News in brief

January 31, 2013

United States
Taster course credit incentives

Several public universities in the US are to offer a free introductory online course to anyone in the world in the hope that those who pass will go on to pay tuition to complete a full degree programme. Institutions including Arizona State University and the University of Arkansas system will choose from their existing online courses and convert them to a massive open online course (Mooc) for the new plan, called MOOC2Degree. Under the programme, students will be rewarded with university credit as an extra incentive to take up a degree, The New York Times reported. “We’re taking the Mooc idea, but now it will be part of a degree programme, not a novelty,” said Randy Best, the chairman of Academic Partnerships, a company that helps public universities move their courses online. If MOOC2Degree succeeds in attracting students, it is hoped that the new revenue stream could be a lifeline for public institutions hit by declining state financial support.

Chinese students gain advantage

An Australian degree is giving Chinese students the edge in their home job markets, according to research. A survey of 495 Chinese graduates by Australian Education International found that 82 per cent of those educated in Australia were employed. Overall, 22 per cent of all graduates in China were unemployed and seeking work, but only 12 per cent of those who attended Australian institutions were in a similar position, The Australian reported. The AEI study found that 3 per cent of Chinese graduates from Australia were studying, while another 3 per cent were neither studying nor seeking work. Of those employed, 88 per cent worked in a field related to their area of study.

Plea to lift recruitment ban

A Ugandan university has called on its government to lift the ban on staff recruitment to help it tackle its own shortage. Mondo Kagonyera, chancellor of Makerere University, made the plea at the institution’s graduation ceremony last week after revealing that the university was operating with less than half the staff needed, a situation he described as “unacceptable”. Professor Kagonyera asked the ministries of finance and education to consider increasing funding for the university in the next financial year to allow it to recruit more academics. Ddumba Ssentamu, Makerere’s vice-chancellor, revealed that the total number of academic staff at the institution had remained static at 1,400 for more than half a decade despite steeply rising student enrolment, reported.

Credit score risk from loan default

The Swedish student loans body has warned those in debt that they are endangering their future credit score if they are late with, or fail to make, repayments. Close to 90,000 students are at risk for the future, after new figures revealed that many young Swedes have defaulted on their loans and have had their cases forwarded to the Swedish Enforcement Agency (Kronofogden). “Young people find it hard to understand the consequences of ending up in the hands of Kronofogden. Some people choose not to do anything about it,” said Boel Magnusson, spokeswoman at loans body Centrala studiestödsnämnden (CSN), The Local newspaper reported. The average debt of people not managing their repayments is around SKr11,000 (£1,080). CSN and Kronofogden are cooperating to reduce the number of people risking a record of non-payment, which affects their future credit rating.

Admissions halted until approved

The Delhi high court has stopped a university from admitting students to its distance education programme courses until it has gained approval from the Indira Gandhi National Open University’s (IGNOU) distance education council. The decision against Punjab Technical University arose after a Delhi resident filed a complaint that the institution was inviting applications for online courses although its bid to run distance learning programmes was still pending with IGNOU, The Times of India reported. Claimant Tilak Singh added that Punjab was playing with the careers of hundreds of thousands of students who had already paid out millions of rupees for the courses. The court says in its ruling that “in the absence of any recognition or approval, the university cannot make any admission”.

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