News in brief

September 22, 2011

Australia

Tonic for youth

The Australian federal government is to significantly increase student support following changes approved by the Parliament of Australia. The youth allowance, which supports full-time students, will be made available to those on gap years while "relocation scholarships" for regional students will be doubled. The changes, reported by The Australian newspaper, come in response to a review of student support by Kwong Lee Dow, former vice-chancellor of the University of Melbourne. The government will also drop its insistence that youth-allowance changes be "budget- neutral" and will pump an additional A$265 million (£172 million) into the system. The Australian said the measures go much further than opposition calls to bolster support.

Malaysia

Let's hear it for the boys

The Malaysian government is considering ways to encourage boys to enter higher education in a bid to address the gender imbalance in the country's universities. Wee Ka Siong, the deputy education minister, told Agence France Presse that he was planning to introduce vocational training in schools from 2013 so that pupils could improve their practical skills and boys would be dissuaded from dropping out. He hoped this would lead to larger numbers staying on in higher education. Dr Wee said: "The gender imbalance is something that is a world phenomenon but we have to find a way to balance it out. (Vocational training) will curb this dropout issue. We have to retain (boys) in the system." The average ratio of females to males in the cohort of students enrolling this year at Malaysian higher education institutions is 65:35 and as high as 70:30 at some universities.

United States

In defence of diversity

Staff and students at a US university interrupted an anti-affirmative action event to reject claims that the institution engaged in discriminatory admissions practices. Representatives of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, including David Ward, its interim chancellor, defended the institution against the "attack" on its diversity efforts by the Virginia-based Center for Equal Opportunity, the Wisconsin State Journal newspaper reported. The conservative thinktank alleged in a recent report that the university discriminates against white and Asian students by admitting less-qualified black and Latino students. However, senior staff at the university questioned the analysis at a press conference before 100 students and others entered the room chanting "Power to the people". Dr Ward said Madison used a "holistic" admissions process, adding: "No one is admitted solely because of race or ethnicity."

Australia

There's a place for you here

Australian universities are to be allowed to take more students after the Senate accepted proposals in the government's higher education expansion plan. The new bill empowers the government to create a place for every prospective student accepted by any institution, The Australian reported. According to Chris Evans, the tertiary education minister, the legislation will end state control over university enrolment. In the past, universities were forced to negotiate with the government each year to determine their student intake. While political opponents point to a provision in the legislation that allows the minister to cap places in any field of study, some lobby groups were quick to voice their support. Ian O'Connor, chair of the Innovative Research Universities group and vice-chancellor of Griffith University, called the bill "a major transformation in higher education funding".

Canada

True value for money

Earning a university degree in Canada brings multiple economic benefits, according to a report. The study by TD Economics, a research unit of the TD Bank Group, states: "Higher education raises the prospects for employment, is more likely to result in full-time employment, reduces the odds of unemployment, lowers the duration of unemployment, and helps to facilitate retraining and/or skills development - all of which raises annual income." The report adds that despite concerns about rising student debt, higher education remains the "best investment" an individual or family can make.

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