News in brief

November 4, 2010

Iran

Doubt? We can't have that

"Western subjects" that are grounded in "materialism" corrupt the young, according to Iran's spiritual leader. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that subjects such as women's studies, psychology and political science would lead to "the dissemination of doubt in the foundations of religious teachings" in the country. The Iranian government strives to restrict access to "decadent" Western culture, although widespread use of the internet by the younger generation is known to be frustrating its efforts. The government has now banned the formation of new university departments in the humanities and social sciences, as well as launching a review of the curriculum of all existing courses, according to Reuters Africa.

Canada

Royal assent

The former principal of McGill University and president of the University of Waterloo has taken office as governor general of Canada. David Johnston was appointed ahead of numerous candidates from the worlds of sport, the arts and politics who were also vying to be the Queen's representative in the country. It is understood that Prime Minister Stephen Harper required the candidate to be bilingual, which ruled out many aboriginal candidates. Mr Johnston will hold ceremonial powers, including the power to assent to legislation, grant pardons and appoint knights on behalf of the Queen. Last week he was also appointed president emeritus of Waterloo, television channel CTV reported.

Kenya

Minister is 'taken down a notch'

Kenya's minister of higher education, William Ruto, has been suspended by the country's president, Mwai Kibaki. The decision was taken after the Kenyan High Court ruled that Mr Ruto should stand trial over corruption allegations, Reuters reported. The minister had been expected to contest the upcoming presidential election after leading a campaign against constitutional change in a recent referendum. Mwalimu Mati, head of the anti-corruption watchdog Mars Group Kenya, claimed the suspension was "really about people deciding to take William Ruto down a notch, because there are other ministers who have been recommended for investigation and no prosecutions have been brought against them".

Australia

Binary alert over higher fees

A government review into university funding in Australia will report in October 2011, according to Chris Evans, the minister for tertiary education. The Group of Eight, which represents the country's research-intensive universities, has called for a 50 per cent increase in tuition fees to allow a more competitive market to develop. The group has also warned that an increase in student numbers would "put at risk the quality of the system in the absence of government- and private-funding injections", The Australian newspaper reported. However, Greg Craven, vice-chancellor of the Australian Catholic University, said the research elite had "grossly overstated" the case and claimed that the group's proposals would create a "binary" system of universities in Australia.

YOUR PERSONAL TOP 5

Times Higher Education's World University Rankings are now available for the iPhone on the App Store.

Use our app to create personalised rankings from detailed data on 400 institutions - reprioritise the criteria and filter the results by region, country, cost of living and tuition fees to build your bespoke league table.

The app also allows you to follow the development of new user-based popularity rankings and participate in live opinion polls.

This week, the "most underrated universities" are:

1. London School of Economics

2. Newcastle University

3. University of Warwick

4. Aston University

5. University of Copenhagen.

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