News in brief - 11 April 2013

April 11, 2013

That didn’t go down well

Hundreds of Egyptian students at al-Azhar University stormed the offices of one of the country’s top Muslim clerics, who presides over their institution, during a protest over an outbreak of food poisoning that has affected nearly 500 people. According to a Health Ministry official, the food poisoning forced the hospitalisation early last week of 479 students - apparently after a meal at the university’s dormitories in Cairo’s Nasr City district. In protest at the outbreak of sickness, students occupied the office of Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of the al-Azhar mosque, with which the university is affiliated, Associated Press reported. Egypt’s top prosecutor has ordered an investigation into the incident, and the country’s president, Mohamed Morsi, visited one of the hospitals to which victims were taken.

I don’t recognise that language

An Asian human rights body has filed a complaint against an Indian university for what it calls the “Hindi-sation” of the institution. The Asian Centre for Human Rights made the complaint to the National Human Rights Commission after a group of students from India’s northeast states protested against the University of Delhi’s introduction of a compulsory Hindi or modern Indian language paper in its undergraduate programme. Previously, students could do a paper in a different subject if, as is the case in many areas, they had not studied a modern Indian language at secondary school. The switch by Delhi would impose on students a language that many of them would not have learned, The Times of India reported.

United States
Vial conduct

A researcher at a US medical school has been charged with the theft of a possible cancer-fighting compound and the research data leading to its development. Huajun Zhao, from the Medical College of Wisconsin, faces a single count of economic espionage after allegedly taking three small containers of a cancer research compound from the office of Marshall Anderson, a professor of medicine at the college, whom Dr Zhao had been assisting in pharmacological experiments. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Professor Anderson set the containers on his desk. Later, he noticed that they were missing. After fruitlessly searching for them, he reported them stolen on 26 February. Eventually, FBI investigators were called in and they found items related to Professor Anderson’s work on Dr Zhao’s computer. Among Dr Zhao’s papers, they also allegedly found a grant application, in Mandarin, in which he claimed to have discovered the compound and sought more Chinese funding to continue research. Dr Zhao has denied stealing research or deleting data and is being detained until trial.

Costly impact measures

An assessment of research impact at Australian universities could require up to 1,500 case studies and cost up to A$15 million (£10.4 million). A report by RAND Europe, a research and analysis institution, assesses last year’s trial of research impact by the Australian Technology Network and the Group of Eight. “Future (impact assessment) exercises will need to consider the number of case studies that can feasibly be assessed,” says the ATN-commissioned report. It estimates the cost of preparing and assessing a case study to be between A$5,000 and A$10,000. Using information on impact assessment in the UK and adjusting for population and sector size, RAND estimates that an Australian scheme could get up to 1,500 case study submissions - 38 from each university. The total cost would be A$7.5 million-A$15 million, The Australian reported. The government and Australian Research Council are preparing a discussion paper on assessing impact.

Golf stays off the curriculum

The Chinese Ministry of Education last week rejected 258 proposals for new degree courses submitted by universities and colleges. More than 60 institutions applied to offer courses such as golf industry management, network security and law enforcement, and geriatric nursing, the Xinhua news agency reported. The ministry noted that it was allowing some new courses, including education and rehabilitation studies at East China Normal University, and Amharic and Kyrgyz at the Beijing Foreign Studies University.

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