News in brief - 23 May 2013

May 23, 2013

Media students try to keep it real

An Australian university launched an investigation after it emerged that students had been assigned to plant fake stories in a rival institution’s student newspaper. Media politics students in the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences were asked to “design and execute a false story that you attempt to get published in the University of New South Wales student newspaper”, news website Crikey reported. Students concerned about the task’s doubtful ethical status alerted the editors of the paper, Tharunka. The academic in charge of the course, Peter Chen, defended the assignment’s “sound pedagogic basis” but later acknowledged it was a “bad idea”. He cancelled the assignment and similar tasks, including one requiring students to create a web page for a fictitious cause.

United States
Texas ropes regents into line

A US state’s House of Representatives has passed a bill that will reduce the powers of a university system’s board of regents. Senate Bill 15, which adds restrictions and requirements for governor-appointed regents to the University of Texas system, passed with a large majority on its third and final reading last week. Dubbed the “higher-ed governance clean-up bill”, it requires regents of the state’s public university systems to attend training - including ethics training - before being allowed to vote on budgetary or personnel matters. The Texas Tribune reported that the bill was filed by the state senate’s higher education chairman, Kel Seliger. It includes the requirement that boards of regents ensure that they are not controlled by a minority of members or by outside institutions, reflecting concerns that some regents are overly influenced by thinktanks.

Local design for Nalanda rebirth

An Indian architectural practice has bested a number of international firms to win a $1 billion (£660 million) contract tto design a new campus named after India’s most ancient seat of learning. Gujarat-based Vastu Shilpa Consultants fended off overseas competitors including the UK’s Allies & Morrison and Norwegian firm Snøhetta to win the Nalanda University commission, said an online report by Building Design. The original Buddhist university at Nalanda in Bihar state existed from the fifth to the end of the 12th century and was home to an international cohort of more than 10,000 students. The new university will be built on a 180-hectare site, 10km from the ruins of the original brick campus.

United States
‘Whites-only’ award challenged

An Ivy League university has petitioned a judge to change the terms of a “whites-only” engineering fellowship offered by the institution. Lucy Drotning, Columbia University’s associate provost, filed an affidavit in Manhattan Supreme Court to support a prior action made by the Lydia C. Roberts Graduate Fellowship’s administrator, JPMorgan Chase Bank, to change the requirement that recipients must be “of the Caucasian race” as well as Iowa-born. Lydia C. Roberts Chamberlain, an Iowa native, donated her $509,000 estate to create the trust shortly before her death in 1920. Only white men and women born in the Hawkeye State could be considered for the award. The bank had claimed the award’s provisions were grossly outdated, the New York Daily News reported. “Circumstances have so changed from the time when the trust was established” that complying with the restrictions is “impossible”, Columbia’s affidavit says, adding that it “is now prohibited by law and university policy from discriminating on the basis of race”.

Foreign allure tops Soviet-era high

The Ukrainian education and science minister has revealed that foreign students brought in more than ₴4 billion (£320 million) in education income in the 2012-13 academic year, with their numbers rising by 10 per cent against the previous year. “Their contribution to Ukraine’s treasury grows by ₴500 million every year,” Dmytro Tabachnyk said last week. “Foreign students paid ₴4.3 billion for education in 2012-2013. In addition, these people live, eat and have rest here.” He added that more overseas students are pursuing higher education in Ukraine than “in the Soviet Union in its best years”, the English-language newspaper Kyiv Post reported.

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