Is academic citation data fit for use in decisions on tenure and promotion?

In a Special Report on the academic publishing crisis, Steve Fuller outlines how imperfections and gaming in the academic citation market raise important questions over its use in choosing which researchers to push up the career ladder. Jenny J Lee and Alma Maldonado-Maldonado outline the dangers of differentiating research universities from teaching universities, with the most concerning being the effect on social and economic inequality, while Pushkar calls on the Indian government to make research and publishing optional rather than compulsory for teachers across India’s higher education sector except for those at research institutions.

   In Commentary, Roger Y Chao Jr and Stig Arne Skjerven anticipate re-energised efforts in the Asia-Pacific region to enhance higher education access, quality and mobility with the Tokyo Recognition Convention coming into force next year. Hazri Jamil, Wan Chang Da and Ooi Poh Ling say Malaysia’s transformation from a sending country into a destination country for international students needs an additional focus on internationalisation-at-home policies to widen the benefits to all students. And Claudia Frittelli says findings show that African academic diaspora linkage programmes leverage additional funds and expertise, and African governments should recognise the benefits of both.

   In Features, Yojana Sharma reports on evidence emerging that academics in Xinjiang have disappeared after major purges of the region’s universities in Beijing’s crackdown on the Uighur Muslim population. Wagdy Sawahel reports that Iranian universities are rapidly expanding their branches in Sub-Saharan Africa, which higher education experts see either as enhancing academia or an attempt to expand Iran’s soft power and influence. And Sharon Dell reports on Professor Adekeye Adebajo’s contention that transformation of South African universities will have to be fought for in what is likely to be a “long and tortuous battle”.

Brendan O’Malley – Managing Editor

NEWS – Our correspondents worldwide report

GLOBAL

Japan overtakes UK in THE global rankings, China rises

Brendan O’Malley

United States universities continue to dominate the Times Higher Education or THE World University Rankings this year but are mostly static or in decline; while Japan overtakes the United Kingdom as the second most-represented nation and China continues to march up the rankings and takes top spot in Asia.

 

GLOBAL

Regional winners, losers in THE global rankings

The 2019 Times Higher Education or THE World University Rankings analysis shows marked improvement for Asian universities at the expense of stagnation or decline in North America, Europe and Oceania, while Latin American and African universities are still struggling to make an impact on the rankings.

 

INDIA

Top technology institutes recruit global staff jointly

Shuriah Niazi

Indian Institutes of Technology will pool their resources to hire professors collectively from abroad – in a drive to fill a severe shortage of faculty at the country’s top institutions. Each will be allotted a region in the United States or another part of the world to target.

 

HONG KONG

Universities warned after pro-independence party ban

Mimi Leung

Hong Kong’s universities are nervously looking at student reaction in the wake of the shock banning of the Hong Kong National Party – which espouses Hong Kong’s independence from China – last week, following a new warning from the city’s education authorities.

 

UNITED STATES

Kavanaugh-Ford hearing faced dilemmas familiar on campus

Sarah Brown, The Chronicle of Higher Education

The extraordinary United States Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday involving Christine Blasey Ford and Brett M Kavanaugh grappled with many of the same questions that have been intrinsic to the debate over campus sexual assault and harassment and how to deal with it.

 

AFRICA

eLearning – The challenges of implementation

Wachira Kigotho

While most African governments are upbeat about e-learning opportunities, they often ignore the fact that information and communications technology infrastructure is expensive and out of reach of many schools and even universities, former World Bank managing director Dr Mamphela Ramphele told the eLearning Africa conference in Rwanda last week.

 

UNITED KINGDOM

Remote participation yet to take off in universities

A new study has revealed that, on average, United Kingdom students miss 10 hours of classes a month, yet UK universities are struggling to keep up with the remote study trend, which has taken off in the workplace to adapt to modern lifestyles.

 

SWEDEN

Is political correctness eroding universities’ mission?

Jan Petter Myklebust

Concern has been raised about a growing culture of ‘political correctness’ imposed by universities in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries that is said to be stifling open debate and academic freedom, and even creating a culture of fear among staff at universities.

 

AFRICA

Research universities alliance launches two new centres

The African Research Universities Alliance has launched two new centres of excellence, based at the University of Lagos in Nigeria – the first to be launched outside of South Africa.

 

GERMANY

Could Stephen Hawking have studied in Germany?

Marijke Lass

The German National Association for Student Affairs has published a survey on the situation of students with disabilities and chronic diseases, which finds that this group is confronted with a wide range of impediments at university, hindering their studies.

 

ZIMBABWE

Academic study quantifies sanctions impact for first time

Tonderayi Mukeredzi

Government-funded scientific research has been undertaken for the first time to investigate the economic impact of sanctions. Zimbabwe lost about US$4.8 billion worth of revenue in the manufacturing sector in 2010 and US$2.1 billion in 2015 due to Western sanctions, preliminary results show.

COMMENTARY

ASIA-GLOBAL

Towards global recognition of HE qualifications

Roger Y Chao Jr and Stig Arne Skjerven

When the Tokyo Recognition Convention comes into force next year, it has the potential to become a milestone on the way to a borderless Asia-Pacific Higher Education Area and to re-energise efforts to enhance access, mobility and quality in higher education.

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MALAYSIA

Promoting Malaysian culture through internationalisation

Hazri Jamil, Wan Chang Da and Ooi Poh Ling

Malaysia’s desire to be an international education hub would benefit from a broader approach through internationalisation-at-home policies that reach all students. A comparison of a private and a public university show significant differences in investment in internationalisation and the types of opportunity offered.

 

AFRICA

Enriching value of HE connections across the diaspora

Claudia Frittelli

Early findings of African academic diaspora linkage programmes show that they offer a range of benefits to home and host institutions, including academic expertise and funding – and the linkages are long-lasting. African governments should recognise the value of intellectual, not just financial, remittances.

THE PUBLISHING CRISIS

There is a crisis in academic publishing – too much pressure on top journals, too many books of marginal quality, the rise of predatory journals and publishers that publish low or marginal quality research and tremendous pressure on academics worldwide to publish, according to Philip Altbach and Hans de Wit. Their argument has triggered a continuing debate among higher education experts.

 

GLOBAL

Must academic evaluation be so citation data driven?

Steve Fuller

Is the academic citation market that is used to decide tenure sufficiently ‘free’ to inspire confidence that metrics can ever truly reveal whose work has substantively mattered the most to the research community?

 

GLOBAL

The dangers of limiting research to elite universities

Jenny J Lee and Alma Maldonado-Maldonado

Suggestions to differentiate published research universities from mostly teaching universities are disturbing, as the implications are not only that social, economic and institutional inequities would remain unaddressed and probably worsen, but that the distribution dynamics of global wealth would be affected negatively.

 

INDIA

Reduce publishing in India and increase quality

Pushkar

Unlike in the West, the publishing crisis in India is due to the government’s policy of making research compulsory across all institutions without taking into account their different nature, the quality of faculty or the lack of basic facilities for research.

FEATURES

CHINA

Scholars targeted as Uighur purge engulfs universities

Yojana Sharma

Names have emerged of academics in Xinjiang who disappeared, possibly to Xinjiang’s vast internment camps, after major purges of the region’s universities, as Beijing’s widespread crackdown on the Uighur Muslim population of the Northwest province of Xinjiang engulfed higher education.

 

AFRICA-IRAN

Iran’s ‘branch campuses’ reach Sub-Saharan Africa

Wagdy Sawahel

Iranian universities are rapidly expanding their branches in both number and capacity in Sub-Saharan Africa, in a move seen by higher education experts as either enhancing academia on the continent, or attempting to extend Iranian cultural diplomacy or 'soft power' to serve Iranian political, economic, religious and cultural agendas.

 

AFRICA

Curriculum transformation – ‘A long and tortuous battle’

Sharon Dell

The transformation of South African universities will not be “handed over on a silver platter” but will have to be fought for in what is likely to be a “long and tortuous” battle, a recent conference focused on ‘decolonisation’ of university humanities curricula heard.

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GLOBAL

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WORLD ROUND-UP

SOUTH AFRICA

47 rape cases reported on campuses across the country

South Africa’s Higher Education and Training Minister Naledi Pandor is organising an emergency crisis meeting with universities after close to 50 rape cases were reported on campuses across the country. Statistics handed to her office by universities and public colleges have revealed that a shocking 47 students were raped last year, writes Bongani Nkosi for The Star.

 

UNITED KINGDOM

University heads call for ban on essay-writing companies

More than 40 university bosses in the United Kingdom have written to the education secretary calling for so-called essay mill companies to be banned. Some students pay for bespoke, original assignments – which cannot easily be detected by anti-plagiarism software, writes Katherine Smith for the BBC News.

 

HONG KONG

Women under-represented at universities in Hong Kong

Hong Kong should be embarrassed by the findings of too few women in academic research and senior management. This can change with an effort to promote an interest in research and open the top jobs to capable women candidates, writes Katherine Forestier for the South China Morning Post.

 

GLOBAL

‘Trimming the fat’ – Implications for research

Libraries from all around the world are unbundling their subscriptions to the full suite of publishers’ journals in an effort to curb costs. This trend, known as ‘trimming the fat’, is extremely damaging to research and innovation, writes Manuel Martin for ZME Science.

 

UNITED STATES

Trump administration to review foetal tissue research

The United States Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, DC, which funds much of the nation's biomedical research, has launched a ‘comprehensive review’ of human foetal tissue research, to ensure that it’s complying with laws and regulations, writes Meredith Wadman for Science Magazine.

 

PAKISTAN

Council sets deadline for unified tertiary system

The Council of Common Interests in Pakistan has directed the Higher Education Commission to finalise its recommendations in coordination with the federal and provincial governments within a month for a uniform higher education system across the country, reports Pakistan Today.

 

SOUTH AFRICA

Free higher education is not sustainable, says VC

A subsidised higher education system by the government with South Africa’s current economic growth is not sustainable. This is according to University of the Free State Vice-Chancellor Professor Francis Petersen, writes Zodidi Dano for the Cape Argus.

 

PAPUA NEW GUINEA

Professor who took on cheats forced to flee university

When Professor John Warren left Wales to take up his new academic role two years ago in Papua New Guinea he believed he had found the job of his dreams. The exotic country, nestling in the south-western Pacific Ocean just north of Australia, seemed the idyllic location. But, as the new vice-chancellor of the country’s University of Natural Resources and Environment, he discovered the perils of trying to rid the institution of cheating, writes Camilla Turner for The Telegraph.

 

TANZANIA

Regulator closes university colleges over quality issues

The Tanzania Commission for Universities has ordered the closure of two university colleges and suspended enrolment in 12 others in the coming academic year, citing lapses in quality. The commission’s Executive Secretary Professor Charles Kihampa said that the decision was taken after an audit of the institutions, writes Florian Kaijage for The East African.

 

AUSTRALIA

Labor promises AU$300m for university research facilities

The Australian Labor party has promised a AU$300 million (US$217 million) fund to pay for university research facilities, including laboratories and other infrastructure, and has accused the Coalition government of failing to fund capital projects, writes Paul Karp for The Guardian.

 

UNITED STATES

NSF announces new awards for quantum research

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded US$31 million for fundamental quantum research that will enable the United States to lead a new quantum technology revolution. The awards were announced as NSF joins other federal agencies and private partners at a White House summit on quantum information science, reports the National Science Foundation.

 

TAIWAN

Universities prepare for new rules on start-ups

Taiwan’s leading universities are stepping up research efforts and drawing up regulations as the ministry of education prepares to propose an amendment that would allow them to launch start-ups to manage research products, writes Wu Po-hsuan for the Taipei Times.

 

EUROPE-UNITED STATES

Start-ups don’t need universities as much as they used to

When asked what they’re doing to foster tech start-ups, European governments often point to their efforts at supporting local universities. Sadly, they rarely end up with tech giants of their own, writes Nicolas Colin for Forbes.

 

RWANDA

Lifting the skill levels of the workforce

The biannual appraisal of African economies conducted by the World Bank observes that while Sub-Saharan Africa boasts the youngest population in the world and its associated positives, there are several hurdles in the way of this economic prospect. Chief among these hurdles are the damning skill levels of Africa’s workforce, the lowest in the world as per the report, writes Eden Kironde for The New Times.

 

UNITED KINGDOM

Scottish universities launch new data skills initiative

Two Scottish universities have launched a new initiative aimed at training 100,000 people in data skills, through the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal. With Scotland forecast to require around 13,000 extra workers each year with data skills, the £661 million (US$861 million) Data-Driven Innovation initiative, launched by Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt universities, will aim to transform Edinburgh and the surrounding area into the ‘data capital of Europe’, writes Liam Kirkaldy for Holyrood.

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