News in brief

October 18, 2012

United States

Take a hike? Have 21

The head of a US higher education system has had to backtrack after he "mistakenly" ordered 21 salary increases for system executives without the board's approval. Robert A. Kennedy, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities' board of regents, authorised the increases - including a $48,000 (£30,600) hike for Michael P. Meotti, the board's executive vice-president - without the council's consent. "I approved them, mistakenly thinking I had the authority to do so," he told The Connecticut Mirror newspaper. He added: "If (the board) felt they were inappropriate, (it) can rescind them," noting that the rises would remain in place until the board reviewed them. Mr Meotti said that he would forfeit his rise. The pay hikes, which included nine double-digit-percentage increases, drew strong criticism from Beth Bye and Roberta Willis, co-chairwomen of the state's Higher Education Committee.

Afghanistan

In the name of peace, violence

The decision to change the name of Kabul's second-largest university has led to violence after students clashed over the announcement. Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, had proposed changing the name of the Kabul Education University to the Martyr of Peace Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani University in honour of former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was assassinated in 2011. After two weeks of peaceful protests, which had severely reduced the institution's operations, supporters and critics of the decision clashed, throwing stones and punching each other. One of those protesting the decision said students "didn't want politics" at the university, The New York Times reported.

Australia

The freeze and the big chill

Australian industry could renege on the promise of millions of dollars in research funding because of uncertainty surrounding a government freeze on discretionary grant spending. The fear of financial retraction could cost some academics substantial sums of research money, it has been reported. Dean Jerry, associate professor in the School of Marine and Tropical Biology at James Cook University, faces a loss of support totalling A$500,000 (£320,000), The Australian newspaper reported. The Australian Research Council has withheld opening up applications for long-overdue funding rounds while the government looks at its discretionary grant schemes "to ensure taxpayers are getting value for money", Leanne Harvey, the council's acting chief executive, said. Dr Jerry feared that his industrial sponsors would not commit the money if the next grant round does not go ahead. "Industry can't afford the uncertainty of sitting back another year because the rest of the world keeps moving," the academic said.

India

Sleeping giant still dozing

India accounted for only 3.5 per cent of global research output in 2010, according to a study conducted by Thomson Reuters. India's share in global research was far below the average in most disciplines achieved by its Asian competitors. In some areas national output was less than 1 per cent, sitting as low as 0.5 per cent in psychiatry and 0.6 per cent in social sciences. Although the country's global share of materials science was more impressive (6.4 per cent), China's share was more than four times larger (26 per cent), The Times of India reported. "India has been the sleeping giant of Asia," the report says. "Research in the university sector, stagnant for at least two decades, is now accelerating, but it will be a long haul to restore India as an Asian knowledge hub."

China

Little lambs ain't Ivy

A Chinese couple who paid a US education consultant more than $2 million (£1.25 million) to get their children into an Ivy League university are suing him for fraud and breach of contract. Gerald and Lily Chow paid Mark Zimny, a former lecturer and visiting assistant professor at Harvard University who runs a consultancy called IvyAdmit, $2.2 million over two years to help their sons enter the same institution. According to the Chows, the money was supposed to pay for tutoring services for their children and to be invested in the admissions process, The Boston Globe reported.

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