News in brief

July 26, 2012

United States

Thoroughly revised - really?

A US governor has signed legislation intended to lower the costs of textbooks for university students. Jerry Brown, governor of California, announced last week that he had authorised a bill that requires textbook publishers to inform professors and buyers about amendments made to new editions. The bill was proposed by Ellen Corbett, Democratic senator for San Leandro, who said that the information will let professors and students know if they need to buy expensive new editions or can use old ones, Associated Press reported. The bill also requires publishers to tell buyers about other books they offer on the same topics.

Israel

Green Line is crossed

An institution on the West Bank has been recognised as the first Israeli university beyond the Green Line, in contravention of the recommendation by the nation's higher education council. The Judea and Samaria Council for Higher Education decided to allow Ariel University Center to become a fully fledged university despite the Israeli Council for Higher Education's recent ruling against the move. Eleven members of the Judea and Samaria Council voted in favour while two opposed, Haaretz newspaper reported. Hundreds of left-wing activists demonstrated outside the committee meeting, which took place at Bar-Ilan University. Zahava Gal-On, leader of the Meretz Party, said the decision would lead to academic boycotts of Israel.

Australia

Where's everyone going?

The five fastest-growing Australian universities recorded their lowest retention rates last year. Student progress rates at Swinburne University of Technology, the universities of Western Sydney and Canberra, and Macquarie and Australian Catholic universities declined following aggressive recruitment in 2010 and 2011, when they over-enrolled by between 25 and 40 per cent. Domestic undergraduate retention declined by between 1.5 and 5 percentage points over the period, The Australian reported. Progress rates - the proportion of university units successfully completed - are considered by some academics to be the best way to measure the success of teaching programmes. The five universities said retention was a sector-wide issue, and variations to progress rates should not be considered in isolation from financial and labour-market conditions.

Switzerland

To be franc, it's too expensive

The number of foreign students applying to Swiss universities has fallen because of the strength of the country's currency, locals claim, with applications from the eurozone particularly hit. "The cost of living in Switzerland for many students is no longer manageable," said Erich Aschwanden, head of public relations at the University of Lucerne. Lucerne, along with universities including ETH Zürich-Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, has reported a drop in German applicants in the past year, The Local newspaper reported. Tuition fee rises for foreign students at some institutions, the fact that several German states have abolished fees entirely and the intensity of programmes taught under the Bologna Process are among the reasons why students are staying away, it added.

United States

Cuts must come

A US state university system has told its trustees that stringent budget cuts are unavoidable. In a recent presentation, California State University officials illustrated how untenable the body's finances have become, telling trustees that it risks bankruptcy unless it makes cuts of at least $130 million (£83.4 million), the San Jose Mercury News reported. The meeting was held to discuss how to deal with the outcome of a crucial statewide vote in November. CSU's budget is dependent on a ballot initiative introduced by Jerry Brown, the state's governor, which would raise sales and income taxes. If the measure passes and tuition fees are frozen at last year's levels, the system will receive a $125 million boost in 2013. If voters reject the tax hikes, it will lose $250 million, which will almost certainly lead to fee increases. Even if the measure passes, the system faces a $177 million deficit, said Benjamin Quillian, CSU's chief financial officer. In the worst-case scenario, it would face a $4 million gap, he added.

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