News in brief

December 22, 2011

United States

Emeritus largesse

A hedge fund billionaire has donated $150 million (£97 million) to a US university where he was once a professor of mathematics. James H. Simons made the donation to Stony Brook University last week, handing over the sixth-largest sum ever donated to an American public university. Most of the cash will go to medical sciences research, The New York Times reported, including the construction of a life sciences building, a neurosciences institute and a centre for biological imaging. The gift will also help pay for 35 new endowed professorships and will create 40 postgraduate fellowships. Samuel L. Stanley, president of Stony Brook, said that the donation, to be given over seven years, was more than triple the amount the university typically raised in a year.


The sector's too samey

Taiwan's higher education sector is being spoiled by a glut of "homogen-ised universities", a senior tourism-industry figure has claimed. Stanley Yen, chairman of the Alliance Culture Foundation, made the remarks in a speech in Taipei, adding that universities were not teaching the practical skills needed locally. He said that although more than 800,000 Taiwanese citizens had postgraduate degrees, it was doubtful whether many were able to channel their knowledge into their careers. Despite the fact that local universities were losing their distinctiveness, he claimed that politicians were still driving through the construction of new institutions. With this in mind, he argued that it was imperative for Taiwan to start to attract overseas students because capacity will soon outstrip demand, Focus Taiwan News Channel reported.


The marriage is off

Plans for a merger between the University of Canberra and the city's training and further education (Tafe) institution have been ditched. The Australian reported that alternative proposals for Canberra to set up its own polytechnic offshoot have also foundered, with the regional government pushing instead for a collaborative venture overseen by the two institutions "on equal terms". The newspaper said that the Australian Capital Territory authority was likely to get its way since the federal government was waiting for its say-so before signing off a A$26 million (£16.6 million) Structural Adjustment Fund grant to the university. A confidential brief sent last month to the university and the Tafe, the Canberra Institute of Technology, proposed "a new type of tertiary institution" that would offer neither higher education nor vocational education and training. "It would produce a new range of course offerings which are not competency based but competency influenced," the document says.


Indian menu

An Italian university has opened a business school in India. Bocconi University, which specialises in economics and management, launched the Mumbai International School of Business Bocconi last week, with courses planned to start in July 2012. The venture will be aimed at the Indian postgraduate market, offering courses with a strong international outlook that will be taught by a mix of academics from Bocconi's base in Italy, Indian faculty and scholars from other countries. Guido Tabellini, rector of Bocconi, said the school would "open up a new path of possibilities" for the university's internationalisation strategy.

United States

Fraternity, still no equality

Another US fraternity has been suspended after apparently issuing members with a questionnaire asking: "If you could rape someone, who would it be?" The University of Vermont is investigating the source of the survey, who saw it and how it was used by the fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon, Fox News reported. The incident has followed a string of scandals involving fraternities, many involving their attitudes towards women. The survey reportedly asks a series of mundane questions before switching tack, asking where respondents would like to have sex in public and who they would like to rape. A national spokesman for the fraternity said the Vermont chapter had been instructed to "cease all operations, pending further investigation". He added: "Any behaviour that demeans women isn't tolerated."

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