News in Brief

October 7, 2010

United States

Forget the facials, Obama advises

Universities must control costs and reconsider costly amenities, President Obama has said. In a conference call with student journalists, the former University of Chicago Law School lecturer said that every institution should provide a chart showing how tuition fees are spent. President Obama also questioned the need for expensive amenities, The Chronicle of Higher Education said. "You're not going to a university to join a spa," he told the students. The president said that improving the economy - to help shore up state budgets - is crucial to improving affordability for students, but he argued that universities must also be mindful of teaching loads. Higher education institutions should "give professors the opportunity to engage in work outside the classroom that advances knowledge," he said, "but at the same time remind faculties that their primary job is to teach".

Australia

Campus service-fee ban to end

A ban on charging university students compulsory fees for non-academic services is set to be overturned by Australia's new government. "Five years after the Howard government's so-called voluntary student unionism laws outlawed compulsory non-academic fees, universities appear likely to win the right to charge fees to fund campus services," The Age newspaper reported. The ruling Labor Party has introduced legislation that would allow universities to charge students up to A$250 (£153) a year to fund amenities such as sporting facilities, childcare and counselling. The Howard-era law stripped some $170 million from annual student services budgets, leading to the closure of many services and the loss of thousands of jobs.

China

Overseas-student push intensifies

The Chinese government is continuing its push to increase recruitment of overseas students. "Self-funding foreign students are set to become the largest overseas group in China, as the country plans to attract 500,000 of them in 2020," state news agency Xinhua said. The report came ahead of a document detailing the government's plans to attract more overseas students, and following the publication in July of a report entitled National Outline for Medium and Long-Term Education Reform and Development (2010-2020). "It is an attempt to implement China's 10-year national education outline and an important part of the country's diplomatic work to show Chinese culture to the global community," said Zhang Xiuqin, director-general of the ministry's department of international cooperation and exchange.

Turkey

New headscarf debate unfolds

A law that prohibits women wearing the Muslim headscarf at university goes against freedom of belief and education, Turkey's prime minister has said. In 2008, the country's Constitutional Court struck down an attempt by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to remove the ban. But after voters last month approved constitutional changes that would permit an overhaul of the court, AKP officials have put the sensitive issue back on the government's agenda, Reuters reported. "We agree with society on the headscarf issue," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech to university students in Istanbul. "We do not want to disappoint our youth. There is no sense in being so interventionist in freedom of belief and education any more."

New Zealand

Full coffers, but long queues

Universities in New Zealand are financially strong, says the government, but funding pressures are forcing them to turn away record numbers of students. The higher education sector reported an overall surplus of 4.3 per cent from revenue of about NZ$4.2 billion (£1.9 billion) - $2.1 billion of which came from government funding, The New Zealand Herald newspaper reported. Steven Joyce, minister for tertiary education, said the figures showed that higher education institutions are "generally in strong financial positions and are well placed for future challenges and growth". But Derek McCormack, vice-chancellor of Auckland University of Technology and chairman of Universities NZ, said: "Continued underfunding in real terms puts increased financial strain on our institutions, already under pressure from unprecedented student demand."

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