News in brief - 5 September 2013

September 5, 2013

Australia
Top whack for top dogs

Some Australian university heads are paid 10 times as much as senior lecturers, institutions’ annual accounts for 2012 have shown. The average remuneration package of vice-chancellors at the country’s 37 public universities was almost A$800,000 (£461,530), with Macquarie University’s former head Steven Schwartz leading the field at nearly A$1.2 million. The vice-chancellors of the Australian Catholic University and the University of Melbourne each earned more than A$1 million, 10 times the average salary for a senior lecturer and double the salary of heads of some smaller universities. Top-earning vice-chancellors’ pay is also twice as large as that of the Australian prime minister, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

United States
Anti-Israel protests ‘not actionable’

The US Department of Education has dismissed Jewish students’ allegations that anti-Israel protests at a public university created an illegally hostile and anti-Semitic atmosphere. The department’s civil rights office has said that protests last year at the University of California, Berkeley against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, which reportedly included mock military checkpoints, may have been upsetting to Jews but “do not constitute actionable harassment”, according to a letter from the department released last week by Berkeley. “Exposure to such robust and discordant expressions, even when personally offensive and hurtful, is a circumstance that a reasonable student in higher education may experience,” the letter said. The investigation followed a civil rights complaint filed last year on behalf of Berkeley graduates who claimed that the protest and other events stoked anti-Semitism. A federal lawsuit over similar allegations was dismissed in 2011, The Los Angeles Times reported.

India/Bangladesh
Speaking the same language

The vice-chancellor of an Indian university has said that her institution is discussing the creation of a joint centre for culture and literature studies with a Bangladeshi partner. Malabika Sarkar said that Presidency University in Kolkata was in talks with the University of Dhaka. According to Professor Sarkar, Dhaka’s Bengali department approached Presidency about the centre with the aim of fostering links between the countries, The Times of India reported. “The vice-chancellor of Dhaka University is personally very interested in the project based on the culture and literature of the two Bengali-speaking nations,” she said, adding that “it is in the discussion stage…nothing has been finalised”.

Israel
Scholar minds achievement gap

An Israeli academic has said that the country’s education system “preserves the gaps” between rich and poor. Daniel Gutwein, professor in the department of history of the Jewish people at the University of Haifa, said government data on school-leavers’ grades support his claim and reflect a 30-year trend “of successful privatising of education…The education system gives to those with the ability to make the most of their private talent.” He said that the figures for students who have passed their matriculation exams show significant differences in academic achievement between urban and rural areas, between Arabs and Jews, and between secular and ultra-Orthodox students, Haaretz newspaper reported. Israel’s education system “has given up on equal opportunity and become a tool to preserve and enlarge gaps”, Professor Gutwein said.

China
Student aid budget hits new high

The Chinese government has expanded financial support to students at all levels, official data show. According to the China National Centre for Student Financial Aid, students received 112.6 billion yuan (£11.8 billion) in financial support for their studies in 2012, with over 70 per cent coming from central and local governments. It was the first time that support reached 100 billion yuan, with some 84 million students in receipt of aid. “We have set up a complete financial aid system that can cover students at different education stages, from kindergarten to postgraduates,” said Zhang Guangming, director of the China National Centre for Student Financial Aid. He added that the Ministry of Education was this year paying close attention to university participation rates by students from poor families, the China Daily reported.

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