News in brief

July 29, 2010

Australia: Backing for young collaborators

Affirmative action in favour of young research-grant applicants is among the recommendations made by a report on ways to increase international research partnerships. The report, Australia's International Research Collaboration, also calls for a streamlining of the processing of visa applications by overseas academics, The Australian newspaper reported. The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Innovation, which wrote the report, was told that it can take up to a year for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to process such applications, and some had been rejected. The report says: "As research continues, and publication and citations increase, researchers are more likely to be successful in funding rounds, but many younger early-career researchers have found it difficult to break into the funding regime." The Australian said: "The report comes as Australia, which produces less than 3 per cent of the world's knowledge, moves to embed itself more deeply in the international scientific community."

Ireland: Preparing the way for fees redux

A key report examining higher education in Ireland is set to back the return of undergraduate tuition fees for Irish citizens. Colin Hunt, chair of the Hunt group of senior civil servants and industrialists, has made a series of briefings to groups involved in higher education, underlining the urgent need for new forms of "non-state funding". It is widely expected that the Hunt report will back a new system of student fees, most likely involving a form of graduate contribution, The Irish Times newspaper said. The Hunt group hopes to establish a fresh framework for the Irish academy that will last 20 years. A source who attended one of the briefings said: "It's now clear - fees are on the way back."

Nigeria: Legal foundations still needed

Plans to start admitting students to the proposed Abuja University of Technology, Abaji, may have been scuppered. Nigeria's National Universities Commission (NUC) said that the university cannot launch unless a law ratifying it is passed by the National Assembly. The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Administration is behind the plans for the university. Julius Okojie, executive secretary of the NUC, spoke at a recent meeting to discuss the scheme. "Professor Okojie warned that academic activities cannot take place at the university even when the structures have been put in place, and called on the minister of the FCT, Bala Mohammed, to expedite action on the passage of the law by lobbying his colleagues in the Senate," the website reported.

Malaysia: Elite quartet make the grade

Four Malaysian research universities have retained their status for another three years, after the government decided that their performance was up to scratch. The University of Malaya, the National University of Malaysia, the Science University of Malaysia and Putra University, Malaysia all made the grade, announced Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, the country's higher education minister. He said that the decision was based on an audit of their performance between 2007 and 2009, the Bernama news agency reported. "The four research universities have made a significant impact on ... research and churning out human capital in the country," the minister said. "Their achievements were gauged based on four aspects, namely human capital, publication, patent and intellectual property rights and income generation."

France: Underhand overcharging?

Almost a third of French universities are breaking the law by charging excessive fees to first-year students, the National Union of Students of France (Unéf) has claimed. In its sixth annual survey of the sector, it has named 26 universities that it says are operating outside the law by charging first-year students up to EUR2,200 (£1,855) in "supplementary" fees, and thereby penalising undergraduates from middle-income families who are ineligible for means-tested grants. Registration fees are regulated by ministerial decree and have been set at EUR174 for the 2010-11 academic year, but Unéf said a "little club" of institutions is continuing to charge additional fees. It called on Valérie Pécresse, the minister for higher education and research, to address the issue.

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