Education department warns new university is ‘fraudulent’

Shai Reshef: UoPeople is accredited in the US. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/SEAN GALLUP

Shai Reshef: UoPeople is accredited in the US. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/SEAN GALLUP

South Africans love a freebie as much as anyone, but when a “tuition-free” university hit our shores recently, it rubbed higher education authorities up the wrong way.

On the eve of the launch of the University of the People (UoPeople) in SA, the department of higher education & training issued a media alert warning that the “fraudulent university” was not registered with the department as required by law, and that it could find no evidence that it was accredited with the US education department. UoPeople did not have the authority to enrol students or grant degrees in SA, it said.

Department spokesman Madikwe Mabotha says there is no evidence that the online American university is accredited in SA, and whether or not it is registered with the US education department has no bearing on its accreditation status in SA.

But the local department’s warnings fell on deaf ears, as the launch of UoPeople was covered by television and newspapers across the country, highlighting the desperate demand for fee-free higher education.

UoPeople president Shai Reshef says the university is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, an accreditation body that is approved by the US government. “University of the People has enrolled over 10,000 students from more than 200 countries. We are fully accredited in the US, and US higher education is generally well respected and recognised worldwide.”

In this country, the SA Qualifications Authority (SAQA) registers qualifications against its National Qualifications Framework, while the Council on Higher Education (CHE) accredits learning programmes and submits qualifications to the qualifications authority for registration under the framework.

SAQA advocacy, communications & support director Wellington Radu says genuine qualifications can be issued by an education provider only if it is registered with one of three quality councils in SA: Umalusi, the Quality Council for Trades & Occupations, and the CHE.

Mergence Investment Managers equity analyst Nolwandle Mthombeni, who works with private education groups, says: “In the context of [SA], it isn’t a recognised institution.”

Mabotha says fraudulent tertiary institutions are prevalent world wide. The problem is especially pronounced in the case of online distance learning companies.

“In this country, bogus operators hide behind so-called ‘international’ accreditation,” he says.

Though the department has shut down many bogus colleges, some operators change their modus operandi once they are caught. Some, like the Academy for Sexology in Pretoria, take their courses online; others change their names.

UoPeople’s Reshef insists the institution is accredited in the US. “At this point we have not felt the need to pursue accreditation in any other country,” he adds.

More than 400 local students have enrolled with UoPeople, even though some say it has not been transparent about its fee structure, as it is not completely cost free.

The university claims to have free programmes, but its steep processing fees mean it isn’t a cheaper education platform. UoPeople charges a nonrefundable US$60 “processing fee”. It also charges $100 for each exam and $200 for an MBA exam.

The average undergraduate student in SA has four exams per semester. Using this average, UoPeople’s cost per semester is actually more than R5,000, and this doubles for MBA students.

Reshef says these “modest fees” ensure that the university remains sustainable.

A registered student told the Financial Mail he is happy to have found an internationally recognised institution to further his studies. Registering was simple, he says, but little contact support is offered and students have to grapple with material on their own.

Another student says the model allows her to work full-time and study in between.

[“Source-businesslive”]

Oxford, Cambridge Book Top Two Slots in Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2018

File photo: A group of graduates gather outside the Sheldonian Theatre to have their photograph taken after a graduation ceremony at Oxford University. (REUTERS)
The Oxford and Cambridge University of the United Kingdom have picked the Top Slot of #1 and #2 together for first time ever in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2018. While the University of Oxford maintained its unabated #1 ranking second year in a row, the University of Cambridge laurelled it way up to grab #2 position from #4 last year.

“We are very proud to claim the top spot in the @timeshighered World University Rankings for the second year running: http://po.st/aBxqGX”

The California Institute of Technology, US dropped from #2 to #3 while the Stanford University maintained its positioned at #3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Princeton University and Imperial College London strengthened their positions with #5, #6, #7 and #8 respectively as last year; while University of Chicago pulled down Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich in an exchange of positions for #9 and #10.

Speaking about the latest survey, Professor Alan Smithers – Director of Centre for Education and Employment Research, University of Buckingham stated ‘The fears that Brexit would damage our leading universities appear to be just scaremongering.’

The current and first female Vice Chancellor of the Oxford University – Louise Richardson was under fire recently for the ‘university fat cat’ row that has brought the Pay packages of University Chief under public scrutiny. As per the ongoing debate, there are educational heads who draw coffers more than even the Prime Minister of the UK. The VC justified her £350,000 pay package and remarked the politicians propagating against VCs as ‘mendacious’ and ‘tawdry’ and their comments damaging to the education sector of the United Kingdom.

However, Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2018 bring a proud moment for the country where Educational scenario is facing a lot of political pressure and with both the Universities holding the Number One and Number Two slot first time in the 13-year history of Times Higher Education World University Rankings brings a sigh of relief to some.

Talking about India, the Top-ranked Indian Institute of Science (IISc) dropped from 201-250 club to 251-300 club while IIT Delhi and IIT Kanpur fell from 401- 500 band to 501-600 band. IIT Bombay maintained its position in 351-400 slot and IIT Kharagpur and IIT Roorkee stayed fixed in 501-600 window.

Commenting on India rankings, Editorial Director of the Times Higher Education (THE) Global Rankings Phil Baty stated “It is disappointing that India has declined in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings amid increasing global competition,” “As leading universities in other Asian territories such as China, Hong Kong and Singapore are consistently rising up the rankings, in part thanks to high and sustained levels of funding, India’s flagship Indian Institute of Science moves further away from the elite top 200.”

[“Source-news18”]

Cambridge University Press faces boycott over China censorship

Cambridge University Press was urged to refuse censorship requests for not only its China Quarterly journal but also any other topics or publications. Photograph: Nick Ansell/PA

Cambridge University Press must reject China’s “disturbing” censorship demands or face a potential boycott of its publications, academics have warned, as a Communist party newspaper attacked critics of Beijing’s information war as “arrogant and absurd”.

In a petition published on Monday, academics from around the world denounced China’s attempts to “export its censorship on topics that do not fit its preferred narrative”.

The appeal came after it emerged that Cambridge University Press (CUP), the world’s oldest publishing house, had complied with a Chinese instruction to block online access to more than 300 politically sensitive articles from its highly respected China Quarterly journal. The blacklisted articles covered topics including Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution, the Tiananmen massacre and the cult of personality some claim is emerging around China’s president, Xi Jinping.

The petition attacked CUP’s move and urged it “to refuse the censorship request not just for the China Quarterly but on any other topics, journals or publication that have been requested by the Chinese government”.

“If Cambridge University Press acquiesces to the demands of the Chinese government, we as academics and universities reserve the right to pursue other actions including boycotts of Cambridge University Press and related journals,” it added.

The author of the petition, Peking University economics professor Christopher Balding, said he hoped it would serve as an alert to how China had dramatically stepped up its efforts to stifle free thinking since Xi became its top leader in 2012and began a severe crackdown on academia and civil society. “I think this is an increasing problem that really needs to be addressed much more forcefully by the international academic community,” he said.

Balding complained that while it was fashionable for academics and publishers to attack US president Donald Trump, they were far more cautious about criticising Xi’s authoritarian regime for fear of reprisals. “Standing up to the Chinese government involves definite costs. It is not an easy thing to do. There will be potentially punitive measures taken against you. But if it is a principle that is right in the UK and if it is right in the US, then it should also be right in China. And there will be times when you have to accept costs associated with principles.”

Another signatory, Griffith University anthropologist David Schak, said he believed CUP had sullied its centuries-old reputation by bowing to China’s demands. “Cambridge seems to be the one who is now censoring rather than China, even though they are doing it at the request of China … They have soiled their copy book.”

Schak added: “It makes you wonder what they are in the business of doing … I thought university presses were there to publish good research.”

“They are acceding to China whereas [they should have said]: ‘What you do, we can’t stop you from doing that but we are not going to do that ourselves.’ You put the onus entirely back on the Chinese government rather than cooperating with them.”

Suzanne Pepper, a Hong Kong-based writer whose piece on politics in the former colony was among the blocked China Quarterly articles, said she expected censorship from China’s rulers but not from CUP. “It makes them complicit, accomplices in the fine art of censorship, which we are all supposed to deplore,” she said.

Chinese intellectuals also lamented the attempt to limit their access to foreign research. “This whole case makes me feel extremely disappointed,” Li Jingrui, a Chinese novelist, wrote on Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter. In an oblique reference to China’s one-party state, she added: “I’m left with the feeling that there is absolutely no escape since every single breath on Earth belongs to the king.”

Advertisement

The Global Times, a Communist party-controlled tabloid, rejected criticism of China’s tight internet controls, claiming they were designed to protect the country’s security and were “within the scope of China’s sovereignty”.

“Western institutions have the freedom to choose. If they don’t like the Chinese way, they can stop engaging with us,” the nationalist newspaper argued in an English-language editorial. “If they think China’s internet market is so important that they can’t miss out, they need to respect Chinese law and adapt to the Chinese way.

“Westerners [who complain about China’s internet controls] are arrogant and absurd,” it added.

An article in the paper’s Chinese-language edition put the same argument in even starker terms, calling opponents of the CUP decision “ridiculous”.

“China is powerful now and is able to protect its own interests,” it said.

[“Source-theguardian”]

 

UGC warning to Bhimrao Ambedkar University faculty on discrimination against SC, ST students

BBAU authorities have been asked to  develop a page on the university website for complaints of caste discrimination against SC/ST students and also make available a complaint register at the registrar’s office.

Lucknow: The University Grants Commission (UGC) has asked officials and faculty members of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University (BBAU) to desist from any act of discrimination against scheduled caste (SC) nd scheduled tribe (ST) students on grounds of their social origin.

BBAU authorities were also asked to develop a page on the university website for such complaints of caste discrimination against SC/ST students and also make available a complaint register at the registrar’s office.

BBAU has 50% seats reserved for scheduled caste and scheduled tribe students.

UGC under secretary Madhu Verma in her order said if any such incident came to the notice of the authorities, action should be taken against the erring officials/faculty members promptly.

The order said the university should ensure that no official, faculty members indulge in any kind of discrimination against any community or category of students.

The university may constitute a committee to look into the discriminating complaints received from SC/ST students, teachers and non teaching staff, the UGC order reads.

The university was asked to advise the official/faculty members that they should be more sensitive while dealing with such incidents of caste discrimination and send an action taken report to UGC within 30 days.

There have been a number of number occasions when students have made allegations of caste discrimination and lodged complaints.

Last year in September, a Dalit student studying forensic science, Sumit Kumar, who was suffering from liver cirrhosis, was allegedly forced to vacate his room by officials on charges of beating up a professor.

“The university officials threw out all my medicines, ultrasound reports and other belongings without showing any mercy. They were so heartless that they did not even bother to inform me. They simply uploaded the order of my rustication (with seven others) and threw away all my belongings from the room in my absence,” Kumar told Hindustan Times.

The university administration, however, has denied the charge.

BBAU was in the news on January 2016 when a few Dalit students raised slogans against PM Modi during its convocation ceremony over his silence on Hyderabad University PhD student Rohith Vemula’s suicide.

It was here at BBAU that Modi spoke about Vemula’s death for the first time saying his death “pained” him and that “Mother India has lost one of her sons”.

 

 

[“source-thestatesman”]