News in brief

March 15, 2012

United States

Happiness is a concealed gun

Students and staff at a US university will be allowed to carry guns on to campus thanks to a Supreme Court ruling. The decision concerning the University of Colorado overrides the institution's own regulation, passed in 1994, that banned concealed handguns even when their owners had obtained the relevant state permits. The court found that the 2003 Concealed Carry Act - which allows people with concealed-weapon permits to carry guns in "all areas of the state" - trumped the university's policy, Reuters reported. Ken McConnellogue, a University of Colorado spokesman, said that it was disappointed with the result.

Israel

Gender realignment

Israel's higher education body wants more women in top faculty positions. Despite Israeli women being more educated on average than men, in 2010 only 15 per cent of full professors in the country were female, Haaretz newspaper reported. Female representation in Israel's academy is 12 per cent lower than the European Union average. The planning and budgeting committee of the Council for Higher Education has approved an action plan on the issue, which lists a range of directives designed to remove barriers to female advancement. Its recommendations include hiring advisers for top management to oversee the advancement of women and steps to accommodate family obligations and child-rearing needs.

Pakistan

Unfairly underrated

A Pakistani university has expressed anger at its position in a government ranking of higher education institutions. The University of Peshawar, ranked fourth among large "general universities" by the Higher Education Commission, rejected the result as unfair, the Pakistan News Service reported. "The ranking depicts a clear violation of the yardsticks set by the [commission] itself," the university says in a statement. It adds that research output, the number of publications and the student-to-staff ratio at Peshawar are considerably better than at the institutions ranked second and third - the University of Karachi and Bahauddin Zakariya University respectively. Peshawar has requested that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa regional government rank Pakistan's universities "on the basis of facts and merits", the Daily Times website reported.

Australia

Class size matters

Australia's higher education minister has expressed concern about rising university class sizes, saying it is an issue the academy must tackle. Senator Chris Evans told listeners at the recent Universities Australia conference in Canberra that vice-chancellors needed to address the problem - but added there would be no additional government funding to help, The Australian newspaper reported. He said that although technological and pedagogic advances meant that there were different ways of supporting learning other than small tutorial groups, student-to-staff ratios remained a key part of maintaining standards. "I am paying you all this extra money, you ought to be able to fix it," he said, referring to recent funding increases for the sector. "But I'm happy to have some more sophisticated discussions about it because I am sure you won't concede that point." Expressing concern that larger tutorial sizes could exacerbate dropout rates, Mr Evans reiterated the government's commitment to looking for ways to link some funding to student completions rather than enrolments.

United States

Unpopularity contest

More than 70 courses at a US university face either cuts or closure in light of discussions between the institution's administrators and staff. A draft document obtained by the Des Moines Register newspaper shows that degrees in low demand at the University of Northern Iowa could be eliminated or drastically restructured. The social sciences and languages would be heaviest hit, with French, German, Russian, geology and geography programmes earmarked for closure. Master's degrees in French, German, criminology and sociology are also at risk. Those most likely to be cut have had six or fewer graduates in each of the past five years, according to the document. Benjamin Allen, Northern Iowa's president, emailed staff and students saying he would review the list of programmes recommended for closure and make a final decision on their fate.

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