Overseas briefing

January 31, 2008

CHINA: DECLINE IN POSTGRADUATE ENTRANTS

The number of students taking China's national postgraduate entrance exam has fallen for the first time in a decade. The Ministry of Education said that 1.2 million people registered for the annual exam this month, representing a drop of 6 per cent on last year's numbers. The newspaper China Daily said that education experts attribute the decline to dwindling employment opportunities for graduates with masters degrees or doctorates. Mao Zuhuan, a professor at Beijing University of Science and Technology, told the newspaper: "Social values have changed ... employers do not focus solely on educational qualifications but on real ability." China Daily also reported that the number of students travelling abroad to study was expected to hit 200,000 this year.

INDIA: REPORT URGES NEW EDUCATION IDEAS

There is "resistance" to new ideas in education in India even though the sector will "dictate the country's destiny", the chairman of the country's National Knowledge Commission has said. Sam Pitroda made the comments as he delivered the second annual "Report to the nation" to India's Prime Minister, the Economic Times reported. He said: "There is still resistance at various levels in the Government to new ideas, experimentation, transparency and accountability due to rigid organisational structures with territorial mindsets." Mr Pitroda called for a more collaborative approach in the education sector, adding: "Our country is too large, too complex and too diverse for 'one size fits all' solutions."

UNITED STATES: STUDY-ABROAD FIRMS UNDER SCRUTINY

An investigation of college study-abroad programmes by the New York Attorney General's office has expanded to include 15 institutions including Harvard, Brown and Columbia universities, a senior lawyer has said. Investigators are asking which university employees approve study-abroad contracts, how programmes are selected and whether institutions have received anything of value from a provider, The New York Times has reported. Concerns were raised last year over some providers' practices, including offering rebates, free travel, marketing stipends and other benefits to US universities. No regulations presently govern programme providers, who act as middlemen between American and foreign institutions.

AUSTRALIA: FLINDERS V-C DECRIES HIGH FEES

Students in Australia face higher financial barriers to education than those in California, according to the new vice-chancellor of Flinders University in Adelaide. Michael Barber, who has a PhD from Cornell University in the US, told The Australian newspaper: "It costs a South Australian student (going) to Flinders more than it costs someone from California to go to the University of California in San Diego." Dr Barber added: "I do not think that Australia will be well served if the new Government's education revolution doesn't ultimately embrace universities and recognise, given the importance of universities, that we will need more resources."

CANADA: PRIVATE MEDICAL SCHOOLS DEBATED

The solution to the shortage of doctors in Canada is private medical training, the president of the Canadian Medical Association has said. Brian Day has claimed that the shortage costs the economy C$15 billion (£753 million) a year and could be solved by private provision, possibly from the US. Such private faculties would operate without taxpayer funding, relying entirely on student tuition fees, the National Post reports. Dr Day said: "Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Stanford: these are private medical schools, but they're private non-profits. I don't think anyone would object to seeing Ivy League medical schools opening up in Canada to alleviate the doctor shortage." But Elisabeth Ballerman of the Canadian Health Professionals Secretariat, Canada's largest association of unionised health science professionals, disagreed. "It's no surprise that the CMA would push a private solution to a public problem ... Private medical schools would undoubtedly come with massive tuition fees and staggering student debt and would be inaccessible to thousands of students from middle and lower-income families."

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