News in brief - 30 May 2013

May 30, 2013

United States
Political costs

Republicans in Ohio want to force its universities to grant in-state tuition fee rates to out-of-state students if the institutions have provided documents allowing incomers to vote, a proposal that could cost the institutions millions of dollars. Republican senators, who included the provision in the state budget now under consideration, argue that they are trying to streamline the system. However, critics say the amendment is designed to discourage universities from making voting easy for out-of- state students, who traditionally vote Democrat, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported. The bill could also have the effect of eliminating out-of-state tuition fees in Ohio: if the item remains in the budget, universities say they will continue to provide the students with documents that allow them to register to vote. Innovation Ohio, a thinktank that opposes the amendment, said it would cost the universities as much as $2 million (£178.4 million).

Czech Republic
Title fight

The president of the Czech Republic has said he will no longer block a professorial honour at Charles University in Prague for a gay rights activist. Miloš Zeman refused to honour academic Martin Putna with a university professorship - the highest academic title in the country - because of his presence at Prague Pride, a gay parade. Critics claimed that the snub was really the result of Dr Putna’s supporting Mr Zeman’s opponent in the most recent presidential election. Politicians and universities said that Mr Zeman’s action was an unacceptable intrusion on academic rights, the Associated Press reported. Czech presidents traditionally appoint university professors, but in a deal struck last week, the government will change the law to give the power to education ministers instead. Petr Fiala, the current minister, will now present the title to Dr Putna. Mr Zeman said that he was “very glad” that the dispute had been resolved.

Philanthropic pugilism

Two of Australia’s most renowned universities have gone head to head in the philanthropy stakes after announcing similar fundraising drives. Glyn Davis, vice-chancellor of the University of Melbourne, launched the Believe campaign last week, which aims to raise A$500 million (£322.3 million) by 2017 to fund scholarships, research and facilities. “This campaign will help us go beyond what a university can achieve with current funding levels,” Professor Davis said. The University of Sydney unveiled its A$600 million Inspired campaign at a lavish black-tie dinner in early May, The Australian reported.

Harassment in the cross hairs

Two committees of the Knesset, the legislative branch of the Israeli government, have given the country’s higher education body three months to draft rules on sexual harassment in academia. The Knesset Education Committee and the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women called a joint meeting to discuss the problem. The National Union of Israeli Students formulated its own bylaws on the issue two years ago and submitted them to the Council for Higher Education last week, Haaretz newspaper reported. But union members said the council wants to formulate only general principles and are sceptical about its willingness to enforce detailed rules. A students’ union survey presented to the Knesset meeting found that 17.9 per cent of students say they have been sexually harassed by a lecturer, a preceptor or another student, but 75 per cent have never complained.

Money, power and reform

The Libyan minister of higher education has announced that he is working on organising a new scholarship system, giving more power to institution heads and reviewing the rules governing the country’s universities. Speaking at a prime ministerial press conference last week, Hassan Abubaker acknowledged the low quality of higher education in the country and noted increased expectations in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution. In the short term, he said, 10,500 scholarships for students and teaching staff abroad would be made available, the Libya Herald reported. The minister added that more power would be given to university leaders and that his ministry would open offices in Benghazi and Sabha.

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