News in brief - 18 July 2013

July 18, 2013

Australia
Minister has no time for impact

The Australian education minister has said that measuring research impact is not necessarily a priority or a worthwhile endeavour. Kim Carr, who recently rejoined the government, said he was “not in the business” of asking universities to “write long essays or fill in more forms”. “We are in the business of assessing research quality against a rigorous set of verifiable standards,” he said, outlining his objection to measuring impact via case studies. “I am open to discussion, but in my experience we are very long on case studies and we could do with more rigorous datasets.” As research and science minister in 2008-09, Mr Carr strongly opposed measuring impact when he oversaw the creation of the Excellence in Research for Australia initiative, The Australian reported, and he had the impact element removed from an earlier version of the scheme. It was, however, put back on the agenda earlier this year by the previous education minister, Chris Evans.

United States
Silent shutdown

One of the oldest institutions in a US state has closed without officials giving a reason for the move. Chancellor University in Ohio, which has been providing higher education for more than 160 years, will transfer its several hundred students to Alliant International University in California after the summer term ends. “Everyone at Chancellor is committed to making sure our students make a smooth transition to Alliant,” Bob Daugherty, the president of Chancellor, said in a press release. “We are working to ensure each student’s individual needs are met and that all credits transfer in a seamless transition.” The closure follows a prolonged period of accreditation and financial problems at the institution, The Plain Dealer reported.

Pakistan
Unrest among the unranked

The Pakistan government’s recent ranking of the country’s universities has been criticised by institutions that were left off the list. A number of universities have pointed out weaknesses in the methodology for the Higher Education Commission’s ranking, and the HEC’s quality assurance unit has been inundated with phone calls. “The HEC immediately needs to withdraw the incorrect and misleading rankings of higher educational institutions in Pakistan for 2012 and 2013,” said Shahid Amjad Chaudhry, rector of the Lahore School of Economics, The Express Tribune reported. A key criticism was the HEC’s decision to pool all institutions for the exercise. Iqtidar Khanzada, director of quality assurance at Bahria University Islamabad, said it was unfair to smaller and younger universities. But HEC chair Javaid Laghari refuted all complaints.

United States
Blueprint for waste

An institution spent millions of dollars on plans for a new building that it later decided not to proceed with, it has emerged. Amherst College in Massachusetts shelled out $19 million (£12.8 million) on architectural plans and other expenses for a science centre that was to be built into the side of a hill - a project expected to cost $245 million overall, The Boston Globe reported. Carolyn Martin, Amherst’s president, announced in May that the project was being abandoned as the subterranean construction element was unjustifiably expensive and the initial work too disruptive. She said a new science centre would still be built, but the institution was going back to the drawing board to find a new site and draft a new design.

India
Leading in learning

India is leading the world in education, the president of an Ivy League university has said, and the drop in the number of students from the country enrolling at US universities is the result of them opting for institutions at home. “I call it a brain circulation, and in the past it was going in one direction,” said David Skorton, president of Cornell University. “We see discoveries are coming in the field of medicine, agriculture, technology from places that we did not think of in the past.” Professor Skorton added that India was fostering a technological revolution of sorts, The Economic Times reported. “Look at some of the inventions in medicine and agriculture,” he said, while also citing the success of Indian firm Infosys, which had achieved a “whole new concept of outsourcing to make India feel proud”.

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