News in brief - 31 October 2013

October 31, 2013

Branch of peace

A US university is planning to open a branch campus in the Arab capital of Israel in a bid to bring Arabs and Jews together and to expand its overseas presence. John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M University System, announced that the “peace university” would be located in Nazareth, Israel’s largest Arab city, the site having been chosen after consultation with Shimon Peres, Israel’s president. “He wanted…a university that would be composed of students from diverse backgrounds in Israel – Arabs and Jews in the same classroom, professors, teachers the same way,” Mr Sharp said. Mr Peres is a vocal advocate of coexistence between Israel’s Jewish majority and its Arab minority, The Washington Post reported. Mr Sharp said that to build the university, the Israeli parliament would need to pass special legislation, which could take a year.

United States
In need of aid? You can wait

A US university has been accused of favouring well-off students in its admissions policy. According to an article in George Washington University’s student newspaper, The GW Hatchet, the institution has been putting lower-income applicants on a waiting list during the second round of admissions, and university officials have for years misrepresented the policy. Previously, university officials have said that the university was “need-blind”. However in the Hatchet article last week, Laurie Koehler, senior associate provost for enrolment management, called the institution’s admissions policy “need-aware”, meaning that “students who meet GW’s admissions standards, but are not among the top applicants, can shift from ‘admitted’ to ‘waitlisted’ if they need more financial support from GW”. In a statement reacting to the article, Ms Koehler said it was “important to note that consideration of need occurs at the very end of the admissions process”.

To be honest, I have to leave

A university head has resigned from his institution with a parting shot that has sent ripples through India’s academy. Souvik Bhattacharyya, who was vice-chancellor of Jadavpur University, said he was leaving because he “faced difficulties while pursuing certain values such as honesty, integrity and ethics on many occasions”. Professor Bhattacharyya, who is returning to the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur – which he left to join Jadavpur – cited “personal and professional” reasons in his resignation letter, The Times of India reported, but it was claimed that his tenure had been blighted by run-ins with the government. “I had come to this university with a lot of hope and dreams,” Professor Bhattacharyya said. “I tried to do something, but much of it will remain unfulfilled. JU has immense potential…but it can do much better. I needed to take some action that I couldn’t.”

Ignoble delay

A Nobel laureate has condemned bureaucratic delays in the announcement of the winners of an Australian research funding stream. Brian Schmidt, an astronomer at the Australian National University and joint winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics, said he was “disgusted” by the wait to learn who had received Future Fellowships from the Australian Research Council. The decision, he claimed, meant that researchers had to spend weeks applying for next year’s round because they did not know if they had won a 2013 fellowship. “People are pretty disgusted by the way we do business here, and so am I,” he said. “It really comes down to the non-strategic way we treat science policy in this country.” The delay stems from Labor’s “pause” on research grants last year and from the demand by Tony Abbott’s new coalition government that all discretionary grants be approved by the finance ministry, The Australian reported.

La lucha continua

Spanish university students carried out a three-day strike last week in protest against cuts in the state education system and a requirement that pupils choose at a younger age to pursue either an academic or a vocational path (an attempt to reduce the youth unemployment rate). Protesters also condemned the rise in study costs at Spain’s universities, according to the Chinese news agency Xinhua. The students insisted that the changes to costs of courses and to grants mean “many people cannot have higher education”.

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