News in brief

July 28, 2011

Australia

Degree path to migration narrows

Fewer overseas students will be able to use their Australian qualifications to obtain skilled migrant visas to remain in the country under tough new rules, research suggests. Bob Birrell of the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University said government projections indicated that foreign students may in future account for only 4,000 such visas a year, compared with more than 19,000 and 17,000 in 2006-07 and 2007-08 respectively. Dr Birrell said the unpublished data from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship was "an unmistakable signal that the (higher education) industry needs to set its marketing around selling an education that is valuable back in the country of origin", The Australian newspaper reported. Dr Birrell added: "The changes will favour overseas applicants from English-speaking countries who can meet the much tougher English-language requirements."

China

New institution, familiar faces

A new Chinese university has come under fire for filling its board with government and Communist Party members despite earlier promises that it would champion independent administration and curriculum. The Southern University of Science and Technology was billed as a pioneer of tertiary education reform in the country, but half the 20 members of its first decision-making council are members of provincial and city governments, the South China Morning Post reported. The institution had boasted that it would be the first research-oriented university in mainland China to be free from central control after its inaugural president, Zhu Qingshi, criticised government interference in the sector. Defending the appointments, he said the selection of so many people with links to the government was "an inevitable choice under China's reality".

United States

Costly remedy for poor skills

A third of Alabama high school graduates entering universities in the state are not up to undergraduate-level work and must take remedial classes, a study has indicated. A survey by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education found that 34.4 per cent of 2010 school-leavers who went on to the state's two- and four-year public colleges required at least one remedial course to improve mathematics and English-language skills. In some areas of the state, the number of first-year students needing remedial teaching was as high as 70 per cent. Gregory Fitch, executive director of the commission, said the lack of preparedness among students was costing the state money, contributing to high dropout rates and damaging young people's job prospects.

Malaysia

Fewer reins for research elite

Malaysia's five research-led universities will receive full autonomy by 2015, the higher education minister has said. Mohamed Khaled Nordin's statement came after a "readiness for autonomy audit" gave the green light for greater freedom from the state. The audit, which inspected institutional and academic governance and financial and human resource management, deemed that two universities - Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and Universiti Sains Malaysia - were ready for full autonomy. The minister said three more would be ready within a few years. He added that adding full autonomy did not free institutions from checks and balances and that the public should not be concerned about privatisation or rising fees.

United States

Closure for psychologist

A Harvard University professor found responsible for eight counts of scientific misconduct by the institution has resigned. Marc D. Hauser's decision to go ends speculation that he would return to campus this autumn, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported. In a letter sent earlier this month to Michael D. Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Professor Hauser says he is leaving to pursue "exciting opportunities in the private sector". He adds that he may return to academia "in the years to come". The professor of psychology was investigated by Harvard after concerns were raised by colleagues, it was reported, although details of the misconduct of which he was accused have never been revealed in full. Others have since cast doubt on the claims of wrongdoing, the Chronicle said.

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