News in brief - 24 October 2013

October 24, 2013

United States
Rethink the Master Plan

A Californian state government agency has urged its university leaders to create a new higher education agenda, saying that the existing plan is outdated. In a report on the future of higher education, the Little Hoover Commission, an oversight agency that investigates government operations with the aim of promoting efficiency, said it was time to discard the 1960 California Master Plan for Higher Education and to draft a new agenda that creates more university graduates to meet business needs. The commission found that the current three-tier system, developed to expand enrolment for baby boomers, is not producing enough degree holders in an era of finite resources, the Los Angeles Times reported. Although the state government increased higher education spending this year, institutions can no longer depend on the general fund to support enrolment needs, the report also says.

Pyne releases watchdog member

Christopher Pyne, Australia’s new education minister, has begun reforming the country’s higher education regulator by releasing one of its commissioners. The contract of Eric Mayne, a lawyer who was one of five commissioners of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, expired on 2 October and was not renewed by Mr Pyne. Mr Mayne said he was disappointed by the decision but expects that the minister “wants to make a new start”. The agency declined to comment on how the move might affect it, referring questions to the minister, The Australian reported. A spokesman for Mr Pyne said that it was “entirely natural” that a new government considered new appointments as board positions expired. Asked whether Mr Pyne would cut the number of commissioners or scale down Teqsa’s duties and budget, he said: “The minister will announce any (further) changes to Teqsa in due course.”

Helping hand for ‘English outcasts’

An Indian university has launched two programmes to provide its underprivileged students with skills to help them after they leave higher education. Jamia Millia IslamiaUniversity has launched the Communicative English and Self-Enrichment programmes for students from poor socio-economic backgrounds who have had no formal training in English and are often treated as “English outcasts”. The initiatives, conceived by former vice-chancellor Najeeb Jung and current incumbent S. M. Sajid, aim to empower and integrate these students in the mainstream, The Times of India reported. The courses will address not only students’ linguistic needs but also other life skills. About 140 students have already registered for the Communicative English programme.

United States
Female first at Catholic institution

A US university that has changed leaders just three times in nearly 50 years has made history in naming its first female president. Julie Sullivan, previously executive vice-president and provost of the University of San Diego, has also become the first layperson to lead the University of St Thomas, a Roman Catholic institution in Minnesota. Dr Sullivan, who was installed at a ceremony on 17 October, officially started her job in July. She is the 15th president in St Thomas’ 128-year history. An expert in accounting and taxation, she has also held positions at the University of California, San Diego, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Oklahoma.

Minister seeks US partnerships

Ethiopia will boost its cooperation with foreign universities to help build its human capital, a senior minister has said. Tedros Adhanom, minister of foreign affairs, made the statement to a visiting delegation of university officials from the southern states of the US earlier this month, adding that the government was focusing on the goals set out in its Growth and Transformation Plan. Dr Tedros said Ethiopia hoped to establish partnerships with US institutions specialising in science and technology, reported. Tibor Nagy, the delegation’s leader and vice-provost for international affairs at Texas Tech University, said US universities were keen to strengthen links with the African nation. In the past two decades, Ethiopia’s higher education sector has expanded from two to 32 universities.

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