News in brief

September 16, 2010

Pakistan

Second v-c snatched at gunpoint

A vice-chancellor has been kidnapped by gunmen on his way to work - the second such case in less than a year. The target was Ajmal Khan, vice-chancellor of Islamia College University in Peshawar. Police said militants were behind the kidnapping. So far no group has claimed responsibility, the Express Tribune newspaper reported. Arbab Afridi, former president of the Peshawar University Teachers Association, condemned the kidnapping and said that if the vice-chancellor could not be protected by the government, the university was "doomed". In November 2009, Lutfullah Khan Kakakhel, vice-chancellor of the Kohat University of Science and Technology, was kidnapped by suspected militants from the Dara Adam Khel region, and released after almost seven months in captivity.

United States

For-profits go to Washington

For-profit colleges have stepped up their lobbying against government proposals to cut off federal financial aid for students on below-par courses. "In addition to making personal visits to Capitol Hill, executives at the colleges have provided employees with 'personalized' letters to send to Washington and urged students to speak out against the proposals," The New York Times newspaper said. "John Sperling, the founder of the nation's largest for-profit college, the University of Phoenix, emailed every member of Congress seeking help in opposing the regulations, and attached a sample letter to be sent to education secretary Arne Duncan, asking him to withdraw them." Under the proposed legislation, for-profit education programmes would qualify for federal student aid only if enough of their graduates were repaying their student loans or earned enough to do so.

Australia

Visa threat to bear market

Fresh fears have been raised over the Australian academy's overseas-student market following speculation about a government review of the student-visa system. The International Education Association of Australia (IEAA) warned that a Department of Immigration and Citizenship review would raise the risk-assessment level for some countries. Dennis Murray, IEAA's executive director, said it "doesn't look hopeful for the industry". "The tendency looks to be a tightening-up of the assessment level, which isn't encouraging," Mr Murray said. He added that if this happened, universities would seek assurances that the move was not coloured by politics in the wake of an election campaign in which both parties stressed the need to cut immigration, The Australian newspaper reported. "The IEAA warning comes as the latest July commencement figures from Australian Education International show a worsening decline in numbers going into the English language and vocational sectors," it said.

India

Cash for American links

Plans for a partnership fund that will build links between Indian and US universities have been finalised. The Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative (OSI), named after the countries' leaders, has been pledged $5 million (£3.2 million) by both governments to fund university partnerships and staff development. The move comes ahead of Barack Obama's visit to India in November. "With the OSI in place, it remains to be seen if the US-India Joint Council on Education takes shape...before Obama's visit," The Times of India newspaper reported. Grant allocation, it added, would be "transparent and merit-based", with no institution allowed to receive more than one grant.

China

Olympians too slow for managers

Two Olympic medallists are among 307 postgraduates set to be expelled by a Chinese university. Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) plans to expel the students, including Olympic champions Yang Wei and Gao Ling, as they are reportedly taking too long to complete their studies, the Global Times newspaper said. University rules require that graduate students finish their studies within four years. A spokesman for HUST said that its graduate school hopes the students will contact their tutors as soon as possible. Ms Gao, a badminton mixed-doubles champion, said she knew nothing about the dismissal. "I am about to finish my graduation thesis," she added.

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