News in brief

April 28, 2011

Sri Lanka

Campus closed after clashes

A Sri Lankan university had to be temporarily closed after students clashed with police. The incident at the Eastern University of Sri Lanka was caused by protests over the presence of a police outpost on campus, according to local media. The university's managers have yet to decide whether to accede to the students' demands and shut the police post down, it was reported. The dispute comes hot on the heels of a month-long closure at Sabaragamuwa University in Sri Lanka after student protests in March. The university reopened earlier this month after four faculties were closed in response to the demonstrations, which centred on the suspension of 58 undergraduates for allegedly "ragging" first-year students.


Warning over student visas

As a number of Western countries attempt to cut immigration without stymieing the flow of fee-paying students from abroad, Australian universities have warned of the risks posed by the "extraordinary" burden of the country's visa system. In a submission to the Knight review of student visas, reported in The Australian newspaper, Universities Australia says that current arrangements are damaging the sector. It calls for a "selective reduction" in the amount of money prospective students must demonstrate they can access to fund living expenses while studying in Australia. "In India and China, if high rates of fraud and non-compliance exist in Punjab and Fujian respectively, then they should attract a much higher assessment level compared to other regions within those large countries," the submission says.

New Zealand

Government gets tough on loans

Students from New Zealand who have moved abroad to work after graduating and are avoiding paying off their loans may be hit with court orders forcing repayment. The government has indicated that it is backing the move, but is opposing another proposal to limit access to the scheme for older students. Steven Joyce, the tertiary education minister, said that in previous years the government had chosen not to aggressively pursue borrowers who left the country. They now owe about 15 per cent of the total debt and about 55 per cent of the overdue debt, according to The New Zealand Herald. Mr Joyce said the government was "not happy" and was "determined to get some more traction" in tackling the problem.


Quality concerns over devolution

A plan to devolve oversight of higher education to the provinces in Pakistan is against the interests of the country, the head of the Higher Education Commission has said. The government announced its intention to devolve the HEC, which formulates policies and regulates universities, as part of a wider constitutional reform that will transfer educational controls to the provinces, it was reported. There are concerns among academics, students and others that this will cause educational standards to fall. Critics argue that the provinces do not have the infrastructure or transparency to be trusted to formulate policy in such an important area. Javed Laghari, chairman of the HEC, told The Nation newspaper that the majority of Pakistan was against the idea, which has been put on hold by the supreme court.

United States

Duke president denies fraud

Lawyers representing the president and executive vice-president of a US university have formally denied that the officials committed fraud against members of a lacrosse team. The denials, reported by The Herald-Sun, relate to a student party at Duke University in 2006, which resulted in a police investigation into claims by a stripper that she had been raped. The woman was found to be lying, and the students were absolved of any wrongdoing. The denials issued this month addressed claims that Richard Brodhead, Duke's president, and Tallman Trask, its vice-president, enticed team captains to discuss the party - against the advice of the players' lawyers - by promising that any information would be protected by a non-existent "student-administrator privilege". There are two lawsuits being brought against the Duke, filed by players who were accused and subsequently absolved in 2006.

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