News in brief

July 15, 2010

India

Red tape, blue 'lacuna'

The University of Mumbai has been told it must ensure its vice-chancellors have more autonomy from political interference or "lose its glory". Last week, Rajan M. Welukar accepted the vice-chancellorship, which had lain vacant since September 2009, a delay criticised by Aroon Tikekar, author of The Cloister's Pale: A Biography of the University of Mumbai (2006). Writing in The Times of India before the appointment, he described the hiatus as "disgraceful" and questioned why the university's chancellor, Kateekal Sankaranarayanan, who is also the governor of Maharashtra, should struggle to appoint a selection committee. "However, looking at the miserable track record of the state's education department for the past three decades, such a lacuna, symptomatic of bureaucratic interference and callous indifference on the part of the powers that be, was ... inevitable," Dr Tikekar writes.

United States

Who watches the chewers?

CCTV and a ban on chewing gum are the latest weapons in the war on student cheating. The New York Times looked at the University of Central Florida's techniques for catching out cheats. "No gum is allowed during an exam: chewing could disguise a student speaking into a hands-free cell phone to an accomplice outside," it said. "The 228 computers that students use are recessed into desktops so that anyone trying to photograph the screen - using, say, a pen with a hidden camera - is easy to spot. When a proctor sees something suspicious, he records the student's real-time work at the computer and directs an overhead camera to zoom in, and both sets of images are burned on to a CD for evidence." Taylor Ellis, the associate dean who runs the testing centre at Central Florida's College of Business Administration featured in the article, said: "I'll never stop (people cheating) completely, but I'll find out about it."

Canada

Dean all set for Indian summer

A law giving foreign universities licence to operate in India is being eagerly anticipated by Canadian universities. Dezso Horvath, dean of the Schulich School of Business at York University, told The Globe and Mail newspaper: "If you analyse the global environment, you have no choice but to move into India. The opportunities for the Canadian education system are endless." The newspaper said in an editorial: "His reasoning is straightforward. India is home to an increasing share of the planet's under-25 population, and Canadian universities, some of which are chronically short of students and funds, need to tap into that market. In the tussle for government dollars, higher education must compete with rising healthcare costs for scarce resources."

Australia

'Doctorates'? We don't think so

The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) has rejected the University of Melbourne's plans to label some new master's-level degrees as doctorates. The AQF's council argued that the new professional degrees in health would diminish the status of doctorates, The Australian reported. "The stand-off between Melbourne and the AQF has triggered a sector-wide debate about the integrity of academic titles," it said. "From next year, Melbourne plans to offer doctorates in dental surgery, optometry, medicine, physiotherapy and veterinary medicine. It believes its plans are backed by international practice." The University of Western Australia is supporting Melbourne's stance and has plans to create professional-doctorate degrees in health.

Sri Lanka

State sets out fraudbusting rules

Students are to be protected from bogus foreign universities by new measures announced by the Sri Lankan government. The plight of 550 students sent by the same agent to an allegedly fraudulent medical academy in Chittagong, Bangladesh sparked the action. A spokesman for the Ministry of Healthcare and Nutrition told the Sri Lankan Daily Mirror that "there must be a mechanism to monitor the foreign education system", adding that bogus degrees and institutions should not be recognised. S.B. Dissanayaka, the higher education minister, said of the Chittagong case: "That is why we have decided to start private universities in the country. That is the only solution to this problem. We cannot prevent students from going abroad for study."

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