News in brief - 21 March 2013

March 21, 2013

United States
Closed session opens

A US university’s governance group has decided to end its practice of discussing the awarding of honorary degrees behind closed doors in response to criticism that it contravenes state law. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s academic senate made the decision following questions raised by The News-Gazette newspaper about whether the custom complied with the Illinois Open Meetings Act. The act outlines the circumstances governing when public bodies can meet in closed session, and the discussion of honorary degrees is not among them, the paper reported. A senate statutes committee will now be tasked with revising the bylaws to address the issue.

Entry comes highly recommended

One of Japan’s leading universities is to introduce a recommendation-based entrance system, it announced last week. In the next five years, the University of Tokyo will scrap written exams in part of its entry process in order to introduce the screening system. According to reports, the method will be based on interviews and recommendations from applicants’ high schools, but no firm details have been released, The Japan Times reported. Currently, national university entrance exams are conducted in two stages: common tests administered by the National Center for University Entrance Examinations and those organised by individual institutions. Tokyo is initially proposing to trial the system in place of the second stage, but will consider it for the first stage if it proves successful.

Republic of Ireland
Byrne notice of welcome for India

An Irish university has announced a scholarship scheme aimed at Indian students. The €250,000 (£216,675) funding initiative by University College Dublin will start in September for undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. The institution is also launching two master’s courses in petroleum geosciences and actuarial sciences to attract students from the subcontinent. “We want to create awareness about the possibilities for Indian students in Dublin in the areas of science, technology and engineering,” said Gerald Byrne, dean of engineering at UCD. Among the scholarships are two full tuition fee grants at the graduate level, five 50 per cent tuition fee scholarships for taught master’s programmes and more than 50 scholarships worth €2,000 each, The Times of India reported. At the undergraduate level, UCD is offering scholarships of up to €2,500.

Sri Lanka
Make room, make room

A group of protesters has demanded that the Sri Lankan government increase the number of public universities. Protesters from the Voice of Youth group staged a demonstration near the Ministry of Education last week calling for more institutions to accommodate an additional 140,000 students each year. Gayan Janaka, a spokesman for the group, said that each year more than 144,000 students passed the state-mandated entrance examination but only 22,000 of them were granted places, Gulf Times reported. “This is unacceptable. We call on the government to open new universities and expand the tertiary education system in Sri Lanka,” Mr Janaka said.

United States
We’re leaner, throw us a bone

The president of a US university has reiterated his pledge to reduce administrative costs while asking legislators to increase funding at the institution. “I am not standing for the status quo,” Eric Kaler, president of the University of Minnesota, told the state’s House of Representatives’ Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee last week. “We’ve done much in streamlining a complex organisation, but we have a long way to go.” Dr Kaler said he was committed to controlling tuition fees, but if the state’s “disinvestment” in the university continued, charges would keep rising. The president also presented a progress report on a study analysing the university’s administrative structure, which was demanded by lawmakers in January after a newspaper article highlighted Minnesota’s admin spending. According to the initial report, Sibson Consulting - which is conducting the study - had found “few areas that require attention”, the Twin Cities Daily Planet reported.

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