News in brief

September 13, 2012

United States

Californian wrangling ends

The staff of a US university system have approved a new four-year labour contract, ending two years of contentious bargaining with administrative officials. Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association, said the contract, which calls for no pay rises for faculty in the California State University system for two years - but allows for the possibility of renegotiating salary and benefits in the following two years - garnered 91 per cent approval by voting members. "It's one of those moments, and it doesn't happen too often, when faculty and the board are on the same page," Professor Taiz said. "We are 100 per cent engaged in what happens next." The contract covers 23,000 professors, lecturers and other professional employees throughout CSU's 23 campuses and must be ratified by the university's board of trustees later this month, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

China

Blog leads to trouble

A Chinese university has announced that it is suing a former employee for libel over claims he made about a sex scandal at the institution. Peking University is demanding an apology and damages from Zou Heng-fu, a former professor of economics at the university, who alleged that its deans and directors had sexually harassed waitresses working on campus, China Daily reported. Dr Zou worked for Peking for nine years before being dismissed in 2007. Writing on his blog, he alleged that waitresses at the on-campus Mengtaoyuan restaurant suffered harassment from university employees. The post was circulated more than 25,000 times within two days. Dr Zou, who now works at the World Bank, later admitted he had exaggerated the claims.

Pakistan

Scholars' relief

The Pakistani government has released more than 3 billion rupees (£19.9 million) to the Higher Education Commission to support doctoral students on government scholarships. The ministry of finance released the funds on 4 September, allaying fears that they would not be forthcoming, The Nation newspaper reported. The commission had not been able to send stipends to the scholars for the past two months, following disputes in the government over Pakistan's higher education budget. The commission's chairman Dr Javaid Laghari said the delay in release of funds was a major issue, "as hundreds of scholars were running into serious crises and it will be great relief for them".

Australia

Student growth spurt

Australian enrolments have gone up by a quarter in the past five years of Labor governance, easily surpassing the increases made in a decade under John Howard's Coalition government, a new analysis has found. According to a study of data from last year's census by the Australian Council for Educational Research, university enrolments grew 25 per cent between 2006 and 2011, having increased only 3 per cent over the preceding five years. This exceeded the 17 per cent rise that took place between 1991 and 1996, The Australian reported. The council said it had been surprised by the magnitude of the increase. Senior research fellow Daniel Edwards credited new policies instituted in the wake of Denise Bradley's 2008 review of Australian higher education and the "positive message about universities" that had accompanied the reforms.

South Africa

Boycott demurred

A South African university has distanced itself from a boycott of Israel called for by some of its students. Witwatersrand University took the stance after its student association, Wits Student Representative Council, called for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel and further support of the annual Israel Apartheid Week, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported. The university's executive committee said it did not support the initiative, adding in a statement: "In our view, the diversity of people, programs and ideas is one of the greatest strengths that makes studying at Wits an enriching experience." The South African Union of Jewish Students welcomed the statement, with union chairman Daniel Katzew deploring the student council's decision and calling it "a vicious and one-sided resolution aimed at shutting down all debate and discussion surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict".

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