News in brief - 1 August 2013

August 1, 2013

United States
Presidential pay constraints

A university system’s board of trustees has frozen and even cut the wages of its presidents after a public outcry over pay. The heads of the California State University campuses at Dominguez Hills, Monterey Bay, Stanislaus, Fresno, Long Beach and Los Angeles will receive salaries ranging from $0,000 (£175,815) to $320,329. The pay awarded to William Covino, who begins his tenure at Los Angeles in September, is 8 per cent less than his predecessor earned, the Los Angeles Times reported. A history of increasing salaries for incoming executives has provoked public protest and criticism from California governor Jerry Brown, lawmakers, students and faculty, who have questioned the hikes during a time of budget constraints and rising tuition fees.

Gamble backfires

Japanese universities have lost millions in financial bets on the yen. The institutions, along with religious groups, schools and small businesses, are facing a fiscal crisis because of financial derivatives tied to the currency. Fujita Health University, which runs one of Japan’s biggest hospitals, lost $240 million (£156.4 million) on currency derivatives – transferable futures contracts that specify the price at which a currency can be bought or sold at a future date – while Nanzan University in Nagoya lost more than $230 million, Reuters reported. Yoshio Yoshimoto, professor of economics at Kansai University, said that many universities had jumped without reading the small print. “One might wonder whether these schools should teach economics to students in the first place,” he said.

Only fools rush in

The federal government should not rush to reform Australia’s demand-driven higher education system and should conduct further consultation to avoid unintended consequences. That is the view of Sandra Harding, chair of Universities Australia, who said reform was not something that could be done in “just two to three days of consultation”. At a recent meeting with vice-chancellors, Kim Carr, the higher education minister, asked them for advice on budget-neutral alternatives to the A$900 million (£541 million) funding cuts announced in the May budget, such as reining in the growth in student places, The Australian reported. Professor Harding said that while UA had not yet developed an alternative proposal, it had advised Mr Carr of potential problems with changing the uncapped system. She said new places would still have to be made available if needed and that funding for the predicted “bulge” in supply from the recent expansion would have to be guaranteed.

Commercialised imperative

A minister from an Indian state government has criticised private universities in the region, blaming them for degrading and commercialising education. Mukesh Agnihotri, minister for industry and public relations for Himachal Pradesh, made the comments at Himachal Pradesh University, arguing that the growth of private institutions was posing challenges to educational quality, The Times of India reported. “The private universities have started selling university courses like a commodity and their marketing network has reached even at the panchayat [local government] level to lure students to their institutions,” he said. He added that Himachal Pradesh, a public institution, would “have to bear the responsibility and take the lead to ensure quality education…in the state”.

United States
No licence, no lessons

Virginia’s state council for higher education has revoked the operating licence of one of its higher education institutions. The University of North Virginia, an unaccredited institution that was raided by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in 2011 in relation to its international student enrolment, was notified of the decision by letter. The document cites the institution’s failure to obtain candidacy status with an accrediting agency approved by the US Department of Education, Inside Higher Ed reported. North Virginia has been instructed to immediately cease offering postsecondary educational programmes in the state and to provide the council with its enrolment and financial records.

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