News in brief

November 25, 2010

United States

Fee 'compassion' for illegal aliens

Illegal immigrants who graduate from state high schools after attending for at least three years may carry on paying the lower tuition fees charged by California's public universities and colleges to "in-state" students, the state's Supreme Court has ruled. Under federal law, states must provide free school-level education to illegal immigrants - which, by some estimates, costs California close to $3 billion (£1.9 billion) - but this is the first ruling on the issue of post-secondary education. The Los Angeles Times newspaper said the decision, which is expected to be appealed, showed "compassion and common sense". However, it noted an "inescapable conflict", as, "once armed with college degrees, these students cannot be legally employed". It called on Congress to give students meeting certain post-secondary requirements a path to achieving full citizenship.

India

Tamper-proof degrees announced

The Indian state of Karnataka has announced plans to introduce tamper-proof degree certificates to tackle fraud and bogus degrees. Speaking after a meeting with vice-chancellors last week, V.S. Acharya, the minister for higher education, said that the high rate of fraudulent alterations to degree certificates had led to problems and "embarrassment" for legitimate graduates when they presented their degrees to prospective employers overseas. Dr Acharya also said he had discussed with vice-chancellors their preparations for a new universal academic calendar in the state, which is due to be introduced on 31 December.

Philippines/Vietnam

Five-year plan to cooperate

The Philippines has signed a deal with Vietnam to increase academic cooperation. The memorandum of understanding, which covers a five-year period, outlines the creation of a number of new partnerships between institutions in the countries, including the provision of Filipino English-language teachers to universities in Vietnam. Other activities covered by the agreement include academic exchanges, reciprocal access to research and facilities and joint work on quality assurance, according to the Philippine Information Agency. Credit-transfer programmes and mutual recognition of academic qualifications have also been agreed.

Australia

Quality framework to be optional

A long-running row over the implementation of a qualifications framework in Australia took a new twist when it emerged that universities would be free to offer degrees that do not comply with it. The Australian newspaper reported that John Dawkins, chairman of the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), said that although compliance with the new rules would not be mandatory, he believed that all universities would eventually offer only endorsed degrees. He pointed to a recent fiasco over vocational education and training providers offering substandard qualifications to international students as evidence of the need for agreed national standards for the tertiary sector. His comments came in response to longstanding concerns within the higher education sector that the revised AQF represented the "heavy hand of government in university affairs", the newspaper said.

YOUR PERSONAL TOP FIVE

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, users were asked which university has the best student experience.

1. Harvard University

2. University of York

3. Newcastle University

4. University of Surrey

5. University of Sussex.

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