer advocates, who feared that the collective changes would weaken oversight of colleges and universities.

Among the changes made in the 400-page document were several designed to blur if not eliminate the distinction between the "regional" and "national" accreditors -- the two sets of agencies that have the power to decide which colleges and universities qualify to award federal financial aid to their students.

Regional accreditors, which overwhelmingly accredit public and private nonprofit colleges, have -- fairly or not -- often been viewed by many observers as "better" (whatever that means) than national accreditors, most of which accredit mainly for-profit colleges. (A few accredit specialized religious colleges.)

Officials in the Trump administration -- as has been true for previous Republican administrations like that of George W. Bush -- believe that the distinction between the two sets of accreditors unfairly leads to discrimination against for-profit colleges, and have sought to obliterate it.

The move to eliminate the geographic restriction for the agencies formerly known as regional accrediting agencies is designed, in part, to erode the regional/national accreditor distinction.

But the rationale the Education Department put forward last year for ending the geographic limitation was “to allow for additional competition, so that an institution or program may select an agency that best aligns with the institution’s mission and to improve transparency about the states in which each agency accredits campuses.”

Collectively, the seven regional accrediting agencies have opposed significant changes to how they operate, but they ultimately signed off on the final regulations (in large part because they were so much milder than those the department originally proposed).

But advocates for students opposed the changes, arguing that any increased "competition" among accreditors would, almost inevitably, lead to a "race to the bottom" in which colleges and universities would seek out agencies that applied less scrutiny and asked them to meet fewer accountability requirements.

What Is the Western Accreditor Up To?

A decade ago, as congressional Democrats and the Obama administration ramped up their scrutiny of for-profit colleges, two major higher education companies sought to shift their affiliations to the Western accrediting agency when the Higher Learning Commission, by far the largest regional agency covering the vast middle of the country, shifted its policies to look much more critically at the sector. Those companies, Argosy and Bridgepoint Education, both had footprints in California, which is why they were able to shift accreditors despite the geographic limits.

Studley, who took the reins at WSCUC in 2018 after a stint as a senior official in the Obama administration's Education Department, rejected any suggestion that the Western agency was abandoning the limitation of its geographic scope so as to become a haven for lower-quality institutions.

"Our hope is that we will be able to continue the model that we set the bar very high," she said. "I would be surprised if institutions came to us because they thought we were the easy grader. Every fiber of our being is motivated in the direction of strong standards, consistently applied."

What is WSCUC's motivation?

To the extent the agency sticks to its initial self-imposed focus on giving the colleges it currently accredits more options, by creating new institutions or moving to other states in various ways, WSCUC's official statement that it wants to serve its members and students better makes sense. The agency currently accredits branch campuses or locations in 15 states, and recently agreed to accredit colleges in other countries, as several of the other agencies formerly known as regional do.

But WSCUC seems unlikely to stop at this, given its statement's suggestion that the current step is "both deliberate and an opportunity for further meaningful change … WSCUC has long been proud of initiating and responding to change, such as our innovations relating to transparency, outcomes, international, and incubation, and this provides another opportunity to do just that."

Does WSCUC's move, especially if it extends its reach further, open the door to the "race to the bottom" that critics fear?

"No one’s super worried about WSCUC itself," said Clare McCann, deputy director for federal higher education policy with New America's education policy program. "But this makes it harder for the rest of them not to follow suit, setting off an inevitable race."

In combination with other federal rules changes that make it easier for colleges to get and stay accredited, McCann said, "there is likely to be pressure to make their processes less rigorous. WSCUC has historically tried to be a cut above everybody else, and I doubt they will let their reputation flip so considerably. But if other accreditors lose some institutions to WSCUC, there will be a cascading effect that will definitely lead the race to the bottom."

Accreditation officials played down the potential for all-out competition, especially that would result in a downward trajectory in quality.

Belle S. Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' Commission on Colleges, said in an interview Wednesday afternoon that her board would not make its own decision about whether to expand its scope until a meeting in June. "We are not under any requirement to do so," she said.

Asked whether competition among the once-regional accreditors could lead institutions to shop for friendlier accreditors, she said "it might.... Those institutions that feel they aren’t being heard by their accreditor, for whatever reason, might go someplace else."

Said Judith S. Eaton, president of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation: “This announcement by WSCUC is an important development in the life of regional accreditation. There has been much discussion over the past several years about the feasibility of regional accrediting organizations broadening their reach. This is also an example of innovation in accreditation, something that CHEA has long encouraged. We will all learn from WSCUC’s experience here.”

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N.J. governor expands free tuition at state's public colleges

Inside Higher Ed - 18 hours 21 min ago

New Jersey is the latest state to create a tuition-free program for four-year institutions.

Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, announced the Garden State Guarantee in his 2020 state budget. It would add more than $50 million to the state's outcomes-based funding formula so four-year public colleges can provide up to two years of free tuition. The plan, if approved, wouldn't start until fall 2021.

It’s a step in the right direction, advocates say. But by focusing on tuition costs, they said the program excludes other essential costs of attending college.

The new program could also impact institutions in nearby states, as New Jersey is one of the nation's biggest exporters of college students. If those institutions have to compete harder to get students, it could lead to further discounting, a practice many in higher education criticize.

The guarantee is limited to students with household incomes of $65,000 or less. All students would get predictable pricing from the deal, meaning they will be locked in at the initial tuition prices at public colleges for a full four years.

It builds on New Jersey's Community College Opportunity Grants, which made community colleges tuition-free for up to three years for students below a certain income threshold.

The governor’s office wanted the guarantee to be comparable to the community college program so it would be easy for students to understand, said Zakiya Smith Ellis, secretary of education for New Jersey. And transfer students can use both programs to get two free years at a community college and then finish, tuition-free, at a four-year college.

Funding for the guarantee will come from the state's general appropriations, Smith Ellis said. She is hopeful that future administrations will be supportive of the program.

“We think this is something that should have broad bipartisan support,” she said.

During a news conference at William Paterson University on Wednesday, Murphy joked that the state of Maine gets an assist for this program.

“I was so sick of seeing their billboard that said, ‘Our out-of-state tuition is cheaper than your in-state tuition,’” he said.

This guarantee could have some consequences for other states and colleges, however unintended, said Robert Massa, an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California and vice president emeritus of enrollment at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, though he emphasized that he thinks it’s a wonderful program.

Selective institutions often will cover tuition for students who fall below the $65,000 income threshold, so the difference between attending a public New Jersey college and a selective college anywhere else may not be large, he said.

“Here’s the catch: low-income students need to know that,” Massa said.

Unless they have good college counseling and understand how financial aid works, Massa said it’s likely those students will just go with the free in-state options. Because low-income students tend to go to underfunded public K-12 schools, which tend to place large caseloads on counselors, it’s likely they won’t have much guidance.

Many institutions, both public and private, aggressively pursue out-of-state students, he said. A recent study from New America found that public institutions have greatly increased their merit aid to recruit students, leading to a “merit arms race.”

“Any state institution that depends on New Jersey for a good portion of its out-of-state population is going to address it. They’re not going to sit back,” Massa said. “If past practices are indicators of future response, then it’s likely those institutions will increase discounts to those students in order to maintain enrollments.”

And discounting, he said, has gotten out of control and often leads to higher prices for everyone.

On the other hand, institutions often try to capture wealthier out-of-state students who may not be eligible for the guarantee program anyway.

A key point of the guarantee is that the money would go to institutions, with the mandate that they provide tuition-free education to the students who meet the criteria. Once the colleges fulfill that duty, though, they can use the rest of the funds for other programs.

Because several colleges in New Jersey already have affordability programs for low-income students, Smith Ellis believes they could use these funds for wraparound services.

“For so long, people have talked about state disinvestment and that being a key root of why tuition has increased,” Smith Ellis said.

This is the state’s attempt to rectify that, she said.

The program is a great move to help the students who need it the most, said Tiffany Jones, senior director of higher education policy at the Education Trust.

“We understand, when introducing a new program, if they don’t have all the resources, they have to make tough choices,” Jones said. “Our response to that is that’s a great start, but that’s not enough.”

Michelle Asha Cooper, president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, also commended the program but called it just a start.

"The Garden State Guarantee is a step in the right direction for states looking to prioritize limited state resources for the students that need the most support," she said in a statement. "While IHEP would prefer to see even greater public investment from state and federal governments to help students from low-income backgrounds to afford both tuition and nontuition expenses, the guarantee's intentional focus on promoting access for students of limited means is quite promising."

Jones added that she was happy to see policy makers follow through and actually expand on the initial community college grants.

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Sri Lanka seeks to attract international universities

Inside Higher Ed - 18 hours 21 min ago

The Sri Lankan government has announced bold plans to reform the country’s university sector, including giving special status to a select group of private institutions and opening up the country to international branch campuses, in a move that critics say will “escalate the marketization of higher education.”

The policy changes include establishing a “free education investment zone” that will provide tax breaks for international universities setting up overseas outposts, under the condition that their academic staff will also support local universities.

However, student places at these campuses would be reserved for “overseas students and nonresident Sri Lankan students who are able to pay in foreign currency,” with students in other parts of South and East Asia the main targets, the government said. Just 5 percent of Sri Lankan students would be offered scholarships to study there.

A 700-acre area in Horana, near the capital of Colombo, has already been identified for this zone, but progress has stalled because of public protests.

The government has also pledged to increase student places in existing institutions by 7,500, or 25 percent, and convert several higher education institutes into universities. Less than 20 percent of students who qualify for university attend due to a cap on places. However, the government said that it would not provide any additional funding for either of these policies.

The country also proposes to grant some private, not-for-profit institutions, which do not have full degree-awarding powers, “chartered university status.” Five institutions have already been recommended for this, which would require any degree programs offered to be approved by the University Grants Commission and for the governing board to include the secretary of higher education as a member.

Harshana Rambukwella, director of the Postgraduate Institute of English at the Open University of Sri Lanka, said that successive governments had tried to implement similar changes but the current administration, formed in November, was more likely to succeed.

He added that “the marketization and privatization of higher education” in Sri Lanka had been ongoing for 20 years, but this was “likely to accelerate and progress much more aggressively” under the proposals.

“The changes that are proposed represent a fundamental reorientation of higher education in the country, where it will essentially be determined by market forces,” he said.

However, Rambukwella questioned whether the country would be able to attract international universities and students and said that he was concerned that the quality of higher education in Sri Lanka would diminish “quite severely,” given that the government will provide only “minimal investment” for the new policies.

“All of this has been packaged as broadening access to higher education in Sri Lanka, but in reality the establishment of a free education zone will achieve nothing of the sort, because it’s not going to cater to local demand,” he added.

John Rogers, director of the Colombo-based American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies, was also “skeptical” of whether Sri Lanka’s branch campus model could “deliver the standards and compete with the Gulf and Malaysia.”

He added that the proposal to grant chartered status to private institutions that charge tuition fees was likely to face “intense political opposition."

“At the moment, fully fledged universities under the UGC can’t charge fees for undergraduate courses … although the political opposition will assume that that is the ultimate aim of the government, because the government wants to increase the number of undergraduates by 25 percent and not spend any more money,” he said.

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QE launches ‘e-Missions’ to reduce emissions

The PIE News - Wed, 02/26/2020 - 14:43

Independent English language school collective Quality English has launched e-Missions, an eco-friendly service for educators to meet agent partners through an online platform.

QE piloted the system earlier in February with five schools and five agents and plans to roll out the ‘e-Missions’ over the coming months to create an “online networking system” for its schools from nine countries and agents around the globe.

“All of the agents and schools were delighted with the new system”

Following the launch of the QE Green Charter indicating how schools can be more eco-friendly, QE has been looking at ways to make our operations more environmentally-friendly, QE chief executive, Jonathan Swindell explained.

“All of the agents and schools were delighted with the new system and we can’t wait to launch a series of e-Missions which will start very soon,” he said.

“We envisage that these events will complement our regular face-to-face Missions, rather than replace them, and allow our schools and agents to become acquainted from the comfort of their homes or offices.”

QE’s Green Charter

The idea to develop online workshops was generated at QE’s Annual Conference in Malaga, and the organisation “wasted no time in starting to look at suitable platforms”, Swindell added.

“We brought together five of our schools with five agents from around Europe to replicate the scenario of a typical QE Mission, in what we believe is an industry-first for a school association.”

QE will soon be launching an online forum for licensees – “QE Connect” – aiming to “further develop the sense of community among the schools and allow them to discuss industry issues and share best practice”, the organisation said.

Earlier this year, QE presented scholarships to 14 public school teachers from across Brazil to experience “life-changing” opportunities overseas.

In partnership with Brazilian agency association, BELTA, the 14 winners were selected following a six-month essay-writing competition. Entrants were asked to describe how an overseas English learning opportunity would enhance their lives and careers.

The 14 winning teachers will study at QE schools.

The competition aimed to offer life-changing opportunities to teachers across Brazil who “might not have otherwise had the opportunity to experience overseas study”, QE chief executive Jonathan Swindell noted.

“The response was huge and we had a hard task choosing the winners,” he said.

“We hope that they will have a fantastic time at their QE school and return to work full of new ideas and skills. Thank you to the whole team at BELTA for being so professional and committed to this fantastic project.”

BELTA president Maura Leao added that the QE schools coming on board with the project will benefit teachers and their students in Brazil.

“We have a great reason to keep doing what we do: promote intercultural education across borders”

“The emotion we all felt seeing the shine in all teacher’s eyes when receiving their scholarships is hard to describe,” she said.

“The English teachers from public schools… teach mostly underprivileged students. Our minds and souls were deeply touched. We have a great reason to keep doing what we do: promote intercultural education across borders.”

The scholarships were presented at a special ceremony during QE’s recent agent workshop in Sao Paolo. See photos from the event here.

QE will be hosting face-to-face missions to China, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, Taiwan and Thailand later in 2020.

The post QE launches ‘e-Missions’ to reduce emissions appeared first on The PIE News.

Int’l students honoured at UK Parliament

The PIE News - Wed, 02/26/2020 - 08:34

UK parliamentarians with met international students for an afternoon tea party in the House of Commons this week, to honour the contribution they make to the country. 

The event was put on by the APPG for International Students, which seeks to recognise the internationalisation and global prominence of UK education. 

“Your presence studying in the UK sends a really powerful message about how the world can work better together”

More than 40 international students studying at UK colleges and universities attended, each selected for their contributions to their local institution or community. 

Co-chair of the APPG for International Students, Paul Blomfield MP spoke at the event, saying he was “delighted” to be joined by the students.  

“We [the APPG] came together to celebrate the contribution that international students make to the life of the UK,” he told attendees. 

“You are a very select bunch of people because you are representing something like half a million international students across every part of the UK.

“Your presence studying in the UK sends a really powerful message about how the world can work better together- the way in which we can learn from each other and how much we have to gain by studying common problems alongside each other,” he added.

It was the fourth time that the APPG for International Students had put such an event for students since it was founded in 2016. This year, Kaplan International Pathways sponsored the event. 

“International students bring so much to this country, socially, in terms of soft power and the economy,” Sue Edwards, director of compliance and accreditation UK and Ireland at Kaplan, told The PIE. 

“We have come such a long way, but there is such a long journey to go. I think we can see today the way these students are sharing experiences with each other… we have to make sure that we have the same visa system to get more international students here. 

“So today is a reminder, I think, of all the work that has gone on, but it is also a celebration to show the achievement of these students,” Edwards added.

Krum Tashev, an international student from the EU, spoke about the difficulties faced by some international students in the UK. 

“On days like today, at events like this, we need to shout out to the great contributions and successes of international students. But we also need to discuss the challenges that we are facing right now,” he said.

“For me, having to go back to Bulgaria because of Brexit, it wasn’t easy. Seeing students racially abused and harassed simply because they are wearing face masks on a daily basis, it wasn’t easy.”

The fact that international students still face barriers in the UK was echoed by Dominik Frej, president of federation of Polish student societies at Queen Mary University of London. 

“I hope that my friends from Poland, my friends from the EU and finally my friends from outside of Europe, will get the chance to study in the UK, without any financial burden and financial problems. This is the goal,” he said. 

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Ireland: UL inks €20m deal with Algerian MoE

The PIE News - Wed, 02/26/2020 - 04:01

A groundbreaking English language deal worth an estimated €20 million to help transform higher education in Algeria has been signed by the University of Limerick in Ireland.

The Algerian government plan to move from French to English as the official language of teaching and learning at third-level is to be supported through a specially designed PhD program offered to visiting students at UL.

UL will facilitate the conversion to English as a teaching medium with the Algerian Ministry of National Education as the country moves to increase the visibility of research in HE institutions.

“We have much to learn from the cooperation with Algeria”

According to a statement on the UL website, the first phase of the project has seen 117 PhD students, the majority of whom are female, join the international PhD program in UL.

Overall the program will see 400 Algerian PhD students study at UL during the four years of the project in a contract estimated to be worth up to €20m.

A Memorandum of Understanding between UL and the Algerian MoE has been signed agreeing to the relationship and the fee structure over the first four years of the project, as well as a contract guaranteeing €5.5m for UL on the initial intake.

The PhD was designed after a think tank of specialists and administration officials came together to find ways to open up the international environment for Algerian universities.

Executive dean and chair in Applied Languages, Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at UL, Helen Kelly-Holmes, said the initiative is a “game-changer” in terms of the university’s international presence and impact.

“We have much to learn from the cooperation with Algeria and it is a fantastic opportunity to help shape the future development of higher education in that country,” she added.

Director of Cooperation and Interuniversity exchanges at the Algerian MoE, Arezki Saidani, said the ministry looks forward to “long-term engagement and fruitful collaboration” with the Irish university.

Mairead Moriarty, assistant dean of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and Senior Lecturer in Applied Linguistics at UL, explained that UL’s first engagement with the proposal came through professor Tewfik Soulimane, an Algerian national who is the head of chemical sciences at UL’s Bernal Institute.

“The Algerian government is moving from teaching everything through the medium of French to the medium of English so they need to upskill staff in higher education, trainee teachers and current students, and they have put aside a significant amount of funding to do this,” she explained.

A UL delegation travelled to Algeria to pitch for the project, where it was explained that Algerian universities were having difficulty accessing funding and attracting international collaborators outside of the French-speaking world.

“We had consultations and presentations to document all of the aspects of our bid to host the candidates, including how the program would look, the types of supports available for international students and how competitive UL was against other Irish and UK universities,” continued Moriarty.

“We were told that they needed to start the switch and publish in English and to ensure that their education system is moved over to English quickly.

“If you really want to be an international player, you can’t just focus on what is happening in your own front yard”

“Our job now is to bring students, who have competed nationally in Algeria for these scholarships, over to us so that they can be trained on how to teach through the medium of English while also doing a PhD at the same time,” she added.

As part of the initiative, a full support network, including on-campus accommodation, has been put in place to help the international students while they are at UL.

Moriarty added that on completion of the international PhD, each of the Algerian students will be well placed to access a lecturing post when they return home.

“We also have a moral responsibility to the developing world and to [help] developing countries to reach their goals. I think the fact that UL is a University of Sanctuary and the fact that we have a huge amount of projects with Irish Aid and a history of doing research that is community-led is important,” she said.

“That type of work can’t just be in our own local community because if you really want to be an international player, you can’t just focus on what is happening in your own front yard.”

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HK int’l schools closure may have “dramatic” impact

The PIE News - Wed, 02/26/2020 - 03:04

With schools suspended in Hong Kong until at least April 20, the French and British Chambers have written an open letter to the Hong Kong government describing “dramatic consequences” for international schools and their financial position as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

“If the specific needs of international schools cannot be rapidly addressed, this will very likely trigger decisions of families (not just expatriates) to leave Hong Kong in the coming weeks,” wrote the chairmen of the two chambers, Rebeca Silli (France) and Peter Burnett (British).

“This will very likely trigger decisions of families… to leave Hong Kong”

Around 9.5% of Hong Kong’s population, numbering around 690,000 people, are foreign or non-Hong Kong Chinese, according to a 2016 census.

The population of the city declined by 0.1% in the last half of 2019 following months of protests, the first time it has seen a decline in two decades. About half of Hong Kong’s foreign population work in a domestic capacity, but the city retains a large financial and business sector to whose children international schools cater.

While the government has announced subsidies for schools, along with a host of other businesses – bus companies, for example, have been feeling the knock-on effect of school closures – it has earmarked just HKD $20,000 (£1,985) for each international school.

The South China Morning Post reported that some private kindergartens were struggling after parents failed to pay tuition fees. This may also come to affect international schools if tuition fees for this semester are withheld.

Whether schools will allow cross-boundary students living in Guangdong province to return to classes at the same time as other students is still uncertain, though there is likely to be pushback against this from Hong Kong parents if the virus continues to spread.

“When we decide whether we will resume classes we will have to make sure that it’s safe for all students to do so, as well [assess] as the impact of having the cross-boundary students coming over to Hong Kong to attend classes,” said the government in a statement.

“It will also depend on the situation at that time of the epidemic both in Hong Kong and Shenzhen… We are still considering different options and have not made any final decision yet.”

Many upcoming exams have been cancelled by the government. However, the written university entrance exams will go ahead on March 27.

Meanwhile in Malaysia, parents are reportedly unhappy after Nord Anglia sent a number of students unable to return to their schools on the Chinese mainland and in Hong Kong to the British International School in Kuala Lumpur.

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Stressors in US HE sector amplify challenges to international ed – AIEA

The PIE News - Wed, 02/26/2020 - 02:34

Where international education in the US is heading in an increasingly uncertain political and global landscape was top of mind for many at the 2020 AIEA Annual Conference, held recently in Washington, D.C.

Convening senior international officers from across the globe, the AIEA conference provides an annual opportunity for attendees to discuss the strategic direction of international education at their home institutions, within the US, and globally.

“It’s not only what’s happening in internationalisation that’s shifting, higher education is changing too”

This year’s theme was ‘Rethinking Comprehensive Internationalization for a Global Generation’, reflecting a growing sense in the field that the internationalisation of the US education has reached an inflection point.

The internationalisation of the US HE sector occurred rapidly, buoyed in large by the tremendous growth in student mobility from the early 2000s to today.

Within the US, international student enrolments have surpassed one million for the past two years. Along with the growth in international enrolments came an increased focus on internationalising the teaching, research and service components of the university.

Yet the tides may be turning. The rapid growth in international students in the US began to taper off in 2015, political rhetoric around globalisation and immigration shifted, and fewer institutions have been establishing outposts or branch campuses abroad.

Higher education must undergo a radical shift. The university must become the kind of institution that focuses less on the individual achievement, and more on the community & community engagement – argues @kfitz at today’s #AIEA2020 opening plenary. pic.twitter.com/nZeWvPqSb6

— ThePIEReview (@ThePIEReview) February 17, 2020

These changes on the international education front are taking place within a broader set of challenges that the US higher education sector faces, such as consolidation and closures of institutions across the nation, changing students demographics, and questions about the future direction of education.

As Cheryl Matherly, immediate past president of AIEA and vice president and vice provost for International Affairs at Lehigh University told The PIE News: “It’s not only what’s happening in internationalisation that’s shifting, higher education is changing too. That is the big picture.

“I think all of us are aware that we are in this period of shift… and we’re all now trying to understand those forces that are going to be the drivers of change within the field, and which ones will have the longest term impact,” Matherly added.

The field may now be experiencing a partial “retrenchment” of the SIO position in particular, Matherly continued, as some institutions reorganise and restructure their departments, offices, and senior leadership.

Anecdotal reports about the retrenchment of SIO positions stands in contrast with the findings from the most recent American Council on Education ‘Mapping Internationalization on U.S. Campuses’ survey, published in 2017. The ACE Mapping survey is published every five years and has been tracking the internationalisation of academia since 2000.

Institutions were increasingly choosing to rely on a single office and SIO leadership to manage the international teaching, research and service activities, the 2017 ACE report found.

In the most recent report, nearly three out of four institutions said that they were accelerating internationalisation on their campus, and 53% said that they had an SIO to coordinate multiple international education activities or programs.

“Are we going to see institutions pulling back from their commitment to internationalisation?

Yet the data published then may no longer reflect the reality on the ground, due to how quickly the context is changing.

“When we see the next round of data, we’re curious to see if those trends we saw three years ago will hold steady,” Matherly told The PIE.

“Are we going to see institutions pulling back from their commitment to internationalisation?” she asked.

“Are we going to see more institutions saying that they’ve eliminated these SIO positions, or have consolidated them with other areas of administration?”

In other words, the 2017 report may prove to be a snapshot of the high watermark of internationalisation in the US.

Past AIEA president and dean for International Education and vice provost for Global Strategy at University at Albany-SUNY, Harvey Charles, told The PIE that internationalisation is “being buffeted” by a number of forces.

“I would ground this characterisation in the fact that internationalisation as a field of endeavour is relatively new,” he explained.

“As a field, we trace the origins of internationalisation to the end of the Second World War, but in terms of it being a mainstream element within the academy, we’re looking at only the past 35 or 40 years.”

Chief among these forces buffeting internationalisation, Charles said, is limited access to resources and funding for internationalisation, despite the fact that it can be a revenue-generator for institutions.

In the 2018/19 academic year alone, international students contributed $41 billion to the U.S. economy, according to NAFSA.

Any decline in enrolments at a particular institution can result in financial pressures, leading at least one school to take proactive measures to insure itself against a potential drop in Chinese student enrolments.

The steep decline in intensive English program enrolments, a trend that began in 2017, was a blow to higher education, Charles said.

IEPs serve as an entry point for many prospective international students to then go on for an undergraduate or graduate degree. They also were – and are – an important source of revenue.

Some prominent thinkers in attendance at the 2020 AIEA conference go a step beyond pointing out international education’s current troubles, arguing that internationalisation’s ‘golden age’ is over – or may have yet to occur.

Or, as Hans de Wit, director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College, put it in a previous PIE Chat, internationalisation is “dead”.

Asked at the 2020 conference if he still stands by that characterisation, de Wit agreed.

“We talk about internationalisation a lot, but it’s becoming a sort of general term without any meaning”

“Yes – in the sense that we talk about internationalisation a lot, but it’s becoming a sort of general term without any meaning,” said de Wit.

He said he sees a distinction between the international education activities being undertaken by colleges and universities and a more value-driven approach to internationalisation as a social enterprise.

“In terms of a really comprehensive internationalisation strategy [on the part] of institutions, of governments, I don’t think it’s happening, partly because there is still a revenue-based approach that’s driving the agenda,” de Wit added.

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‘Consultant Fatigue’ Is Real. How Can Colleges Learn to Welcome Outside Advisers?

A trip to Fort Lewis College, which is embarking on two years of free “turnaround” advising, yielded some answers.

Programs in Italy, South Korea cancel classes and make other changes as coronavirus spreads

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 02/26/2020 - 01:00

American university programs in Italy -- the second-most-popular destination for study abroad programs -- are variously suspending operations and evacuating students, moving classes online, or warning students not to travel domestically as the global spread of the new coronavirus begins to affect international programs in countries outside China, where the virus first originated.

South Korea and Italy have the highest numbers of confirmed cases of COVID-19, as the virus is officially called, outside China, and the rapid spread of the virus in northern Italy in recent days has prompted public health officials to put some cities and towns in the country’s north on lockdown, effectively quarantining an estimated 100,000 people, according to CNN. Authorities in the regions of Lombardy, which includes Milan, and Veneto, which includes Venice, have ordered universities to close through March 2, Bloomberg reported.

Almost 37,000 American students studied abroad in Italy in 2017-18, according to the Institute of International Education’s annual Open Doors survey, and the spread of the virus now threatens to dampen or even derail the experiences of perhaps thousands of students currently studying abroad there.

Among universities that have announced changes to their Italy programs, Syracuse University said Tuesday it was closing its academic program at its Florence campus and would assist students with returning to the United States.

"Concerns for the safety, well-being and free movement of the 342 students in our study abroad program in Florence, Italy, have guided this difficult decision, which was also informed by global health experts," Steven Bennett, Syracuse's senior vice president for international programs and academic operations, said in a statement. "We believe this is absolutely necessary to reduce the risk of our students being unable to leave Italy due to Italian containment efforts."

New York University also cited the potential for travel restrictions in announcing Monday that it was suspending operations at its Florence campus and would begin holding classes remotely through at least March 29. NYU already moved classes at its Shanghai campus online in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

"The occurrence of coronavirus cases has climbed steeply in northern Italy," said John Beckman, a NYU spokesman. "In response, the Italian government has been taking swift action to try to prevent its spread. While we do not believe there is a pressing health threat to the NYU Florence community, the past month has taught us that countries may swiftly and unexpectedly make decisions that can significantly affect one’s ability to travel."

Florida International University said Tuesday that it had canceled all study abroad programs in Italy, Japan, Singapore and South Kore​a due to the spread of the coronavirus and that it was requiring all students and employees in those countries on university travel to return immediately. After China, South Korea and Italy, Singapore and Japan have the fourth- and fifth-largest numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide.​

"Out of an abundance of caution and our responsibility for duty of care, we primarily want to protect our students’ and employees’ well-being," said Kenneth G. Furton, FIU's provost and executive vice president. "At the same time, with the risk of the virus outbreak still not being fully understood, we want to be proactive in calling our students and employees home. The goal is to avoid running the risk of having members of the community remain abroad if further travel restrictions are put in place."

Fairfield University, in Connecticut, is closing a study abroad program in Florence and requiring all enrolled students to leave Italy, a decision that affects 142 students, WTNH, an ABC News affiliate, reported.

Other colleges have kept their programs in Italy open but have taken steps such as restricting student travel. Middlebury College, which has programs in three different Italian cities -- Ferrara, Florence and Rome -- has moved one student from the Ferrara location, in northern Italy, farther south to Rome.

"We are now banning all travel to the affected regions, and we are recommending that students also refrain from traveling anywhere else in Italy," said Carlos J. Vélez-Blasini, the dean of international programs at Middlebury. "We have no recommendation about travel elsewhere in Europe. Students will be told, however, that if they come in contact with anyone suspected of having the COVID-19 they would have be in isolation for 14 days, which could well compromise their ability to complete their academic program."

Brown University has not suspended or canceled its program in Bologna, but a university spokesman said program leaders have taken a number of steps, including temporarily suspending all group cultural activities and program excursions and strongly encouraging students to avoid independent travel to the most directly affected regions.

The American University of Rome said in a statement on its website that it remains open as normal, but it is similarly "looking at the safety/necessity of all student trips, public lectures/meetings, and community travel and will postpone or cancel any that are deemed unnecessary or high risk until further notice."​ AUR also said it is increasing levels of cleaning staff to sanitize AUR spaces; providing hand sanitizer throughout the university; requiring students, faculty and staff with cold or flu symptoms to notify either human resources or the university doctor and stay home if so advised; and extending the university doctor’s hours.

Karen Lancaster, a spokeswoman for Johns Hopkins University, also said the university’s campus in Bologna remains open at this time.

"The leadership team, in consultation with public health authorities and Johns Hopkins’ own experts, continually monitors the situation," she said. "We continue to provide information and resources to our community of scholars, faculty and staff in Italy."

At this point, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend reconsidering travel to Italy, except in the case of older people or people with chronic medical conditions, though it does recommend enhanced precautions.

The CDC has warned against nonessential travel to China since late January, prompting many universities to cancel all university-sponsored and study abroad travel there. Just on Monday the CDC upgraded its travel advisory for South Korea to likewise warn against all travel to that country, citing limited access to adequate medical care in affected areas.

Several American universities have campuses in Incheon, a suburb of Seoul. One of those universities, George Mason University, in Virginia, announced Tuesday that it would postpone the start of face-to-face classes at its Incheon campus for two weeks, until March 9.

The University of Utah, which also has a campus in Incheon, has moved all classes online and will reassess whether to continue online teaching in early March, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

The State University of New York said in a statement that its spring semester at the Incheon campus would start March 2, but the first two weeks of lectures will be taught online. Placement exams and registration for incoming freshmen are taking place as planned this week, but exam and registration sites are restricted to 10 people per room and students must wear masks and have their temperature taken before entering the room. The university is mandating masks be worn in all SUNY Korea facilities and is advising members of the campus community to wash hands frequently and abstain from going to public places or meeting in large groups.

Even as American universities try to navigate the threat posed by coronavirus in relation to their international operations, they increasingly face the threat of an outbreak in the U.S. Top American health authorities warned Tuesday that Americans should prepare for the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S., that it was no longer a question of if but when.

Julie Anne Friend, the director of Northwestern University's Office of Global Safety and Security, emphasized how quickly the situation surrounding COVID-19 is evolving and the complexities and scale of the problem.

Friend said the last time universities dealt with these sorts of circumstances, as in the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS; the H1N1 flu; or even Ebola, universities weren't dealing with the same kind and volume of travel or some of the same complexities in terms of the number of different health authorities involved.

"I think it’s such an unnerving circumstance to think that an individual could be quarantined that people are acting more prudently than maybe they would have in the past," she said.

Friend stressed the importance of college officials planning for various scenarios, of asking, "What happens if X happens -- really thinking outside of the box."

"I don’t know if this is a new normal. I hope that at some point this whole thing slows down," she said. "But I do think that preparing for things like this is the new normal."

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Concordia students say bias reports were met with silence

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 02/26/2020 - 01:00

Students who have made efforts to change the racial dynamics at Concordia College are worried their reports of racist incidents on campus are falling on deaf ears as concerns about a white professor who used a racial slur during class have been met largely with silence.

That incident and others were referenced during a student government forum held last month on Martin Luther King Jr. Day for students of color to share experiences of “hardships, difficult situations and oppression” at the Lutheran liberal arts college in Moorhead, Minn. The students are frustrated with how race is discussed on the largely white campus and how administrators have handled past incidents of racism. They say when reports are made to the college's Bias Incident and Response Team, or BIRT, the default response by administrators is to send out a standard email, according to notes from the student government forum.

"The BIRT is here to receive, review, and assess reports of bias, and where necessary, forward the report to the appropriate investigating and sanctioning office on campus," said one such response. "BIRT does not have investigative or sanctioning authority. The BIRT is now in the process of reviewing and discussing your report."

The student activists say such cut-and-paste​ responses are unacceptable, insensitive and do little to address the problems or bridge racial divides on a campus that is 82 percent white.

“Students want to have these conversations and want to be heard,” said a white student who is involved in several campus governance groups and did not want to be identified. “It’s almost like gaslighting. We’re told that they want us to talk about this, then [we are] not heard.”

The incident involving the professor who used the racial slur was reported multiple times to the BIRT and raised repeatedly at the forum. Richard Chapman, who is also chairman of the history department, wrote the N-word on a board and said it multiple times during a class exercise in which students were asked to write terms describing both light- and dark-skinned people on opposite sides of a board, said Sutton Junkermeier, a white sophomore who took the course. When no student had written or referenced the slur by the end of the activity, Chapman took it upon himself to write and say it, said Paige Mackedanz, another student in the class.

Students in the class, including two black students, some of whom were visibly uncomfortable, did not respond. They didn't see much “academic purpose” in referencing the slur, Junkermeier said.

One of the black students subsequently dropped the course, leaving Anita Ukpokolo as the sole student of color in the class. Ukpokolo said she went to each following class with “a bit of a grudge.” She said the rest of the course felt like a “disservice” to her white classmates, because Chapman was teaching black history without putting it in the context of today's racial climate, which Ukpokolo said could have been enlightening.

“He can talk about what he observed, but he’s never felt it," Ukpokolo, a junior, said of Chapman's expertise on black history. "Any part of history or connection of the history that he’s talking about, I just don’t think he can rightfully stand up and say he’s the best person in the room to have knowledge on the subject.”

A handful of students at the January forum wondered aloud whether Chapman should be instructing the course.

“A white man should not be teaching black history,” said one student, according to notes taken by the SGA. “If they don't have a person who is representative of the class, don't teach it.”

Chapman has since apologized for using the racial slur and recently tried to explain his actions. In a letter to the editor he wrote last week to The Concordian, the student-run newspaper, he said he was “simply mistaken to invite discussion of the ‘N-word’ at that moment.”

"What happened back in late August? In short: a discussion about racial language and terminology that turned to use of the 'N-word,' a subject that I introduced into the conversation," Chapman wrote. "Right place, wrong time, wrong way … I have since thought long and hard about that discussion from the standpoint of my position as a white male professor. Here’s the thing: what may be academic to some -- a matter of history -- is lethal and ever-present to others -- not past at all."

Days after the incident in his black history class, Chapman invited his students to a meeting with the college's chief diversity officer, Edward Antonio, where Chapman formally apologized for using the racial slur. Chapman also resigned from his position as chairman of the college president's Diversity Council around the same time, according to his Concordian editorial.

“I am grieved by the hurt and damage done and want to express my sincerest apologies,” Chapman wrote in an email inviting the students to the meeting. “I am truly sorry and seek your forbearance and forgiveness.”

Ukpokolo and Mackedanz, a white student, said the professor seemed to talk around his use of the racial slur during the meeting, instead of addressing it outright.

“I don’t really remember him saying, ‘I said this, that was wrong, I’m sorry,’” Mackedanz said. “He used a lot of academic language to dance around what happened.”

Junkermeier said there was "something of the sort" of an apology during the meeting. As a white student majoring in education, he said he was able to give Chapman the benefit of the doubt and tried to see the educational reasons for using the term.

"I wouldn’t say that he should lose his job or stop teaching the class, but I would advise him to be more careful with the lessons and to plan ahead."

Mackedanz attended the student government forum in January and said she felt compelled to file a report about Chapman to the BIRT afterward because of the continued impact the incident had on students of color across the college. She believed filing the report might prompt more investigation of the incident or conversations between the Office of Diversity and students of color about a possible resolution.

What resulted was an emailed reply from Antonio, saying the BIRT is "here to provide you with direction towards resources you might need as you think through and process your experience" and informing her that the office was already aware of the incident. He offered to meet with Mackedanz, and she took him up on the offer but never heard back.

When a video surfaced on social media in May 2019 depicting a Concordia student using racial epithets and white supremacist gestures, Antonio told INFORUM, a local news service, that Concordia "was aware of the video and was working to 'address the matter.'" But it was "not exactly clear what action the college is taking with the student," INFORUM reported.

Antonio did not reply to requests for comment. Amy Kelly, Concordia's communications director, acknowledged the incident with Chapman in a statement from the college but declined to provide any additional details about how the matter was handled.

“Given the important and sensitive nature of the situation, the college conducted an official review,” Kelly wrote in an email. “The process followed standard college policies and procedures. While the individual course and instructor are now a matter of public record, the college cannot speak publicly regarding personnel matters.”

Mackedanz said her experience was reflective of how Concordia typically handles racial bias incidents -- “they don’t handle it at all.”

“It’s swept under the rug,” she said. “Things happen and nothing comes out of it, even when students raise their voices and go through the proper channels. It doesn’t seem like that system is working, so how can we change that?”

Ukpokolo said when the incident first happened, she wrote a report to the BIRT but never sent it because she was “doubtful that it would do anything.”

“I didn’t really believe in the process,” Ukpokolo said.

Chapman’s apology has not been enough for students of color to look past the college’s tendency to “sweep incidents of bias under the rug while pretending to be champions in advancing and advocating for the need of literacy and action in issues of diversity,” said an international student who has been involved in several campus governance groups and did not want to be identified. Students who have voiced their frustrations about bias incidents have been met with “no acknowledgment whatsoever,” the student said.

This student and the other student who did not want to be named said they were frustrated with going through the proper channels to report bias incidents and seek redress by the college, only to have their concerns ignored.

Josh Lysne, assistant vice president for communications, said reports of bias incidents are not being ignored.

The college sends a “standard acknowledgement email” to those who submit bias reports, he said in a written statement. The sender is contacted, offered support and encouraged to share more details if they want to, but the “specific outcomes of these reports are not made public,” he said.

“As a matter of best practice and concern for personal confidentiality, the college does not publicly respond to official reports of bias submitted to the college,” Lysne said. “The college recognizes some may criticize this practice for lack of transparency.”​

Students also referenced to two separate occasions in 2017 and 2018 when “It’s OK to be white” posters were anonymously plastered all over the campus. Although the posters were removed, about 500 students -- a quarter of the undergraduates enrolled at the time -- protested in 2018, one of the students who did not want to be named recalled. William Craft, Concordia's president, responded to the 2017 incident by publishing a lengthy statement to the college’s Facebook page, encouraging “open conversation about the experience of race on this campus and beyond.”

Students said they have not yet seen evidence or results of these conversations.

“Any attempt to address students of color’s campus issues has usually been the campus trying to cover their asses and make sure they have something they can reference to say we’ve taken action on this issue,” Ukpokolo said. “This college is relatively new to this element of diversity. It takes a long time for it to stick and become part of the culture.”

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Education Department says House committee is seeking to abuse power with subpoena threat

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 02/26/2020 - 01:00

Three weeks ago the U.S. House of Representatives' oversight committee threatened it might subpoena U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos if she didn’t confirm she would appear before the body on March 3 to answer an array of questions.

It doesn’t sound like DeVos is going to go.

Instead of an RSVP, the acting general counsel for the Education Department sent the committee a scathing letter pushing back at what he considers to be overreach by the committee -- and saying the subpoena threat “signals an unhealthy appetite for the abuse of congressional power.”

The Feb. 7 letter from Reed Rubinstein went on to say the threat provides “strong reason to believe the demand for the secretary’s testimony has nothing to do with a good, fair and constitutional process.”

The department’s letter, first reported by Inside Higher Ed, is uncommonly aggressive and further ramps up what’s already been a tense relationship between the Democratic majority on the oversight committee and DeVos, said Clare McCann, New America’s federal policy director and a senior policy adviser at the department during the Obama administration.

“I never saw wording like this,” McCann said of her time at the department, even though it was under scrutiny from Republican lawmakers.

“My read is that things are escalating” and it seems unlikely the committee will back off, she said.

Indeed, Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York responded to a tweet about the letter noting the DeVos administration apparently doesn't appreciate being subpoenaed: "Then she should show up and do her job, instead of campaigning for #IMPOTUS," she said.

Then she should show up and do her job, instead of campaigning for #IMPOTUS. https://t.co/qtWMwM3QBw

— Carolyn B. Maloney (@CarolynBMaloney) February 25, 2020

And a senior Democratic oversight committee aide, in response to Rubinstein's letter, left open the possibility of issuing the subpoena.

"The oversight committee is investigating Secretary DeVos’s failure to protect students, borrowers and survivors of sexual assault, but she has repeatedly stonewalled and refused to provide documents and witnesses," the aide said in a statement. "We have tried to work with her in good faith to find a mutually agreeable date, but we will not take any option off the table to ensure that she testifies before the Committee."

Relations between the committee and the department had already been tense, with Maloney, the committee’s Democratic chairwoman, accusing DeVos of stonewalling attempts to get her to come answer questions about a range of issues, including how it was handling the dismissal of student debt for those defrauded by colleges and universities, the breaking off of negotiations with a union representing department workers, its oversight of student loans, and a final rule DeVos could issue as soon as this week to change how institutions handle allegations of sexual assault and harassment on campus.

Maloney noted the secretary found time to campaign for President Trump.

“Ignoring -- or defying -- requests for congressional oversight in order to spend your time campaigning for President Trump is an abuse of your position as Secretary of Education,” Maloney wrote DeVos on Feb. 3, giving her until Feb. 7 to commit to testifying before the panel at next week’s hearing, or “the committee will need to consider compulsory process to obtain your testimony.”

But on the day of the deadline, Rubinstein wrote back calling the allegation of an abuse of power for DeVos appearing on behalf of Trump in Iowa and Pennsylvania earlier this month a “breathtakingly wrong statement” and counterfactual.

Instead, the department said it has responded to requests from the oversight committee and others that it considers “reasonable and lawful.” The department cooperated in those cases by “turning over massive numbers of records, providing in-camera reviews of privileged documents, conducting expert issue briefings for staff and principals, and when appropriate making department officials, including the secretary, available for live committee testimony.”

He also said the department is working to answer the committee’s questions about private collection agencies and processing borrower-defense claims and offered to set up a meeting with financial aid officials to answer questions. Rubinstein also said DeVos or senior officials have testified before Congress 12 times since January 2019, and that the secretary is scheduled to appear before the House appropriations committee on Thursday.

However, on other matters, like the department’s coming new rule requiring those accused of sexual assault or harassment on campuses to have a right to cross-examine their accusers and its suspension of a contract negotiation with a union representing agency workers, he wrote, “You demand testimony on matters for which the committee has previously conducted no oversight.”

Rubinstein said the committee has “stonewalled and refused to answer” the department's repeated questions about “the bases for and lawful purpose of your demands.”

He continued, “We will not -- and as a matter of constitutional principle must not -- accede to broad and paralyzing demands for information with only the remotest connection to any proper purpose or participate in hearings that are not calculated to facilitate lawful congressional activity.”

“The committee’s course of dealing, its refusal to provide clarity and narrow issues, and its baseless threatened subpoena all provide strong reason to believe the demand for the secretary’s testimony has nothing to do with a good, fair and constitutional process,” he wrote. Rubinstein also said the committee's actions, “including the threatened subpoena to compel testimony on unspecified or previously unaddressed matters, suggest a distressing disregard for the dynamic process of accommodation required by law. It also signals an unhealthy appetite for the abuse of congressional power.”

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Colleges start new academic programs

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 02/26/2020 - 01:00
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TEQSA-ITECA MoU signals new era of cooperation

The PIE News - Tue, 02/25/2020 - 11:07

A new agreement between the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency and the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia has signaled a renewed commitment to cooperate on issues that protect student interests and the reputation of Australia’s independent higher education sector.

TEQSA is Australia’s independent national quality assurance and regulatory agency for higher education, and ITECA is the peak body representing independent providers in the higher education, vocational education, training and skills sectors.

“As challenges arise in the sector, TEQSA and ITECA can collaborate”

Of the 1.5 million students in higher education in Australia, nearly 10% are with independent higher education providers.

“Independent providers are a valued component of the higher education sector and have a track-record of delivering great outcomes for students,” said Anthony McClaran, TEQSA chief executive officer.

“This new memorandum of understanding with ITECA strengthens our positive engagement with independent providers and allows TEQSA to work to identify emerging trends in the sector and respond as appropriate,”

TEQSA and ITECA have enjoyed a long-standing collaborative relationship which is underpinned by a shared interest in supporting independent higher education providers’ commitment to quality.

“The open engagement that we have with TEQSA, underpinned by this agreement, ensures that our members’ views are fully considered as the regulator undertakes its compliance activity,” added Troy Williams, ITECA chief executive.

“As challenges arise in the sector, TEQSA and ITECA can collaborate on the best way to support independent higher education providers.”

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Worldview launches Study in Ghana

The PIE News - Tue, 02/25/2020 - 10:39

Higher education solutions company Worldview has launched a Study in Ghana initiative with the aim of attracting students from Africa, Europe, Asia, and America to study in the west African country.

A coalition of institutions in Ghana powered by recruitment platform findadmission.com, the launch of Study in Ghana was welcomed by the country’s minister of Education, Matthew Opoku Prempeh, who said it fits into the government’s initiatives to promote Ghana around the world and encourage investment into the country.

“It is time to let the world know that Africa being recorded as the birth site of civilisation is not a myth”

The minister said the country is now open to attract international students and to improving the quality of education in the continent.

The aim of the initiative is to help international students with their application process and answer all questions they might have about living and studying in Ghana.

Through the service, students can enrol in full degree programs, participate in summer schools and exchange programs provided by Ghanaian universities.

Founder of findadmission.com and the CEO of Worldview, Folabi Obembe, said he has always been critical of the phrase ‘brain drain in Africa’ because he believes that mobility enriches teaching and learning.

He said his only concern was the fact that the mobility of students in Africa is always “one way” with no stream of students coming to Africa to study.

“This is why we decided to embark on a journey to promote countries in Africa as a study destination and to encourage a more organised migration of students in the continent,” Obembe said.

“It is time to let the world know that Africa being recorded as the birth site of civilisation is not a myth. We started this movement in Ghana because we believe that Ghana has all it requires to take the lead in marketing its education sector within Africa and around the world,” he added.

In cooperation with member institutions in Ghana, Worldview will use its global student recruitment platform and experience in international education marketing to make the application procedures easier and more efficient for both students and the universities.

“Study in Ghana is here to support student mobility within Africa, present African institutions to the rest of the world, make quality education more accessible, and to increase general knowledge about Ghana worldwide,” added Obembe.

“Study in Ghana is ideal for students interested in summer school, study abroad programs or pursuing a full undergraduate or master’s degree in Ghana. We are making the necessary information readily available, connecting students and institutions, and we are constantly working on making the application procedures as simple and smooth as possible.”

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Language schools fear losses due to COVID-19 outbreak across Italy

The PIE News - Tue, 02/25/2020 - 09:04

Following a number of confirmed cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Italy, sector stakeholders have told The PIE News of the impact that the postponement or cancellation of student trips could potentially have on their businesses.

The Italian ministry of education has restricted school educational trips with in the country and abroad due to the virus for a period of two weeks at least, while individuals can still travel.

The Lombardy and Veneto regions in the north of the country have the majority of confirmed cases of coronavirus.  On February 25, however, more cases were detected in the south of the country – in Tuscany and Sicily.

“For certain it has had an immediate negative impact both on Italian agencies and foreign schools”

Italy’s minister of education Lucia Azzolina said the suspension of educational trips since Sunday is a “precaution that in my opinion is necessary for this scenario”.

“The government and health authorities are doing serious and painstaking work taking into account a rapidly changing picture,” Azzolina said.

The Italian Association of Language Consultants and Agents added the ministry has frozen every kind of school trip and study trip in Italy as well as abroad for a period of 14 days.

“As a result, those groups of students that have already booked flights, courses and accommodation have remained and will remain in Italy,” IALCA said in a statement.

Pina Foti president of IALCA explained that it is “hard to say” if the suspension will be extended beyond 14 days.

“For certain it has had an immediate negative impact both on Italian agencies and foreign schools,” she said, adding that the group will maintain direct contact with the ministry in order to provide updates on the evolving situation to agents and school partners.

“IALCA trusts in the foreign schools’ understanding and flexibility with regard to a possible rescheduling of school groups’ departures and dates of stay.”

But regardless of the destination, school groups have been cancelling their departure, Paolo Barilari, IALCA vice president and owner of Lingue nel Mondo told The PIE.

“In low season most of the business is with school groups,” Barilari said.

Reimbursements and postponing courses were vital to “reduce to the minimum the negative economic effect of this situation”, he added.

“Groups give a very low net profit to the agents; being forced to reimburse the students would be very difficult. That is why we rely on the flexibility of the language schools and of the airline companies.”

Principal of inlingua Cheltenham, David Arrowsmith, noted that three Italian groups booked for March will likely be affected due to the ministry’s decision, as well as individuals for the school’s general and business English courses.

“At the moment we have only received a cancellation from a company in Italy who had four corporate clients booked with us for the month of March – they may come later in the year – we do not know,” he said.

“Financially we will lose about £60,000 in March and going forward up to £150-200k”

“We anticipate that the three groups booked in March will cancel, although still no word.

“I am thinking the Italian agents likewise are holding back cancelling at the moment in the hope the ban will be lifted. But I think the March groups will cancel and from April onwards we will see.”

If the ban continues into the summer inlingua would “potentially have five-six groups cancel and other individuals,” Arrowsmith said, adding that the impact will then become “significant” for his school.

“I should imagine for the large chain schools the damage would be hard to deal with as Italian is such a huge summer market for the UK,” he said.

“If all cancel, financially we will lose about £60,000 in March and going forward up to £150-200k which for a single school like us is significant.”

Chinese and Japanese group cancellations is also compounding the situation for many, Arrowsmith added.

Delfin English School London general manager, Mike Summerfield, explained that one group due to start this week had cancelled on Monday.

“We have a contract this summer for more than 350 students over six weeks across both our locations. Hopefully, the travel ban will be finished by then,” he said.

St Giles International‘s Group Sales and Marketing director & deputy CEO, Hannah Lindsay, said that despite not having any Italian groups arriving imminently the school has groups for the summer who are still planning on coming.

“We believe that the fears surrounding the virus are affecting Italian bookings though, according to our overseas partners there,” she added.

Commercial manager at Bayswater College, Jamie Tyler, said he does not expect any groups to travel from Italy before March 8, resulting in some cancellations.

“We remain hopeful that these groups will postpone their travel rather than cancel and are working with our partners to offer flexibility with travel dates,” he noted.

“This is a time where we need to be supportive of our partners”

“This is a time where we need to be supportive of our partners and be aware that decisions from parents may be delayed and be prepared for shorter notice of travel.”

Co-founder and president of Italian agency Crewative Fabio Boccio told The PIE that although he didn’t have any groups for the next two weeks, he does for the summer.

“I hope the situation will be better, which despite my positive mindset, I don’t think will be the case,” he explained.

“What it is happening is pretty much catastrophic, but the fact that I have been able to diversify my offer in the past two years has protected my business.”

Jodie Gray, interim chief executive of English UK, said: “We are working with IALCA, the Department for International Trade and the British Council to get the most up-to-date information for our members in a fast-moving situation. We’re also seeking legal advice on the situation around refunds which we hope to be able to share in the coming days.

“Many of our members have groups booked over the next two or three weeks and we really feel for them.”

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Thailand: Embassies to help find teachers

The PIE News - Tue, 02/25/2020 - 07:26

The Ministry of Education in Thailand has held a meeting with several embassies to discuss how to recruit more English language teachers for schools across the country.

The Bangkok Post reported education minister Nataphol Teepsuwan as saying “a large number of teachers are necessary as we are working on upgrading the entire education system” following the meeting.

English First’s English-language proficiency index currently ranks Thailand in the 74th spot out of 100. Levels of English are slightly higher in cities such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai and lower in the South and North East.

“[The proficiency of] approximately 75% of English teachers [is] below B1”

The British Council in Thailand told The PIE News that a lack of English proficiency in the country is exacerbated by the proficiency of “approximately 75% of English teachers [being] below B1” and teaching methodology that is often “traditional and not communicative”.

From 2016-18 the British Council worked with Thailand on a professional development program to help 17,000 teachers improve their English skills.

However, the Thai government appears to be particularly focused on hiring teachers from abroad. There are currently around 7,000 foreign teachers in Thai schools but they say a further 10,000 are required.

Foreign English teachers in the country come from varied backgrounds, some being graduates who come to teach for a semester or two, while others are professionally qualified teachers at international schools and universities.

Three years ago, Thailand released a report on how it plans to modernise its education system covering 2017-2036 in which it promotes extensive reform to the current education system as the country prepares to “overcome the middle-income trap towards developed country status within the next 15 years”.

It particularly noted its work with organisations such as the UN and ASEAN, in addition to cooperation with other countries, as showing its intentions towards “improving the quality of education and personnel towards international standards”.

“The Ministry of Education has put an emphasis on proactive action to build strong relationships with Ministries of Education in other countries both at regional and international levels,” the report added.

The British Council further said that discussions regarding teachers were at an early stage and ongoing.

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US: English Language Testing Society launched

The PIE News - Tue, 02/25/2020 - 05:12

The English Language Testing Society announced its official launch on February 18, hoping to become the “leading advocate for excellence in English language testing”.

A community of assessment specialists, test developers, language teachers, program administrators, and all other stakeholders interested best practices related to English language testing, the organisation hopes to raise awareness for best practice in English language testing, according to ELTS president Eddy White.

“ELTS will work to advance, improve, promote and develop a wider understanding of guidelines and best practices for language assessment systems”

ELTS is to advocate for excellence in English language testing “throughout the world”, while also advancing improvement and promoting the English language testing profession.

Membership is open to those new to the field as well as long time professionals, and anyone who joins before March 20 will be classified as the “founding members”.

With a strong dedication for promoting English language testing at a high standard, ELTS has an international mix of members on their board of trustees.

“We are very excited to launch this new society. ELTS will work to advance, improve, promote and develop a wider understanding of guidelines and best practices for language assessment systems worldwide,” explained White.

ELTS is hosted by the Division of Continuing and Professional Education at the University of California, Davis.

Annual membership information may be found here.

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