News in brief

March 24, 2011

India

Hindi proves unpopular

An Indian university established to teach foreign languages has found that the demand for Hindi is so low that the staff members teaching the course outnumber the students. According to the Indian Express newspaper, the course at the English and Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad was established two years ago and accepted its first students in 2010. However, with a current cohort of five students being taught by eight members of staff, including professors, associate professors and lecturers, questions are being asked about why the staff were hired before enrolment numbers were known. A member of staff at the university told the newspaper: "The procedure is that the academic council takes a decision to start any course. After the department is formally set up, the recruitment of faculty is done, followed by the admission of students. But the question is, what is the need for a Hindi course in a university set up to promote foreign languages?"

Burkina Faso

Academy shutdown

Universities in Burkina Faso have been closed by the government in response to protests triggered by the death of a student in police custody. The Reuters news agency reported that six people had been killed and public buildings had been torched during demonstrations. The student died last month in the town of Koudougou, west of the capital Ouagadougou. Police attributed his death to meningitis, but protesters suspected that it was the result of injuries sustained at the hands of police officers. In a statement on its decision to close the nation's universities, the government says: "Academic and pedagogical activities have been largely blocked as a result of the strikes and other demonstrations carried out by the National Association of Burkina Students."

Canada

High price for higher fees

A leading Canadian university is to be fined more than C$2 million (£1.26 million) for increasing tuition fees for its MBA programme without permission. McGill University in Montreal should have secured the green light from the Quebec government before raising the fee to C$29,500 a year last September. This sum is nearly nine times the provincial limit that caps tuition fees at about C$3,400 a year. According to the CTV website, Quebec has the lowest tuition-fee cap in the country and has observed a 10-year freeze on fee hikes. McGill argued that it needed to charge higher fees to make the MBA programme competitive nationally and internationally. The provincial government said that the fee hike broke the rules and made the programme less accessible to people from the poorest backgrounds. Announcing a cut to McGill's annual public subsidy of C$2.1 million, Line Beauchamp, the education minister, said: "This will apply until the situation returns to normal."

United States

Scholar indicted for murder

An academic who is alleged to have shot dead three fellow professors at the University of Alabama Huntsville last year has been formally indicted on murder charges. Amy Bishop is accused of killing Maria Ragland Davis, Adriel Johnson and Gopi Podila on 12 February 2010 in a shooting at a faculty meeting. She had been denied tenure at the university. She is also alleged to have shot and wounded three other members of staff. The biology professor may face the death sentence if she is convicted of the offences in Alabama, although The Huntsville Times newspaper reported that prosecutors had not indicated whether they would seek the death penalty.

Jordan

Rates and measures

The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Jordan is considering developing a local system for rating its universities and the courses they run. Wajih Owais, the Jordanian minister of higher education and scientific research, said public and private universities would be covered by the proposed system, which would measure the "effectiveness" of institutions. "We have tasked a committee to start drafting the system, and we might cancel subjects in some universities based on the ranking," he told The Jordan Times newspaper. He added that the evaluation criteria had yet to be finalised.

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