News in Brief

March 17, 2011

United States

Senators' list of sham

Four US senators have united to call for a crackdown on "sham universities", which they say are helping foreign nationals to gain illegal entry to the country. The senators, Dianne Feinstein, Claire McCaskill, Charles Schumer and Jon Tester, have written an open letter on the topic to Alejandro Mayorkas, director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services. They write: "These sham universities are not real institutions of higher learning, but rather operate solely for the purpose of manipulating immigration law to admit foreign nationals into the country." The senators go on to suggest that the federal government should develop a list of high-risk factors for sham universities, conduct more site visits and introduce stiffer penalties for offending institutions. They refer to the recent closure of Tri-Valley University in Pleasanton, California, where more than 1,500 students obtained student visas to enrol at the unaccredited institution.


Academy's call to prayer study

Universities in Finland have stated that they are prepared to take a greater role in educating imams in the future. Finnish broadcaster YLE reported that the University of Eastern Finland was planning to teach future imams at its School of Theology, a move that could be followed by the University of Helsinki. At present, the academic study of Islam in Finnish universities is minimal, and many of the 40 to 50 imams in the country lack formal education in their religion. Anas Hajjar, a representative of the Islamic Society of Finland, said tertiary education focusing on Islam would be welcome. It is also hoped that greater university involvement in Islam would foster the integration of Muslims into Finnish life.


Perception of corruption

A senior manager at an Australian university bullied and victimised staff and breached employment rules, an investigation has concluded. Peter Anderson, head of the Centre for Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism at Macquarie University in Sydney, was accused of "ad hoc, almost chaotic" staffing, bullying and conflicts of interest, The Australian reported. An inquiry was ordered by New South Wales' Independent Commission Against Corruption after nine of the centre's 12 staff submitted complaints against Professor Anderson. Eight of the staff members subsequently resigned, and no formal action was taken by the university to deal with the grievances. Professor Anderson, a former Labor minister, also made a number of controversial appointments at the centre, including people with Labor connections, The Australian added. The inquiry's leaked report finds no direct evidence of corruption, but says there are "justifiable perceptions that the processes of recruitment and selection are corrupt".

United States

Melting pot at the top

The number of foreign presidents in charge of members of the Association of American Universities has doubled in the past six years. The association, which represents 61 higher education institutions, said that 11 of its members are now run by foreign-born presidents, up from six in 2005. In the past two months alone, three colleges in the New York area have employed heads born in India, the Philippines and Iran, respectively. Molly C. Broad, president of the American Council on Education, added that the trend was likely to lead to more international exchange programmes and would give students a sense that they are "world citizens".


Foreign students' Catholic tastes

The number of foreign students enrolling at Chilean universities has grown by 700 per cent in the past 10 years. The figures were reported by The Santiago Times newspaper, which said the rise was fuelled primarily by an increase in interest from North American students. It added that some Chilean universities were also using special fee offers to entice students from abroad. The Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in Santiago has 1,400 foreign students, accounting for 50 per cent of its student body, while the University of Chile has a similar number. The Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaíso's overseas intake has grown in the past decade from 150 to 850 students.

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