News in brief

August 16, 2012

China

What's in a name?

A professor working at the Beijing University of Chemical Technology (BUCT) assumed the identity of a US academic of the same name for several months. The Beijing-based Lu Jun, who joined BUCT in November, listed on his CV seven articles published in top academic journals including Nature. However, the articles were actually the work of an assistant professor of genetics at Yale University, whose name - although written differently in Chinese characters - also transliterates into English as Lu Jun, China Daily reported. "Those seven publications listed on his website were indeed my work," Yale's Professor Lu writes in an email to Fang Zhouzi, who blogs about academic fraud and who investigated the case. "The two of us are not the same person. Our Chinese names are spelled the same (in English), but with different characters." According to a statement on BUCT's website, its Professor Lu has been dismissed. The statement adds that he had also fraudulently claimed to have postdoctoral research experience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology - another detail pilfered from his US-based namesake.

Australia

To cap it all...

The vice-chancellor of an Australian university has criticised "elite" universities lobbying for the removal of tuition fee caps as "lacking integrity". Rhonda Hawkins, acting vice-chancellor of the University of Western Sydney, is angry that the Group of Eight is publicly calling for the removal of fee caps at the same time as universities are attempting to agree a joint opinion on the policy, The Australian reported. Ms Hawkins has called for a more open debate on the issue. "The euphemisms about fee flexibility and fee deregulation have to be debunked. It is a fee increase," Ms Hawkins said. "It lacks the integrity of an open and public debate." Her comments came after the release of a report, Graduate Winners, by public policy thinktank the Grattan Institute, which called for a 50 per cent reduction in government subsidies for university fees. Author Andrew Norton, the institute's higher education director, argued that the level of personal benefit emanating from a degree is greater than the public benefit and therefore the individual should pay the bulk of the cost.

United States

Race to court

A US university has defended its policy of using race as a factor in admissions. The University of Texas at Austin on 6 August filed a brief with the Supreme Court supporting its decision. Justices earlier this year agreed to look into the matter after Abigail Fisher, a white student who was not admitted to the institution in 2008, filed a lawsuit challenging the policy as a violation of her civil and constitutional rights, Fox News reported. Most of the students admitted to the university rank in the top 10 per cent of their high school classes. Texas officials say race is also considered for admissions among many factors, including academic record, leadership potential and extracurricular activities. They maintain that race is not used to set quotas, saying its policy, first used in 2005, conforms to a 2003 Supreme Court ruling that upheld racial considerations in university admissions at the University of Michigan Law School. "This policy allows us to gain the benefits of a diverse student body," UT Austin president Bill Powers said in a video statement. "We're confident we will prevail in this case."

Israel

Speaking in tongues

Israeli universities are increasingly offering courses exclusively in English in a bid to attract more international students. Tel Aviv and Haifa universities have each opened five English-language master's degree programmes in the past year, Haaretz newspaper reported. Meanwhile, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has introduced three new English-language MA degrees in law and social sciences. "The world is a global village, and higher education has gone global," said Hanan Alexander, head of the International School at the University of Haifa. "This is one of the things that first-rate research universities do these days, and it's no coincidence that we've all reached the same conclusion." Hebrew University rector Sarah Stroumsa, for her part, said that the motivation for offering the new courses was about forging global ties and "not about the revenues, although it might eventually become something lucrative, and we certainly wouldn't have any objection to that".

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