News in brief

January 10, 2013

United States

'No basis' on which to sack staff

A US university's administrators violated governance, academic freedom and tenure procedures when they abolished academic programmes, sacked staff and closed the laboratory school, a new report claims. According to the American Association of University Professors, the University of Northern Iowa had "no legitimate basis, financial or otherwise", to terminate faculty appointments and it failed to follow its own and the state's board of regents' policies when determining which academic courses to remove, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported. The AAUP also said the university essentially "coerced" tenured faculty into accepting an early retirement package to which they were already entitled. The association's investigation came after Northern Iowa academics informed it about the cuts. UNI president Benjamin Allen disagreed with the findings of the AAUP report.

Australia

Fees on agenda back in 1984

The switch to a "user-pays" system for students at Australian universities, which was introduced during the late 1980s, was actually planned years earlier according to newly released government papers. Although Labor originally opposed university fees, the papers show that Bob Hawke's government considered reversing its policy just months before the 1984 general election, The Australian reported. The Cabinet considered charging students 15 per cent of course costs on the grounds that Labor's commitment to free university study - introduced by Gough Whitlam's government during the 1970s - had failed to increase access. "The abolition of fees in 1974 has apparently had little impact on the composition of the student intake," the Department of Finance argued.

Kenya

£3.6m set aside for expansion

An African university has set aside KSh 500 million (£3.6 million) to expand its campus via new facilities. Simon Gicharu, chairman of Mount Kenya University, said more than KSh 300 million will be spent on constructing a five-storey block of classrooms and offices to accommodate more students, in the overall expansion of its Kitale campus. There will also be KSh 100 million set aside for the construction of a library for the university and local people, Mr Gicharu said. He added that the building of the library would start in May and that management was looking to increase the campus' student population from 1,500 to 5,000 over the next five years, allAfrica.com reported. Besides this expansion, Mr Gicharu added, plans were under way for Mount Kenya to open campuses in the cities of Kisii, Garissa, Kisumu and Narok.

Taiwan

Hiring of part-timers examined

The Taiwan Higher Education Ministry has launched an investigation into whether universities are avoiding fair pay to academics by hiring part-time instead of full-time professors. Ministry officials agreed to see whether institutions were exploiting regulatory loopholes after complaints from the Control Yuan - an investigatory agency branch of the government - and the Taiwan Higher Education Union, the Taipei Times reported. Deputy minister of education Chen De-hua said although it was normal for universities to hire part-time academic staff, numbers should fall within a reasonable limit. "We will take a very close look into the matter and if we decide that some universities have infringed upon the rights of teachers and students, the ministry will seek to remedy the situation and look for ways to prevent reoccurrences," he said.

United States

State seeks to ban degree website

A US state is taking legal action against a website that has been offering degrees in subjects such as medicine and law based on "life experience". Wyoming is looking to stop the owner of the website www.degreeinaday.com, based in Cheyenne, from operating as an unregistered institution in the state. It also wants all references to the state removed from the website and promotional materials. The website has been offering degrees at associate to master's level for as little as $195 (£120), the Casper Star-Tribune newspaper reported. The complaint was filed by the Wyoming attorney general's office at the request of the Wyoming Department of Education. Private, post-secondary degree-granting educational institutions must register with the department.

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