News in brief

June 23, 2011

Malaysia

'Trash' talk vexes minister

The Malaysian higher education minister has leaped to the defence of local graduates after they were labelled "trash" by a vice-chancellor. Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said the criticism of graduates from Malaysian universities was unfair, insisting that they were as good as their foreign peers, The Star reported. "They contribute to the country's development by working here while most foreign graduates will normally prefer to continue ... working overseas," he said. Mr Khaled was responding to a statement by Datuk Zaini Ujang, vice-chancellor of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, who said many local universities were filled with "trash" as the best students tended to pursue higher education overseas. He did not indicate whether he included the students at his own institution in his assessment.

Australia

Clean-up won't cost research

An Australian state that was devastated by recent floods has pledged extra investment for research despite the huge repair bill it faces. Queensland is reported to be facing clean-up costs of A$1.7 billion (£1.1 billion) following the floods earlier this year, but has allotted an extra A$85 million for research and development in its Future Growth Fund, The Australian reported. Peter Coaldrake, vice-chancellor of the Queensland University of Technology, praised the government for its "significant" investment in research over the past decade. Ned Pankhurst, deputy vice-chancellor of Griffith University, added: "We are pleased to see the state maintain its commitment to research and innovation within universities during such challenging economic times."

Europe

Commission fears real hustle

A "brazen fraud" has siphoned off millions of pounds in European Commission grant funding, according to authorities including the European Anti-Fraud Office. Prosecutions are to be launched against individuals involved in what Nature reported was a "large network accused of pocketing more than EUR50 million (£44 million) ... in EC grants for fake research projects". The network is alleged to have operated across several countries, with authorities in Italy and Belgium reported to be prosecuting individuals. Investigations are still under way in the UK, France, Greece, Austria, Sweden, Slovenia and Poland. "We don't have any records of (previous) fraud on such a scale," says David Boublil, the Commission's spokesman for taxation, customs, anti-fraud and audit. The names of those charged, and the research projects involved, have not been given. Mr Boublil added that the projects were apparently organised with the "sole intention" of deceiving the Commission.

Sri Lanka

Scholars set for pay protest

Academics in Sri Lanka will stage a protest in the capital to demand a pay rise from the government after strikes "crippled" the country's universities. The Federation of University Teachers' Association said the Colombo protests and public meetings were being organised to raise awareness of the plight of academics. "In order to urge the government to grant their demands of a substantial salary hike, the academics in all the universities resigned from their voluntary administrative positions on 9 May," the Daily Mirror reported. "University sources state that although the trade union action was said to affect (administrative) operations, it had now crippled even academic activities as students have refrained from attending lectures to express their solidarity."

India

It's got to be perfect

An Indian Cabinet minister has said that a university's decision to demand perfect examination scores from applicants "affects the entire credibility of the entire education system in the country". Indian media said that Shri Ram College of Commerce, part of the University of Delhi, is now demanding 100 per cent scores in A-level equivalent exams if students want to be considered for entry. Kapil Sibal, the minister for human resource development, called the Delhi vice-chancellor, Dinesh Singh, to his office to urge him to "fix rational cut-offs for admission", The Times of India reported. Mr Sibal said the "inexplicable decision would have the effect of denying students from particular streams the opportunity of seeking admission".

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