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Rauner touts higher education advantages despite damage caused by impasse

* The governor was on CNBC yesterday to talk about the state’s bid for Amazon’s HQ2. He was his usual self. Click here to watch. I don’t know why he couldn’t answer the “cloud” question. Chicago has one of the best Internet hubs in the world.

Anyway, one of the things the governor talked a lot about was higher education. The DGA pounced…

[Yesterday] morning, Governor Bruce Rauner appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box to talk about the state’s Amazon HQ2 bid and touted the state’s university system he called “second to none.” Left unsaid is that without Bruce Rauner, the university system would have been even stronger. Due to Rauner’s manufactured budget crisis, the state’s university system saw:

Enrollment drop by 70,000 students with some schools seeing drops of over 10% in enrollment;

Tuition and fees rise 6.7% system wide at a time when the state was not paying MAP grants;

A loss of 7,500 jobs;

And bond downgrades for many universities and colleges, leaving five with “junk” bond status including Governors State and Northeastern Illinois.

On CNBC, Rauner spent time profiling the strengths of Chicago and East-Central schools in particular, but those were some of the hardest hit. Illinois Economic Policy Institute found 78% of job losses occurred in the Chicago and East-Central Illinois, and nearly 60% of the enrollment drop came in the Chicagoland area. Chicago schools like Northeastern and Governors State saw tuition rise over 10%.

When Republican Representative Terri Bryant of Southern Illinois voted for the budget deal, she said “I hope you will help me bring my university back.” Bruce Rauner vetoed the budget and called for legislators to uphold his veto. Now, he wants to brag about the state’s schools.

“Governor Rauner is without shame,” said DGA Illinois Communications Director Sam Salustro. “Rauner touts Illinois’ education system to out-of-state businesses while cutting resources at home. He locked the state in a two-year budget impasse that devastated Illinois’ colleges and universities, cut jobs, and increased debt. Rauner’s failed leadership threatens the state’s economic future by leaving the state’s schools worse than he found them.”

* As did the Pritzker campaign…

Yesterday, Bruce Rauner praised our state universities as “second to none” in a CNBC interview, but throughout his term, Rauner has driven those same public colleges and universities into the ground.

Rauner’s budget crisis caused “significant damage” and forced “some of the deepest cuts to higher education in the nation” on Illinois schools according to a new report by The Atlantic. Here’s the real Rauner record:

    * Bond downgrades: Seven state universities saw their credit downgraded, five to junk status.
    * Enrollment drop: 72,000 fewer students enrolled in Illinois public colleges and universities.
    * Funding cuts: Higher education would see a 20 percent cut in Rauner’s proposed budget.
    * Lasting damage: Public universities leaders say, “it will take years to neutralize the harm” to their schools after Rauner’s budget crisis.
    * Local economies hurt: $1 billion in economic activity disappeared each year.
    * Mass layoffs: 7,500 jobs were lost in higher education.
    * Rankings plunge: U of I, ISU, SIU dropped in the latest U.S. News World Report Rankings.
    * Tuition hikes: 7 percent tuition and fee increases were passed on to students.

“Bruce Rauner decimated the same public colleges and universities he is now calling ‘second to none,’” said Pritzker campaign spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh. “Bond downgrades, enrollment and rankings drops, mass layoffs, and tuition hikes are the damage done by this failed governor to our state’s most valuable institutions.”

* Meanwhile

The state’s budget crisis has subsided for now, but its impact on faculty recruitment remains a key issue at the University of Illinois.

Campus officials are still massaging the numbers, but outside recruiting of the UI’s top professors was up 50 percent in each of the past two years over previous years, according to interim Provost John Wilkin.

“It was a challenging couple of years,” Wilkin said at Monday afternoon’s annual meeting of the faculty, where the issue generated some discussion. […]

In 2015-16, a total of 124 faculty members were recruited by other schools, up from 84 the previous year; at least 50 opted to stay for the following year, many with the help of retention packages. And the number of new faculty hired dropped by half.

* Related…

* Chicago officially struts its stuff for Amazon: Though the statement refers only to “the Chicago area,” in fact the state and the city submitted one joint bid and it includes sites outside the metropolitan area, a source familiar with the matter tells me.

Article source:

Aiming for Billions

It’s a popular time to try to raise a few billion dollars.

Over the last few weeks, several public flagship research universities have announced multibillion-dollar fund-raising campaigns running into 2022. Another private research university said it is trying to raise $1 billion. Even some institutions without the size and reach to set targets in the billions of dollars are stretching their goals to record levels.

In the competitive world of higher education fund-raising, there is likely an element of one-upmanship at play in some of the cases. Often one university will try to raise at least a little bit more than its competitors did in their last campaigns, leading to an upward march in announced fund-raising goals. Plus, universities are always hungry for more money for a myriad of priorities.

But the recent spate of lofty announced goals is also likely being driven by other factors. Colleges and universities have gotten more serious about planning for major fund-raising campaigns over the years. Supply and demand have ratcheted up as well, with recent gains in the stock market leaving donors feeling flush and ready to give at the same time as many public universities are seeking ways to make up for stagnant or falling state support.

Combined, those factors have contributed to some eye-popping campaign targets.

The University of Florida on Friday launched the public phase of an effort to raise $3 billion by the fall of 2022. The same day, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign publicly kicked off its campaign to raise $2.25 billion by the end of the same year. Those two announcements came a week after the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill revealed that it is attempting to raise $4.25 billion over the next four years. While private universities have long sought and achieved billion-dollar totals, such lofty ambitions have been much rarer in public higher education.

At the end of September, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee announced a $200 million goal for its fund-raising campaign. That’s twice the size of the goal for its last campaign, which aimed for $100 million but ultimately raised $125 million in 2008. The private Colorado College on Saturday launched a $435 million fund-raising campaign that will be the largest in its 143-year history.

Even some that aren’t shooting for record-setting fund-raising are still talking about numbers with plenty of zeros at the end. Another private research university, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York, kicked off a campaign on Friday that has a smaller goal than a $1.4 billion effort completed in 2008. Still, RPI is shooting for a gaudy $1 billion.

Experts warn against attributing the recent glut of big-dollar goals to current conditions.

“It’s hard to point to a causal factor,” said David Bass, senior director of research at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. “What you’re seeing with these announcements is the culmination of years, literally, of very careful planning, analysis and consensus building.”

That includes planning for a particular campaign, as colleges and universities spend years conducting market research, reaching out to wealthy donors and operating in silent phases before they ever publicly announce fund-raising campaigns. It also includes prior campaigns themselves.

A single public fund-raising campaign is not just about raising money immediately, Bass said. It is also about cultivating donors for future campaigns.

“What you’re seeing is not what’s going on right now but is the compounded returns of previous campaigns and sustained investment in fund-raising,” he said.

Even so, current conditions can have an impact on campaigns that are being announced. The wealthiest donors, those whose gifts are key to these campaigns, tend to be more willing to give when the stock market and the economy are strong. So if the last year’s stock market surge has helped donors forget the angst they felt in the years after the Great Recession, fund-raising is likely benefiting.

As a result, some colleges and universities might announce their campaigns earlier. Or they might be able to announce larger goals than they originally planned.

“Anecdotally, I’ve heard a lot about it, and it’s not surprising,” said Ann E. Kaplan, director of the Voluntary Support of Education Survey and data miner for the Council for Aid to Education. “Now that the stock market has not only recovered but has started performing quite well, it probably would speed you toward the end of your silent phase and toward announcing.”

The Council for Aid to Education tracks payments of gifts but not fund-raising campaign announcements. New batches of large gifts could indicate a departure from recent trends CAE has tracked — it found a slowdown in the growth of charitable giving to colleges and universities in the fiscal year ending in June 2016. Giving to colleges and universities grew 1.7 percent, to $41 billion, that year, a much lower growth rate than 7.6 percent between 2014 and 2015. (The organization is still gathering data for the most recent fiscal year ending in June 2017.)

More recently, numerous examples of large gifts to both public and private institutions have surfaced. On the private side, the University of Chicago announced a $75 million gift to its Booth School of Business. Oglethorpe University in Atlanta announced a $50 million gift that is the largest in its history. Kenyon College in Ohio announced a $75 million gift, also the largest in its history. Boston University is receiving a $115 million gift for interdisciplinary research.

Among public institutions, the University of Hawaii recently received a cash and real-estate donation valued at $117 million, and the University of Maryland at College Park announced a $220 million gift from a foundation. The University of California, Irvine, announced a $200 million gift, although it has been criticized as giving sway to donors who advocate for junk science. (University officials have responded that the gift will fund evidence-based teaching and treatment.)

Announcements of large individual gifts aren’t the same thing as announcements of fund-raising campaign goals. But fund-raising campaign announcements often contain announcements of large gifts. And proliferating large gifts might reflect big-money donors becoming more comfortable opening their wallets.

Take the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee’s campaign as an example. The university started planning its campaign in 2012, according to Patricia Borger, vice chancellor for development and alumni relations. It changed its campaign based on economic conditions and prospective donor responses.

“We’d always thought about taking it public in 2017,” Borger said. “The big change for us is when we went public, we also could announce bigger goals.”

The university’s original working goal was $175 million, but it raised the goal to the announced $200 million. It is already 85 percent of the way to its goal, meaning it has raised about $170 million from more than 17,000 donors. Proceeds from the campaign will go to student success initiatives like scholarships, research efforts at an institution recently named a top-tier research university, and community engagement efforts.

A strong stock market can also help universities raise money because it means donors have a greater interest in avoiding taxes on stocks that have appreciated in value.

“They don’t have to pay capital gains that they would incur if they sold, and they would also get a charitable deduction to the extent permissible by law,” Borger said. “I just came from a donor meeting where somebody said, ‘My former company stock has done really well, and so we’ll be using that to make our gift.’”

Demographics could also be favoring higher ed philanthropy, said Tim Seiler, a fellow in philanthropic fund-raising at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and a former vice president of the Indiana University Foundation.

“On a general level, you’ve got a pretty big population of baby boomers who have reached the age where they have to do the required minimum distribution from their IRAs, and that is just a sweet way to make a charitable contribution,” Seiler said. Retirees can often receive a tax benefit by directly rolling over their IRA distributions as donations.

Meanwhile, many public universities are facing flat or declining state funding. All public universities need to try to move their financial model toward more private support, said the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s vice chancellor for university development, David Routh.

“Let me be very clear: we are one of the fortunate ones in that we get a substantial amount of state support,” Routh said. “That’s been very helpful, and we’re very grateful for that from the people of North Carolina. But it has been cut in the last several years.”

UNC is billing its $4.25 billion campaign as the largest in the Southeast and second-largest among public institutions in the country, behind a $5 billion University of Washington campaign. It’s substantially larger than the university’s last campaign, which wrapped up a decade ago, raising $2.38 billion from 194,000 donors.

No two campaigns are alike, according to Joe Mandernach, senior associate vice president and chief development officer at the University of Florida.

The university had its campaign launch date set well in advance of this weekend, Mandernach said in an email. But the timing turned out to be excellent.

“UF has benefited from strong public and private support in recent years,” he said. “We’re enjoying a strong, palpable sense of momentum on campus, one that our prospects and donors recognize. I sense our campaign is primarily about using private support to leverage public and other resources, to have gifts serve as a catalyst for UF’s continued national and international rise.”

The University of Florida’s $3 billion goal is nearly twice the $1.72 billion it raised during its last campaign ending in 2012. The new campaign raised $1.3 billion through 500,000 gifts during a three-year quiet phase, meaning it is about 43 percent of the way to its goal.

That’s about the same point the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had reached when it announced its campaign — the university had raised $1.01 billion, or 45 percent, of its $2.25 billion goal. It is the fourth capital campaign in the University of Illinois System’s history but the first specific to a campus.

Colleges and universities want to announce campaigns after they have already raised a substantial sum of money toward their goals, said Brian Gawor, vice president for research at consulting firm Ruffalo Noel Levitz’s fund-raising management division. Then they can strike a balance between having more donors to curate but already receiving commitments from large, transformational donors.

“Campaigns are about reaching the right donors at the right time with the potential giving opportunity that is right for them,” he said. “In these billion-dollar campaigns, there will be hundreds of examples where that was done between the donor and the institution.”

Experts generally agreed that colleges and universities have been spending more time in silent phases before announcing their campaigns, and that campaigns have been growing longer and larger. Institutions are also relying heavily on wealthy donors as the country’s wealth distribution tilts more toward the top.

Not every campaign makes its goal on time, of course. About 38 percent of institutions reported extending their campaigns beyond their original end dates, according to a 2015 survey from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, the most recent that is available.

In another notable fund-raising campaign development this year, the University of Southern California announced in February that it reached a massive $6 billion fund-raising goal nearly a year and a half ahead of schedule. USC said it would be extending the campaign for five additional years.

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Namibia: Why Fund Higher Education? Who Gets What, When and Why?


WHY is society or, in bureaucratic-speak, ‘taxpayers’ money’ spent on an exercise that seems so expensive?

And following on that rhetorical question: education for what? In this piece I will argue from two conceptual levels – at the existential and functional levels.

First, education is definitely one of the principal means available to foster a deeper and more harmonious form of human progress and development, which helps to reduce issues such as ignorance, social, political and economic exclusion and poverty. As the saying goes: education is the greatest equaliser.

At the functional level, there is that recognition of the powerful evidence that the general level of education in a country, its human capital, matters in determining a path to economic development.

Take, as an example, a city state like Singapore that has no natural resources to speak of and see where it is in terms of its social, economic and technological level of development and juxtapose that with many African countries which are endowed with abundant natural resources.

The point here is that you cannot have a knowledge economy unless you have a knowledge society. That is why it is so crucial that African governments must fund education if they want their countries to be where the so-called developed countries are today – especially what used to be referred to as the Asian Tigers.

We say ‘so-called’ because countries don’t stop developing. All countries are just at different levels of economic and technological development. But the point or indeed the challenge, is: how can Namibia and other African countries catch up with the others if they do not seriously commit themselves to an unwavering commitment to funding public education at all levels?

It is now widely recognised that training and education contribute directly to economic growth through its effects on productivity, earnings, job mobility, entrepreneurial skills and technological innovation.

Thus, in light of this affirmation of faith in education as a catalyst in the development of a society and country at large, I think it is time we put our money where our mouth is.

But let me add a caveat here: that it does not help to produce large numbers of unemployed graduates whose only option due to absence of jobs is to engage in rent-seeking activities which in the end undermine both the essence of the human capital investment made, and job creation to be associated with human capital skills which then lead educated people to migrate elsewhere in search of greener pastures especially to the West and North America – the so-called brain drain phenomenon.

If taken as important for the sustained development of our country, how then should higher education be funded against competing demands for access and resources for other development goals? Those concerns notwithstanding, the minister of higher education, Itah Kandjii-Murangi, has given assurance that despite the ongoing economic challenges, government is committed to providing appropriate funding to public universities in the country.

This has generated interest in the funding models that can work, how and why? This article serves to discuss, in broad strokes, the merits and challenges of the dominant models of higher education funding in Namibia, setting out in an intertwined manner the economic and moral considerations, and their implication for access and quality.

Academics in the country have over the years complained about the funding accorded to public universities by government. Some have complained about under-funding or unfair/unequal funding.

Tjama Tjivikua, the Namibia University of Science and Technology vice-chancellor, for example, recently said: “I will continuously appeal to government for our fair share of (appropriate) funding until justice is served. Our legacy will only be preserved once we overcome this great economic challenge.”

Government then started to come up with a new formula to address some of those concerns. Thus the new framework for funding of tertiary institutions which is meant to create a transparent allocation of resources was a response to academic institutions’ outcry.

That came after reports that questioned the uneven funding of higher education institutions especially the discrepancies between the funding of the University of Namibia (Unam) and that of the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST).

The main objectives of the funding framework were to be an important planning tool for the entire higher education system, to impact positively on predictability, equity and efficiency in the higher education funding process, to subject institutional budget submissions to systematic assessment, and to monitor the utilisation of resources by public institutions.

But this, in my view, seems to be a monitoring and evaluation process. What then is the funding formula? Skimming through the various documents of the ministry of higher education one gets a hotchpotch of criteria about the funding issue.

The purpose of the funding framework is not necessarily to give equal funding but to promote equity. According to the funding formula, institutions are funded based on the number of credits they are offering and not on the number of students, meaning the funding is allocated according to the worth of subjects that are taken by a student.

Operational cost is the total cost of credits in all subjects under the higher education programmes offered by the institution. The cost per credit is standardised for both Unam and NUST. But are they? Are the institutions happy with the current level of funding?

We are told that “A government subsidy is intended to complement a public higher education institution’s own income. Such subsidies are determined by calculating the difference between an institution’s own resources and its operational costs calculated using the cost per credit unit as the basis.”

I think there is a danger in this type of argument. The opposite should be true: an institution’s own resources/income should complement government funding. Otherwise one would transfer the burden to students who would be required to pay higher tuition fees and, secondly, the standard of the university itself would be compromised.

As an example, I attended the American University in Cairo, is a private institution, but it has mobilised a number of major private donors. But the private sector in this country seems to be missing in action. What happened to the so-called PPP, because, after-all, most of the graduates from these institutions end up working in the private sector?

In the end, the state will have to play a key role in terms of both setting up functional regulatory frameworks to safeguard quality, and to support university access through greater funding in order to strengthen equality of opportunity and equality of outcome.

Article source:

Campus in need of repairs and funds

DeKALB — Hazardous tunneling systems, 50-year-old boilers and damaged building exteriors are among repairs NIU must make that require funding from the state, something for which officials have desperately been lobbying state lawmakers.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education recommended NIU receive $59 million from the state for capital renewal projects for Fiscal Year 2018, which would fund the replacement of boilers, the repair of stone buildings and the rehabilitation of steam tunnels. John Heckmann, associate vice president of Facilities Management and Campus Services, said officials are in “dire need” of state funding to repair academic buildings around campus.

“Over the past number of years, we have not adequately funded, or have the ability to fund, a sufficient level of repairs,” Heckmann said.

State Rep. Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley) said the process by which universities go about requesting funds is usually simple but has been made difficult by a lack of state funding in recent years.

“[University officials] would make applications to the Board of Higher Education,” Pritchard said. “The Board then prioritizes all of the university requests and submits that when there is capital funding. There has not been new capital funding for a number of years.”

The state originally approved a $16 billion capital plan for higher education facilities in 2009 under former Gov. Pat Quinn, but only ended up raising $12.7 million in bonds. In September, the yet-to-be-funded projects saw construction projects permanently ended or indefinitely halted, some without ever beginning.

NIU was to use the money from the state capital plan on its renovations to Stevens Hall, which saw construction delayed because of the freezing of capital funding for state projects in 2015 through an executive order signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner. The work stoppage cost the university an extra $2.4 million.

The Division of Facilities Management and Campus Services estimates the university’s maintenance upkeep for academic buildings will cost $10 million a year. University officials do not expect all the renovations to “happen all at one time,” Heckman said.

Heckmann said state lawmakers should focus on investing in schools yearly, not only in big, broken up payments.

“Part of the approach I was pitching to the senators was how much we should get into the pattern of regularly investing in our facilities every year,” Heckmann said. “It would turn out to be $10 million a year just going into our academic and administration buildings.”

Heckmann met with state Sen. Pat McGuire (D-Joliet) and state Sen. Cristina Castro (D-Elgin) on campus Sept. 12 about the need for state funding. Heckmann shared photographs with the senators of damage to academic buildings during the visit.

“It was a plea from us for state assistance, saying how important state funding is to support these repairs, especially for a public university that relies heavily on the state to manage their expenses,” Heckmann said.

Heckmann expressed frustration to the visiting senators about a Sept. 4 Chicago Tribune article reporting that while public universities like NIU didn’t receive full funding from the state for capital renewal projects, private universities received full funding amounting to more than $300 million between 2009 and 2015.

“A private university, in theory, should not be receiving public funding support,” Heckmann said. “In general, it doesn’t match with how we perceive private universities to operate.”

Necessary renovations

Heckmann said a concern university officials want to take care of is replacing some of the nine boilers, some of which are around 50 years old. The boilers, which help the university produce hot water and heat through steam, are located at the West Heating plant.

“Boilers vary in their life, how long they are expected to operate,” Heckmann said. “These [boilers] are at the end of their life. They either need significant overhaul, or sometimes if there is a question of if overhaul is worth it, you just replace the boilers.”

Another concern is the pipeline steam tunnels around campus. While there is not a high concern it would endanger pedestrians, there could be “significant deterioration” to the tunnels. The streams run under roadways, meaning any serious incident may require roads to be blocked off.

“If we were to come to a point where we see significant deterioration to the point where we are afraid of a collapse happening, we would section off that part of the tunnel and not allow people to drive overtop or walk overtop,” Heckmann said. “We’re not to that point yet, but we’re concerned if we don’t address those issues soon, we may be at that point.”

Sections of Swen Parson Hall are closed off along Normal Road with green plastic fencing to prevent injuries and damage from loose bricks that have fallen off the building.

“We have a particular water infiltration concern there where the stone is separating,” Heckmann said.

Law student Evan Kirk said he attends all of his classes at Swen Parson, as it is home to the College of Law. Kirk said the damage caused a little concern but nothing that should cause panic.

“I’m not too concerned about it if it’s under control, and they’re working on it,” Kirk said.

It is a little concerning that I wasn’t aware of it.”

Along with all of these potential projects, the university is in the early stages of renovating the Holmes Student Center. The project is being funded by Build America bonds.

As for how the state goes about meeting capital project funding requests, Pritchard said the process can get a little more complex, as the state must agree upon a way to split funds.

“It depends on the amount of money the state is validating towards capital projects and what portion of that higher education would get,” Pritchard said. “Then it becomes a very political process.”

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Treasury Committee inquiry: tackling higher education’s ‘knottiest problems’

It has been 20 years since the publication of the Dearing Report and just five years since the first cohort of undergraduates who were charged fees of up to £9,000, as a result of changes introduced in response to the Browne Review, entered university. Yet there is already talk of another government inquiry into higher education, with the Treasury Committee leading the charge, by holding its own investigation of “student loan systems and related financial implications”. 

The terms of reference for this inquiry make it clear, if there were ever any doubt, that the knottiest problems underlying the future size and shape of any higher education sector are about its funding. These questions are most acute when there is a commitment to widen participation and, as in the UK today, more than 50 per cent of young adults have a higher education qualification.

The country as a whole spends 1.8 per cent of its GDP on tertiary education (compared with an OECD average of 1.5 per cent) but more than 70 per cent is from private sources – mainly student fees – compared with an OECD average in which the position is reversed, so that about 70 per cent is from public sources. 

From these headline figures (which include data from Scotland and Wales, where the student’s contribution to the cost of her university tuition is smaller or non-existent), the radical nature of the solution that England adopted in 2012 to fund undergraduate education is clear. In support of these moves, politicians – in particular the minister then responsible for higher education, David Willetts – claimed justification from the economic theory of markets: creating a system in which the fee would follow the student and uncapping of places would enable institutions to be responsive to the pattern of demand from applicants.

In this model, the argument continued, price competition would occur naturally and quality would be assured by incentives created within a demand-led system, with only light-touch regulation needed. 

While this basic market theory might serve as a good model for consumer goods that we buy and restock on a regular basis in our weekly supermarket shop, we already knew by 2012 that, for most young people at least, the level of tuition fee was not a significant factor in the choice of university or subject. We had also seen that universities behaved as if they believed in “premium pricing” – charging the maximum fee possible, on the basis that cost is an indicator of quality. Somehow though, it was thought that a near trebling of the fee cap would change these behaviours. Now we know this was not the case, either for applicants or for institutions. 

The 2012 changes also perpetuate, and place increased emphasis on, three key inconsistencies in thinking that already underpinned the English system of undergraduate fees and funding. First, they treat students as if they were both dependent family members and independent adults – the size of maintenance loan (and many institutional bursaries) available depends on a student’s family circumstances, but she is told she is taking out a loan that she will only pay back from her own income as a working adult.

Then, applicants are told that a degree is an investment in their future, which will result in higher lifetime earnings, but not to worry about their student debt, as they will not pay it off if they do not earn enough (indeed figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggest that, under the latest repayment terms, less than a quarter of all graduates will pay off their loan completely before it is written off 30 years after graduation). And finally, we are told that it is right for students to share the cost of their degree with the government, because they are major beneficiaries of their higher education, but with no explanation of why another category of significant beneficiaries – employers – is excluded from the cost-sharing model of funding. 

Twenty years ago, the Dearing Report recognised that “employers, too, are major beneficiaries of higher education through the skills which those with higher education qualifications bring to the organisations which employ them…With a movement to a knowledge-based economy that depends even more on the knowledge and skill of individual workers, this is likely to be increasingly the case as we advance into the next century.” 

By introducing the apprenticeship levy, we have finally taken a welcome first step towards acknowledgement of the direct benefits that employing organisations gain from access to a more highly qualified national workforce.  Therefore, above all, I trust that the Treasury Select Committee’s inquiry – at which I am giving evidence on Wednesday (18 October) – will place the question of employer contributions firmly on the agenda of the national debate about sustainable and fair funding of higher education.

Helen Carasso is pathway convener for the MSc in education (higher education), department of education, University of Oxford.

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Malloy’s latest budget plan shuffles education funding

  • Lynn Martin prepares paper flowers to decorate her second-grade classroom at Chapel Street Elementary School in Stratford, Conn. Aug. 25, 2017. Schools open in Stratford on Thursday. Photo: Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media / Connecticut Post



A new budget plan issued Monday by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy purports to ease some municipalities into an era of no state aid for education, but it actually leaves some with even less.

Malloy’s new “Bare-Bones” Budget plan — the fourth he has issued as the state enters month four of the fiscal year without one — updates the state’s Education Cost Sharing formula. School districts like Bridgeport would continue to hold onto their existing state allotment. Others, like Fairfield, Trumbull and Westport are among dozens of municipalities that continue to be zeroed out.

Milford, under the latest plan, however, would lose $4 million in ECS funds rather than $2.9 million under Malloy’s Sept. 9th plan. Monroe also takes a deeper cut, losing $4.7 million instead of $1.9 million

Newtown, is one of the communities that would have a lesser blow, losing $3 million under Malloy’s latest plan instead of $4.8 million.

Malloy said his formula maintains focus on school districts most in need of assistance. Overall, ECS funds would shrink by 6 percent to $1.9 billion.

It is a plan, Malloy told reporters on Monday that he would sign.

“As with every budget I have put forth, I remain open to making changes and improvements to this document,” Malloy said in releasing the plan. “No budget is perfect, and none of us have the market cornered on good ideas. At the same time, we must keep in mind that time is of the essence if we want to avoid the most difficult cuts to towns, hospitals, and nonprofits. Simply put, we need to act now on behalf of our constituents.”

The budget also continues to shifts about $280 million in teacher pension costs to municipalities over the next two years. It would disregard a Republican proposal to deepen cuts to higher education.

Malloy called those cuts “just short of despicable.”

In the absence of a state budget, the state has been budgeted by executive orders signed by Malloy.

The state’s fiscal investment in public education is currently on trial, with a broad group of municipalities, parents and advocacy groups arguing this month before the Connecticut Supreme Court that the state is failing to meet is constitutional duty to provide for an adequate educational opportunity for all students regardless of zip code.

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The Decline of the Midwest’s Public Universities Threatens to Wreck Its Most Vibrant Economies

Private universities with big endowments and wealthy donors may be able to weather the storm. (So, too, may the handful of public universities, like the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia, that receive far more private than public funding.) But most public research institutions won’t.

* * *

This is not abstract or anecdotal. Midwestern public universities are already experiencing a pattern of relative decline, based on NSF rankings of universities by total research-and-development expenditures.

From fiscal years 2007 to 2015, according to NSF data, federal funding for university- and college-based research grew by 8 percent nationwide. But for the seven states generally considered by research organizations to make up the Midwest—Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin (to its definition of “Midwest,” the U.S. Census Bureau adds Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota)—the increase was only 4 percent. Both those numbers lag far behind the roughly 14 percent inflation during that time period, meaning that federal funding for university research actually decreased overall, and it decreased more in the Midwest. As private and better-funded public universities elsewhere in the country found alternative sources of support, they pushed their Midwestern rivals down the research rankings.

The University of Wisconsin–Madison was ranked second in 2008; in 2015, for the first time since the figures have been tracked, it fell out of the top five. Ohio State dropped from 10th to 20th, Missouri from 71st to 85th. The University of Iowa rose from 60th in 2008 to a peak of 39th in 2010, but has since fallen back to 49th. Purdue, for which the NSF rankings date only from 2010, has slipped from 32nd then to 37th now.

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Athena SWAN funding link under scrutiny in discrimination row

Four female academics embroiled in a gender discrimination dispute are reportedly under increasing pressure to accept a settlement from their university in a case that has sparked debate about the merits of linking the Athena SWAN equality charter to research funding.

The long-running dispute at the National University of Ireland, Galway has come to a head after the institution failed to achieve Athena SWAN accreditation. Universities in the Republic of Ireland must achieve recognition by the end of 2019 to continue to be eligible for funding from the Science Foundation Ireland, the Irish Research Council and the Health Research Board.

The four women taking legal action against NUI Galway – Adrienne Gorman, Róisín Healy, Margaret Hodgins and Sylvie Lannegrand – were all unsuccessful in their applications to become senior lecturers in 2008-09.

The dispute has stretched on for nine years and, on 4 August, the quartet rejected a settlement offer made by the university, which included €50,000 (£44,000) in recognition of “administrative flaws” and “distress suffered”, €30,000 as a contribution to legal costs, and one year of sabbatical leave. The university also said that it would “consider an application for senior lectureship” or submit the women’s current applications to an independent panel for review.

But multiple sources have told Times Higher Education that since the university’s application for a bronze Athena SWAN award was rejected on 18 September, the women have been subjected to increasing pressure from managers and academics to accept the offer, amid concern about the potential loss of research funding.

Kelly Coate, vice-dean of education in the Faculty of Social Science and Public Policy at King’s College London and a former lecturer at NUI Galway, said: “The Athena SWAN programme is being used as a mechanism to bully the women into accepting a derisory offer.”

The UK’s Equality Challenge Unit, which runs Athena SWAN, said that there was no link between the legal action and the application’s rejection. Ruth Gilligan, the ECU’s Athena SWAN manager, said that NUI Galway fell short “as further analysis of their quantitative and qualitative data, and more specific action planning, was needed”.

But feedback on the university’s Athena SWAN application, seen by THE, states that the assessment panel “noted the seriousness of the situation and the sensitivity required considering the 2008-09 promotions round, and that it will be an ongoing challenge to ensure actions go far enough”.

In 2008-09, just one of the 15 women who sought promotion to senior lecturer at NUI Galway was successful. In 2014, Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, a former lecturer at the institution, won a landmark equality tribunal case against the university for discrimination relating to the same promotion round.

One employee at NUI Galway, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the university had contacted the four women taking legal action after the Athena SWAN rejection.

“My sense is that now that we have failed [to win the Athena SWAN award], more pressure has been heaped on the four women as though they’re being unreasonable and therefore somehow causing our failure to get it,” the employee said.

Another employee told THE that, following the Athena SWAN rejection, the university had “put considerable pressure on [the women] to accept”.

However, a university spokeswoman said that there was “no connection whatsoever” between the failure of the Athena SWAN application and the settlement offer.

Meanwhile, the dispute has instigated a wider debate over whether universities’ efforts to improve gender equality should be linked to funding.

In the UK, Biomedical Research Centre and Biomedical Research Unit funding from the National Institute for Health Research is dependent on an institution’s holding at least a silver Athena SWAN award.

Sector leaders including Janet Beer, vice-chancellor of the University of Liverpool and president of Universities UK, have called on other research councils to follow suit. The charter’s international expansion means that other countries may adopt the same model: Athena SWAN now has a scheme in Australia, and a similar programme is being piloted in the US.

Dr Coate at King’s told THE that she had emailed the ECU expressing her concerns that the “hugely valuable scheme” is being used to “put pressure on these women”.

In her email, she writes: “It may be, given the particular circumstances there, that you wish to consider whether you endorse the decision…to make the bronze award mandatory [for funding].”

Speaking generally about the award’s link to research funding, Dame Athene Donald, master of Churchill College, Cambridge and the university’s former gender equality champion, said that she was worried that Athena SWAN was “viewed as simply a necessary tick-box exercise”.

“I think there has been an unfortunate shift away from thoughtful consideration of local issues to a rush to get an award, and explicitly tying funding to the award may not help those thought processes,” she said.

The NUI Galway spokeswoman said: “In relation to four remaining cases, the mediation process…concluded in advance of the Athena SWAN announcement…the two issues are entirely and completely unconnected. The matters have returned to the courts for further adjudication.” 

Spreading its wings around the world: the growth of Athena SWAN

The Athena SWAN charter was established by the UK’s Equality Challenge Unit to recognise universities that actively supported the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) subjects.

What started as a small-scale project at 10 universities in 2005 has since spread to more than 140 UK institutions and is now being adopted around the world as a benchmark for gender equality in academia.

The scheme, in which participation is voluntary, awards institutions bronze, silver and gold accreditation according to their ability to ensure inclusivity in the hiring, promotion and retention of female staff members. But a decision made by the UK’s Department of Health to withhold funding from institutions that do not have accreditation made waves in forcing many universities to address their underlying problems with gender equality within research teams.

In 2011, Dame Sally Davies, director general of research and development and chief scientific adviser for the Department of Health and the NHS, announced that the National Institute for Health Research would no longer shortlist any NHS-university partnership for Biomedical Research Centre and Biomedical Research Unit funding unless the academic institution possessed at least a silver award in the Athena SWAN scheme.

Dame Athene Donald, professor of experimental physics at the University of Cambridge and chair of both the Cambridge Gender Equality Group and the Athena Forum for Women in Science, predicted that the decision would “transform the landscape” of universities, and the scheme reported a huge uptake in interest from universities soon afterwards.

In 2015, the charter was expanded to include non-STEMM schools and to take in professional and support roles and also transgender staff and students. Versions of the scheme were introduced in the Republic of Ireland, with Trinity College Dublin and the University of Limerick becoming the first organisations outside the UK to gain an Athena SWAN charter mark for gender equality.

Australia subsequently adopted the award scheme, and similar pilot project is due to launch next month in the US. Interest is also said to be growing in India and in Japan.

Back in the UK, sector leaders including Janet Beer, vice-chancellor of the University of Liverpool, are now calling on other research councils to adopt the “incredible sector-changing leadership” shown by Dame Sally and make Athena SWAN awards a prerequisite for funding applications.

The changes seen since the scheme’s introduction are a proven case for tying funding to targets as a way of improving universities’ attitudes towards equality. A 2016 survey of UK academics found that almost 90 per cent of respondents felt that the scheme had made a positive impact on their working environment. The University of Liverpool alone increased its proportion of women with professorships from 28 per cent to 50 per cent in three years, receiving a silver award for its efforts.

But women and minority groups are still very much under-represented and continue to face major challenges in developing careers in research.

The US pilot set to launch next month could set a new precedent in this respect. STEM Equality Achievement Change (SEA Change) – to be overseen by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) – is designed with the Athena SWAN principles in mind, but it goes further in aiming to assess universities on all aspects of diversity, including race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability and social background. 

Rachael Pells

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England’s KEF: will it be ‘patent-counting’ extra reporting burden?

The government’s plans to create a knowledge exchange framework risk being a “patent-counting exercise” that adds to reporting burdens, but universities should recognise the need to be “demonstratively relevant”, according to sector observers.

The KEF, which the government intends to consult on with the higher education sector, would be aimed at measuring universities’ knowledge exchange and business collaboration.

Announcing the plans at the Higher Education Funding Council for England annual conference in London on 12 October, universities and science minister Jo Johnson said that universities “must do more” to strengthen links with businesses and local communities, and, given the major cash injection awarded to research last year, must be made more publicly accountable for their activities.

Meanwhile, a government-commissioned report on the UK’s research strength has finally been published. The report, compiled by Elsevier, says: “There are growing indications that the UK is losing ground in the research leadership stakes and may not be able to sustain its position as a world-leading research nation in the long term.”

The report, which calls China’s growing research strength the “biggest pressure on the UK and others”, was held for nine months before being published at the same time as Mr Johnson’s speech, leading to accusations the government was “burying bad news”.

The aim of the KEF, which would follow on from the existing teaching excellence framework and research excellence framework, is to assess institutions on their success in the commercial sector.

Stephen Curry, professor of structural biology at Imperial College London and one of the authors of ‘The Metric Tide’, an independent review of the use of metrics in research assessment, said: “There is potential for duplication [with impact elements of the REF] but from what Jo Johnson was suggesting it seems the KEF will just be using information that universities are already gathering.

“He may be well-intentioned about not adding yet another reporting burden to universities, but the wheels are already turning on REF 2021 and the TEF is going to get even more complicated.”

Pam Tatlow, chief executive of the MillionPlus group of modern universities, suggested that given the work already done by universities in this field, the assessment could become nothing more than a “patent-counting exercise”.

“The way that the KEF has been presented suggests it will emphasise and focus on IP, commercialisation and spin-outs,” she said. “[It] will therefore benefit universities that work in areas that have these features as a key part – for example, pharma, engineering and scientific discovery.”

The KEF will be led by the new Research England body. Mr Johnson stressed that details of the framework is still in its early stages, but that industry leaders and the education sector would be consulted on its development.

The assessment will be directly linked to allocations from the Higher Education Innovation Fund (boosted by £40 million to £200 million under the plans) and much like the REF and TEF, will be assessed on a cyclical basis – although the frequency is yet to be determined.

Given that public spending on research has increased, university accountability is inevitable, Professor Curry said.

“The research community has to be prepared to participate in that if it wants to maintain public trust,” he said. “At the same time, one wants to be mindful of how proportionate the accounting measures are.

“Given the political landscape that follows the EU referendum, I think we have to be ever more mindful that activities both in research and teaching in universities have to be demonstratively relevant to all parts of the country.”

James Wilsdon, professor of research policy at the University of Sheffield and chair of the ‘Metric Tide’ review, said: “A lot of what is being proposed as I understand it is quite sensible in terms of bringing a slightly clearer strategic framework towards mapping what is already going on.

“Labelling it as another framework is perhaps unhelpful in this respect, because it indicates a burden of pressure that doesn’t seem to be needed and is not necessarily there.”

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League hosting forum

ROCHELLE –– This past summer, Illinois lawmakers reached a deal to fund public schools. However, the impact from the previous year and a lack of funding has left many schools in the state questioning their budget and the future of the school district.
League of Women Voters will hold a forum on public education funding in Illinois on Thursday, Oct. 19. The discussion will be held at Northwest Medicine Clinic at 7 p.m.
Jamie Craven, Superintendent of DeKalb School District 428, and Nicole Stukert, Chief Financial Officer of Sycamore District 427, will discuss the decline in general state aid and the new funding formula.
“Several of us worked at the higher education level and without Illinois funding, college students see rises in tuition and fees that prevent them from pursuing education that effects them forever. While higher education is not the topic this month, the content of this program will raise questions for those that participate regarding higher education as that is where our common school students are heading,” explained League of Women Voter Dianne McNeilly.
Craven, former Rochelle Township High School superintendent, will be able to discuss the impact of the public school funding on a small district and the impact on a larger district such as DeKalb. Stukert, a RTHS alumni, works on a daily basis looking at the state funding and how to operate a school district on the limited funds.
“Our speakers are from local public schools and all of the material will be relevant to our local school systems. The audience we would like to reach are those citizens and parents who want to understand the funding challenges our local schools are facing and who might take action to contact their legislators about funding issues,” McNeilly added. “The program is not directed toward local school issues. The presentation is addressing a State of Illinois challenge with a discussion of its effect locally.”
The two will discuss the decline in general state aid and how it impacts local schools.
“At RTHS we were not as dependent on state funding as some other districts. When state aid was prorated it didn’t impact us as much of some neighboring districts. The new formula contains hold-harmless provisions as long as education is funded at its current level,” explained Craven. “With the new funding formula school districts will experience a shift in how general state aid is calculated based on multiple factors including local ability to pay.”
Craven and Stukert will provide an overview of how the new formula is designed and how districts will be categorized depending on multiple factors.
“The League of Women Voters of Illinois’s studied position on public school funding follows: ‘The State should assume the major responsibility for funding public schools and guarantee an adequate level of financial support’,” added McNeilly. “They are not meeting the needs of all of our public schools. This is their responsibility to fix NOT the responsibility of the local school systems.”

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