News in brief

July 12, 2012

United States

In two minds on training of minds

A national survey has found that Americans are split over the value of a degree. Six out of 10 respondents consider the costs associated with attending university to be a good investment, but many say a degree carries less weight now than it did two decades ago, according to a Google consumer survey of 1,000 adults carried out by PR and public affairs company Widmeyer Communications. While 46 per cent of Americans say degrees are as valued as they were 20 years ago, 41 per cent disagree and the remainder say they do not know, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. However, only 12 per cent say university is not a good investment. Moreover, 54 per cent of respondents say they give hardly any or no weight at all to league tables. Scott Widmeyer, head of Widmeyer Communications, said institutions need to better convey the long-term value that degrees offer to their graduates.


Regional rivals ready to roar

A boom in tertiary education in Southeast Asia could result in its universities overtaking Australian institutions in rankings, a former vice-chancellor has said. James McWha, who stepped down from the leadership of the University of Adelaide at the end of June, said growing demand for education in China, Malaysia and India would result in rapid expansion of the region's sector. He predicted that the new Asian institutions would quickly become competitive, while Australian universities remained "at best static", The Australian reported. "There's no doubt some of those Asian countries will surpass us on the league tables," Professor McWha said. "We need to think pretty carefully about whether we genuinely believe in quality higher education or we just pay lip service to it."


Billions of reasons to protest

Pakistan's academics have held demonstrations in protest against cuts to the country's higher education budget. The government recently approved a budget of 15.8 billion rupees (£107 million), 10 billion rupees less than the Higher Education Commission (HEC) - which governs and distributes money to Pakistan's 74 government-funded universities - had requested. This decision, coupled with the withholding of 6.7 billion and 4.6 billion rupees for research and HEC administration respectively from last year's budget, sparked mass protests by academics, researchers and students, Nature reported. Following the demonstrations, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf ordered the Finance Ministry to issue funds to the HEC. Although a sum of 2 billion rupees was provided for administrative expenses, no money was released for research grants.

South Africa

Support for high aspirations

South Africa's higher education minister has vowed to ensure that funding at the country's universities grows every year for poor students, as well as for those obtaining high grades. Blade Nzimande made the promise last week during the Congress of South African Trade Unions' Education and Skills Conference in Benoni. Department of Higher Education and Training data show that state funding for South African students grew from 2.38 billion rand (£186.4 million) in 2008 to 6 billion rand in 2011, reported. Mr Nzimande said the ministry's skills development policies would "expand workplace-based training opportunities to complement classroom-based education".

Hong Kong

This is the place to be

Universities in Hong Kong have received significant increases in foreign student applications for the 2012-13 academic year, figures have shown. The University of Hong Kong had a 42 per cent rise in overseas applications on the previous year, while applications to the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology increased by nearly 50 and 55 per cent, respectively, The New York Times reported. "We have a number of excellent universities in Hong Kong, so international students and parents are now beginning to realise the opportunities for higher education here," said John A. Spinks, senior adviser to the vice-chancellor of the University of Hong Kong. "Many students, particularly those from Asian countries, are choosing to stay in Asia because of the enhanced job opportunities after graduation predicted from the economic growth forecasts."

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