News in brief

August 19, 2010

Australia

A vote for higher fees

Student fees could rise by 10 per cent in the first year of deregulation if Australia's right-of-centre coalition wins this week's general election. Andrew Norton, research Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, told The Australian newspaper that the financial pressure caused by generous pay rises for staff awarded under the Labor regime would mean universities would be quick to avail themselves of deregulated fees under a coalition government. "I'd be surprised if the average increase (in fees across universities) was less than 10 per cent in the first year," Mr Norton said ahead of the election on 21 August. The coalition has refused to rule out an increase in Higher Education Contribution System fees. "Opposition leader Tony Abbott failed to mention universities in his speech during the coalition launch ... and pressure is mounting on the opposition to release its higher education and science and research policies for scrutiny," The Australian said.

Sweden

Open letter ruins red-letter day

The bicentenary of Sweden's Karolinska Institute has been hit by protests against its president. Twelve leading Karolinska scientists published an open letter in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper, saying that "an emergency brake needs to be pulled" on proposals to extend the decision-making power of the president, Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson. The medical university selects the winners of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, and 10 of the letter's signatories sit on the Nobel selection committee. The scientists claim that the president "has used her position over the past six years to inappropriately concentrate power into her own hands, increasing bureaucracy for researchers and suppressing critical voices by ousting those who stand in her way," Nature reported.

United States

Under scrutiny, Kaplan cools it

The private higher education firm Kaplan has suspended enrolment at two of its campuses after government undercover investigators found evidence of "deceptive or fraudulent practices". Kaplan suspended enrolment at its campuses in Pembroke Pines, Florida and Riverside, California, following a report by the Government Accountability Office - accompanied by video - to a Senate hearing. At Pembroke Pines, an admissions officer told investigators posing as applicants that the college had the same accreditation as Harvard University, The New York Times reported. Other evidence gathered at a total of 15 campuses investigated included admissions officers telling potential applicants not to detail their savings in an apparent bid to maximise the amount of state aid the colleges would receive.

Malaysia

English: not an unpatriotic option

Malaysia's former prime minister has defended the trend for teaching courses and writing research papers in English at the country's universities. Mahathir Mohamad gave a public lecture on the "Impact of technology on the future of higher education", hosted by The Open University Malaysia. He said that the teaching of science and mathematics in English was particularly vital, Malaysia's Sun newspaper reported. "We can translate books but it's not about that. There are thousands of academic papers published; how are we going to translate it all? Who is going to dedicate his life to translate all the papers?" Dr Mahathir asked. He added: "Learning English won't make you unpatriotic; it is the language of knowledge. Our language alone is not good enough if you want to make the nation successful."

Canada

Gender pay now a great divide

Male academics at Canadian universities earn higher salaries on average than their female colleagues - with the discrepancy reaching more than C$20,000 (£12,300) at some institutions. Statistics Canada released figures showing that the largest gap was at the University of Toronto. The average salary of full-time male teaching staff at Toronto, excluding medical and dental faculty members, is C$20,362 higher than their female peers, data from 2008 and 2009 show. "University officials, however, say the pay discrepancies are not a sign of bias, but instead are the result of former hiring practices that favoured men, the age and rank of professors and the distribution of male and female professors in various disciplines," the National Post reported.

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