News in Brief

February 3, 2011


Online institution goes offline

One of the biggest names in private higher education is shutting its Canadian online university just two years after it began operations. The Apollo Group, the holdings of which include BPP University College in the UK, has announced it is closing Meritus University, which was intended as a cousin to the company's flagship institution, the US-based University of Phoenix. "Despite our best efforts, we have concluded that there is a high risk that enrolment will continue to be insufficient to sustain the required quality academic and student-service infrastructure we and our students demand," Apollo says in a statement. Meritus has attracted just 722 students, and only 590 of them have earned any credits, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Students enrolled from now until Meritus' last class on 14 March are already being advised of their transfer options, a company official said.


Savings at academy's expense

Universities will have spent about A$200 million (£126 million) of their own money enrolling unfunded domestic students by the time the Australian government uncaps the supply of state-funded places next year, according to a report. The Australian newspaper calculated that 18 universities expecting to have unfunded undergraduates this year are forgoing about A$106 million in government student funding. Over 2010 and 2011, that is likely to amount to about A$200 million. "It represents an annual cost of about 0.5 per cent of the sector's revenue, a saving for the Treasury at the expense of universities," the newspaper said. "It highlights the anxiety among vice-chancellors who are prepared to go into the red on student funding in order to grab a larger slice of the market before full competition."

United States

For-profits fight back

Private universities in the US are suing the government over "unfair" rules barring firms from paying recruiters for the number of students they sign up. The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities is behind the action, the Bloomberg website said. The suit also challenges rules that bolster state oversight of higher education and tighten restrictions on what recruiters can tell prospective applicants, private institutions said. The regulations "will have a chilling effect on job creation and innovation, forcing our schools to waste resources defending themselves against frivolous lawsuits at the expense of investment in students, faculty, facilities and technology", said Harris Miller, the group's president.


Moving the goalposts

A long-running row over the rights afforded to foreign lecturers at Italian universities has taken another twist after the government scrapped their rights altogether. David Petrie, a Scot who teaches English at the University of Verona, has been battling for years for equality for more than 100 non-Italian teaching staff, known as lettori. The European Court of Justice has already ruled in favour of the lettori in six rulings on the grounds of illegal discrimination, but now the Italian government has authorised the scrapping of rights for foreign teaching staff. The change removes their right to equal treatment, defence, due process of law and access to a judicial hearing on the merits of any legal claim, the Press Association reported. Mr Petrie said the aim was to "extinguish" all pending court cases, which have previously resulted in universities being forced to pay out large sums.

United States

'Sham' body shut over visa claim

Hundreds of Indian students face deportation from the US after a university in California was shut down for allegedly selling visas to students. The Tri-Valley University on the outskirts of San Francisco was raided last week and charged with helping foreign nationals illegally acquire immigrant status. A complaint filed by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement against the institution alleges that it is "a sham university" used to "facilitate foreign nationals in illegally acquiring student immigration status", according to the San Jose Mercury newspaper. The complaint also alleges that 95 per cent of Tri-Valley's students hail from India, with more than half of them registered at the same address.

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