News in brief

October 4, 2012

United States

Bled dry over a decade

Public research universities in the US are under threat from budget cuts that have amounted to one-fifth of their state funding over the past decade, a report warns. A survey by the National Science Board shows that after taking into account inflation and increased enrolment, state support for public research institutions fell 20 per cent between 2002 and 2010. In 10 US states, support has fallen by 30 per cent or more, Associated Press reported: two, Colorado and Rhode Island, have instituted 50 per cent cuts. Just seven states increased funding. The report is the latest in a series of warnings that US public universities, which account for the majority of federal-funded science and engineering research, have been weakened by years of retrenchment.

Egypt

Closed until further notice

A university in Egypt has announced that classes will remain suspended until a dispute with students over fee increases is resolved. The American University in Cairo made the announcement last week after a third demonstration in two weeks, during which protesters blocked the institution's gates, preventing students and academic staff from entering, the Egypt Independent reported. When the AUC attempted to help people enter campus by removing two metal gates, protesters filled the gaps with vehicles. Students opposed to the strike were forced to jump the fence to enter. In response, Brian MacDougall, the university's vice-president for planning and administration, said that all classes would be cancelled until further notice. Demonstrators are demanding that the university halts its plan to raise tuition fees by 7 per cent, made without consulting students or unions.

United Arab Emirates

Time to polish the CV

Universities in the United Arab Emirates must improve their student career-management services to boost graduate employability, a recruitment expert has said. "Fresh UAE graduates are lacking in CV writing and presentation skills, both of which are not a high priority in UAE universities," said Hamza Zaouali, managing director of IRIS Executives, a headhunting firm. "Until schools adapt to an increasingly competitive...market and make space for career-management classes, we will not see major improvements in...graduates' attitudes towards the job market." His company will launch free career-guidance seminars at the Najah Education, Training and Careers Fair in Abu Dhabi this month.

Republic of Ireland

Urge to merge? It's under wraps

A delayed review of higher education in the Republic of Ireland urges the merger of two of the country's top institutions, it has been reported. The controversial report, commissioned by the Higher Education Authority, reportedly recommends the merger of University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin, among other sweeping changes to the sector. The report was due to be circulated among university presidents and college heads last week, but its release has been postponed after discussions between the HEA and the Department of Education and Skills, The Irish Times reported. In a letter to sector leaders on September, Tom Boland, the HEA's chief executive, wrote that more time was needed "for clarification on policy issues and for wider consultation". According to the newspaper, the unpublished report - written by an international panel chaired by Frans Van Vught, a Dutch academic - proposes that Ireland's 20-plus higher education colleges be consolidated into just six institutions.

United States

Staff turn on Cheek over equality

Faculty members from a US university have criticised its chancellor's views on whether same-sex couples should receive similar benefits to married couples. The faculty senate of the University of Tennessee drafted a resolution in April supporting education, leave and health benefits for gay employees and their partners that mirror the benefits offered to married staff. In response, Jimmy Cheek, chancellor of Tennessee, and Larry Arrington, leader of the state's Institute of Agriculture, wrote a letter to the senate describing the proposals as "inconsistent with the public policy of our state expressed in constitutional and statutory provisions". Senate members called the letter "appalling", the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.

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