News in brief - 21 November 2013

November 21, 2013

Australia
Deregulation duo’s review brief

Two advocates of tuition fee deregulation have been picked to head the Australian government’s review of the country’s demand-driven university system. David Kemp, who served as John Howard’s education minister in 1999, and Andrew Norton, an independent analyst who was Dr Kemp’s adviser at the time, have been asked by Christopher Pyne, the education minister, to recommend improvements to ensure that the system “better meets its objectives, is efficient, fiscally sustainable and supports innovation and competition”. Mr Pyne has said there are no plans to raise fees or cap places, but the review’s terms of reference include ensuring that the system is “fiscally sustainable”, The Australian reported. As education minister, Dr Kemp drew up proposals for deregulating fees, only for the Howard government to scupper the idea once it was leaked.

United States
Spare us the ‘sequester’

US universities are lobbying against deep cuts to federal research funding. Last week, higher education leaders met in Washington DC to denounce the cuts, known as the “sequester”, and urge Congress to roll them back, The Washington Post reported. “The sequester is having a devastating impact,” said Elson S. Floyd, president of Washington State University. He was speaking at a press conference to publicise the results of a survey sponsored by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the Association of American Universities and the Science Coalition. In October, the survey polled 171 research university leaders about the effects of the sequester and received 74 responses. Seventy per cent say they have encountered delays in research projects since it took effect and the same proportion say their schools are obtaining fewer new research grants.

Egypt
Presidential redress ends bloodily

Dozens of students were injured in clashes with police during a demonstration in the northeastern Egyptian city of Mansoura last week. The students were protesting outside Mansoura University in support of Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s ousted president. Witnesses said rival groups threw stones at each other before police fired tear gas at Morsi supporters, Lebanon’s The Daily Star reported. A wave of violence has engulfed Egypt since the army overthrew Mr Morsi in July amid mass protests against his rule. Hundreds of students in universities throughout the country have staged protests in support of the deposed president in recent weeks. Most have been met with tear gas and arrests.

United States
First Lady of outreach

Michelle Obama has taken on a policy role focusing on higher education. The First Lady began work on the initiative, which seeks to increase the number of low-income Americans pursuing university degrees, last week. Ms Obama spoke to students at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington DC as part of a broader focus on encouraging students – especially those from underserved communities – to attend university, Associated Press reported. She also drew on her own experiences, saying that although her parents did not attend college, they had an “unwavering belief in the power of education”. Officials said Ms Obama is coordinating her work with education secretary Arne Duncan, who has been overseeing the president’s efforts to boost the nation’s graduation rate.

India/Australia
Million-dollar doctorates

An Indo-Australian partnership has launched a multimillion-dollar scholarship to provide researchers from both countries with academic supervision and support. The Melbourne-India postgraduate programme, set up by the University of Melbourne, the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and the Indian institutes of technology at Kanpur and Madras, will provide 16 PhD scholarships and associated support for research exchanges over the next three years. The A$3 million (£1.7 million) scheme was launched last week, The Times of India reported. “By enabling students from India and Australia to undertake joint research of the highest quality, we are confident the programme will address shared global challenges in areas of environmental, societal and technological need,” said Glyn Davis, Melbourne’s vice-chancellor.

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