News in brief

October 20, 2011

India

Safe to enter? You'll scare us off

India's plans to usher in foreign universities could scare off American colleges, an official from the US Department of Commerce has warned. The foreign education providers bill currently progressing through the Parliament of India would allow foreign institutions to set up campuses but not to repatriate profits - and the Indian government could regulate tuition fees to keep them low. In comments reported on a Wall Street Journal blog, Suresh Kumar, US assistant secretary for trade promotion, said: "If you suddenly think you can get a Harvard MBA degree in India for $20,000 (£12,703) - it's just not going to work. You can't impose a Western system in India. But India also can't expect to have the Harvards come here under the current construct." Mr Kumar planned to make his case about how to tweak the bill during meetings in the US-India Higher Education Summit in Washington last week, it was reported.

China

Borrowing time called

Local governments in China have moved to curb lending to indebted universities. The country's central government has expressed worries about local government funding in light of its battle to curb inflation, prompting the squeeze on universities. "The local governments have been urging indebted universities to pay back bank loans and have introduced new policies to curb university expansion," the China Daily newspaper said. Yang Delin, deputy director of education in Anhui Province, said universities were forbidden to borrow money without local government approval. "Examples of education funds being lavished on unnecessary facilities (have come) under the spotlight in recent years as some colleges built golf courses or luxury hotels in scenic spots, sparking national debate," the newspaper reported.

North Korea

Axis of progress

North Korea's first private university is making progress, despite the nation being sealed off from the internet and foreign news. "The Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, backed by evangelical Christians and Western-trained scientists, aspires to give future leaders tools to develop the country's backward economy and promote peace on the Korean Peninsula," The Washington Post reported. The university recently hosted an international conference for "the advancement of science education and international cooperation", with dozens of foreign speakers. "For the North Korean government, the $35 million (£22.2 million) campus is an opportunity to give favoured students a taste of international education - without allowing them to leave," the newspaper said.

Canada

Masses need reformed classes

One of Canada's leading newspapers has called for the "reformist wave" that is transforming healthcare in the nation to "reach undergraduate education at our publicly funded universities". The Globe and Mail lamented in an editorial that classes "of 500 students or more (are) taught by an emerging cohort of indentured PhDs", while professors get relief "from teaching obligations to pursue research". The newspaper said there were "lessons to be drawn from Britain, which has experimented with teaching training for faculty for decades and is considering making it mandatory". It called for "a reformist agenda" to "bring the values and practices of a liberal arts and science education to the masses".

United States

Dearest Sarah Lawrence

Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York State, has been named the most expensive college in the US for the second year in a row. Forbes magazine, which compiles the annual list, said the college had "an all-in price of $58,334 (£37,047) a year, or close to $240,000 for a four-year course of studies if inflation in higher ed continues on its current course". The biggest expense at colleges is staff wages, and that "explains Sarah Lawrence's perennial position at the top", Forbes said. "The 2,500-student college...has a student-faculty ratio of only nine to one. Unlike the slightly less expensive Ivy League schools nearby, Sarah Lawrence has no vast lecture halls where 300 students listen to an underpaid teaching assistant explain medieval history."

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