News in brief

February 7, 2013

Scientists pleased with results

The Bulgarian prime minister, Boyko Borisov, has sacked his science and education minister, Sergei Ignatov, after an uproar over alleged corruption and cronyism in science funding. Last November, hundreds of scientists complained that Bulgarian Science Fund officials had favoured unsound research projects in a recent Lv15 million (£6.6 million) competition, thereby diverting funds from worthier schemes. Petitioning the prime minister, scientists accused the fund - which is overseen by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Science - of nepotism and demanded an investigation, Nature reported. Despite rejecting accusations of the deliberate mismanagement of research funds, a recent state inquiry criticised Mr Ignatov’s leadership, forcing Mr Borisov to act.

United States
No ifs, more ‘butts’ in workplace

A US governor has argued that state colleges and universities should be funded based on graduate employment rates. Pat McCrory, governor of North Carolina, made the comments on a nationally syndicated radio show, adding that he was instructing his staff to look at drafting legislation to address the issue. He told Bill Bennett’s Morning in America show that such legislation would not be “based on butts in seats but on how many of those butts can get jobs”. Mr McCrory said that he was a fan of vocational training and that certain universities were not offering courses conducive to employment, reported. His comments met with criticism from the university sector. Andrew Perrin, associate professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the comments showed a “fundamental misunderstanding” of the purpose of higher education, The News & Observer reported. “A strong, diverse and challenging liberal arts education…is the best possible resource for dealing with the reality of uncertain futures,” he said.

Dress code is not of our design

The Palestinian Ministry of Higher Education has reversed a decision by a public university in Gaza forcing female students to wear Islamic clothing including the hijab on campus. Ali Al-Jarbawi, the higher education minister, sent an official letter to the acting head of Al-Aqsa University stating that only his ministry had the authority to impose such regulations and that the rule would be scrapped. Al-Aqsa’s board had unanimously voted to approve a decision to force female students to abide by a “decent dress code”, including the hijab, Gulf News reported. Dr Al- Jarbawi said that the ministry had not been consulted before the decision was made and that the Palestinian National Authority had no specific definition of a “decent dress code”.

Hands across the Indian Ocean

An Indian women’s university has signed a partnership agreement with a South Korean institution. Bhagat Phool Singh Mahila Vishwavidyalaya University (BPSMV) will now set up academic and research collaborations with Kwangwoon University in Seoul. Pankaj Mittal, BPSMV’s vice- chancellor, expressed her delight with the agreement, saying it would benefit the institution’s students and staff. Dae-hee Lee, professor at Kwangwoon’s department of public administration, said that India and South Korea had a social and cultural affinity, adding that the deal would help to foster closer ties between the nations, The Times of India reported.

United States
William, it was really something

A US university has benefited from the largest donation ever made to its College of Engineering, which will be used to fund scholarships and staff appointments. Officials from the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign revealed that it had received a $100 million (£63.4 million) gift from the Grainger Foundation in memory of William W. Grainger, a Class of 1919 graduate of the university’s electrical engineering programme who went on to establish W.W. Grainger, a leading industrial supply company. “It will allow us to recruit a level of faculty and attract a level of students who might not look to us…otherwise,” said Phyllis Wise, chancellor of the institution. The donation will form the basis of the Grainger Engineering Breakthroughs Initiative, which will fund staff and scholarships, and support research, the Chicago Tribune reported.

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