Thomas Docherty on academic freedom | Features | Times Higher Education

Reposted from Times Higher Education:

Managerial fundamentalism has taken hold in universities, with scholars viewed as resources that must be controlled, argues the Warwick scholar

via Thomas Docherty on academic freedom | Features | Times Higher Education.

Henry A. Giroux | Higher Education and the New Brutalism

Across the globe, a new historical conjuncture is emerging in which the attacks on higher education as a democratic institution and on dissident public voices in general – whether journalists, whistleblowers or academics – are intensifying with sobering consequences. The attempts to punish prominent academics such as Ward Churchill, Steven Salaita and others are matched by an equally vicious assault on whistleblowers such as Chelsea Manning, Jeremy Hammond and Edward Snowden, and journalists such as James Risen. 1 Under the aegis of the national surveillance-security-secrecy state, it becomes difficult to separate the war on whistleblowers and journalists from the war on higher education – the institutions responsible for safeguarding and sustaining critical theory and engaged citizenship. 1aMarina Warner has rightly called these assaults on higher education, “the new brutalism in academia.” 2 It may be worse than she suggests. In fact, the right-wing defense of the neoliberal dismantling of the university as a site of critical inquiry in many countries is more brazen and arrogant than anything we have seen in the past and its presence is now felt in a diverse number of repressive regimes. For instance, the authoritarian nature of neoliberalism and its threat to higher education as a democratic public sphere was on full display recently when the multi-millionaire and Beijing-appointed leader of Hong Kong, Leung Chun-ying, told pro-democracy protesters that “allowing his successors to be chosen in open elections based on who won the greatest number of votes was unacceptable in part because it risked giving poorer residents a dominant voice in politics.” 3

via Henry A. Giroux | Higher Education and the New Brutalism.

Fees debate obscures purpose of higher education – University World News

A common misconception is that making students pay will increase the amount of funding for education. More often than not, public funding decreases in systems with tuition fees and, for quite a few countries, substantially.

Nor does the money collected from fees go towards improving the quality of teaching. In many cases it goes towards funding activities and projects aiming at increasing a university’s prestige and reputation so that it can get ahead in the international rankings that we know do not give us an accurate picture of educational quality.

via Fees debate obscures purpose of higher education – University World News.

Impact of Social Sciences – The Impact Factor and Its Discontents: Reading list on controversies and shortcomings of the Journal Impact Factor.

Thomson Reuters have released the annual round of updates to their ranked list of journals by journal impact factor JIF in yesterday’s Journal Citation Reports. Impact Factors have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years for their lack of transparency and for misleading attempts at research assessment. Last year the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment DORA took a groundbreaking stance by explicitly disavowing the use of impact factors in assessment. This document has since drawn support worldwide and across the academic community. But what exactly are Journal Impact Factors and why are they cause for so much concern? Here is a reading list that highlights some helpful pieces we’ve been able to feature on the Impact blog over the last few years.

via Impact of Social Sciences – The Impact Factor and Its Discontents: Reading list on controversies and shortcomings of the Journal Impact Factor..

The Massive Open Online Professor | Academic Matters

Innovative professors at many universities have been experimenting with technology to scale the lecture experience. Often their experiments started in response to increasing numbers of on-campus students. For example, Virginia Tech Professor John Boyer uses virtual office hours, pre-recorded lecture snippets, and Twitter to teach a face-to-face “World Regions” course to 3,000 students. Once a week, he fills the largest lecture hall on campus, but the rest of the course takes place online. It quickly became obvious that the model he developed with his colleague Katie Pritchard could also accommodate thousands of additional online users, who log in to view the lectures or post questions during office hours.While Boyer’s real passion remains the classroom experience, others are moving their entire courses online. The term “massive open online course”, or MOOC coined by Dave Cormier and Bryan Alexander is sometimes used to describe these types of courses, because they: take place online; are open in the sense that participation is typically free of charge and learning materials can be modified, re-used, and distributed to others; and reach massive communities of tens of thousands of learners.MOOCs are a relatively new phenomenon, but they recently captured public attention when Stanford University launched a set of free online courses. Sebastian Thrun, one of the pioneers at Stanford, created the artificial intelligence course that attracted over 160,000 users though only 25,000 finished the course. Inspired by this success he founded Udacity, a for-profit start-up that will use a similar model for online instruction, with the goal of making an entire computer science course available at no cost. Thrun’s Stanford colleagues Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng also participated in the first round of Stanford MOOCs and subsequently spun off Coursera, another for-profit start-up, which aims to provide a platform for other universities to host similar online courses.

via The Massive Open Online Professor | Academic Matters.

The MOOC bubble and the attack on public education | Academic Matters

Instead of building networks, the neoliberal MOOC is driven by a desire to liberate and empower the individual, breaking apart actually-existing academic communities and refocusing on the individual’s acquisition of knowledge. The MOOCs being praised by utopian technologists in the New York Times appear to be the diametric opposite of what Siemens, Downes, and Cormier said they were trying to create, even if they deploy some of the same idealistic rhetoric. Traditional courses seek to transfer content from expert to student in a lecture or seminar setting. The original MOOCs stemmed from a connectivist desire to decentralize and de-institutionalize the traditional model, creating fundamentally open and open-ended networks of circulation and collaboration. In contrast, the MOOCs which are now being developed by Silicon Valley startups Udacity and Coursera, as well as by non-profit initiatives like edX, aim to do exactly the same thing that traditional courses have always done—transfer course content from expert to student—only to do so massively more cheaply and on a much larger scale. Far from de-institutionalizing education or making learning less hierarchical, some of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the world are treating the MOOC as a lifeline in troubled economic waters, leveraging “super-professors” to maintain their position of excellence atop the educational field, and even creating new hierarchical arrangements among universities.

via The MOOC bubble and the attack on public education | Academic Matters.

Losing Focus: The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2013-14 | AAUP

In the decades following World War II, higher education in the United States has evolved from a narrow concern for a few scholars into an institution that affects all aspects of our society. Nearly every American has either attended college or has a friend or a family member who has enrolled, and many people also follow college sports or have a college or university in their communities. In short, higher education is a central social institution in contemporary America.And yet, even as colleges and universities have become the focus of increased attention from the general public and policy makers alike, these institutions themselves seem to have lost their focus on a mission of preparing an informed citizenry for participation in democracy and expanding knowledge for the benefit of all.

via Losing Focus: The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2013-14 | AAUP.