World in brief – 4 June 2015

Higher education news from around the globe

June 4, 2015
Czech president Milos Zeman speaking at press conference at Prague Castle, 2015
Source: Getty

Czech Republic

Protest over political ‘interference’

About half the Czech Republic’s university rectors boycotted a ceremony to initiate new professors after the country’s president vetoed three candidates. Miloš Zeman has refused to approve the appointments of Charles University senior lecturers Jirí Fajt (Faculty of Arts) and Ivan Ošt'ádal (department for surface and plasma science) and University of Economics senior lecturer Jan Eichler (Faculty of International Relations). It was alleged that Dr Ošt'ádal and Dr Eichler had links to the Communist regime before it was overthrown in 1989. Dr Fajt was alleged to have been involved in a political scandal.


Polar research collaboration

The Swedish minister for higher education and research, Helene Hellmark Knutsson, has signed an agreement with the US to collaborate on polar and climate research that could prove significant in combating global warming. Sweden’s icebreaker research ship Oden has already given the country a leading place in polar research. The minister said at a conference in Washington DC that the agreement would help the country “get more research for our money. If more countries use Oden, it can do polar expeditions at more frequent intervals, more measurements can be carried out and the researchers can form new partnerships.”


Qualification recognition

China is pushing for its national college entrance examinations, the gao kao, to be recognised by more foreign universities, thereby sparing Chinese students from having to take pre-degree preparatory courses. “We are currently working on having foreign countries recognise the grades of China’s gao kao,” Yu Jihai, deputy director of international education at the Ministry of Education, said during an internationalisation conference. “Some universities in the US, Australia and Italy have started to accept the gao kao scores of Chinese students looking to enrol in degree programmes,” the Global Times reported.

United States

Welles’ memoir discovered

A US university has discovered an unpublished personal memoir by film star Orson Welles. The draft includes passages about his second wife, Rita Hayworth, and his friendship with Ernest Hemingway. It was found by staff at the University of Michigan library within eight boxes acquired from Oja Kodar, who was Mr Welles’ partner in his final years. “It doesn’t appear to be anywhere near a final draft, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be important for scholars or researchers,” said Philip Hallman, curator of the university’s Screen Arts Mavericks and Makers collection.

South Africa

Radical change ‘still needed’

The drive to remove apartheid-era symbols from South Africa’s universities should not divert institutions from efforts to improve the educational experience of black students, the country’s minister for higher education and training has said. Blade Nzimande told the South African Parliament that, despite the significance of the removal of the Cecil Rhodes statue from the University of Cape Town, and similar actions on other campuses, “we must not conflate these with more fundamental matters of transformation”. There was still a need to “radically” change the demographics of the professoriate and to improve academic success rates, the minister said.


Teaching and learning budget cut

Funding for promoting teaching and learning in Australia is to be cut by more than a third as a result of the country’s recent budget. Christopher Pyne, the minister for education and training, announced last month that his department’s Office of Learning and Teaching will be replaced in July 2016 by a university-based institute with a budget of A$28 million (£14.1 million) over three years, compared with the office’s A$57 million over four years. The budget also included a A$263 million cut to support for the indirect costs of research. 

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