News in brief - 14 November 2013

November 14, 2013

United States
Quick to the cut

A US university has had to cancel classes for the spring term because of budgetary problems. Two weeks ago, just days before student registration began, directors and department heads at San José State University were told to cut programmes immediately to keep the budget balanced. “That is an absolutely ridiculous way of running a business,” said Shirley Reekie, who leads the kinesiology department, which has some 1,000 students. She was instructed, she said, at 4pm on a Thursday to cut $55,000 (£34,164) – or 20 classes – by 5pm. “You don’t tell people to make thousands of dollars of cuts in an hour.” University officials said they had asked academic programmes to live within their budgets and that this was not a mid-year cut, the Inside Bay Area website reported. A San José spokeswoman said she did not know how many classes would be cut but noted that adjustments are made each autumn.

A tip of the hat to cap’s removal

A decision to scrap a proposed A$2,000 (£1,184) cap on self-education expenses has been roundly praised by the sector. Saying that people could now get on with professional development plans, Belinda Robinson, chief executive of Universities Australia, called the decision a “victory for common sense”. Fred Hilmer, chairman of the Group of Eight universities, said the cap would have devastated finances at universities already facing A$3 billion in cuts. “It simply made no sense to discourage people from pursuing further education when we need a highly skilled workforce and improvements to national productivity,” he said. Geoffrey Garrett, dean of the Australian School of Business at the University of New South Wales, added that rises of “up to 40 per cent in the effective price” professionals would have had to pay for postgraduate study would be avoided.

Politician’s doctorate stands

A university that awarded a doctorate to a German politician who was later accused of plagiarising parts of his thesis will not have to withdraw it. An internal committee for safeguarding academic practices at the University of Giessen reported last week finding no evidence of “fraudulent intent or academic misconduct” by Frank-Walter Steinmeier of the Social Democratic Party. In September, Uwe Kamenz, a professor at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Dortmund, claimed that there had been evidence of plagiarism in Dr Steinmeier’s 1991 law thesis, Deutsche Welle reported. The committee uncovered some “technical weaknesses” in his citations but ruled that Giessen should not withdraw the doctorate.

Lecturer controversy

A controversial former right-wing Israeli politician has been appointed a university lecturer. Michael Ben-Ari, who was a member of the Knesset for the National Union party, has begun teaching at Ariel University as an external lecturer in the Israel heritage department, the institution has confirmed. “I am an academic, I do research, I have a doctorate – I am a university lecturer as a researcher,” he told Haaretz newspaper. “I worked hard on my doctorate. I may also be a politician but now I am [coming from] the perspective of research.” Dr Ben-Ari, once a disciple of far-right Rabbi Meir Kahane, is teaching a course on the archaeology and history of the Temple Mount. He is founder of the educational arm of the Temple Institute, which wants the ancient temple to be rebuilt on the Temple Mount.

Men and women will sleep apart

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, reopened a bitter cultural debate last week by declaring that he has taken measures to segregate female and male students in university accommodation. In a televised speech to members of his Justice and Development Party, Mr Erdogan said that men and women would not be allowed to live in mixed-sex student accommodation of any form because it is against Turkish values. He said that his government “was responsible for everybody’s children” and that regional governors would act on intelligence from Turkey’s security services to ensure that students were not placed in mixed dormitories or private houses, The Wall Street Journal reported. His comments were widely criticised on social media, with liberals accusing him of meddling in people’s private lives as well as trying to advance Islamisation.

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