News in brief

February 24, 2011

United States

Political correctness gone mad?

Two universities in the US have been accused of offering preferential treatment to minority students. The Center for Equal Opportunity, a conservative think tank, analysed data from Miami University in Ohio and Ohio State University and found that their undergraduate admission weightings gave an edge to minority groups. It reports that both universities substantially favour black applicants, with Ohio State giving similar advantages to Hispanics. In contrast, white applicants have a lesser chance of gaining entry than similarly qualified black, Asian and Hispanic candidates, it says. However, a spokesman for Miami said the findings were distorted because the think tank had not accounted for a number of the 24 factors considered during the admissions process. Ohio State also said the study was too narrow.

Australia

Visas in free fall

The Australian government has revealed that the number of overseas students applying for visas has fallen over the past two years. Data from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship shows that visa applications from potential foreign students decreased by 32 per cent in the second half of last year compared with the same period in 2009, which in turn had fallen by 22 per cent on 2008 figures. Factors contributing to the slide include the fragile global financial situation, the increase in the value of the Australian dollar and changes in immigration rules and visa processes. Applications from Australia's five principal sources of international students - China, India, South Korea, Thailand and Brazil - fell by between 15 per cent and 29 per cent. Those from Vietnam fell by 36 per cent.

Denmark

Exit-entrance balance

Universities in Denmark have been told by the government that the number of foreign exchange students coming into the country should not exceed that of Danish students going on placements abroad. The Ministry of Education has also revealed that exchange programmes between universities with reciprocal agreements will be eligible for additional funding. Protesting the entry decision, universities said they would struggle to enforce the new rule, which will become law this year. They also claimed that the ministry was sneaking the legislation in surreptitiously and that it could lead to the cancellation of exchange programmes. Critics also said that the rule would "destroy" the international milieu in Denmark because fewer students would decide to study there.

United States

Love that dares speak its name

An open letter by homosexual alumni of a US Christian institution has caused controversy on campus. Thirty-one gay and lesbian graduates from Westmont College in California wrote a letter sympathising with gay students currently studying at the institution. More than 100 other alumni offered their support to the signatories. Westmont's student newspaper, The Horizon, published the letter without printing the names of those who signed it, as well as a reply from 50 of the college's 92 faculty members seeking "forgiveness for ways we might have added to your pain". The non-denominational college requires incoming students to sign a "behavior code" forbidding "occult practices, sexual relations outside of marriage, homosexual practice, drunkenness, theft, profanity and dishonesty".

Australia

More kids in the halls

A university in Australia has outlined plans to double the number of students living on campus as part of a strategy to extend learning beyond the lecture hall. Currently, 1,000 students live on campus out of a total of 22,000 studying at the institution. Bill Louden, deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Western Australia, said he wanted to double the number on campus over the next five years because a substantial part of education is "learned, not taught". Professor Louden said that the extracurricular "knowledge" that graduates leave with, such as leadership qualities, are as vital as academic learning. He told The Australian newspaper that a more active campus life would also bring the university closer to fellow members of the new seven-strong Matariki Network of universities, which includes Durham University in the UK and Dartmouth University in the US.

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