14 January

US Universities Lose Money on Research

- Education Worldwide

January 13, 2014

Most universities lose money on research, according to an analysis published in the journal Technology and Innovation – Proceedings of the National Academy of Inventors. The study notes that universities seek (and receive) research grants from the federal governments and other sources. But the study also says that these grants cover such a small share of “indirect costs” of research — such as staffing, equipment and facilities — that typically institutions lose money. The authors of the paper are Karen Holbrook, former president of Ohio State University, and Paul R. Sanberg, senior vice president for research and innovation at the University of South Florida.

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2014/01/13/paper-universities-lose-money-research#ixzz2qJh4Kydl
Inside Higher Ed

09 January

University expansion in a changing global economy. Triumph of the BRICs?

- Education Worldwide

Carnoy, Martin, et al. University Expansion in a Changing Global Economy: Triumph of the BRICs?. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013.

BRICsThe four largest developing economies – Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) are important international players today, however their future role in the globalized economy will depend on how and to what extent they develop their higher education systems. China has carried out major transformations of its higher education system as well as has been able to improve quality of research; thus, it is likely to turn its economy into a highly developed powerhouse over the next generation

The case of Russia is less clear. The State is in the early stage of trying to reorganize its higher education system and seems little committed to transforming Russia’s economy from oil dependence. On the other hand, this country has a big advantage in the deeply university-trained human capital and its qualified labor force, but the State is not doing much to organize the society to compete in the global knowledge economy.

Brazil is showing itself as an innovative society which is producing high-quality research in universities through a greater investment than the other BRICs in R&D. If these trends go on together with decreasing poverty rates the country could keep its GDP growing and acquire stronger global relevance. Its higher education system experienced a rapid expansion and has increased access for the poor, but the threat of low quality of pre-tertiary education and higher education being mostly private is still there

India gets the most pessimistic picture. Its main weakness is the difficulty to expand education while increasing quality. Enrollment in higher education is growing but almost all in very low quality institutions, many of them private. India is also investing very little in higher education and is facing several challenges, e.g. rural and urban poverty or gender inequality.

Therefore, there is no doubt about BRICs turning into even more relevant global actors, but their future position in the International Community will depend at a great extent on the next steps they will take regarding to higher education.

19 December

Tech-Enabled Experiments Must Be Part of Education Reform, U.S. Report Says

- Education Worldwide

The U.S. Education Department must experiment with alternative models, such as stackable credentials and competency-based programs, as part of broader reforms of the nation´s postsecondary-education system, according to a report titled “A Path Forward.” published on 8/12/2013 by the Center for American Progress. The call for reforms aligns with goals of combating rising costs in higher education, addressing workplace needs and clearing the way for innovation.

Competency-based education receives special attention in the report. It calls for the development of standards and measures -based on job placement, earnings, and other factors- to assess the productivity of such alternative models. It also advocates engaging employers in order to better align higher education with workplace needs. Today, employers draw candidates with certain majors but may not know much about their actual workplace skills. Among the most prominent competency-based programs are those offered by Western Governors U. and Southern New Hampshire U.

Existing technology systems are named  part of the problem. They buttress a higher-education system that continues to deliver instruction by in-person and online classes held 2 or 3 times a week for up to 15 weeks. These systems will need to be modified significantly to record credits earned not in a classroom but ultimately to be awarded based on an assessment, the report says.

Even bigger changes will need to take place at the organizational level of colleges, with entirely new roles for administrators and faculty members. Some will specialize in the technology used to deliver content, and some will focus on assessment, but both will have little responsibility for instruction. Others will be instructional coaches, helping students through particularly difficult learning modules and competencies.

Read in full:

Tech-Enabled Alternatives Must Be Part of Education Reform, Report Says

“A Path Forward” Report

19 December

What does Mandela mean for ordinary people in South Africa

- Misc.

The most touching Mandela tribute came from the least expected place…

The choir began an “impromtu” rendition of Asimbonanga [We have not seen him], singing:

Asimbonanga [we have not seen him]
Asimbonang’ uMandela thina [we have not seen Mandela]
Laph’ekhona [in the place where he is]
Laph’ehleli khona [in the place where he is kept]

Asimbonang ‘umfowethu thina [we have not seen our brother]
Laph’ekhona [in the place where he is]
Laph’wafela khona [in the place where he died]
Sithi: Hey, wena [We say: hey, you]
Hey, wena nawe [Hey, you and you]
Siyofika nini la’ siyakhona [when will we arrive at our destination]

The song was written during Mandela’s incarceration as a call for his freedom.

17 December

What does Mandela mean for the world?

- Misc.

MandelaMany things, which will become clearer with deeper reflection. There is nostalgia for the example of the life dedicated to the public good, now a chimera in an age of cheap populism. There is affirmation for the principle of leadership through values. And here, Mandela’s life and death could be a mirror from the South back to the North. We should remember that Margaret Thatcher’s government denigrated him as a terrorist.*

We should also remember that apartheid was founded in the racism of British colonialism…

Read in full:
Mandela saw equality of opportunity through education as the key to emancipation


* as the US government also did. It was only in 2008 when Mandela was removed from the US terrorist list.
In fact, as reported by William Blum, it was the US Central Intelligence Agency tip about Mandela’s whereabouts and appearences that helped the security service of South African government arrest Mandela.

16 December

Horizon 2020: high expectations and first concerns

- Education Worldwide


The much expected Horizon 2020 was launched by the European Commission last week with the first call for the Research and Innovation Funding Framework for 2014-2020.


Although universities and other stakeholders positively reacted to the announcement, some doubts concerning evaluation have arisen. The European University Association Dr Lidia Borrell-Damián, Director of Research and Innovation commented that it is not clear how the decision will be made when some projects are awarded the same scores. It seems that the Grant Award Panel will be responsible for that decision, but no criteria have been settled so deliberation might appear somewhat arbitrary. Dr. Borrell-Damián believes that Horizon 2020 introduces an element of uncertainty because within a broader topic many different disciplines and approaches fall in. Thus, stakeholders wonder on what basis Panels will decide on one proposal over the other in the event that both are highly marked.

On the other hand, a recent League of European Research Universities (hereinafter LERU) press release states that the final result is much better than the initial proposal by the European Commission in November 2011. Notwithstanding that, LERU remarks that the EU’s choice to support growth areas such as research and innovation, but also education, could have been even more outspoken as originally proposed by the European Commission and the European Parliament. Moreover, the press release points out that it will be crucial to monitor how Horizon 2020 will be implemented and how its ambitious goals will be translated into practice.

These drawbacks should not subtract interest from Horizon 2020. It will probably boost research and innovation throughout Europe as well as cooperation between organizations and countries, which would surely add value to future projects. Nevertheless, in the very beginning of that 7 years framework, there still are quite a few details to clarify.

Read for more opinions:

EU opens the €80 billion Horizon 2020 to researchers

LERU Press Release

02 December

Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women: not much to celebrate yet

- Misc.

endViolenceDay for the Elimination of Violence against Women was celebrated as each November 25. In spite of the traditional institutional events, public statements and motions and a big array of good intentions and wills, the situation for women is today worse than it was some years ago. Some data and testimonies coming from Spain are woefully representative of that reality.

Carolina García from Tu Voz Cuenta (Your Voice Matters) campaign asserts that cuts in social policy limits the chance for women to make their own choices regarding to their bodies, relationships and autonomy and represent a new type of violence against women. Immaculada Montalbán, President of the Gender-Based Violence Observatory of the Spanish General Council of Judiciary (henceforth CGPJ) states that in such a context of uncertainty women are less likely to report violence to the police because they feel much more dependent on their partners. CGPJ points out that before the crisis 30% of abused women reported their situation to the police; today only 16% dare.

According to CGPJ’s data, reports decreased by 10% between 2008 and 2012 in Spain. The Catalan Ministry of Internal Affairs  claims that women murdered by men jumped from 9 in 2008 to 15 in 2012 (+67%), while reports and convictions fell by 3% and 25% respectively. Crisis has heavily worsened women situation as they are now more dependent and vulnerable. Less individual economic resources and harmful budget cuts are threatening several previous achievements which are increasingly being wounded.

20 November

A Break-through Step Toward Open Access and OER Movement?

- OpenEd & OER

vimeoIn a Memo to the faculty members released on Nov.18, The University of California system informed its faculty that after two years of evaluations and reviews,  the Academic Council voted in July 2013 to adopt a new Open Access Policy for publishing scholarly articles.  The policy was released, on a pilot basis, in three out of ten campuses, on Nov.1, 2013 and will be officially rolled out at the other campuses in one year, if the outcome of the pilot would be positive.

The new policy allows- but does not require- faculty to publish in OA journals;  instead, it commits faculty to making a version of each article available publicly in an OA repository  (UC´s  eScholarship  digital repository  or another  OA repository).It is important that the faculty will keep legal control over their publications, if they  wish, by opting out of the policy for any given article, by delaying  the release of the open version (“embargo” it) or by stating their terms of use (commercial vs non-commercial reuse).

This UC policy might become a vital catalyst to the whole community of informed  but  not convinced researchers who would like to be socially responsible  but to do so on their   own terms.  Policies like this one have been adopted by more than 175 universities and  by larger systems, however, they often remain  an emphatic manifesto  not  provided by means or mechanisms to implement them.  In this case, when a large,  influential  player like the University of California sends a strong signal of commitment   to the cause, it may help the OA and OER Movement  finally break through.

To read more:

UCLA  details on implementing, costs, OA license waivers, embargos, etc

 Watch a 90-second video about the policy.

 How easy it is to deposit your articles in eScholarship

The extensive policy Q&A list

31 October

Open Access and Education: a work in progress

- OpenEd & OER

Open Access Week

Last week, Oct. 21-27, the International Open Access Week was celebrated: a global event, now in its 6th year, promoting Open Access as a new norm in scolarship and research. The Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) took part of it by preparing a competition consisting in a questionnaire on copy rights and open access and a Workshop on OER, which were organized by Cristina Vaquer from the UOC Virtual Library. The workshop was broadcasted.

 This year the University decided to focus on licenses and copyright, so the workshop was named “Open Access, repositories and copyleft“. It was conducted by Julià Minguillón and Ignasi Labastida. Julià Minguillón, faculty member at the Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunication Dept. of the UOC, who is a strong advocate and expert in OER research and use, spoke about the concept and uses of Open Educational Resources. He emphasized the importance of interacting with and feedback from users and also pointed out some threats and weaknesses, as cultural differences may bring distinct, sometimes opposite meanings to an original material, or language can act as a boundary making resources not feasible to be used anywhere.

 An UNESCO survey in 2006 showed that there was a huge need for awareness of the OER potential. However, Minguillón considers that the impact of OER now is growing and many new initiatives have been launched. Open Up Education is an example of the increasing presence of OER and the boost given to the movement by institutions and professionals, e.g. Andrew Valls from the Oregon State University, who wrote in CHE:

 “we should look upon online lectures and similar materials as a way to draw on others’ expertise…One should hope that eventually there would be a wide variety of lectures available online from which professors and students could choose”.

 Ignasi Labastida from the University of Barcelona, who represents Creative Commons (CC) in Spain focused on open licenses. Producing open content entails providing creators and users with open formats that make possible that these are copied and freely accessible but also that authorship is publicly recognized. In this regard, CC licenses display a wide range of possibilities: authors can allow or forbid commercial usages of their work, as well as permit or refuse that their resources are used in further research or OER, and so forth.

 CC licenses are not the only ones but the most often used by authors who share their materials in the UOC Institutional Repository. 5000 documents are available on that platform with more than 2 million downloads to date. The UOC promotes open access to research and teaching resources produced by the UOC community in order to make them available not only in UOC but also in similar portals in Catalonia, Spain and the European Union.

21 October

‘An Industry of Mediocrity’ & Change from Outside?

- Teacher Development






By BILL KELLER, NYT, 20.10.2013 


“Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. And those who can’t teach, teach teaching.”  

This sounds like a scary aphorism, however, National Council on Teacher Quality described this summer teacher education in U.S. as “an industry of mediocrity.” Academic entrepreneurs, philanthropies like the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship  Foundation  are arising to compete with the public universities which have a full monopoly on ed schools. Once again, we are facing an old issue: when a (public) system is unable to reform itself from inside, then an  outsider will try to do the job.
As an example, the Harlem Village Academies charter schools started a graduate education school that will be integrated with her K-12 campuses in Harlem. It will join a young cottage industry of experimental teacher training.
There are 3.3 Mln. public school teachers in America, and they … can’t all be trained by start-ups. Of course, raising up the standards of the university programs should be an urgent priority.  As one of this article´s reader comments:

In spite of all the.. difficulties, there are many, many dedicated and skilled teachers. But as a society, we also have to accept that we need to pay teachers better wages to attract more talent. This is one of those cases where “the markets”, which economists are so fond of, will not help. This is purely a social and political decision, and ultimately, if we have poor teachers teaching our children, we have only ourselves to blame…

Will market be able to help or not, remains to be seen. But if one reason for the widespread mediocrity is recognized as a “cozy, lucrative monopoly” of universities, then competition will challenge this. It’s about time the leaders of our education schools did feel threatened.

 Read  the article in full: