News in brief

February 10, 2011

Iran

Further blow to co-education

Male and female students will be separated at an Iranian university in the latest example of gender segregation in the nation's academy. Seyed Sadredin Shariati, president of Allameh Tabatabai University, said the plan would be implemented first in general courses with a large number of students, according to the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty website. Co-educational classes remain the norm at most Iranian universities, but a growing number of institutions are choosing to separate male and female students, it reported. Gender segregation in the Iranian sector was first suggested in 2009 by Hojatoleslam Nabiollah Fazlali, the representative of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at Khajeh Nasir Toosi University of Technology, the site reported.

United States

Demagogic 'fatwa'

A Fox News presenter is under fire for his "relentless tirades" against a left-wing academic, with the head of the US' faculty union branding it a near-"fatwa". As Times Higher Education reported, Frances Fox Piven, a 78-year-old professor of political science and sociology at the City University of New York, has been targeted by Glenn Beck, a right-wing television personality. Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors, issued a statement arguing that Professor Piven has fallen victim of "what nearly amounts to an American fatwa" as a result of "virulent attacks" by Mr Beck. The statement calls for those who take issue with Professor Piven's arguments "to advance their positions in ways that foster responsible criticism and debate", the Chronicle of Higher Education reported.

New Zealand

Dearth of staff and cash

A shortage of academic staff is threatening the quality of university teaching and research in New Zealand, according to a report. The study, commissioned by the umbrella group Universities New Zealand, found that universities need to recruit 560 to 920 extra academic staff each year until 2020. About 500 scholars are currently recruited each year. Factors behind the shortage include an ageing workforce and funding shortfalls, the report says. Derek McCormack, chairman of Universities New Zealand, said: "Universities are facing a future with high student demand, capped government funding, a significantly older-than-average workforce and increasingly intense global competition for academics. What's more, lower funding means that New Zealand universities are unable to offer the level of salaries that competitor countries...can offer."

Africa

Make poverty curricular

African universities need to do more to "study and alleviate" poverty, according to leaders of its academy. Mahama Duwiejua, executive secretary of Ghana's National Council for Tertiary Education, called on Africa's universities to make sure their research contributed to the continent's development. "Universities need to make the study and alleviation of poverty and underdevelopment a central theme in their curricula," he said. Professor Duwiejua was speaking at a five-day workshop in Accra on university research governance, co-organised by the Association of African Universities, the Business Ghana website reported. He identified a lack of effective guidelines for organising and managing university research systems and accrediting research units as problems needing solutions.

India

The art of American diplomacy

The tagging of Indian students in the US who attended an alleged bogus college has sparked anger among their compatriots. As Times Higher Education reported, hundreds of Indian students face deportation from the US after law enforcement agencies cracked down on the Tri-Valley University in California, which is suspected of running an immigration scam. Now a row has broken out over the decision to force the students to wear radio tags. Indian anger was exacerbated by Juliet Wurr, a public affairs officer at the US Consulate in Hyderabad, who said: "It's funny people getting upset about this. I don't know about your servants...but my servant has big heavy silver anklets...that look a heck of a lot more uncomfortable and binding." The Times of India said the comments showed "complete disregard for the sensitivities involved".

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