News in brief

January 19, 2012

United States

Defence attacked, academy OK

Universities will not be severely hit by federal spending cuts on research and development in the US, an analysis suggests. According to the study by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, overall spending on R&D will decline by 1.3 per cent in the current fiscal year, down to $142 billion (£92 billion) from $143.9 billion in 2011. However, most of the savings are being made through a 3.2 per cent cut in defence spending. "It's no doubt a tough fiscal environment, but the fact that we actually see some fairly sizeable increases in certain research areas suggests persistent support for science and innovation even now," said Matt Hourihan, director of the association's R&D Budget and Policy Program, which carried out the study.


Diagnosis: cheating

Indian police may have thwarted an elaborate plan to cheat in a private medical school's entrance examination. Officials arrested five men on suspicion of involvement in a scheme to sell answers to the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences' postgraduate entrance exam, the Mail Today newspaper reported. A second-year medical student at R.D. Gardi Medical College in Ujain was identified as the alleged mastermind of the plan, after submitting two application forms for the exam using fake registration numbers. Two MBA graduates are then said to have taken the exam with smartphones strapped to their wrists under their shirt sleeves. It is claimed that the questions were photographed and emailed to co-conspirators, who looked up the answers in medical reference books and relayed them to paying candidates via Bluetooth devices stitched into their shirt collars.


Sharp brains in a dry season

An Australian university has announced plans for a multimillion-dollar research programme into local irrigation. The University of Canberra will lead the A$12 million (£8 million) cross-disciplinary research project into the future of the Murray-Darling Basin region after years of anger over plans to reduce irrigation entitlements in the area. Project director Peter O'Brien said that the research would provide policymakers with key information to assess the impact of changes in water use on both the environment and communities in the region, The Australian reported. "In my experience, big rural reforms are tough and complex," Professor O'Brien said. "The project will ensure decision-makers have access to broadly based sources of knowledge from both social and environmental sciences."


'No sense' in fees protest

The head of a Bangladeshi university has described ongoing student protests against fees as "irrational".

Mesbahuddin Ahmed, vice-chancellor of Jagannath University in Dhaka, said: "Higher education is a thing to purchase. The suggestion that it is expensive makes no sense." Dr Ahmed has issued a campus-wide ban on processions and gatherings protesting against fees, the Bdnews24 website reported. In retaliation, students announced a boycott of all examinations and classes. Students led by the Progressive Students' Alliance group had earlier marched on campus to argue against the development fee the university has been charging all first-year students on top of their admission fees. Administrators say the fee of 5,000 taka (£39) is needed to redevelop Jagannath, which was upgraded to full university status in 2005.

United States

Bonfire of the managers

A US state is to abolish more than 20 high-paying administrative jobs in higher education. Officials from Connecticut's board of regents for higher education released a list of 24 positions to be cut in its state university and community college systems, a move that is expected to save about $5 million (£3.26 million) a year. The positions are mainly high-level administrative roles, the Hartford Courant reported. Michael Meotti, executive vice-president of the board, said most of the savings would be reinvested in academic staff: "The goal here is to save on administration and overhead...and realign the funding to improve educational services at the campus level, which usually means faculty."

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