News in brief - 28 November 2013

November 28, 2013

Australia
Spread more thinly to go further

An Australian politician has defended the latest cuts to vocational course subsidies, arguing that funding will go further as a result. Peter Hall, skills minister in the Victoria state government, said the cuts would ensure that students shouldered a “reasonable” proportion of the burden of course costs. Overall, they should be paying about 20 per cent of the total, he argued. “This is about spreading the training dollar as far and as fairly as we can,” he said. “The changes are significant, but they won’t cause upheaval in the system.” Victoria has cut subsidies across 10 per cent of the 2,000 courses available in the state, targeting those that charge students no or low fees, The Australian reported. Critics say the changes are unfair to students and will undermine some courses’ viability.

Germany
Let’s blow whistleblower trumpet

A German university may award Edward Snowden an honorary doctorate for his role in exposing the scope of National Security Agency surveillance. The University of Rostock is considering honouring the former security contractor after one of its deans praised his “courage and civil disobedience”. “We owe it to Snowden to not forget him…when he has dedicated himself to exposing truth,” said Hans-Jürgen Wensierski, dean of Rostock’s philosophy department, who has put the whistleblower forward for the honour. “Moral courage is a central theme in…the social sciences and humanities.” Professor Wensierski added that civil disobedience was an important part of modern democracy, The Local website reported.

United States
We don’t want friends like this

A US university has suspended its 15-year partnership with a Palestinian institution after a Nazi-style demonstration was held on the latter’s campus. Frederick Lawrence, Brandeis University’s president, announced last week that the institution had put its association with Al-Quds University on hold. During the demonstration on 5 November, protesters marched in black military gear with fake automatic weapons while offering the Nazi salute, The Jewish Daily Forward reported. Banners with images of Palestinian suicide bombers decorated the campus’ main square, according to a statement from Brandeis, and several students portrayed dead Israeli soldiers. However, in a message to students, Al-Quds president Sari Nusseibeh claimed that “Jewish extremists” were using the demonstration to “capitalise on events in ways that misrepresent the university as promoting inhumane, anti-Semitic…and Nazi ideologies”.

Pakistan
Sectarian slaughter?

A professor at a Pakistani university has been killed by gunmen on suspected religious grounds. Syed Shabbir Hussain Shah, director of student services at Gujrat University, died instantly, along with his driver, Khadim Hussain, when gunmen on motorcycles intercepted his car and opened fire on the vehicle last week. Sheikh Abdul Rashid, a university spokesman, told Agence France-Presse that Professor Shah “was a Shia by sect, and a very progressive official of the campus”, while an anonymous source said he had been threatened before, The Express Tribune reported. Manzoor Malik, the local deputy superintendent of police, told Reuters: “We found a note at the scene of Shah’s death which read: ‘This is retaliation for Rawalpindi.’” On 15 November, eight residents were killed in Sunni-Shia clashes in the city.

United States
Close to the audit

The president of the Iowa State University board of regents has called for a comprehensive review of its universities. Bruce Rastetter said an efficiency study of the three state institutions was long overdue. “We think a generation and a half is too long,” he said, noting that the most recent thorough examination of the universities of Iowa, Northern Iowa and Iowa State University was an efficiency audit undertaken in 1989, The Gazette (Cedar Rapids) reported. The regents have formed two committees to conduct reviews at the campuses of everything from academic standards and administration to athletics, Mr Rastetter added. “It will be a very large study to look at a variety of factors,” he told members of the Des Moines Conservative Breakfast Club on 19 November.

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