News in brief

April 5, 2012

Russia

There and back again

The Russian government may fund students to attend leading foreign universities, as long as they return home to work. If the programme is given the go-ahead, the state will use loans to support high-achieving students in specific subjects so that they can study abroad and bring their expertise back to Russia in a bid to staunch a brain drain from the country. Specialisms supported by the funding will include technology, higher education management, and state and municipal administration, Russia Today online reported. "If [students] return to Russia and work in their field for at least three years, they won't have to pay (the cash) back," said Dmitry Peskov, director of the "Young Professionals" project at the Strategic Initiatives Agency. "But if they don't want to return, they'll have to pay back the loan plus interest."

United Arab Emirates

For-profit, technology's loss

For-profit providers in the United Arab Emirates are influencing what subjects students are taking at university - to the detriment of technology courses, according to a survey. An analysis of student enrolment at UAE universities reveals that the highest proportion of registrations are in business studies, while engineering, technology and science-related courses are suffering lower admissions, Business Intelligence: Middle East reported. M. Badr Aboul-Ela, director for academic accreditation at the UAE Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, said: "Low numbers of students eligible to pursue engineering and technology studies and the reluctance of several private for-profit institutions to offer programmes that require high capital investment compound the problem."

Australia

Standard complaint

An Australian university's teaching and research is jeopardising its reputation and budget, according to an internal document sent by a senior staff member. Writing to colleagues last August, Stephen Garton, deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Sydney, said: "Some other...universities are pulling ahead of us in terms of research performance. Similarly...in many areas we are consistently below the (Group of Eight university) average in terms of teaching." Professor Garton added that senior officials were working on "this major reputational and budgetary issue". In the letter, obtained by The Australian newspaper, he wrote: "Many of these poor research performers are also not making up teaching hours to compensate...adding unnecessarily to levels of part-time teaching expenditure." The letter was circulated three months before Sydney made 100 redundancies. Professor Garton said last week that the missive referred to a process of establishing what standards should be used to identify underperformance.

India

Honesty not the best policy

India's academy is in "deep crisis", according to an expert. Devesh Kapur, director of the Center for the Advanced Study of India at the University of Pennsylvania, has written extensively about the country's higher education problems, The Washington Post reported. "There are so many regulatory barriers to setting up a college or university that it deters honest groups but encourages those [that] are willing to pay bribes," Professor Kapur said. "Millions of young Indians will have high expectations [and] paper credentials, but will be poorly educated." India's mushrooming number of unaccredited institutions is also a concern: its University Grants Commission recently released a list of 21 "fake universities", many of them no more than a mailing address or signage hanging over a shop.

United States

Free pass for entrepreneurs

A university in Michigan is offering a $700 (£442) course for free to students interested in establishing local technology start-ups. Neil Sheridan, director of Kettering University's TechWorks programme, said the course is intended to help create jobs in the state. "We're helping people with business or technology backgrounds who want to launch a new venture," he said. "Taking our course is a great way to accelerate a successful launch and reduce the risk of failure." Alex Masters, who co-teaches the course, said the programme's fee is being waived for the spring session, The Wall Street Journal reported.

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