News in brief

September 2, 2010

India

Chess champion denied degree

A university in India has been forced to apologise to a chess grandmaster after its plan to give him an honorary doctorate was foiled by a government cock-up. The Hindu newspaper reported that the University of Hyderabad was forced to abandon its plan when Kapil Sibal, human resource development minister, questioned whether Vishwanathan Anand - a sporting hero in the country - was an Indian national. Mr Sibal quickly apologised to the world chess champion, blaming "procedural error" for his untimely intervention, but by then it was too late for the ceremony to go ahead. Rajat Tandon, head of the department of mathematics at Hyderabad, said the minister's apology did "not lessen our embarrassment". He added: "This is how bureaucrats function."

United States

Player banned for naked trespass

A university athlete has been banned from Oregon State University's American football team after he was shot with a taser by police after being found "naked and intoxicated" in a stranger's home. Tyler Patrick Thomas, who is 6ft 2in and weighs 300 pounds, is reported to have attempted to barge police who challenged him. News website The Register reported that the officers "refused to play ball, and instead gave the belligerent ball player a righteous tazing (sic)" before arresting him on suspicion of trespass, criminal mischief and resisting arrest. Announcing that the 19-year-old had been kicked out of the team, Oregon State football coach Mike Riley said the incident was "not his first go-around with this".

Sweden

Free master's for foreigners

Gifted foreign students could be allowed to take their master's free of charge at Swedish universities, provided they agree to stay on and work in the country when they finish. The proposition tabled by Tobias Krantz, Sweden's higher education minister, would apply to students from outside the European Union, who will have to pay tuition fees next year for the first time, Swedish newspaper The Local reported. The main targets would be talented young people who want to take two-year master's programmes in natural sciences or technology-related subjects. Ylva Johansson, the Social Democrats spokeswoman on welfare issues, criticised the plans, saying that the best students had better options than living in "serfdom" in Sweden.

South Africa

Cash shortage sparks violence

Violent protests led to arrests on a South African campus as students held rallies against financial aid shortages. The Mail and Guardian newspaper reported that 20 students were arrested at the University of the Western Cape after attempting to trash a library. Stones were thrown and fires started during the protest last week, which followed similar scenes at the Durban University of Technology. The newspaper said the protests stemmed from a shortage of National Student Financial Aid Scheme allocations after a surge in the number of students applying for assistance. Brian O'Connell, vice-chancellor of Western Cape, said he had asked the aid scheme for additional funds and had been "advised that it could make a limited amount of money available to assist these students, but the (amount) would not be close to what is required".

Ireland

Fees by any other name

The Irish government is planning to reintroduce university fees through the back door by increasing a "student services" charge, it has been claimed. Gary Redmond, president of the Union of Students in Ireland, said he was "gravely concerned" about plans to increase the €1,500 (£1,230) cap on the charge, which is used to offset the cost of exams, student registration and other administrative expenses. The charge, which started out as a £150 levy in 1995, is set annually by universities and colleges in consultation with the Higher Education Authority and the Department of Education. The USI told The Irish Times that it understood the government was planning to increase the cap by at least €1,000 for the academic year 2011-12. Mr Redmond said: "€1,500 is already an awful lot of money for someone to pay up front. If that went to €2,500 or €3,000, you would really be getting into the area of fees by the back door or fees by any other name."

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