News in brief

November 1, 2012

Australia

You've got only 10 years left

Australia's university model could become unviable in the next 10 to 15 years, according to a report by Ernst & Young. University of the Future: A Thousand Year Old Industry on the Cusp of Profound Change claims that universities will have to "significantly streamline their operations" and incorporate "new teaching and learning delivery mechanisms" to survive. "The dominant university model in Australia - a broad-based teaching and research institution, supported by a large asset base and a large, predominantly in-house back office - will prove unviable in all but a few cases over the next 10-15 years," the report says. It cites developments in digital technology, the availability of information online and increased competition between institutions at a time of budgetary constraint as reasons for its worrying prognosis.

India

Extension contention

Delhi University Students' Union (DUSU) has threatened a mass protest against the university's decision to scrap a system that grants students extra time in exceptional circumstances to complete their course. The "span period extension" and "special chance" schemes were cancelled by the university on 10 October and all unprocessed applications were automatically declined, The Times of India reported. Terming the decision "arbitrary and against natural justice", a DUSU statement said the decision would "adversely affect careers and lives of thousands of students" who might now fail to complete their studies because of unforeseen circumstances such as severe illness or economic problems. Arun Hooda, president of DUSU, said: "This shows a level of callousness and complete disregard for the welfare of the students and any principles of natural justice."

United States

Leftward march

Academics in the US are becoming increasingly left-wing, a survey has revealed. According to data from the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, the percentage of faculty members identifying themselves as "far Left" or "liberal" has risen significantly over the past three years, while the percentage on the Right has declined. UCLA surveys faculty members nationwide every three years. The results for 2007-08 show that 55.8 per cent said they were left of centre, compared with 62.7 per cent in 2010-11, the website Inside Higher Ed reported. Meanwhile, the percentage identifying as "conservative" or "far Right" fell from 15.9 per cent to 11.9 per cent. Among women, 12.6 per cent said they were "far Left" and 54.9 per cent "liberal", while for men, the figures were 12.2 and 47.2 per cent respectively. Sylvia Hurtado, professor of education at UCLA and director of the Higher Education Research Institute, offered no firm reason for the change but speculated that an ageing workforce might explain it.

China

Battle of the bulge

A surge in the number of postgraduate students is piling pressure on China's PhD supervisors. Studies show that the number of postgraduate students has doubled in the past decade, China Daily reported, and education insiders have raised concerns that supervisors are struggling to cope. Universities planned to recruit 584,000 postgraduates in 2012, compared with 268,000 in 2003, according to China's Ministry of Education. Although ministry data show that the number of postgraduate supervisors has also risen, from 128,000 in 2003 to 260,000 in 2010, university insiders say they are now responsible for more students, which is affecting quality.

Israel

Orthodox methods

A programme designed to integrate ultra-Orthodox Jews into Israeli universities will increase the number of Haredi academics by 50 per cent over three years, Israel's education minister has announced. According to Gideon Sa'ar, 12 academic centres specifically adapted to the ultra-Orthodox community will provide a setting in which students can study subjects including art, electrical engineering, architecture and computer science in an environment that is sensitive to their religious needs, The Times of Israel reported. Currently, a relatively small percentage of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community receive a university education, generally opting for religious studies in yeshiva - religious educational institutions - instead.

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