News in Brief

January 27, 2011

United States

Texas danger as state plans cuts

The state of Texas is planning to slash $772 million (£483 million) from its higher education spending, closing four community colleges in the process. The proposals would cut $100 million from the budgets of the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University at College Station, the Associated Press reported. Texas' preliminary higher education budget, part of a plan that embraces some $14 billion in cuts across the state, is intended to close an estimated deficit of between $15 billion and $ billion. Public universities in states including California have already been hit by big cuts.

Australia

Helping hands as waters recede

Universities in Queensland are working to recover from devastating floods. The University of Queensland's main St Lucia campus was among the areas affected by the worst flooding in the state since 1974, The Australian newspaper reported. But vice-chancellor Paul Greenfield was heartened by the armies of helpers that descended for the clean-up. Recovery teams removed more than 0 tonnes of mud from one road at the St Lucia campus on Saturday. Professor Greenfield, a water expert, estimated that damages would run to tens of millions of dollars, although the university has already managed to reopen. Griffith University closed its South Bank campus, although it has now reopened. Computer services were shut down and telecommunications restricted across all of the university's campuses.

Canada

Lecturers: underpaid, overworked

"The backbone of today's university is the ill-paid, overworked lecturer," it has been claimed. Maclean's magazine reported that the number of tenured academics in Canada fell from 26,487 in 1999 to 20,685 in 2009. It cited the case of Leslie Jermyn, who taught 100 students a two-month first-year anthropology course at the University of Toronto for C$4,550 (£2,861). "Though Jermyn would go on to teach courses every summer for the next 11 years, the job was never guaranteed, and every year she experienced 'gut-wrenching tension' waiting to find out whether she'd won a new contract," the report said. "I'm cheaper without benefits," Dr Jermyn explained.

China

Criticism? We won't hear of it

One of China's elite universities has banned the photocopying of materials that criticise the Chinese Communist Party or government. The Global Times newspaper said that a ban had been introduced at Peking University. "A total of 29 copy rooms in the university were warned before New Year's Day against serving customers with sensitive materials, a ban jointly enforced by the Yanyuan Police Station and the campus security department," it said. The order reads: "Materials that express hate against the Party, the State or the social politics are forbidden. Do not photocopy. Call the police immediately after (these materials) are found."

Afghanistan/Pakistan

Khyber Pass partnerships

Universities in Pakistan and Afghanistan are set to build partnerships around faculty and student exchanges, as well as distance learning. Talks took place between 15 Afghani professors and Pakistan's Higher Education Commission on 18 January, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported. The discussion focused on intensifying and extending contacts between a group of Afghani (Herat, Jalalabad, Kabul and Khost) and Pakistani universities (Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar). The delegation also agreed to start fellowships for students and joint research programmes. The visit was part of the G8 Afghanistan-Pakistan Initiative.

The Netherlands

Demonstration of discontent

Thousands of academics and students protested against higher education cuts in the Netherlands last week. Demonstrators met in The Hague to show their opposition to cuts that will leave the sector €10 million (£8.4 million) worse off by 2015. The losses will hit student grants, while any student who exceeds the set term of study for a degree by more than a year will have to pay €3,000 on top of the statutory €1,700 annual fee. The protest was organised by the LSVb union and supported by the European Students' Union.

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