The Reading Room at the British Museum

Recently Read (16 – 22 June)

It’s been a while since I wrote one of these posts, as I am still overwhelmed by a number of pressing commitments, but there were so many important stories in the news this week that it proved impossible to resist sharing.

Fulbright programme spared

Starting with some good news: There was some concern in recent months, that US Administration would request massive cuts to the Fulbright foreign exchange programme. Fortunately, it appears that this will not be the case, as the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee of the US Senate has proposed a 3.9% increase in funding available for foreign exchange programmes for Financial Year 2015. According to the Alliance for International and Educational Exchange, an association of NGOs representing the exchange community, this will include:

$236 million (flat funding) for the Fulbright Program (“The Committee does not support the proposed $30,466,000 reduction to the Fulbright Program, including the Humphrey Fellowship Program, and the act provides sufficient funds to avoid such reduction”).

Read more: You can read a selection of reactions to the proposed reductions to Fulbright funding here: 1, 2. The website of the campaign to save the programme is here.

Corinthian to go bankrupt?

I have rather mixed feelings about the news that Corinthian Colleges, a major for-profit education provider in the US, may be forced to go bankrupt. For-profit institutes are perceived by many as predatory and academically questionable, and a crackdown on the sector is long overdue. However, if Corinthian (which also owns Everest Institute, WyoTech and Heald) were to suspend its operations, this would lead to disruption in the academic programmes affecting 72,000 students across 107 campuses. Inside Higher Education describes possible repercussions as follows:

Many students would face difficulties in transferring to other institutions, experts said. For example, students at WyoTech’s campus in Laramie, Wyoming, might not have nearby options that match up with the institution’s certificate programs in automotive and other technology fields.

However, Corinthian’s current students also might not have to pay off their federal loans if the for-profit closes. The department typically discharges that debt. It also releases debt if a college goes bankrupt, but only if students can prove resulting “hardship.”

Read more: The Chronicle of Higher Education provides additional coverage to the story. The ‘gainful employment’ policy of the Obama administration, which appears to have be partly responsible for the hardship of the for-profit is outlined here, and counterarguments by the for-profit providers are presented here.

Starbucks to pay for employee tuition fees

While the academic prospects of students in Corinthian colleges are unclear, things are looking good for Starbucks employees. The company has announced that they will pay the tuition fees of  employee who enrols in any of the online BA programmes offered by Arizona State University. The main points of the College Achievement Plan are described as follows:

All benefits–eligible partners who are based in the U.S. (…), and do not yet have a bachelor’s degree can apply. Partners admitted as a junior or senior, according to ASU’s admission requirements, will earn full tuition reimbursement for each year of coursework they complete toward a bachelor’s degree. Freshmen and sophomores will receive a partial scholarship and need-based financial aid toward the foundational work of completing their degree. Partners will have no commitment to remain at Starbucks past graduation.

Read more: This article provides details on the College Achievement Plan.

“Welsh in the Workplace”

Readers of this blog will know that I am quite partial to news about minority languages, so you will not be surprised to know that I was very pleased with this story of University-Community co-operation. As reported in the Daily Post, Bangor University is providing Welsh language courses for the staff of Wales-based businesses, with funding from the EU’s Convergence  European Social Fund. Reactions to the programme are overwhelmingly positive as seen in the following quite from a spokesperson of Cymorth Llaw, a company which had nine workers attend a 12-week language course:

We have been delivering  services in north Wales for 14 years.  We deliver culturally tailored services,  so many people in need of care and  support are catered for in a language  they are most familiar with. People with Welsh language skills are hugely important to our service  users, and that’s why we are totally  committed to providing our staff with  every opportunity to learn and develop skills that help them deliver the  best possible level of care. That also  includes Welsh language tuition..

Beer with a scientist

Louisville Underground Science are engaged in a rather less formal example of outreach. As reported in Inside HigherEd, their monthly meetings, titled Beer with a Scientist are intended to “connect scholars and intellectually engaged non-academics over important scientific questions and good beer”. The talks, which take place in a local pub, cover topics such as nanotechnology in medicine, bioengineering, and ageing, and they are reportedly very well attended, as they fill a valuable niche in the local community:

Most customers “likely don’t know an M.D. or Ph.D. on a personal level, and [in academia] we just assume that everybody has Ph.D. and M.D. friends they can talk to about all this stuff,” he said. “It’s about people having somebody they can talk to and approach.”


Image credit: © ceridwen CC BY-SA

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