News in brief

January 5, 2012

United States

Preferential, not equal treatment

A US university was justified in challenging one of its students over the compatibility of her views on homosexuality with her training as a counsellor, a court has ruled. Jennifer Keeton sued Augusta State University in 2010, accusing it of violating her rights to free speech and the free exercise of her Christian faith. However, a district court sided with the university, which it said had merely tried to teach her not to allow her personal views to affect the counselling she provided to gay and lesbian clients. And in a ruling handed down last month, a federal appeals court unanimously agreed with this decision. "In seeking to evade the curricular requirement that she not impose her moral values on clients, Keeton is looking for preferential, not equal, treatment," the court said.

Australia

History isn't what it used to be

A university is to drop the undergraduate teaching of Australian studies and will employ just one full-time scholar in the field. The cuts to the University of Melbourne's Australian Centre follow recommendations made by an independent review chaired by the University of Sydney's former head of history, Richard Waterhouse. The review called for a major rethink on how Australian history is taught, The Australian reported. The decision, subject to consultation, means that three academic staff will be made redundant or moved to new roles. Mark Considine, dean of arts at Melbourne, said the planned cuts had been driven in part by falling student numbers and a consequent budget deficit at the centre. He added that the decline in student interest in Australian history reflected growing demand that history be taught in the context of global issues.

India

Umbrella offering

Four Indian higher education institutions are to set up a "meta-university". Under the proposals, Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Jamia Millia Islamia universities and the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi will offer a collaborative programme that will allow students to mix and match study modules, The Times of India reported. The plans were announced by Dinesh Singh, the University of Delhi's vice-chancellor, in a lecture on education in the 21st century given at Vasant Valley School. "We are doing it on our own in Delhi," he said. "A student may not have to do semesters in quick succession. They can sit at any university and pursue the options they want. That's the fun of a meta-university." He added that the programme would be ready for enrolments by July.

United States

Fruitful bid for Big Apple campus

Cornell University is to team up with the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology to build an applied science campus in New York after winning a hotly contested race to secure the development. Around 15 institutions from around the world were involved in bids to develop the campus, for which New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has put up a plot of land on Roosevelt Island and $100 million (£64.5 million) in infrastructure investment. The Cornell-Technion partnership won the contract after another front-runner, Stanford University, pulled out. After the announcement, Cornell revealed that it had received a $350 million donation to support the project. Mr Bloomberg said Cornell and Technion had "far and away the boldest and most ambitious" plan for the campus.

Taiwan

Strait rapprochement

The president of Taiwan has promised to fulfil a long-held ambition by opening up the country's academy to larger numbers of Chinese students. Speaking at an annual meeting of college and university directors, Ma Ying-jeou said: "I proposed the idea of opening up the nation for Chinese students seven years ago, but we must take cautious steps when implementing this policy. The rights of local students to higher education should remain our priority." The proposal is part of Mr Ma's wider policy of promoting cross-strait collaboration, the Taipei Times reported. The president's remarks followed concerns raised last month by Stanley Yen, a Taiwanese business leader, that the supply of university places in the country would outstrip demand unless more was done to attract students from abroad.

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