News in brief - 28 March 2013

March 28, 2013

United States
Well-funded Korea move for Utah

A US university’s trustees have approved a plan to open a branch campus in South Korea. With the support of subsidies from the South Korean government, the University of Utah is aiming to enhance its “global footprint”, according to Michael Hardman, interim senior vice-president for academic affairs. Utah was one of several Western institutions involved in Songdo Global University, a multibillion-dollar, privately developed project that has faltered as institutions have dropped out. Just four Western universities remain committed to the $350 million (£231.4 million) campus, including the State University of New York at Stony Brook, George Mason University and Ghent University, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. In the new project, the South Korean government will provide Utah with at least $1.5 million a year to fund the first four years of operations, as well as an interest-free $10 million loan repayable only if the campus is profitable.

Exams drop English requirement

English has been dropped as a compulsory subject in China’s annual independent university entrance exams. The exams began last week and, in most cases, students hoping to specialise in science or engineering will be required to sit exams only in maths and physics, while prospective arts students will be required to take Chinese and maths exams, the Xinhua news agency reported. Yu Han, a Tsinghua University enrolment officer, said English was dropped to reduce student workloads and attract those who excel in targeted subjects. Independent entrance exams are held three months prior to China’s national exams and allow universities to recruit more talented students.

Group of Eight: not so great?

Leading research universities in Australia have some of the lowest student satisfaction ratings for teaching quality, new data indicate. The “good teaching scale” statistics from the government’s MyUniversity website showed Group of Eight research-intensive universities performing poorly in student assessments of teaching quality, particularly in the fields of engineering, accounting and computing and information systems, The Australian reported. A spokeswoman for the Go8 said the student questionnaire used to produce the data was “not developed for the purpose of ranking institutions. It is a self-reporting survey administered differently at every institution.” But, she added, “we would agree with the point made in this analysis - that less demanding courses are likely to attract more favourable reporting. Go8 students are typically high achievers with higher expectations of university teaching.”

Redefining ideas of greatness

The president of India has said the country needs to redefine its education strategy because of the “simply unacceptable” fact that no Indian universities are among the world’s top 200 institutions. Addressing the 90th Convocation of the University of Delhi, Pranab Mukherjee stressed the need to increase enrolment and change courses to facilitate learning. He said the sector has “problems relating to both quantity and quality…If we are to redefine the way education is imparted by our educational institutions, the time is now.” He continued: “We must develop our universities into global leaders, and for that, the best practices in other countries should be carefully studied and adopted with necessary changes to suit our conditions.”

United States
Tax cuts wound Kansas’ academy

Kansas universities and colleges could lose millions of dollars in state funding as politicians seek to reduce state spending. Budgets from the state’s House of Representatives and Senate are looking to cut up to $30 million (£20 million) from Kansas’ six major universities and its technical and community colleges. The prospect of even deeper cuts in the future has drawn criticism from Democrats and others, The Kansas City Star reported. “This is a signal to the marketplace that the state does not see higher education as an engine of economic development, innovation and discovery,” said Steven Warren, vice-chancellor for research and graduate studies at the University of Kansas. But Ty Masterson, a Republican senator, said lawmakers had to find savings in order to lower income taxes.

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