May 2008


New concerns on the Pentagon initiative “the Minerva consortium” were raised recently by the American Anthropological Association.  Minerva is a DOD initiative that seeks to “involve universities in the global war on terror” (Wired news) .The anxiety of scholars about the use of social science research in unethical manner with the purpose of enforce military operations is justify and related with a history of past violations (e.g. The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment,Human Radiation Experiments, etc) that led to the establishment of scholarly ethics codes of human research . This is a worrisome development that is generating heated debates. An overview of the Minerva initiative in a recent article at the Insider Higher Education address the responses to a recent letter by the president of the American Anthropological Research Association to the Bush administration and the Congress. The Chronicle of Higher Ed. News Blog indicate that in this letter, the association’s president, Setha M. Low, writes that,
“it is of paramount importance for anthropologists to study the roots of terrorism and other forms of violence.” But Ms. Low, who is a professor of environmental psychology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, argues that it would be better for such research to be financed by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Endowment for the Humanities because, she says, those agencies are more familiar with anthropology and have established structures for peer review.
This however is not addressing the crucial questions that seem to linger behind the debate: what will be the purpose of social research funded by the Military in the current context? is this about the building of a ‘better public policy’ of conquest? will social research be use to harm the subjects of research?. Those are critical questions that cannot be avoided. Again, it is important to remember that there is a past and current history of governments using professional expertise to justify and/or support human rights abuses (e.g. torture and the medical profession). In a similar manner in a critical posting at the Open Anthropology blog is asked the following question:
Are American anthropologists being called upon to cure the pathologies of their own society, to reduce the toxic glorification of war and the malignant sanctification of brutes in uniform, or to provide practical advice on how to better control subject populations?
Finally, I wonder , following Sharon Weinberger posting at Wired news : “will Minerva go the way of theVietnam-era Project Camelot?”

From The Chronicle of Higher Ed. News Blog posted by Andrew Mytelka May 28 2008:

New Delhi — India has asked Britain for help in setting up a world-class central university in what one local newspaper reported is the first such request for foreign assistance in almost 50 years. India has not asked for foreign help to establish a university since it sought assistance in the late 1950s and early 1960s from the Soviet Union, Britain, and West Germany to create some of the older Indian Institutes of Technology, the newspaper, The Telegraph, said.

Last year India’s prime minister announced that the country would set up 14 world-class central universities to compete with institutions like Harvard and Cambridge. The locations of the universities were announced in March.

“We want the help in the form of skill development, faculty support, and necessary training,” said D. Purandeswari, India’s junior higher-education minister, according to a statement issued after meetings this week with Bill Rammell, Britain’s higher-education minister.

Indian officials were looking to settle details of the collaboration as soon as possible because the new academic session in India starts in July, but Mr. Rammell did not commit to any timeline. Further talks to iron out the details are scheduled to be held in July in London. —Shailaja Neelakantan

Harvey Project is an international collaboration of educators, researchers, physicians, students, programmers, instructional designers and graphic artists working together to build interactive, dynamic human physiology course materials on the Web.
Founded in 1998, the Harvey Project has over a hundred participants in nearly twenty countries. It has received funding from the US National Science Foundation . The Harvey Project has developed over forty learning objects, mostly Java simulations and Flash(tm) animations . Check out some of our learning materials (RLAs) and please join us if you’re interested in helping out.
Link:Harvey Project

A new report written by Clifford Adelman at the Institute for Higher Education Policy indicates that the United States Higher Education System needs to adopt some of the features of the Bologna Process. Today, Scott Jaschik’s article at the Insider Higher Ed offers a compelling overview of the report and Adelman’s argument.

Adelman argues that Bologna may push colleges much further toward defining learning outcomes than the Spellings Commission ever tried. While the education secretary’s panel urged colleges to adopt systems to measure outcomes, the emphasis of Bologna — both in defining degrees and credits — is focused on specific outcomes. A bachelor’s degree in engineering should mean that a graduate possesses specific skills X, Y and Z, and so forth.

Link to report here

From the Chronicles of Higher Education News Blog, by Beth McMurtrie, Wed, May 21 2008:

A new report from the Institute for Higher Education Policy argues that the United States, in its quest for accountability in academe, could learn a lot from its neighbors in Europe.

The report, “The Bologna Club: What U.S. Higher Education Can Learn From a Decade of European Reconstruction,” examines in detail the efforts of 49 European nations to harmonize their higher-education systems. The report was written by Clifford Adelman, a former research analyst at the U.S. Department of Education who is now a senior associate at the institute.

Mr. Adelman argues that the Bologna Process, as this decade-long effort is known, offers some common-sense solutions to the struggle to define what students should be learning and to create a better pathway through the higher-education system.

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From UNESCO:

This portal offers access to on-line information on higher education institutions recognized or otherwise sanctioned by competent authorities in participating countries.

It provides students, employers and other interested parties with access to authoritative and up-to-date information on the status of higher education institutions and quality assurance in these countries.

Currently, information can be accessed on the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Egypt, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Norway, United Kingdom, and the United States of America. In the next stage of the project, the number of countries covered will be expanded.

The country information on this portal is managed and updated by relevant authorities in participating countries. More information on the national processes for recognizing or otherwise sanctioning institutions is available on the country pages.

Users are encouraged to consult several sources of information before making important decisions regarding matters such as the choice of an institution, course of study or the status of qualifications. Individuals wishing to have their qualifications recognized for work or further study are advised to consult the competent authorities of the country in which they are seeking to have their qualifications recognised. It is also important to note that some institutions not on the national lists may offer quality programmes. Users are encouraged to contact the national contact point(s) for each country, if necessary, for further information.

Link here

A great post by Kris Olds at the Global Higher education blog on new forms of graphic representation of the global  flows and networks in higher education policy.

From Globalhighered:

The globalization of higher education and research is starting to become represented in some insightful graphic formats, as we hinted in our November entry ‘Global geographies of R&D‘. This said the creators of graphic representations are stymied by what Peter Taylor at Loughborough University deems state-istics; the fact that many of the statistics analysts use are created by national governments (for even multilateral agencies like the OECD or the World Bank need to draw out their data from member nations). As Taylor notes, though in relation to the challenges of acquiring data on the relations between ‘global cities‘:

The common term for social data is ‘statistics’ a term that derives directly from the word state. This is, of course, no accident: large-scale data collection on human activities has its origins in state needs and continues to be dominated by states: hence my portrayal of it as state-istics.

Unlike the natural sciences, within social science there is little or no ‘big science’ where very large sums of money are committed to solving theoretical problems. The latter enables natural scientists to concentrate on developing measurements specifically designed for their theoretical purposes. In social science, most data that is collected relates to small-scale cumulative scientific activity. To get an evidential handle on big issues, researchers normally rely on the statistics that are available, that is to say, already collected. Collection is carried out usually by a state agency for the particular needs of government policy, not, of course, for social science research. But the problem is much more than the possibility of having to use unsuitable data. Basing ‘big social science’ on state-istics means that the state defines the basic dimensions of the leading edge ‘macro’ social research and therefore the framework within which most social research is conducted.

Transnational higher education challenges us all, for networks and flows cross national borders, in often untracked ways, and many of the key movers and shakers in this unsettled context are select institutions, or city-regions, but certainly not national spaces.

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Worldmapper is a collection of world maps, where territories are re-sized on each map according to the subject of interest. There are now nearly 600 maps. Maps 1-366 are also available as PDF posters. Use the menu above to find a map of interest.

An example is the following map on Tertiary Education Spending Growth (1990-2001).

The territory size shows the proportion in spending in tertiary education between 1990 -2001.

The site informs that:

There have been spending increases in tertiary education in 135 of the 200 territories in the world, between 1990 and 2001. North America and Southern Asia are the only regions where there has been a spending increase in every territory. In Eastern Asia there has been a spending increase in every territory except for Mongolia. In Central Africa there has been a spending increase in every territory except for Burundi.

The size of spending increases varies hugely between places. Increases in spending per person in North America and Western Europe are over 4 times those in the next highest regions of Eastern Europe and Japan.

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