News in brief

October 25, 2012

Canada

Frowns greet fall of Civilization

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has criticised a government decision to rebrand the Canadian Museum of Civilization and change its mandate. Last week, heritage minister James Moore announced that the museum, located in the Ottawa-Gatineau national capital region, would become the Canadian Museum of History, with C$25 million (£15.8 million) to be shifted from other parts of the heritage budget to pay for the switch. "This decision is a mistake," said James L. Turk, the CAUT's executive director. "It needlessly eliminates Canada's largest and most popular museum." Mr Turk said there were numerous locations where the government could have housed a new Canadian history museum without affecting the Museum of Civilization.

United States

Phoenix shrinks as profits fall

Huge US for-profit provider the University of Phoenix is to close around half of its locations as part of a "re-engineering initiative". The Apollo Group, which operates the university, announced last week that 90 of its satellite learning centres and 25 of its campuses will close, leaving 112 locations. Around 13,000 students, representing 4 per cent of degree students at Phoenix, will be affected by the closures. The news accompanied the release of Apollo's fourth-quarter earnings, which show a 10 per cent decline in annual revenue and a 15 per cent fall in enrolment at Phoenix, Inside Higher Ed reported. The university has also announced 800 non-faculty job cuts and recently froze tuition fees for new and existing students.

Australia

Funds, interrupted

An organisation representing Australia's academy has hit out at the federal government's "short-term, stop-go approach to funding". Universities Australia, which represents the country's 39 universities, said it appeared that everything was "up for grabs" in the pursuit of a budget surplus, and warned that freezing research grants could have a detrimental impact on the sector's ability to plan and invest, The Australian reported. The Australian Research Council has put all funding announcements on hold while the government looks to make savings. "This short-term, stop-go approach to funding and public investment decisions is becoming an increasingly alarming feature of the modern budget process," Belinda Robinson, Universities Australia's chief executive, said.

Kenya

Camp and campus

One of Kenya's leading universities has opened a campus in the northeastern town of Dadaab, location of the world's largest refugee camp. The Kenyatta University campus offers diploma, undergraduate and master's courses, and is located on the doorstep of the sprawling refugee complex, home to around 465,000 people. "This is a big leap forwards; it is a win-win situation - a win for Kenya and a win for the refugees," said Dominik Bartsch, head of United Nations refugee agency UNHCR's operations in Dadaab. He added that the campus would "serve as an incentive for refugee children to complete school and proceed to obtain higher qualifications", and hoped that university degrees would allow refugees to contribute to Kenyan society. Dadaab was set up in 1991 and is located around 100km from the border with Somalia, from where most of its inhabitants have fled.

United States

Debt mountain higher still

US students who graduated with bachelor's degrees last year had an average student debt of $26,600 - the largest in the country's history, a study has revealed. According to the Institute for College Access and Success' Project on Student Debt, debt levels continue to grow faster than inflation, The Huffington Post reported. The states where debt is highest are concentrated in the North East and Midwest, the report found, while low-debt states are mainly located in the West and South. Lauren Asher, president of the institute, said that fear of debt was preventing students from getting the education they deserve. "Students and parents need to know that even at similar-looking schools, debt levels can be wildly different. And if they do need to borrow to get through school, federal student loans, with options such as income-based repayment, are the safest way to go," she advised.

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