News in Brief

March 31, 2011

South Africa/Israel

Johannesburg cuts Ben-Gurion ties

A South African university has severed longstanding links with Ben-Gurion University in Israel. The University of Johannesburg says in a statement issued last week that 72 members of its senate voted to terminate a memorandum of understanding between the institutions, with 45 voting against. The Mail and Guardian newspaper said that the universities had been cooperating since the 1980s, including relations during the apartheid era. Last September, Johannesburg issued Ben-Gurion with a list of demands to be met if the links were to be maintained, including the condition that the Israeli institution include a Palestinian university as a partner in its research. Nurina Ally, spokeswoman for the Palestine Solidarity Alliance, said Ben-Gurion had "resoundingly failed to meet this condition, as well as the other criteria set by the senate resolution".

Japan

Fallout from disaster

Japanese universities have delayed the start of the academic year in the wake of the recent earthquake and tsunami. University leaders have taken the step in light of both short- and longer-term problems, including missing students, ongoing power cuts and the absence of foreign students and staff. Waseda University announced that it would delay the start of its academic year by two weeks, with Sophia University swiftly following suit. Local media have reported on a number of foreign staff leaving the country because of the radiation leaks at the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant. Some foreign institutions with campuses or study-abroad programmes in Japan, including Temple University in the US, have pulled their students out of the country. "There is no question that at least for a little while there will be difficulty in foreign recruitment," said Linda Grove, professor of history and former vice-president of Sophia.

Kenya

Student's death sparks riot

Students from a Kenyan university were reported to have rioted during demonstrations following the death of a University of Nairobi undergraduate. The protesters are said to have destroyed and looted property after the death of Denis Omondi Adari, a second-year engineering student who died six days after an alleged assault by bouncers at a Nairobi nightclub. According to the Capital News website, the protesters met near the university last week before marching into the Westlands district where they broke into shops, lit bonfires outside the nightclub and demanded to meet the club's owners. One of the protesters was quoted as saying: "We want to know what happened. Why was our colleague killed? The government must take action." Three nightclub security guards were subsequently arrested and charged with assault.

Russia

Time to get down to business

The Russian government is encouraging students to set up on-campus technology businesses in a bid to promote scientific innovation in the country. Authorities are keen for universities to set up small technology companies to bridge the gap between the academy and business, as well as to give students industry experience. President Dmitry Medvedev has already ratified a law allowing universities to start up technology businesses with public and private financial backing. The move was designed to combat economic problems, which have seen unemployment in Russia grow to its highest level in four years.

New Zealand

Big top learning

A New Zealand university is coping with the devastation of the recent earthquake by conducting classes in tents. According to Australian newspaper The Age, 14 lecture marquees capable of accommodating up to 250 students have been erected in student car parks at the University of Canterbury. The makeshift tents are equipped with whiteboards, lecture stands and projectors, and come complete with emergency evacuation plans. There is also a staff tent, a student association "big top" and an outdoor cafe. Teaching has resumed in about 250 of the university's 4,000 courses. Kohan McNab, president of the Canterbury Students' Association, said of the new teaching arrangements: "I was not sure how it would stack up...We're tolerant and happy with it now, but there's a time limit. We want to move back to (how things were)."

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