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SPECULATIVE DICTION

Where to find news and commentary on higher ed

By MELONIE FULLICK | April 19, 2016

In my last post, I spent some time digging into one example of the problem with media amplifying particular kinds of voices, while ignoring others that would bring more knowledge and perspective to the issue. You could consider that post part of a series, since I’ve criticized media coverage of higher ed a number of times in the past; but when there’s so much rubbish floating about, how do you get hold of articles that do justice to the issues involved—or at least those that provide information beyond the basics?

In this post I’m going to do a bit of a run-through of some of the places I go to find news—and of course it’s always places, plural, because you’re better off reading around (as it were) to fill in gaps and get different viewpoints.

There’s something I need to point out about the media landscape in general: if you’re reading what gets passed around online and especially on social media, much of what’s circulating is likely from the U.S. and therefore reflects a view from that perspective. This is unsurprising partly because of the large media market in the U.S. and its international reach. But along with this perspective we get generalizations that simply don’t apply elsewhere, which is why I’ve focused this post on news from other regions, primarily (of course) Canada. My suggestions are also limited by language and location—these are all English-language sources, and they’re mainly from the regions I “follow.” I don’t look at all these sites on a regular basis, but if I want to know about something that’s going on in higher ed, they’re the sorts of places where I’ll go digging.

To start with Canada, there’s regular education coverage in mainstream news outlets both national and local, including the Globe and Mail, the National Post, and the CBC; they all publish articles and columns on higher ed, though the opinion columns are a pretty mixed bag (yes…this blog is “opinion” so bear that in mind). Maclean’s magazine has its yearly university rankings and other coverage throughout the year, and you’ll see PSE-related articles in publications like Rabble, Briarpatch, and The Walrus magazine (though I’m really not a fan of the latter; see my last post for an example of why).

You can usually find news and commentary in publications or news pages produced by organizations that do work relating to the higher ed field. University Affairs is one of those, as is Academic Matters (from OCUFA; they also have a newsletter); there’s CAUT and other higher ed union sites, which often have updates on local issues; and student unions like CFS and CASA (which also have provincial and local sites). HEQCO has a blog and also research papers posted on its website; the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has a newsletter and releases reports periodically, and you can check the Federation for the Social Science and Humanities, and the Tri Council websites (SSHRC, NSERC, CIHR). The Conference Board of Canada has a site section on education where their reports are posted.

All this is of course pretty scattered; if you’d prefer a “round-up” to save time, Academica Top Ten sends a daily email with articles on Canadian higher ed, and University Affairs does a “media scan” five days a week.

When university-specific incidents such as those at University of British Columbia and the University of Saskatchewan are unfolding, there are usually some local sources (like the Star-Phoenix, or the UBC Insiders blog) that have details about the situation and may also have more regular updates. Student publications (e.g. Ubyssey) tend to be helpful as well. Sometimes unofficial Facebook groups exist to share information on current events at universities (it pays to do a search and find out); in some cases there are specific hashtags assigned on Twitter and a search yields useful results.

There are blogs and websites that represent particular viewpoints, such as Worthwhile Canadian Initiative, Hook and Eye, HESA’s One Thought blog, and of course the blogs on this site. There’s also a Canadian higher ed subreddit, but when I checked it out, it didn’t look like it was active. Lastly, run a search for the #CdnPSE hashtag on Twitter; unfortunately it has been “discovered” by universities so these days there’s a lot of promotional material there (as well as articles that don’t really have anything to do with Canadian PSE). But you’ll still get a mix of interesting tweets with event coverage, university crises, commentary and breaking news, so it’s worth checking out.

Moving on across the Atlantic to the U.K.: I used to get a lot of news from the Times Higher Ed and the Guardian but (in my humble opinion) the quality of coverage in both of these has gone downhill in the past couple of years. Like a lot of media sources they’ll tell you what’s going on, but the articles and opinion columns aren’t necessarily insightful or well-rounded; there’s more clickbait than in the past. Take a look at the University and College Union, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, and the Higher Education Statistics Agency; some other sites with thoughtful commentary from the U.K. include WonkHE; the LSE Impact Blog; Academic Irregularities; and blogs by Martin Eve, Ernesto Priego, and Richard Hall.

In Australia, there’s the Campus Morning Mail, a daily email with news (thanks to the multiple people who’ve recommended it to me); The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian (though the latter is both paywalled and conservative); the NTEU National Office; LH Martin Institute; and blogs from Andrew Norton, Inger Mewburn (Thesis Whisperer), Kate Bowles, and Tamson Pietsch. From Aotearoa-New Zealand, there’s coverage in the Herald, Radio New Zealand, and Stuff.co.nz, and in local publications; I don’t know of any blogs (other than the Education Review), but some news is available from higher education organizations and the government—for example the Ministry of Education, the Tertiary Education Union, Universities New Zealand – Te Pōkai Tara, and Ako Aotearoa.

Beyond the regions I’ve mentioned here, a lot of the international news I see actually comes from people I’m following on Twitter who are posting locally relevant material. But one website that provides a dose of global higher ed is University World News—it’s a mix of articles republished from other sites, news items with links to local articles on the issues, and longer commentaries that have been written specifically for the site. You can also follow the links and read more at the sources they are summarizing. The site covers far more than I’ve discussed in this post, and has a good section on PSE in African countries. I should add that The Conversation (with “editions” from Africa, Australia, France, the U.K. and the U.S.) has international articles by academics about higher education.

As a general note about any higher ed commentary (or indeed any news at all): always check who the author is and who they work for. If you’re reading a column that’s praising Pearson, was it written by someone who works for them? While that doesn’t necessarily determine the author’s perspective, it does give you some context for what they’re saying. That’s basic media literacy stuff, but I think it bears repeating.

And finally: if you have suggestions for Canadian or international sources to add to this (especially the latter!), please feel free to post them in the comments or send me a tweet and I’ll share. Happy reading!

ABOUT MELONIE FULLICK
Melonie Fullick
Melonie Fullick is a PhD candidate at York University. The topic of her dissertation is Canadian post-secondary education policy and its effects on the institutional environment in universities.
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  1. Alex Usher / April 19, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    Hi Melonie. meant to get back with you with some stuff for this, but:

    – In Oz, there’s The Scan (https://the-scan.com/) and in NZ there’s ED Insider which is unfortunately subscription-based.

    – In Europe, there is http://www.esna.tv/service/index.php which is a sort-of daily news service – or at least links to sources of news, often in very obscure languages (but hey that’s what chrome’s auto-translate function is for). In France, I find Figaro Etudiant to be the best source http://etudiant.lefigaro.fr/

    – Internationally, there’s the Boston College International Higher Education quarterly. (http://ejournals.bc.edu/ojs/index.php/ihe). There is a related publication for Russia and the post-soviet republics (https://herb.hse.ru/en/) and for Africa (https://www.bc.edu/research/cihe/inhea/chronicle.html). Not “news” really, but a way to stay current.

    Alex

    – For

  2. Kate Bowles / April 20, 2016 at 8:06 am

    Hi, thanks for this great column — it’s so useful to see what’s going on in other places.

    I really appreciate the mention for Music for Deckchairs, although probably the blog that gives a broader and less personal sense of what’s happening in Australian higher education is CASA (actualcasuals.wordpress.com), hosted in collaboration with @acahacker.

    But I’m really here to plug two blogs that I learn most from. In the UK, the peerless Plashing Vole (http://plashingvole.blogspot.com.au) is great on the everydayness of working in higher education; and in Australia, the Research Whisperer (“Just like the Thesis Whisperer but with more money – https://theresearchwhisperer.wordpress.com) is a must read.

    And in fact, while I’m here, just a general thank you for your own blog. I’m always enriched by your posts because they’re just so full of stuff. All the stuff. And the work that goes in to this is really appreciated by your readers.

  3. PD Lesko / April 23, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    Even though you missed our news site, I must say this is an excellent collection!

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