News in brief

December 20, 2012

United States

Brainless brain treatment

A US university hospital has been criticised by federal regulators over severe deficiencies in the patient care offered to those undergoing experimental surgery. In a 92-page report, investigators from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services conclude that administrators at the University of California, Davis Medical Center repeatedly failed to control the activities of two neurosurgeons who performed untested treatments on three critically ill brain cancer patients. The report states that the hospital lacked "the capacity to render adequate care to patients", The Sacramento Bee reported. "These failures put all surgical patients at risk [of] injury and harm, including death." The watchdog went as far as saying that the neurosurgeons, J. Paul Muizelaar and Rudolph J. Schrot, may have been responsible for "contributing to or causing the death of at least one patient". University officials rejected some of the harshest findings, adding that the centre had already taken steps to correct some of the problems identified.


Private demand hits wall

Private higher education in Australia has stalled, according to government figures. Despite the private sector's meteoric expansion between 2007 and 2009, and continuing growth over the past two years, student numbers rose just 0.3 per cent this year, a 1.8 per cent decline in equivalent full-time terms, The Australian reported. International enrolment was also down, with private institutions experiencing 10 per cent falls compared with 25 to 30 per cent rises during the boom years. The domestic stagnation correlates with the success of the demand-driven system introduced in 2009, which allows public universities to enrol as many undergraduates as they can. However, teaching funds are unavailable to most private providers, forcing them to compete with institutions that have numerous publicly subsidised places. "What sort of demand-driven system only supports a student attending a public university?" asked Adrian McComb, executive officer at the Council of Private Higher Education.

Middle East and North Africa

Heads back pan-Arab network

More than 100 university presidents from the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region gathered last week to launch a network supporting higher education reform in the Arab world. It was agreed that the network would link experts from participating Mena countries with international practitioners to support ongoing research, the World Bank website reported. The group also agreed to develop the use of the University Governance Screening Card, a tool for measuring the quality of university management. "The size of this meeting was a clear sign of the regional commitment to change," said Adriana Jaramillo, education specialist at the World Bank and leader of the team that developed the card. "There is a shared goal of creating universities that will equip young people with the skills they need to prosper."


East meets East

Two universities from Poland and China have agreed to collaborate. The University of Gdansk will work with the China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL) to facilitate student and academic exchanges, the Xinhua news agency reported. Beata Czechowska-Derkacz, a spokeswoman for Gdansk, said it was a great honour to cooperate with CUPL, adding that the Poles had already signed agreements with five other Chinese institutions, including Shanghai University. Seventy-two Chinese students currently study at the Polish institution.


Honesty the best and only policy

An African university has threatened to sack or expel any faculty member or student found guilty of "academic dishonesty" in an effort to maintain high educational standards in line with government policy. Mutuku Mutinga, vice-chancellor of Zambia's Rusangu University - run by the Seventh-day Adventist Church - told a student assembly last week that the institution was committed to producing high-quality graduates who will contribute to national and regional development. He identified dishonesty including the "misrepresentation of academic qualifications, absence from teaching, ill-preparation for teaching or cheating in an exam by students", Zambia's Daily Mail reported.

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