Overseas Briefing

January 17, 2008

India needs to expand its open and distance-learning system by a substantial amount if it is to hit government targets for increasing enrolment in higher education by 15 per cent by 2015. The claim was made in a letter from India's National Knowledge Commission to the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. The commission also raised concerns about the quality of education provided by the current distance-learning system. Surabhi Banerjee, a member of the commission's working group and vice-chancellor of Netaji Subhas Open University, Kolkata, told The Times of India: "We're trying to give the system quality, which has been lacking so far. Now it all depends on its implementation."

New Zealand's leading research university is to restrict admissions to its undergraduate programmes and focus on postgraduate recruitment. The move by the University of Auckland is expected to be mirrored by at least three of the country's other seven universities in coming weeks, the news portal InsideHigherEd.com reports.The development follows changes in the funding of higher education in New Zealand, with a new emphasis on the perceived quality of research. Auckland, which currently has 38,000 students, three quarter of them undergraduates, has indicated that it will in future focus on graduate-level research activity. Nigel Haworth, president of the New Zealand Association of University Staff, told InsideHigherEd. com that the country was importing a "status-based model" to its formerly egalitarian shores.

Winning over mothers is the key to securing a new generation of science students, according to the head of a new Centre for Science Education in the 21st century. Martin Westwell, a former University of Oxford academic recruited by Flinders University in South Australia, made the comments before the centre opened last week. He told The Australian newspaper: "One of the things we know makes a difference is a mum's view of science and technology. If mums are interested, we know that children are more likely to take part in science." Professor Westwell, who previously worked at Oxford's Institute for the Future of the Mind, said the Adelaide-based centre would help to "future proof" Australia.

Chinese students account for 10 per cent of all overseas students studying this year at Harvard University. Of 3,913 international students there, 400 are from mainland China, second only as a group to the 489 Canadians, news website China Daily reports. Harvard's example is indicative of a wider trend, with the number of Chinese students studying at US institutions at a record high in 2007, when 51,500 student and exchange visitor visas were issued. This represents an increase of 40 per cent compared with 2006 and double the figure for 2004

Billion-dollar fundraising campaigns at 31 US universities were boosted by gifts and pledges totalling $637.3 million (£325 million) in the past month. Over the past year, universities taking part in a drive to raise $1 billion per institution collectively amassed $8.8 billion from benefactors, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports. A league table of last month's gains was topped by the University of Pennsylvania, which raised $60 million.

Support for higher education from US state taxes rose by 7.5 per cent this financial year, a national survey indicates. The increase in state appropriations for higher education to $77.5 billion (£39.5 billion) marks the highest increase since 1985, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports. It is the fourth year of growth, but James C. Palmer, director of the survey conducted by the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University, warned the trend may be short lived. He told the Chronicle: "I wouldn't be surprised if many of these 2008 figures are revised downward, given the conversations many states are having about the need to brace themselves for deficits." Evidence suggests that state finances have weakened this financial year because of the slump in the housing market.

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