News in brief

May 3, 2012

Australia

Trustworthiness rated

The Australian government has released a report containing data about how likely international students are to breach immigration rules based on their country of origin. Every university received the document along with an institution-specific assessment from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Universities will use the data to tailor enrolments to reflect sector-wide balances and to ensure that they comply with the new streamlined visa processing system, The Australian reported. The report showed that many of the sector's largest source countries, including Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, have the lowest risk, rated as level 1. China, the biggest single provider of international students, falls just within this category. Other significant source countries such as India, South Korea and Saudi Arabia are riskier, in level 2, but still moderate. Universities must maintain an overall risk rating showing that most of their international students are from countries rated level 1 and 2.

Tunisia

Niqab ban protests halt lectures

A university in Tunisia was forced to cancel lectures last week after protesters demonstrated against a campus ban on the wearing of veils. Lectures at the Faculty of Literature, Arts and Humanities at the University of Manouba were halted after demonstrations by Salafists (ultra-orthodox Muslims) against what they consider to be discriminatory measures, Al Arabiya reported. The protesters denounced the ban on the niqab, or face veil, and called for the university to build a mosque. The dean of faculty, who faced calls for his resignation, asked the interior minister to help restore calm.

United States

Is that all there is?

A US university has changed the wording for a scholarship after a student complained that it misled her into thinking that she would receive more money than she did. The graduate Advanced Opportunity Fellowship - which is used by departments at the University of Wisconsin-Madison - promised a nine-month stipend worth $18,756 (£11,620), plus tuition fees and costs. It also promised an "additional year of support for your [master's degree] work". Rosalind Dawson, a graduate student in Afro-American studies, said she believed that this meant that she would receive the same amount of money in the second year as she did in the first. However, she discovered that she would have to earn the extra support by working as a teaching assistant and would still receive significantly less than in her first year, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

China

It's independent's day

The Chinese government has approved the launch of the country's first "independent" university. Ministry of Education representatives endorsed the South University of Science and Technology of China as a national education and comprehensive reform experiment, Chinese Radio International reported online. Officials have demanded, however, that the new institution comply with China's higher education law. The law, which stipulates that students enter university via national examinations, may put paid to the institution's independent recruitment plans. The university has broken with tradition in assembling a board of directors rather than adopting a typical academic bureaucracy and in aiming to award degrees in its own right rather than through the State Council.

United States

A workout for the wallet as well

A rising number of public US universities are charging higher tuition fees for "harder" degrees to reflect their greater teaching costs, research has found. More than 140 institutions are using "differential tuition" plans for mathematics, science and business courses, 19 per cent more than did so in 2006, according to a survey by Cornell University's Higher Education Research Institute. USA Today reported that this number was rising as states cut spending. "It's been a lifesaver," said Donde Plowman, dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. At her institution, the cost of each credit hour for a business or engineering degree is $50 (£31) more than that of other undergraduate programmes. The extra money has funded a new career centre, the renovation of student facilities and the hiring of extra staff. Some, however, worry that higher tuition costs could put off low-income students.

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