News in brief

September 27, 2012

United States

This correspondence is private

A judge has backed a US climate scientist's efforts to preserve the privacy of his emails. The court rejected the case brought by the American Tradition Institute, a conservative advocacy group, and ruled in favour of Michael Mann, currently professor and director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, and his former employer, the University of Virginia. ATI had sought access to emails Professor Mann wrote while serving at Virginia. The university had initially signed an agreement with ATI that would have granted it access to the emails, but changed tack during a court hearing in November 2011, Nature reported. Professor Mann said that the ruling supported the university's argument that the state's freedom of information laws do not apply "to faculty communications in furtherance of their work".


Power of four plus exit options

An Indian university has confirmed plans to offer four-year degrees from 2013. The University of Delhi has decided to make the change to all undergraduate courses from July next year, adding that a new "hands-on" curriculum is already replacing existing syllabi for the first year of courses, ushering in a new study culture at the institution, the Mail Today newspaper reported. Under the proposed restructure, students will be awarded credit points for papers and co-curricular activities, and will also have three "exit" options during the four-year courses. They will receive diplomas if they choose to end their studies after two years, general degrees after three years and degrees equivalent to existing honours qualifications after completing the full four years. However, some staff have expressed alarm that Delhi is rushing into the change without proper preparation.


Let's keep things informal

One of Australia's top-ranked universities may scrap formal postgraduate higher education teaching programmes for its staff, it has revealed. The Australian National University has proposed replacing graduate certificate and master's courses in higher education with short online programmes that do not provide formal qualifications. The courses would be available to academic staff and others interested in teaching, curriculum design, research provision and academic management, The Australian newspaper reported. Marnie Hughes-Warrington, deputy vice-chancellor of the institution, said the replacements would cover similar ground and employees would be able to seek formal credit from other universities. Staff have been given two weeks to respond to a consultation document on the plans, which says that enrolment on the formal courses has fallen by 50 per cent since 2010.

United States

Please sirs, we need more

Mississippi's public universities have requested an additional $72.4 million (£44.7 million) from lawmakers for the fiscal year beginning July 2013. Tate Reeves, lieutenant governor of Mississippi, said the plea was "compelling", but warned that the request had to be balanced against competing needs across the state. Hank Bounds, Mississippi's commissioner of higher education, said that the state's eight public universities were in competition with each other and dozens of other colleges for students, faculty, research funding and more, The Sacramento Bee reported. He added that while there had been a time when state appropriations were the main source of university money, tuition now represented around 59 per cent of their budgets.


Stand alone to get along

Nigerian universities need more autonomy, a leading higher education figure has warned. Wale Babalakin, chairman of the Committee of Pro-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities, made the comment while addressing journalists about the state of education in the country and ways to improve its academy. "[The] Nigerian education system will only take its place in the world...when universities become autonomous again," he said. He added that autonomy would make university leaders more proactive, knowing that they would have to source funds to pay salaries and fund research, the website reported. He said the Nigerian system was currently incapable of supporting national development.

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