News in brief

September 23, 2010

Kenya

Bonds: licence to expand

Kenya plans to sell 10 billion shillings (£79.5 million) of bonds to finance an expansion of its universities that would stop students from being turned away owing to lack of space. According to the Business Daily newspaper, the plan was announced by William Ruto, Kenya's higher education minister, and is to be implemented next year. The bond sale is expected to help state-funded institutions admit at least 25,000 more undergraduates in a move aimed at eliminating the two-year wait that students currently endure. Olive Mugenda, vice-chancellor of Kenyatta University, said: "We are looking forward to the government doubling or tripling current funding to enable us to expand the existing facilities."

India

Elite avoid 'open door'

The first Western universities to take advantage of India's decision to open its doors to foreign providers are likely to be "mid-level" institutions, it has been reported. Six months after a draft law opening the country up to foreign education institutions was approved, government advisers have said that the most interest has been expressed by institutions below the world elite. "There is a high level of interest only from the Tier 2 institutions to do things in a serious manner," said M. Anandakrishnan, chairman of the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur. The so-called "Tier 1" institutions, such as Harvard University and the University of Oxford, "are simply not interested in setting up a campus here", the professor told The New York Times. The draft law has yet to be rubber-stamped by India's Parliament.

United States

Suicide forces chemical review

A US university is carrying out a review of its storage of dangerous chemicals after a laboratory worker was found dead with a bag marked "cyanide" next to her. Emily Staupe is believed to have poisoned herself by mixing cyanide with orange juice and milk, according to reports in the American media. The graduate student worked in Northeastern University's psychology department, where cyanide is kept, but investigations have yet to ascertain that the poison came from the lab. Melvin Bernstein, the university's vice-provost for research, will lead the review into the storage of hazardous substances at the private research university. The Boston Globe newspaper reported that Ms Staupe's grant-funded position was set to expire at the end of the month.

Singapore

Yale key to joint venture

A new liberal arts college could be established in Singapore in a joint venture between Yale University and the National University of Singapore. The two universities have signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding to continue investigating the proposal, which stems from an invitation extended to Yale by the National University last year. If the plans progress, it is hoped that the new college could open in 2013 and accommodate about 1,000 undergraduates in its early years. Richard Levin, president of Yale, said the plan was to develop an "educational model for the 21st century, contextualised especially for Asia". Ng Eng Hen, Singapore's education minister, told The Straits Times newspaper that the college would introduce "a more well-developed approach to the training of future leaders".

Canada

Duo look gift horses in mouth

Universities' growing reliance on philanthropic gifts is harming higher education. The claim is made by Neil Brooks, professor of tax law at Osgoode Hall Law School, and Linda McQuaig, columnist for the Toronto Star newspaper, who have accused the University of Toronto of becoming a "showcase for the wealthy" as a result of the donations it has accepted. The pair point to buildings, schools and courses named after billionaire philanthropists, who they suggest have a say over how their money is spent. They also claim that "genuine heroes" are missing out. "Given the perks, it's debatable whether this should even qualify as philanthropy at all," they say. "In cases like this, donors get something very valuable in return - their name publicly commemorated for all to see. This should be treated for what it is: a business transaction purchasing that most treasured of items - a personal legacy."

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