News in brief - 26 September 2013

September 26, 2013

China
US joint venture gets green light

The Chinese government has formally approved the establishment of a new institution created jointly by a US and a Chinese university. Duke Kunshan University, a venture between Duke and Wuhan universities that has been in development since 2010, will offer both degree and non-degree programmes for students from China and around the world. It received preliminary approval from China’s Ministry of Education last year and will start to enrol students in autumn 2014. Li Xiaohong, Wuhan’s president, said the institution was “a meaningful step in establishing and completing China’s modern university system, and it will open up a new world for higher education cooperation between China and the US”.

Australia
Black hole in Cabinet

A Nobel laureate at an Australian university was among many who expressed their alarm at the Coalition government for neglecting to appoint a science minister when it took office. Brian Schmidt, an astronomer at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Australian National University who won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics, tweeted: “Not only does the new cabinet not have a science minister – it doesn’t obviously have anyone even assigned to the area.” Tony Abbott, the new prime minister, said his pared-back ministerial titles were meant to reverse the “title inflation” that occurred under Labor and should not be interpreted as a lack of interest. “Science will largely be in the industry portfolio,” he said. Universities Australia said the changes would make Australia one of just three G20 countries without a dedicated science or research ministry, alongside Mexico and Saudi Arabia, The Australian reported.

India
DIY accredit check

Indian Institutes of Technology have agreed to seek accreditation from India’s national body to reinforce their brand and help them to climb international university rankings. The IITs, which are autonomous, will apply to the National Board of Accreditation. In light of their high standards, they have been allowed to conduct the review themselves and report the results to the board, The Times of India reported. Pallam Raju, the minister for human resource development, said the move would help India rise from being a provisional to a full member of the Washington Accord, an agreement among accrediting agencies of 15 nations that recognises engineering degree programmes internationally. One of the main criteria for a country joining is that its engineering degrees be accredited.

United States
One-stop evidence shop

A US research body has joined forces with an education thinktank in an effort to help policymakers and practitioners make better use of evidence in decision-making. The American Institutes for Research (AIR), one of the world’s largest non-profit behavioural and social science research organisations, has teamed up with Education Sector, an independent education policy thinktank, in what David Myers, president of AIR, described as a “natural fit”. “AIR and Ed Sector have expertise that complements each other, along with a shared goal of conducting and applying the best behavioural and social science research and evaluation towards improving the quality of education, especially for the disadvantaged,” he said.

China
The no-blame game

A Chinese university has asked all new students to sign a contract that would absolve the institution of responsibility in the event of their injuring themselves or taking their own lives on campus. According to local media, the disclaimer plan from Dongguan University of Technology arose after a male student stabbed and injured a female student in a university dormitory after she refused to be his girlfriend last term, Xinhua news agency reported. However, this was denied by a university official, who said that the contract was just the “dormitory code of conduct”. By having the students sign the document, the institution expects them to abide by the rules and to take care of themselves, he said. However, many parents see the contract as a way for the college to shun responsibility. One father, who did not want to be named, said: “The university shouldn’t pass the buck when things happen on campus.”

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