News in brief

May 19, 2011


Quake costs universities billions

Four Japanese universities have estimated that the damage caused to them by the earthquake earlier this year will total ¥90 billion (£679 million). According to Kyodo News, the figure covers damage done to university buildings, including research facilities and equipment. At Tohoku University, one of Japan's leading research centres, the estimated value of the damage stands at about ¥35.2 billion for equipment and ¥44 billion for buildings. Ibaraki and Tsukuba universities have also suffered substantial damage, with the latter putting the value at ¥7 billion for infrastructure and equipment. Damage caused to Miyagi University of Education is also included in the total figure.


New medical schools put on ice

The Malaysian higher education minister has placed a five-year freeze on the construction of medical schools in response to fears about the quality of graduates. Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said the decision would not affect the recruitment of new medical students, the Malaysian National News Agency reported. The move follows investigations into the quality of Malaysian medical students in their own country and abroad. Mr Khaled said the move was intended to help improve the standard of education at existing institutions and raise the quality of graduates. He added that the number of qualified doctors in Malaysia would remain stable.


Indigenous centres 'crucial'

Australian universities must do more to engage with centres dedicated to teaching and learning for indigenous students, researchers have said. There are currently more than 30 indigenous centres in the country, and Susan Page, head of Macquarie University's Warawara department of indigenous studies, said they were crucial to boosting indigenous student engagement and retention rates. Too often, however, engagement between centres and their institution is one-way, with few mainstream academics looking to connect with them. According to a survey carried out by Professor Page, a third of all comments made by indigenous students in the Australian Survey of Student Engagement cited the centres as being the "best aspects" of how the university engaged them in learning. Indigenous centres have been criticised in the past, The Australian newspaper reported, with some claiming they can "ghettoise" students and hinder performance.

United States

Georgia on their minds

The attorney general in the US state of Tennessee has moved to block a court ruling allowing a cash-strapped university to sell part of its multimillion-dollar art collection. In November, Fisk University in Nashville gained a judge's approval to sell a $30 million (£18.4 million) share of its art collection, which had been donated to the institution by the noted American artist Georgia O'Keeffe. The $73 million collection was given to Fisk in honour of Ms O'Keeffe's late husband, the photographer Alfred Stieglitz, on the condition it never be sold. However, university officials persuaded a second judge that it would need to sell a portion or face closure, The Tennessean reported. Although the ruling imposed restrictions on any sale, attorney general Robert E. Cooper Jr has appealed on the grounds that the judge exceeded her authority.


Think locally, thrive globally

The chairman of Ireland's Higher Education Authority has called for changes to be made to encourage universities to focus on the country's economic needs. John Hennessy argued that if the sector is to compete globally, it must increase its focus on economic and social development and the demands of the labour market. When these are identified, universities should adapt their structures to meet those needs, he said, with a system in place to reward those that succeed. "A concern I would have for the higher education sector is that there appears to be limited effort to devise and implement a strategy to identify and reward institutions, faculties and individuals that are doing best," he said. However, Mr Hennessy added that critical thinking is a key element of tertiary education and argued that all students should study arts and humanities subjects in their first year.

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