News in brief

November 17, 2011

United States

A is for absentee?

A professor has resigned from her post at a US university after accusations that she did not teach for two-thirds of an academic year and had awarded As to all her students. Venetia Orcutt, an assistant professor in the department of physician assistant studies at George Washington University, resigned after students complained, the Associated Press reported. At least three students wrote to George Washington's provost alleging that Professor Orcutt had failed to teach two out of three semesters of a course on evidence-based medicine during the 2009-10 academic year. They claimed that they were never given an explanation and that all had received top grades. The university is investigating the claims.

India

Reformer rallies support

India's higher education minister has tried to head off opposition to wide-ranging education reforms in the country. Having been criticised by colleagues in the Indian National Congress party as well as opposition politicians, Kapil Sibal held a second round of debates with MPs in an attempt to rally support for his plans, The Times of India reported. The reforms include measures to increase access to higher education, improve quality, and tackle red tape and corruption. To achieve them, Mr Sibal proposes fast-tracking new colleges and encouraging the entry of foreign universities. He has also directed existing universities to modernise and attract faculty from abroad. While some MPs support the overall agenda, many feel that the proposals threaten equality, the newspaper said.

Australia

Nepotism can be fatal

The vice-chancellor of an Australian university will step down in light of allegations that one of his relatives was given an easy ride in an entrance examination. Paul Greenfield, vice-chancellor of the University of Queensland, will leave in June 2012 after an internal investigation found "irregularities" in admission procedures, The Courier Mail reported. Entry requirements to a course - believed to be medicine - were allegedly lowered to allow Professor Greenfield's relative to enrol. In a message to staff, the vice-chancellor says: "I have agreed to stand down...in the middle of 2012. I offered to do this because I accept responsibility as CEO for a decision that, while neither requested nor made by me, was inappropriate and benefited a close relative." He adds that the enrolment was "the result of an unfortunate misunderstanding of a conversation and a breakdown in the normal checks and balances". Michael Keniger, Professor Greenfield's deputy, will leave at the end of the year.

Republic of Korea

Cooking the books

A number of South Korean universities have falsified financial information to strengthen their cases for increasing tuition fees, an investigation has found. The Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) looked at 35 randomly selected universities and found that several had manipulated their accounts over the past five years to justify steep rises in fees, the Yonhap News Agency reported. The BAI estimated that doctoring of the books had produced 655.2 billion won (£367 million) in inappropriate income for the universities in the past five years. The watchdog said it would notify the education ministry of its findings so that the universities involved - including nine public institutions - could be penalised. In a separate investigation of 113 universities, 50 were found to have senior officials and professors embezzling school funds while neglecting their duties.

United States

Penn paedophilia case

A paedophilia scandal has claimed scalps at Penn State University after it was alleged that senior officials at the university may have helped to cover up the abuse. Jerry Sandusky, assistant coach of Penn State's football team, was arrested earlier this month and charged with eight counts of sexual abuse. In addition, Tim Curley, athletic director, and Gary Schultz, senior vice-president for finance and business, have been arrested and charged with perjury and failing to report allegations to the authorities. Although they have not been charged with any crime, the university's president, Graham B. Spanier, and its football coach, Joe Paterno, have also been removed from their positions by the Board of Trustees.

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