News in brief

November 10, 2011

Italy

God saves science

An Italian biomedical research centre has been rescued from bankruptcy by the Church. Legal permission has been granted for the Institute for Works of Religion - commonly known as the Vatican Bank - to step in and assist the debt-ridden San Raffaele del Monte Tabor Foundation, which runs a clinical research hospital and is a respected basic science institute. The bailout, reported in Science magazine, would see the bank, alongside Italian entrepreneur Victor Malacalza, taking over €500 million (£430.2 million) of the centre's debt. The partners will subsequently invest a further €250 million, it was reported. It is hoped that the legal endorsement of the plan will convince funding bodies to resume payments to the Milan-based centre, which are currently frozen, and halt a mass exodus of its scientists.

Australia

Cap is a matter of Tafes

The Australian government has announced it will cap university places for qualifications below the undergraduate level. Chris Evans, the tertiary education minister, said he did not want the sector to expand at the expense of technical and further education colleges (Tafes) and other vocational providers, The Australian reported. To prevent this, he said, the government would cap the number of places it funds at universities for qualifications such as diplomas and advanced diplomas. "We want to see greater collaboration between universities and Tafes, rather than have universities expand their course offerings downwards," Mr Evans said. The announcement follows the government's decision that from 2012 it will fund most university qualifications on a demand-driven basis, meaning that there will be no cap on how many students universities can enrol.

United States

Apportioning the blame exactly

A US university student injured after falling down a lift shaft has been awarded a multi-million-dollar damages settlement. A jury ruled that Austin T. Wells, a former graphic-arts student at the University of Memphis, should receive $4.1 million (£2.6 million) for a severe brain injury he sustained from the fall in 2005, The Commercial Appeal newspaper reported. Mr Wells claimed that since the accident he had struggled to find work. Although the incident took place at a gallery off-campus, jurors found Memphis to be 65 per cent at fault, since Mr Wells was attending a university-sponsored event. The jury also found that Donald Estes, the gallery owner, was 30 per cent at fault, with Mr Wells bearing the remainder of the responsibility.

China

Academy for Africa

Pledges have been made to boost collaboration between higher education institutions in China and Africa. A two-day meeting of university leaders organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation drew together 44 heads of institutions from Africa and China to discuss how they would improve their collaborations, the Xinhua news agency reported. Irina Bokova, Unesco's director general, said the meeting would be "conducive" to raising the standard of education in African countries. Yuan Guiren, China's minister of education, added: "China is willing to join hands with Unesco and African countries to further develop and strengthen a long-term, stable, equal, mutually beneficial and cooperative partnership."

United States

Bidders want bite of Big Apple

The number of universities involved in submitting proposals to build an "applied sciences" campus in New York has risen to 15. Along with Amity University in India and a consortium of New York-based medical institutions (including Rockefeller University), the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai and the universities of Columbia and New York have joined the five original institutions bidding to build the science campus. In total, seven bids have been submitted to Michael Bloomberg, New York's mayor. Amity proposes a development on Governor's Island, whereas the medical-school consortium wants to build in midtown Manhattan. It was first reported that Cornell and Stanford universities were among those keen to take up Mr Bloomberg's invitation to build or expand an applied sciences facility in the city, with the help of $100 million (£62.4 million) of public funding.

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