News in brief

September 6, 2012

United States

Premature litigation

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit issued by a US college against the Obama administration's "contraception mandate". District judge Ellen Segal Huvelle rejected Wheaton College's claim against the federal requirement that the evangelical Christian institution offer employees health insurance that covers the cost of contraception. The decision comes just two weeks after the college was granted an additional year to meet the requirement, the Chicago Tribune newspaper reported. The judge ruled that the lawsuit was premature because the government would not enforce the mandate until August 2013 and had promised to revise it to accommodate some religious institutions before it goes into effect.

Australia

Waltzing towards the target

More than half of Australian 15-year-olds are planning to go to university and more than 40 per cent of 19-year-olds have degrees or are on their way to obtaining them, data show. Figures from a study by the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth, a research programme, suggest that the country could easily hit the government's target for 40 per cent of young adults to have higher qualifications by 2025. The survey, which tracks the education and careers of around 14,000 young people from the age of 15, reveals that aspirations to enter university among those measured jumped from 49 to 60 per cent between 1998 and 2003, before levelling to the mid-50s in 2006 and 2009, The Australian reported. Attainment rates are also improving, the survey suggests.

Canada

He's not the boss of us

A Canadian university has rewritten a controversial donor agreement for its fledgling political management programme to make it clear that a wealthy patron does not have final say on the hiring of staff or on the contents of the curriculum. Carleton University's decision comes after it kept hidden for a year the details of a C$15 million (£9.6 million) deal with Calgary businessman Clayton Riddell. When the agreement became public knowledge earlier this year, academics and the Canadian Association of University Teachers protested, labelling it a major infringement on academic freedom, The Globe and Mail newspaper reported. Roseann O'Reilly Runte, Carleton's president, released a rewritten clause in the donor deal while lauding the school's "cross-partisan" master's programme, which is designed to train political staff for government-related work. Academics had complained that the programme's five-person steering committee - dominated by Mr Riddell's non-academic appointees - was evidence that Carleton had failed to understand "what a university should represent". Dr Runte noted that the committee no longer had the power to "approve" key hiring and curriculum decisions, but still provided "timely and strategic advice".

Uganda

V-c out!

An African university has suspended its vice-chancellor and 11 other officials after industrial action by staff. The council of Kyambogo University in Uganda took the decision after strikers called for Isaiah Omolo Ndiege, Kyambogo's vice-chancellor, to stand down. The staff accused Professor Ndiege of a lack of respect for the governing council and mismanagement of the institution, the AllAfrica.com website reported. The council ruled that Professor Ndiege be given seven days' notice to step aside so that they could investigate the strikers' accusations. The other officials suspended include the university secretary, the academic registrar and the dean of students.

India

Empty chairs at empty colleges

More than 70 per cent of the places in 20 engineering colleges set up in India this year remain vacant. According to data from Tamil Nadu Engineering Admissions and the Technocrats India College Finder, students are opting to attend more established universities, The Hindu newspaper reported. "In some colleges, the vacancy position goes beyond 90 per cent," said D. Nedunchezhian, a consultant at Technocrats. The All India Council for Technical Education approved 32 new colleges this year, 20 of them engineering institutions.

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