News in brief

September 8, 2011

United States

University seeks to release record

Lawyers for a US university are seeking authorisation to release the employment records of a former assistant professor who shot dead a graduate student. Ernesto Bustamante killed 22-year-old psychology student Katy Benoit, with whom he had had a relationship, before shooting himself, the Standard Examiner reported. Now, the University of Idaho is asking a court to free it from a code preventing it from releasing personnel information for former employees, including grievances and complaints such as the one filed by Ms Benoit before her murder last month. Kent Nelson, the university's general counsel, said: "It's fitting in that we want to provide a timely accounting for the public within the bounds of the law." US media have reported that Ms Benoit told the university that Professor Bustamante had threatened her, including holding a gun to her head.

Canada

Record crop of freshmen

The number of students enrolled at universities in the Canadian province of Ontario has hit a record level, higher even than a double cohort admitted in 2003. According to the Council of Ontario Universities, 90,029 first-year students will start degree programmes in the province this week, up from just over 88,000 last year. But student and faculty groups have warned that if public funding does not keep up with rising enrolment, quality will suffer, the Ottawa Citizen reported. Between 2000 and 2007, Ontario had Canada's highest ratio of students to staff, which rose each year, according to the Canadian Association of University Teachers. "What this translates into for the new students is less face-to-face contact with professors, fewer course choices and very large class sizes," said Constance Adamson, president of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations.

Australia

Red tape ties up Kaplan plans

A leading for-profit provider has dropped plans to establish a university in Australia. Kaplan blamed regulatory issues for the withdrawal of its plans, which would have established a new university in Adelaide, The Australian reported. A rival US group, Laureate International Universities, is drafting its own bid to create an institution in the South Australia capital, the newspaper added. Jack Snelling, minister for employment, training and further education, said Kaplan had made a "business decision". "Kaplan has reiterated to the government that its commitment to South Australia remains as strong as ever, and they are determined to build on their current presence," he added.

India

Green light in sight

The Indian government has suggested that it will allow new higher education institutions to operate as for-profit companies. A Planning Commission paper published by the administration says "the not-for-profit tag in the higher education sector should perhaps be re-examined in a more pragmatic manner so as to ensure quality without losing focus on expansion and equity". The paper, quoted by website LiveMint.com, argues that the country should court private-sector investment in higher education, including through public-private partnerships. Pramath Sinha, founding dean of the Indian School of Business, welcomed the move. "You have to invite private investment," he said. "Of course, some will be philanthropic, and the others will come to have some returns."

Sweden

All-out war on cheats

The Swedish government has joined forces with universities to try to combat a rise in the number of incidents of cheating and plagiarism. A series of recent investigations suggests that there is a growing problem in the country's institutions, The Local reported. Christian Sjöstrand, a lawyer at the National Agency for Higher Education, said: "It is clearly becoming more widespread, which is why the government has tasked us with looking into ways of treating the problems. At the moment, it is still up to each individual school or university how they deal with it." Statistics show that the number of students suspended from Sweden's universities in 2010 rose nearly 50 per cent on the year before. Of the 750 students caught cheating last year, 591 were suspended and 159 given warnings. Plagiarism accounted for 343 of the suspensions.

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