News in brief

March 7, 2013

United States
It looks bad - we think

A preliminary 2014 budget indicates that the governor of Louisiana may cut $200 million (£133 million) from state university funding. The higher education budget proposed by Governor Bobby Jindal is made up of several different funding streams, several of which will experience drastic changes. The higher education general fund, for example, is projected to undergo cuts of nearly $700 million, while the “statutory dedications” fund is due to increase by about $600 million. These and other changes have resulted in a total budget of about $2.7 billion, which is $200 million less than that for the 2013 fiscal year, reported The Daily Reveille, Louisiana State University’s student newspaper. However, politicians and university officials are said to be unsure about what the numbers will mean, with some believing there may not actually be a cut.

Canada
Forgiven but not fiscally forgotten

Canada’s federal government will write off over C$230 million (£150 million) in unpaid student loans this year, bringing the amount that taxpayers have shouldered in the past few years to more than half a billion Canadian dollars. Supplementary spending estimates presented last week to the House of Commons by Tony Clement, president of the Treasury Board, called for C$231.2 million in the 2012-13 fiscal year to write off more than 44,000 cases of unpaid debt related to Canada Student Loans. “Amounts being written off are debts for which all reasonable efforts to collect the amounts owed have been exhausted,” the Treasury Board report says. A previous request in the 2011-12 fiscal year for C$312 million to cover student loan debts dating back more than a decade takes the total taxpayer bill to C$542 million since 2011, the Ottawa Citizen reported.

Australia
Poll position: we need to talk

The incoming chair of Universities Australia has urged the government to focus on higher education. Sandra Harding, vice-chancellor of James Cook University, succeeds Glyn Davis, University of Melbourne vice-chancellor, in the post later this year. She said that in election year her role was to try to ensure that the broader community understood the contribution of universities, The Australian reported. “The challenge is making sure we are not just talking to ourselves. We need to make sure that others understand the significance of what we do,” she said. “[Universities] need to operate in a financially and economically sustainable way but they also have to operate in society with legitimacy and esteem because of the contribution they make.”

Singapore
Tenure denied to government critic

The decision not to give tenure to a prominent Singaporean academic who has criticised the country’s ruling party has caused an international outcry. Cherian George, an associate professor in the department of journalism and publishing at Nanyang Technological University who has written about the lack of media freedom in the city state, has been denied tenure for a second time. The university said Professor George did not meet teaching and research standards. But Karin Wahl-Jorgensen of the School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies at Cardiff University, one of the outside experts who reviewed George’s case for tenure, told the Calgary Herald: “I can only speculate about the reasons for this decision not to grant tenure to someone known for being critical of the government.”

Pakistan
New institution gets a clarified yes

A regional government in Pakistan has approved the establishment of a new university. The Sindh Assembly last week ratified a private bill to create a university in Hyderabad under a public-private partnership. The motion was proposed by Waseem Ahmed, a member of the provincial assembly from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, and was signed by around 14 lawmakers from various parties. The decision came despite an earlier news report that Sindh education minister Pir Mazharul Haq had said he would not allow any new universities to be set up in the city, the Express Tribune newspaper reported. The MQM protested against those comments and asked the minister to submit his resignation. However, Mr Haq claimed that his comments had been taken out of context.

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