News in brief

December 16, 2010

United States

Privatisation not our destination

The University of California should enrol more out-of-state applicants, encourage more students to graduate in three years and offer more online classes, according to a report aimed at helping the 10-campus institution steer its way through stormy financial waters. The final report from UC's Commission on the Future, released last week, comes in response to reductions in state funding for higher education, the Los Angeles Times said. Some of the report's recommendations have already been put in place, with out-of-state students, who pay higher fees, making up more than 10 per cent of enrolment at UC Berkeley and the University of California, Los Angeles. Mark G. Yudof, UC president, rejected claims that the report and recent tuition-fee rises were pushing the university towards privatisation. "We are still a public university," he said. "But it's not free."

Puerto Rico

Riot act one: man the barricades

Students in Puerto Rico clashed with riot police during protests over higher tuition fees in one of several instances of student unrest across the world. Proposals to introduce a US$800 (£506) annual fee at the University of Puerto Rico prompted a confrontation between student protesters, police and campus security guards. The students raised barricades around the university and began a blockade, Bloomberg reported. One female student was charged with assaulting a police officer and several others armed with sticks and pipes broke car windows. Earlier this year, students at the university launched a two-month strike to protest against budget cuts and changes to the academic programme.


Riot act two: 'hayir' to reform

Turkey has witnessed conflict between students and police during protests prompted by a meeting between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and university rectors over higher education reforms. A columnist in the Today's Zaman newspaper said that while the prime minister was seeking "to discuss his vision and dream of reforming the Turkish higher education system to become globally competitive, police outside were busy ruthlessly beating away protesting students". The protest was a reminder that Turkish society's "number one enemy is intolerance", the columnist said. Local media reported that about 50 students were arrested when 150 tried to force their way into Mr Erdogan's office.


Riot act three: fees and batons

The protests in Puerto Rico and Turkey were mirrored by scuffles between students and police in Canada over plans to raise tuition fees in Quebec. Riot police used their batons as they forced back students who were trying to enter a meeting in Quebec City between university presidents and business leaders to discuss fee increases. Under the plans, Quebec's fees - at present the lowest in Canada - would rise 77 per cent from C$2,075 (£1,300) a year to C$3,680. Speaking after the protests, finance minister Raymond Bachand said the government's mind was made up, the Montreal Gazette newspaper reported. The Quebec Liberal Party minister said that in 1968, students' tuition fees met 26 per cent of the cost of their university education, whereas today they covered only 13 per cent. "Who is paying the difference?" Mr Bachand asked. "The middle class, through taxes."


China crisis

The number of Chinese students undertaking English-language tests in preparation for study at Australian universities and colleges has fallen by more than 25 per cent this year. The overseas market is regarded as crucial by the Australian university sector, and China particularly so following disruption to recruitment from India as a result of a series of attacks on Indian students. The Australian newspaper said the new figures confirmed "fears of a downturn next year in the country's single largest international-student market". It added: "The International English Language Testing System data show candidates are instead aiming to go to the US and Britain. It is a further sign that students are being put off by tighter visa requirements and a strong Australian dollar."

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