The Chronicle of Higher Education has been full of good international education reads this week! Just the other day, it posted a short but fascinating look at the United States’ general policy – or lack thereof – regarding higher education and undocumented students. As people who used to work in higher education at a public institution in a border state, undocumented students were a significant population, and we found this glimpse into the rest of the country very interesting.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Education’s Inspector General recently came down hard on the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (HLC) – the largest of the six regional accrediting bodies in the U.S. – for granting accreditation to a for-profit online university, American InterContinental University. The Inspector General’s examination of HLC’s standards for credit hour and program length measurement identified that American InterContinental did not meet the Commission’s criteria, but full accreditation was granted to the university anyway. The Inspector General has stated that this decision calls into question HLC’s ability to do its job as an accrediting authority and that the Commission should be penalized, with the most severe punishment being a termination of their status as a regional accrediting body.
The background on the issue is that HLC had identified a problem with American InterContinental’s credit awarding (the Commission felt that too much credit was being awarded for certain courses). HLC put the University on notice, stating that a site visit would be made in the 2010-2011 school year to focus specifically on that issue, and the University is unable to create new degree programs or distance education programs without prior approval. While HLC admits that this credit awarding problem is a big one, neither HLC nor the Council for Higher Education Accreditation feel that it is a situation deserving of severe action against HLC.
American InterContinental had previously been accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and School’s (SACS) Commission on Colleges, where it was placed on a 12-month probation for failing to meet minimum standards, including academic integrity and accuracy of recruitment/admissions practices. However, the University had been back in good standing by the time it had applied for accreditation by HLC. It’s worth pointing out that SACS and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) were also both called out recently by the Inspector General about their lack of clearly defined standard, credit hours.
The Ministry of Education in Ontario, Canada, has recently revised its report card system to replace the fall report card with a less formal progress report. The new policy will reduce the number of formal reports cards each year from 3 to 2 for Grades 1 through 8. Students will receive formal report cards in late January/early February and then again in June. The progress report, with information about student learning skills, will be issued in late November/early December in conjunction with parent-teacher interviews. The MOE has promised that teachers and principals will receive training on both the new report cards and how to use less educational jargon and make all the report cards more meaningful for parents and students as well as more personalized. The new policy also lends itself more towards regular feedback and communication between parents, students, and teachers.
Arizona’s Maricopa County will be spearheading a new initiative to provide basic, low-cost bachelor programs in specific fields. Arizona is one of seven states receiving million dollar grants from a private foundation whose goal is expand access to higher education. While Arizona boasts record numbers of college graduates, their degrees are not in the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) needed to rebuild the economy. Currently, most students in Arizona earn bachelor degrees in research universities rather than colleges, the state is expecting a significant population growth in the next decade, and the budget crisis has increased tuition by double digits, all leading to a need for a new way of educating Arizona’s population. The intention is to create two new regional universities that bridge with community colleges and existing universities as a method of reducing and sharing costs.
The Canadian Council on Learning recently released a report indicating that Canadians need a uniform measurement by which they can judge and compare tertiary-level institutions. Their study suggests that Canadians are unable to identify quality programs and institutions due to this lack of comparability; that same lack may hinder the country’s ability to attract international students while also decreasing mobility of Canadian tertiary students. The article points out that each Canadian province handles education separately (and differently), citing specific examples such as transferability of vocational college credits and the uniqueness of CEGEPs.
It will be interesting to see how (or if) education in Canada changes in the coming years to reflect this stated need.
California’s university system is heading for an unprecedented disaster that may spell doom for much of its future higher education endeavors. The two university systems – California State and University of California – are facing 20% budget cuts while the community college systems are being reduced 6% as well. More than 3 million students will be hit by these budget reductions in the form of increased fees and class size, reduced enrollments and course offerings, among others. The full article has information about some of the short-term strategies for getting through the crisis as well as background information on how it occurred.
A recent article in the Chronicle for Higher Education discusses some of the strategies being put in place to combat diploma mills. CHEA, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation in the U.S. and the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization have joined forces to fight diploma mills.
The article highlights the difficulty of international institutional recognition. One of the strategies recommended by the task force is to ensure that international schools are accredited (a word that has such varied meanings as to be almost pointless without definition in hand by the person using it) in the home country, and the article points out the very real difficulty in determine which bodies are authorized to accredit in a particular country. Not all countries have accrediting boards, and many countries have numerous educational authorities that grant different levels of national recognition to legitimate schools. Of course, this challenge completely ignores the bogus accrediting organizations that are often created by the same entities who are creating diploma mill websites.
The CHEA/UN statement also discusses creating a degree-mill alert network. While this sounds great in theory, there’s apparently no information about who’d run it (and “own” the data), who’d pay for it, how it’d be organized, and what determinants would be used to identify institutions. I mean, there’s a huge difference between a hospitality institute that’s approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a teaching college recognized by the Ministry of Education, a music academy that’s part of a professional consortium, a medical college approved by the Ministry of Health, a private school authorized to run as a business, a vocational/technical training academy that also offers diplomas, and a university that exists only on the web. Which of them would your institute accept as “accredited”? Why is it important to discuss this when talking about diploma mills, some of which do actually have brick-and-mortar presences with actual students who think they’re getting something for their dollars.
Heck, even in the U.S., there’s no single authority or governing body that “accredits” schools. There’s voluntary regional accreditation, CHEA-authorization, the Department of Education’s accreditation lists, business college accreditation, medical and law school accreditation, bible college accreditation, the list goes on and on. Add in 170+ countries, and it’s no wonder this topic comes up at basically every conference
Back to diploma mills, though. The Chronicle article ends with a reference to the Oregon Office for Degree Authorization, one of my own personal favorite sites for looking up known diploma mills. It’s even on the “Links” page. Diploma Mills News on blogspot is another favorite as is the list maintained by the state of Michigan, both of which are updated regularly. These, and more, are all included in the Diploma Mills section of “Researching International Education Systems and Institutions.”
While our work in international education typically focuses on students with non-US credentials, it would be remiss of us to not delight in the recent passing of the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act in the US House of Representatives. The bill still needs to get approval by the Senate, but this is a big step.
For more information on the bill or how you can help TODAY, please see: http://www.nafsa.org/public_policy.sec/commission_on_the_abraham/
Connections, the quarterly journal from EducationUSA, focused on US legal education in its most recent issue, published in April 2009. This issue gives its attention to the US legal education system, with an interview with the Dean of a prestigious US law school, articles & fact sheets, online resources, 10 FAQs about graduate degrees in law (specifically focused on international students), information on the LSAT, and some test case examples from real world international students. This issue also includes quick information on yet another social networking site, goSwoop, and how international education advisors can use it for their purposes, best practices for conference attendance, and an interview with a featured EducationUSA center in the UK. For more information, check out http://educationusaconnections.iienetwork.org/ (Volume 3, Issue 2)
NAFSA is hosting an update from the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, held at the University of Alberta, in March 2009. The AUCC presented a paper, the Bologna Process: Implications for Canadian Universities, which is hosted on the NAFSA link below. It covers an overview of the Bologna process, updates on global reactions to the new system, and implications for Canadian institutions, specifically with respect to recruiting, admissions, evaluation, and student mobility.
The International Qualifications Assessment Service (IQAS) developed the International Education Guides as an information resource for educational institutions, employers and professional licensing bodies. The guides will help to facilitate and streamline the decisions that organizations need to make regarding the recognition of international credentials.
The International Education Guides include: a country overview, historical educational overview, description of school education, higher education, professional / technical / vocational education, teacher education, grading scale(s), documentation for educational credentials and a bibliography.
Countries profiled are: China, Columbia, India, Korea, Philippines, former USSR & the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom.
The Council of Ministers in Canada updated a great summary of Canadian education with a fabulous set of education ladders. I love all things that make Canadian education more transparent.