News in brief

December 13, 2012

New Zealand

Fee increase bid rejected

The head of the body that represents Maori higher education students in New Zealand has welcomed the government's decision to turn down a university's application to increase student fees. Victoria University put in a bid to raise fees on some humanities, education and social science courses by 8 per cent, with the student group claiming that courses favoured by Maoris would be hard hit. "Maori learners want to engage and participate in tertiary education and succeed as Maori," said Ivy Harper, Tumuaki (president) of Te Mana Akonga, the National Maori Tertiary Students' Association. Such an increase "in programmes predominately undertaken by Maori and Pasifika (indigenous Pacific islanders) learners would have undermined all this, especially as Maori student debt continues to rise above NZ$2.3 billion [£1.2 billion]," she added.

Australia

Funding delay thwarts research

Prime Minister Julia Gillard's ambition for Australia to be among the world's top 10 countries for research and innovation is being undermined by the government's failure to provide staffing and costs for a A$2 billion (£1.3 billion) investment in research facilities, universities have claimed. Dwindling resources mean that critical research infrastructure may be closed or run at sub-capacity, The Australian reported. The situation forced university vice-chancellors to stump up A$60 million from their own research block grants until mid-2014. However, university leaders said this stop-gap was undermined when the government delayed A$500 million in Sustainable Research Excellence (SRE) funding to cover indirect costs for three years. Belinda Robinson, chief executive of Universities Australia, said the delay has been "a slap in the face" as universities had assumed that the SRE would offset the cost of providing the stop-gap funding.

United States

EdX takes humanities test

A liberal arts college in Massachusetts has become the first to sign up with edX, the online education provider created by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Wellesley College, a private college for women, has joined edX in a test to see how humanities classes translate into the online arena. Anant Agarwal, president of edX and professor in the electrical engineering and computer science department at MIT, said Wellesley's addition will extend the group's offerings in the humanities and will provide a case study in how to preserve the small-class culture on a large scale, The Boston Globe reported. Wellesley plans to offer four courses starting next autumn; the subjects are still to be determined. Kim Bottomly, Wellesley's president, said online learning and liberal arts education were not mutually exclusive. "The idea that we can reach beyond our campus to women everywhere is compelling," she said.

United States

Saudi student 'oversaturation'

The Saudi Arabian higher education agency in the US has banned any more Saudis from entering a programme at one institution because of student complaints and an "oversaturation" of people from the Middle Eastern kingdom. The Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission has stopped students joining Southern Utah University because of its controversial fast-track overseas programme that allows foreign undergraduates to enrol before they have met English-language standards, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. The ban comes as the university investigates allegations that its unaccredited English-as-a-second-language course tolerates plagiarism. The Saudi mission said the programme negated the value of an international education because of a lack of diversity. Of the 182 students enrolled, 158 are Saudi.

Malaysia

Women's leadership academy

The creators of Asia's first university for women have begun laying the foundations for another similar institution focusing on leadership. The founders of the Asian University for Women, which opened in 2008 in Bangladesh, are looking to open the Asian Women's Leadership University in Malaysia in 2015. Plans for the university, which will be a private non-profit institution, were drawn up in 2010 by Barbara Hou, president of the Asian Women's Leadership University Project, who previously served as legal counsel and director of admissions at the Asian University for Women, The New York Times reported.

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