Overseas briefing: 18 March 2010

March 18, 2010

United States

Inca fraud charge is sacrificed

A long-running dispute between Peru and Yale University over Inca artefacts removed from Machu Picchu a century ago has taken another twist, with the South American country agreeing to withdraw fraud and conspiracy allegations against the university. Peru, which has filed a lawsuit seeking the return of the artefacts, has dropped six out of 17 allegations on the advice of newly instructed lawyers, who recommended simplifying the lawsuit to "facilitate a resolution", the Associated Press reported. The Peruvian government is demanding that Yale return artefacts taken from the site by the scholar, explorer and politician Hiram Bingham III between 1911 and 1915. The retracted allegations accused Yale of intending to deceive Peru by conspiring with Bingham to retain the artefacts unlawfully by fraudulently assuring that the university would return the items upon the country's request.


Legal education plans under fire

Government plans that would take legal education powers away from the Bar Council of India (BCI) have been attacked as "adventurist and highly condemnable". The Hindu newspaper reported that the proposals, included in a bill setting out plans for a National Commission of Higher Education and Research, have drawn fierce opposition. At an emergency meeting last week, the BCI urged the government to drop the plans, which it said would "further centralise power in higher education. It is feared that with an overburdened responsibility, the proposed commission will never be able to contribute substantially to the development of research, especially in the field of legal education."


Put Canadians first, say Tories

Opposition politicians in Canada's most populous province have criticised plans to emulate Australia's tactic of aggressively expanding its overseas student market. Dalton McGuinty, the premier of Ontario, has said he would like to increase the number of overseas students by 50 per cent over the next five years. But political rivals, quoted in the Toronto Sun newspaper, argued that such expansion has engendered problems in Australia, including racist attacks on students. Tim Hudak, leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, the province's official opposition, said policy should be based on the premise that "Canadian students come first. If we start to hear stories about our own high school graduates or people who are unemployed who can't get in, then we will be speaking out about that."


Technical institute's higher hopes

The president of a technical institution in Singapore has outlined its plans to become the Southeast Asian state's fifth university. Tan Chin Tiong, head of the Singapore Institute of Technology, told the news website Today Online: "It will take a while, so we will leverage on the foreign universities first ... When we have the capacity, our end point is that we want to offer dual degrees." He added that the long-term plan was "to evolve into a university". The website reported that the institute has already lined up five foreign institutions as partners, including Newcastle University. Newcastle will work with the Singaporean institution in the fields of naval architecture plus offshore and marine engineering.


They won't do the maths

Mathematics is "in crisis" in Australia, the country's elite universities have warned. The Group of Eight, which represents leading research-intensive universities, has conducted a review of the discipline. Its report concludes that "the state of the mathematical sciences and related quantitative disciplines in Australia has deteriorated to a dangerous level, and continues to deteriorate". The Australian newspaper reported that the group had produced a six-point rescue package for maths that would require "systematic organisation" and new funding initiatives. The newspaper reported that in 2001-07, the number of students enrolling in maths major programmes in Australian universities fell by approximately 15 per cent. In contrast, from 2002 to 2006, the number of applicants to maths courses in the UK increased by about 66 per cent, it stated.

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