Monday, 2 February 2009

University World News 0061 - 2nd February 2009

NEWS: Our correspondents worldwide report

US: Blackboards without borders
Geoff Maslen
An Israeli businessman called Shai Reshef plans to open what he claims will be the world’s first tuition-free online institution “University of the People”. Based in California, the non-profit ‘university’ is supposed to begin operations in April using collaborative and open source e-learning course material. In lieu of tuition, a UoP release says it will charge nominal application and examination fees of $15-$50 and $10-$100 respectively but that these may be adjusted on a sliding scale based on the economic situation in the student’s country of origin.
Full report in the Uni-Lateral section on the University World News site

FRANCE: Academics strike over job status
Jane Marshall
Universities throughout France are set to close tomorrow, Monday 2 February, with lecturers starting an unlimited strike unless the government withdraws proposals to change their statute of employment. President Nicolas Sarkozy enraged researchers further by describing the national system of research as “disastrous”.
Full report on the University World News site

CANADA: $2 billion puts new coat of paint on universities
Philip Fine
Canadian universities and their aging infrastructure have received a promised injection of $2 billion (US$1.65 billion), part of a five-year $85 billion stimulus package announced last week by the federal government. Universities in Canada are not alone in calling for more government spending to improve their buildings and facilities; their counterparts elsewhere have made the same demand, asking their governments to spend their way out of the economic crisis, most notably in the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa
Full report on the University World News site

UK: Lessons from the Antipodes
Diane Spencer
Britain should emulate Australia by adopting a coordinated approach to international education, says a new report by million+ (sic), a think-tank of 28 universities that are mostly former polytechnics. Pam Tatlow, the organisation’s chief executive, said that compared with Australia the UK still lacked a comprehensive approach to international higher education.
Full report on the University World News site

GREECE: Government seeks consensus
Makki Marseilles
Unlike his predecessor, Greece’s new Education Secretary Aris Spiliotopoulos appears extremely conciliatory and is striving to give the impression a real change of policy has been brought about in his ministry after a government reshuffle. Spiliotopoulos has indicated he is even prepared to make significant concessions during a forthcoming dialogue on education.
Full report on the University World News site

FINLAND: Bridging the gender divide?
Ian R Dobson
Finland’s university sector is preparing for its biggest shake-up for decades, including a number of university mergers that could alter the gender divide. A merger between the University of Technology, School of Economics and the University of Art and Design is to be Finland’s tilt at establishing a ‘world class university’. The new institution will receive more state funding than other Finnish universities and have a different governance structure.
Full report on the University World News site

GERMANY: Science boost for development
Michael Gardner
The German Academic Exchange Service has launched two new programmes focusing on development cooperation. Universities identified as having the best concepts to address problems in developing countries are to receive special funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Centres of excellence for teaching and research are also being established to train future leaders in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Full report on the University World News site

UK: New funds for sector
Diane Spencer
Universities and colleges in England are being invited to take part in a £50 million (US$71 million) scheme to help individuals and businesses through the recession. The Higher Education Funding Council for England launched the Economic Challenge Investment Fund to enable the sector to respond rapidly to the needs of employers and individuals during the economic downturn.
Full report on the University World News site


US: Colleges breach student rights
A Philadelphia group, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, says that student rights are being violated by some of America's most prestigious universities.
Full report on the University World News site

UK: Red tape reduction
The bureaucratic costs on universities have been reduced by 21% over the last four years, says a report commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. The council says it is committed to reducing avoidable burdens on institutions.
Full report on the University World News site


THAILAND: Academic charged with insulting the monarchy
Jonathan Travis
Giles Ji Ungpakorn, a professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, was charged last week under the kingdom’s harsh 'lèse majesté' laws, for comments made in numerous paragraphs of his book, A Coup for the Rich. ‘lèse majesté’ laws are intended to protect the monarchy from defamation and those found guilty can face a heavy prison sentence.
More Academic Freedom reports on the University World News site


FRANCE: Wine management institute launched
Jane Marshall
In the heart of one of the world’s most celebrated wine-growing regions, the Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Dijon-Bourgogne – the Burgundy School of Business – will launch an Institute of Wine Management in October, grouping together all the school’s wine-related educational courses, research and entrepreneurial activities.
Full report on the University World News site

EUROPE: Ensuring better use of R&D
Alan Osborn
The failure of business to invest significantly in innovation projects remains the major weakness in the European Union’s research picture, says the European Commission. The commission says there has been substantial progress in some aspects of the EU’s innovation performance but investments by business in R&D and IT projects are “still relatively weak, especially if compared with the US and Japan”.
Full report on the University World News site

SPAIN: Researchers use nanoparticles to target tumours
Keith Nuthall
A group of European universities are banding together to create potentially valuable nanotechnology that could help pharmaceutical companies better target their anti-cancer drugs against tumours. The aim is to reduce the need to use wide-ranging chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which can cause patients to suffer from so many side-effects they sometimes wish their tumours had been left alone.
Full report on the University World News site


AUSTRALIA: Australia Day or Invasion Day?
Geoff Maslen
Politicians in this country tend to make some odd decisions when it is time to nominate the person who will be appointed Australian of the Year on Australia Day, 26 January. This was the day in 1788 when an English sea-captain called Arthur Phillips sailed into Botany Bay with several boatloads of convicts and the European invasion of Australia began. Yet now Professor Mick Dobson, an activist Aborigine who likens 26 January to an “Invasion Day” has been named the 2009 Australian of the Year.
Full report on the University World News site


IRAQ: Rebuilding science amid fear
Brendan O'Malley
Two years ago, many of Iraq's scientists would have feared the consequences of a US presidential election won on a platform of the withdrawal of US troops. A campaign of assassinations had seen 340 academics murdered between 2005 and 2007 and attempts to liquidate the country's intellectual elite, particularly its leading scientists and medical experts, drove thousands of researchers and practitioners abroad.
Full report on the University World News site

INDIA: Science, technology and development
MA Pai
The ability of nations to recover from the current global financial crisis requires a high degree of innovation in which science and technology will be a key player. For developing countries that mostly missed the industrial revolution it is going to be an uphill task, while for nations such as India and China any recovery will be slow.
Full report on the University World News site


AFRICA: Does Africa need a pan-African university?
Linda Nordling
Africa used to have some great universities. In the 1950s and 1960s, cities like Kampala in Uganda and Ibadan in N igeria were renowned for their seats of learning. Alas, it did not last. Decades of neglect have left even Africa’s best institutions under-resourced and over-stretched. But attitudes are changing. Both governments and international donors, like the World Bank, now subscribe to the notion that a healthy university sector is essential for development and democratisation in Africa. So it should come as no shock that the African Union has a plan to restore universities to their former glory. But the project’s ambition may be surprising to some: a pan-African university to set the pace for research excellence on the continent.
Full report on the University World News site

UNI-LATERAL: Off-beat university stories

RUSSIA: Student day marked with touch of glamour
Nick Holdsworth
In a country where political correctness has made barely the tiniest impression on culture and society, Russia celebrated its annual student's day last month with a competition designed to prove that beauty and brains are natural partners.
Full report on the University World News site


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GLOBAL: Universities dread recession in China
The possibility of China going into recession poses a “cataclysmic” threat to global higher education, Professor Malcolm Gillies, vice-chancellor of City University, London, warned last week. Anthea Lipsett of The Guardian reports him telling a seminar on globalisation that the world of international higher education was going to get colder.
More on the University World News site

US: University endowments loss worst drop since ‘70s
The value of university endowments fell about 23% on average in the five months ended 30 November 2008, according to two newly released reports, writes Katie Zezima in The New York Times. The steep declines are forcing colleges and universities across the country to contemplate wage freezes, layoffs and a halt to construction projects.
More on the University World News site

US: Good money after…mediocre?
The disconnect could not have been more glaring. As the House of Representatives passed an economic stimulus package last Wednesday that would pour tens of billions of dollars into higher education, through spending on research, school and college infrastructure and aid to states to ward off cuts in education budgets, leading policy-makers gathered just a few blocks away to discuss education policy in the Obama administration, writes Doug Lederman in Inside Higher Ed.
More on the University World News site

CANADA: York University strike finally over
The longest running strike at an English speaking Canadian university has come to an end, reports the Toronto Star. The Liberal government, with the support of the Progressive Conservatives, voted for Bill 145 on Thursday, ending the three-month York University strike. Loud yells of “Shame”, “Boo!” and the song “Solidarity Forever” could be heard clearly inside the Legislature from about 100 contract professors, research and teaching assistants, who demonstrated outside Queen's Park.
More on the University World News site

UK: Universities that over-recruit students face cuts
Universities that recruit too many students face a cut in their government grant, ministers have warned, reports The Times. After years of being encouraged to attract more students from working class backgrounds and to achieve a target of getting 50% of young people into university by 2010, the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills has put a break on student expansion.
More on the University World News site

UK: London Metropolitan University’s future in doubt
MPs have warned that the future of a large university is in doubt as it faces the repayment of over £50 million (US$71 million), after an audit found “incorrect data” on students, reports the BBC. London Metropolitan University has admitted that this puts more than 300 jobs at risk. The funding council says the deduction of income follows an audit showing inaccurate reporting of drop-out rates.
More on the University World News site

SOUTH AFRICA: Science on the skids
South African science has hit the skids, falling behind countries like Egypt in chemistry, medicine and other crucial areas, reports The Sunday Times. Meanwhile, even the government’s main response to the crisis – a plan to create new industries in fuel-cell technology, space science, advanced metals and others – has stalled.
More on the University World News site

SOUTH AFRICA: Ruling party demands black rector
The University of the Free State, which was rocked by controversy over a racist student video last year, has not done enough to attract “progressive” candidates for the post of rector, the ruling African National Congress said last week. A spokesman for the ANC in the Free State, Teboho Sikisi, said the university should appoint a black leader, reports Independent Online.
More on the University World News site

US: ‘Social book-marking’ site for higher education
For the tech-savvy, social book-marking is old hat: log on to a website like, save a few links, and share them with a network of friends. It’s a tool that some students and faculty members have used in the classroom for years, writes David Shieh in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Now a software developer hopes that a new social book-marking site, designed for higher education, will become an indispensable tool for academics. Critics, however, say limiting a network’s membership also limits the power of book-marking and defeats its purpose.
More on the University World News site

US: University to sell paintings to raise money
A Massachusetts university plans to sell an art collection valued at around $350 million to boost revenue, underlining the growing toll of the recession on US schools, writes Svea Herbst-Bayliss for Reuters. Brandeis University said it will close its art museum and sell the entire 6,000-piece collection, including paintings by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, following a decline in its endowment brought on by the economic crisis.
More on the University World News site

US: Government approves stem cell study
A California biotechnology company plans to launch the first government-approved clinical trial testing human embryonic stem cells on people by next summer after receiving federal approval yesterday, reports The Washington Post. President Barack Obama is expected to lift restrictions on federal funding for such research imposed by his predecessor.
More on the University World News site

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