News in brief

August 11, 2011

Australia

Visa applications sink Down Under

The number of visa applications from international students wishing to study in Australia has fallen dramatically, according to the latest figures. The immigration department's quarterly report shows that applications from India dropped by almost 63 per cent in the past financial year from 18,514 to 6,875, The Age reported. Applications from China, Australia's largest source of overseas students, dropped by 24.3 per cent, while Vietnamese applications were down by 31 per cent. Simon Marginson, professor of higher education at the University of Melbourne, said that the decline was mainly caused by changes to visa criteria and skilled migration rules. "Demand for Australian education in India was always relatively soft and the elimination of the migration-related industry run through education agents...has permanently depressed the prospects of recruitment in that country," he said.

India/United States

Religious row spreads to Harvard

An academic with links to Harvard University has provoked a furious row after making what are claimed to have been anti-Muslim comments in an Indian newspaper. Harvard Summer School, where Subramanian Swamy teaches economics, is facing calls for his dismissal after he suggested that the voting rights of Indian Muslims should be revoked unless they declare their Hindu ancestry. More than 250 protesters, including students, parents and faculty at Harvard, have signed a petition calling for his removal, accusing him of "breaching the most basic standards of respect and tolerance". However, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education warned Harvard that any disciplinary action would "stand in sharp and unflattering contrast to...the understanding of the importance of freedom of expression in the academic community".

Egypt

Nile campus repossessed

A recently established Egyptian university has found itself caught up in post-revolutionary politics and its campus has been repossessed. Nile University, a research institution set up four years ago, had its campus taken away by the new government after a spokesman said the state was "rectifying" the improper allocation of public land and funds to a private university. The government's stance has also led the institution's financial backers to withdraw support amid uncertainties about its future, it was reported. The university claims that it has been targeted because it had been supported by the regime of Hosni Mubarak. "It's unbelievable," said Tarek Khalil, Nile's president. "They are killing the most promising university in the country."

United States

No retrial over footballer's death

A court has upheld a multimillion-dollar settlement to the parents of an American football player who died after training at a university. A judge in Florida denied the University of Central Florida Athletics Association's request to alter a jury's decision to award $10 million (£6.1 million) to the parents of Ereck Plancher, who collapsed and died following conditioning drills at the university's football complex in 2008. After a three-week trial, a jury found that the UCFAA was negligent, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Rejecting the association's request for a retrial, Judge Robert M. Evans said: "I'm not saying that there aren't some things on appeal that could go one way or another, but I just have to make a call." A spokesman for Central Florida said the university would consider its options.

Switzerland

Rectors back foreign quotas

Swiss universities will be able to limit the number of foreign students they accept if there is a shortage of places, according to the country's rectors. A report from the Rectors' Conference of Swiss Universities says the country would not be violating any bilateral or international agreements by imposing quotas on overseas students studying at Swiss universities, The Local reported. The study also says that institutions are not obliged to offer tuition to foreign students at a price that is significantly under the real market value. The Local reported that at present just one institution, the University of St Gallen, has a quota in place, but that others are considering it to avoid an influx of foreign students.

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