News in brief

November 3, 2011

Canada

'Playing well' no longer required

A controversial element of the admissions process at a Canadian medical school has been discontinued. From next February, applicants hoping to study medicine at the University of British Columbia will no longer be required to participate in a Lego-building exercise during the interview process. The Vancouver Sun reported that the task was deemed to be of no value in assessing candidates' suitability. The task was part of a "multiple mini-interview" format devised at McMaster University in 2002, which involves applicants progressing through numerous brief meetings with interviewers. The Lego exercise was designed to evaluate critical thinking, the ability to follow complicated instructions and to seek clarification when instructions were imprecise. But it has been criticised as "contrived, artificial and bizarre" by Brian Day, an orthopaedic surgeon writing in the BC Medical Journal.

Australia

You've broken the rules, now go

The Australian government cancelled more than 15,000 foreign student visas in the past year for breaches to conditions, an Indian newspaper has reported. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship rescinded 15,066 visas, 37 per cent more than the previous year, The Economic Times said. More than 3,600 students are facing deportation from the country for failing assessments or skipping classes, and a further 2,235 visas were withdrawn from students who quit their courses to work illegally. Indian students have been hardest hit. The federal government-commissioned Knight review, which recommended that Australia's student-visa restrictions be eased, followed a downturn in student recruitment in the country after a series of attacks on Indian students.

Chile

No movement on funding

The parliamentary committee in charge of reviewing Chile's education budget has blocked the government's controversial plans for higher education funding. In a meeting last week, three members of the opposition Concertacion alliance blocked education minister Felipe Bulnes' proposed budget, The Santiago Times reported. The Concertacion members said their decision was a response to the ruling Alianza coalition's inflexibility on the issue, despite five months of student protests. They alleged that budget negotiations were the only way to achieve better funding. The subcommittee's president, Carlos Montes, told Mr Bulnes that since he had become minister earlier this year, the discussion on education had not "advanced a centimetre". Andrés Zaldivar, a senator for the centre-left Christian Democrats, warned that unrest would worsen if the higher education budget was not increased.

Israel

Public-private and at the double

The number of privately funded study programmes in public Israeli universities has almost doubled in the past six years, according to an investigation by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. It found that numbers had increased from 26 to 51, with student enrolment rising by more than 68 per cent. This runs counter to a decision by the Council for Higher Education to withhold recognition from new privately funded programmes. The courses are mainly master's degrees for students who are not subsidised by the state and are therefore treated as though they are enrolled at private institutions, Haaretz said. The fees are higher than those of regular programmes and critics claim that the students sometimes enjoy lighter workloads or less stringent entry requirements.

United States

Higher and higher still

The average tuition-fee hike at public universities in the US has outstripped private rises for the fifth consecutive year, a report has found. According to the Trends in College Pricing 2011 report by the College Board, the average tuition cost at four-year public institutions for in-state students in 2011-12 is $8,244 (£5,140), a rise of almost 10 per cent on last year, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported. The average annual "sticker price" for tuition at two-year public colleges is up from $2,7 to $2,963. Trends says that the California system, which enrols about 10 and 15 per cent of the US' four-year and two-year public students respectively, counts for a significant proportion of the rise.

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