News in brief

December 1, 2011

Australia

Healthy, but not that healthy

The representative body for Australian universities has accused the federal government of overstating the sector's financial health by including capital grants in calculations. Universities Australia criticised the claims by Chris Evans, the tertiary education minister, that the sector was going from "strength to strength" with record operating surpluses, saying that the actual surplus was only a third of the figure he had given. Instead of the A$1.95 billion (£1.2 billion) surplus last year that the government reported, UA claimed that the surplus was just A$680 million, The Australian reported. The body's chief executive, Glenn Withers, said this did not leave universities with much scope for discretionary spending. He added that if universities diverted funds from building projects to teaching, they would be breaching grant conditions. Dr Withers accused the government of misinterpreting the data and using it to dodge calls for a 10 per cent rise in base funding as recommended by a recent review.

United States

High earners enjoy subsidies

Universities and colleges in the US are giving $5.3 billion (£3.4 billion) in aid this year to students who do not need financial help, it has been claimed. Figures released by the College Board suggest that an additional $4 billion in federal tuition tax credits went to families making between $100,000 and $180,000 a year, despite this being at least double the average household income. According to USA Today, elite universities such as Harvard, Yale and Stanford give aid to families earning as much as $200,000, which puts pressure on less-selective institutions to also offer grants to higher-income families. Such subsidies mean less help for lower- and middle-income students, the newspaper reported.

Singapore

Boardroom bedfellows

Two universities in the US and Singapore that are setting up a new liberal arts college together have unveiled the new institution's inaug-ural governing board. The Singapore-based college is being founded by Yale University and the National University of Singapore, and its board will include industry leaders from both countries. Among them are Ng Cher Pong, a senior official at the Singaporean ministry of education; Catharine Bond Hill, president of Vassar College in the US; and Richard Levin and Tan Chorh Chuan, the presidents of Yale and the National universities, respectively. The partners are now working to form a curriculum and hire faculty for the college, which will have its first intake of students in the 2013-14 academic year.

Lebanon

Trustee issues

A Lebanese university is "riddled with mismanagement, corruption and malpractice", according to a former trustee. Nabil Chartouni also claimed that the issues at the American University of Beirut were costing the institution "millions of dollars each year". Mr Chartouni compiled the list of allegations in a 500-page report while he was still a trustee of the university last year, the al-Akhbar newspaper reported.

However, his demands for an inquiry were not followed up, he has claimed, and he was excluded from the board's elections. The report is now being considered by university officials after it came to the attention of the attorney general of New York, where the university is licensed. "I am waiting to see if the culprits will, in fact, be exposed," Mr Chartouni told al-Akhbar.

Pakistan

Triple jump

The percentage of Pakistanis participating in higher education has trebled in the past three years. Javaid R. Laghari, the Higher Education Commission chairman, said the proportion of young people going to university was 7.8 per cent in 2011, up from 2.5 per cent in 2008. The government aims for the number to reach 15 per cent by 2020. Speaking to faculty at Punjab University, Dr Laghari claimed that the increase was a direct result of HEC initiatives. The greatest challenge, he said, was reaching people in remote areas and offering financial support to students, The News International reported. Dr Laghari added that Pakistan was lagging behind other Muslim countries and he wanted to inspire more "knowledge creation".

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