News in brief

March 8, 2012

United States

Cleared, but Muslim row not over

A US academic who posted comments critical of Muslims on a personal Facebook page has been cleared of discrimination by his university. Maurice Eisenstein, associate professor of political science at Purdue University Calumet, faced complaints of harassment and discrimination after calling Muslims "barbarians" and claiming that the university's Muslim students' group was "anti-Jewish" on his Facebook page, the Journal and Courier newspaper reported. Professor Eisenstein said the university found no evidence of harassment or discrimination in considering nine complaints against him. But the Purdue University Calumet Muslim Students Association, one of the complainants, denounced the result, saying that the university did not properly address the issues. "We have no qualms with freedom of speech," said Fawwaz Alshammari, association president. "But disseminating demonstrably false information...including hateful and bigoted characterisations of Muslims...goes well beyond the pale." The group is considering an appeal.

Saudi Arabia

All the comforts of home

Saudi Arabia's minister for higher education has approved contracts worth more than £180 million to construct housing for teaching staff at a number of universities. Khaled Al-Anqari said the new contracts, worth 1.105 billion Saudi Arabian riyals (£185 million), are part of plans to complete infrastructure in the sector, Arab News reported. The universities of Al-Qura, Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic, Taibah, Jazan, Baha, King Abdulaziz and Najran and the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals will all be given new facilities. Dr Al-Anqari said that building the staff quarters would improve social life on university campuses.

Australia

Vocational becomes locational

An Australian institution has rejected claims of dumbing down after a move to confine vocational degrees to specific campuses. Monash University's Gippsland and Berwick campuses will have lower entry standards and award campus-specific diplomas distinguishing them from degrees awarded at its main Clayton campus. Vice-chancellor Ed Byrne said the move addressed the need to serve students in regional and outer metropolitan areas who may be shut out by high entry standards, The Australian reported. Plans submitted to the government said Gippsland's Average Tertiary Admission Rank - which allows comparison of school-leaving qualifications - was less than the minimum level accepted at Clayton. But Professor Byrne said that the new vocational degrees would be subject to the same quality control as existing degrees. "This isn't about dumbing down. It is the very opposite," he noted.

Oman

Good on paper, but still looking

Graduates of Oman's private higher education institutions struggle to find work in their field years after completing their studies, a recently published survey has found. According to the Graduates Survey System run by the Omani Ministry of Higher Education, 46 per cent of graduates from private institutions who graduated in 2008 are still looking for work, Muscat Daily online reported. For students who graduated almost a decade ago, 31 per cent have yet to find work suitable for their qualifications. Engineering graduates had the most success in finding work, at 70 per cent, while just 15 per cent of humanities graduates found relevant gainful employment.

United States

On the wrong side of the law?

US law school deans could be imprisoned for misleading applicants, an academic paper has claimed. "Law deans in jail", published by the Social Science Research Network, suggests law school heads may have committed felonies by providing false or misleading information about grades and job-placement rates. The abstract of the paper by Morgan Cloud and George B. Shepherd, law professors at Emory University, states: "Possible federal felonies include mail and wire fraud, conspiracy, racketeering, and making false statements." Although accepting that their arguments could be viewed as "implausible, perhaps even preposterous", the authors say the paper shows "that these organisations and individuals have committed crimes affecting the lives and careers of thousands of people".

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