News in brief - 17 October 2013

October 17, 2013

United States
Fraternity’s naked ploy backfires

A fraternity at a private liberal arts college in the US has drawn criticism for using pictures of naked women on recruitment materials. The Phi Psi fraternity at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania has reportedly distributed a flyer featuring a collage of photos of nude women for the past four years. This autumn, Marian Firke, a final-year undergraduate, launched a petition asking the college’s Student Budget Committee, which funds student activities, to cease funding fraternities’ parties until at least 10 per cent of their members are women, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. “People are really disgusted to find out that this is going on here,” Ms Firke said. Liz Braun, dean of students, said in a statement that Swarthmore “condemns in the strongest possible terms” Phi Psi’s “totally inappropriate imagery, and it will stop now”.

Smart, seasoned – and gone

Israel has the worst “brain drain” rate of all Western countries, a study has claimed. A report published this month by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies says that the growing number of Israeli academics deciding to move abroad is contributing to a deterioration in the quality of the higher education system. For every 100 Israeli faculty members working in the country’s academy, another 29 have left for the US. The study notes that in the past 40 years, the academy has seen per-student funding decline and the number of permanent, senior faculty members in Israeli institutions stagnate, Haaretz reported. Universities are increasingly relying on adjunct lecturers and junior faculty members. “After establishing several world-leading research universities, Israel underwent a dramatic about-face,” says Dan Ben-David, the Taub Center’s executive director and an academic in the department of public policy at Tel-Aviv University, in the report.

Mature-student enrolment shrinks

Applications to Australian universities have decreased compared with last year, with only one state’s central admissions centre reporting a rise. Although the figures are not final, as most centres are accepting late applications for the 2014 academic year for another few weeks, the data to date indicate a drop in applications from mature students in particular, The Australian reported. South Australia was the only state to see growth, attracting 21,963 applications thus far compared with 21,305 last year. In Victoria, applications were down by almost 4,000; in New South Wales by 2,775 and in Western Australia by 500. Andrew Norton, a higher education expert at the Grattan Institute thinktank, said that although it was hard to pinpoint the main causes for the reduction, “as school-leaver attainment increases, the pool of older people who are potential mature-age applicants should decline”.

United States
New Princeton chief checks marks

The incoming president of Princeton University has appointed a faculty committee to review its grading policies. Christopher Eisgruber, who took up the post in July, has set up the Ad Hoc Committee to Review Policies Regarding Assessment and Grading, which will explore whether the institution’s assessment guidelines remain effective and appropriate. “The university periodically reviews and revises policies so [it] can pursue its teaching and research mission as effectively as possible,” Professor Eisgruber said. Clarence Rowley, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, will chair the committee, which is expected to meet over the next year.

Grade-A colleges to award degrees

The Indian government has given degree-awarding powers to just over 10 per cent of the country’s 441 autonomous colleges. The 45 colleges, which have an A grade from the National Assessment and Accreditation Council and have already been awarded the status of “centre of potential excellence”, will become universities by the end of the government’s 12th five-year plan, The Economic Times reported. Officials from the Ministry of Human Resource Development said that the University Grants Commission Act will be amended to enable these colleges – which include Nizam College Gunboundry in Hyderabad and the Institute of Excellence in Higher Education, Bhopal – to award degrees.

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