News in brief

October 13, 2011

Malaysia

Watchdog bites private sector

The Malaysian government has fined a record number of private universities and vowed to tighten up oversight of the sector following concerns over academic standards. The ministry issued fines to 47 private institutions between January and March this year, according to figures released last week. This compares with a total of 48 fines issued throughout the whole of 2010, and just nine in 2009. Press reports have highlighted both concerns about the number of fines, and the view that the regulatory bodies are becoming more effective at exposing weak institutions. In a statement, the Ministry of Higher Education says it hopes the private sector will continue to grow, but warns that it is crucial that all institutions provide quality education.

United States

Change across the board

A US university has laid off several top administrators and overhauled its board of trustees in a major shake-up of its leadership. Suffolk University has removed 20 administrators and added 12 new trustees, most of whom are lawyers or chief executives, The Boston Globe reported. The decision follows a turbulent time for the institution that saw its long-standing president David Sargent resign last year. Although it ended the past financial year with a surplus, Suffolk has been warned that it is at risk of running a $7 million (£4.6 million) deficit in 2012-13. "This is a new chapter in the history of the university," said board chairman Andrew Meyer. "We need people who understand that running an institution of higher education today means running a business."

Australia

Indiscriminate words

A Canadian higher education consultancy has claimed that Australian universities will "admit anyone who applies", so desperate are they for international student income. A recent review of the student visa regime in Australia, conducted by Michael Knight, the former Labor MP for New South Wales, set out proposals to ease restrictions. The report, Strategic Review of the Student Visa Program 2011, prompted a scathing response from Higher Edge, a Canadian-based education consultancy. "This is all about economic survival and they will do what Aussies have done for two decades - admit pretty much anyone who applies and pays," it says in its newsletter. However, The Australian newspaper reported that the Knight Review had advised the authorities to intervene if universities behave inappropriately. "If all else fails, the government could limit the number of student visas available to individual universities," the report states.

China

'Ridiculous' discrimination

A visually impaired woman has claimed that her hopes of entering higher education have been dashed for "ridiculous" reasons. Dong Lina, who was born with severe eye problems and hoped to become a newsreader, was barred from taking a national exam on two occasions because the Beijing education examination authority did not have provisions for visually impaired people. When rejecting her second application, it also noted that her condition "did not fit the requirements of the broadcast profession", the China Daily reported. Ms Dong said: "Broadcasting is an art based on voice. How does my visual impairment affect my language ability? The reason the authority gave is ridiculous." The would-be student, who has applied to the Communication University of China, has written to the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education to complain.

United States

Law centre falls foul of critics

Proposals for a new law centre at a US university have been abandoned after complaints over financial backing from a businessman with close links to the Republican Party. The Constitutional Law Centre at North Carolina Central University was the brainchild of former state Supreme Court justice Robert Orr, The News & Observer newspaper reported. Plans for its construction were axed, however, after questions were raised about grants totalling $600,000 (£392,000) from the John William Pope Foundation, which is headed by businessman Art Pope. Mr Pope is a high-profile backer of Conservative causes and Republican politics. Announcing that he was ditching the plan in response to complaints from staff at North Carolina Central, Mr Orr said: "Some folks just don't like Art Pope."

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