News in brief

February 14, 2013

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The new Australian tertiary education minister has a raft of problems to deal with just months before the federal election, according to newspaper reports. Chris Bowen, who took over the role after his predecessor Chris Evans resigned on 1 February, was immediately faced with the issue of attracting more foreign students to the country after data revealed that Australia’s revenue from the international market had fallen to its lowest ebb for half a decade, The Australian reported. Mr Evans’ recent dismissal of a review of university funding is another hot-button issue, with senior sector figures becoming increasingly concerned that Canberra has lost interest in higher education. “The government has stopped delivering a policy; it has reached terminal point,” said Simon Marginson, professor of higher education at the University of Melbourne.

We built this city on mortarboards

The economic stability of Canada’s second city is being threatened by university underfunding, a higher education summit has heard. Representatives from Montreal’s nine universities told the Montréal métropole universitaire forum that it was imperative that the city maintain its status as the higher education capital of Canada. The group teamed up with the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal to say that universities are inextricably linked to research, the engine of the province’s knowledge economy, the Montreal Gazette reported. “These institutions are concerned that Montreal may lose its status as a university metropolis and that they may no longer be getting the support they need,” said Louise Roy, chancellor and chair of the board of directors at the University of Montreal.

Rupee? That’ll do nicely

A business branch of a money transfer company has unveiled a service allowing universities worldwide to accept tuition payments in Indian rupees. Western Union Business Solutions, part of Western Union, will enable participating schools and universities to offer Indian students the option to pay tuition fees in their home currency. Typically, Indian nationals studying overseas are invoiced in the currency of the country in which the university is based, which often makes payment cumbersome and expensive, the Economic Times reported. In many cases, intermediary fees reduce the final amount received by the university, so the students have to pay more to make up the shortfall.

United States
Default position: sue

A number of leading US universities are suing former students who have defaulted on their student loan repayments, court records have shown. George Washington University, Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania have filed lawsuits to collect past-due bills from the Perkins student loan scheme. According to a report on Bloomberg, borrowers defaulted on almost $1 billion (£638.4 million) in Perkins loans in the year to June 2011. Unlike most US student loans, which are distributed and collected by the federal government, the Perkins scheme is administered by the colleges, which use the money repaid to lend to other poor students.

To strengthen patient, amputate

A government plan to streamline Greek universities, leaving fewer departments offering courses on the most popular subjects and abolishing those not in demand, has proposed the closure of four institutions. Constantinos Arvanitopoulos, the Greek education minister, revealed that the Athina scheme plans to cull the universities of Central Greece, Western Greece, Western Macedonia and the International Hellenic University, as well as several departments at universities and technical colleges that attract negligible student interest. According to Mr Arvanitopoulos, the overhaul will allow a greater number of students to study at popular faculties such as those focusing on economics and business, the website reported. Mr Arvanitopoulos said Athina aimed to “bolster” the state education system and to link it more effectively to potential growth areas in the economy to support the country’s finances and tackle catastrophic levels of Greek unemployment.

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