Overseas briefing

February 7, 2008

UNITED STATES - SENATE PROBES ENDOWMENTS

The US Senate is demanding detailed information about how the higher education institutions with the largest endowments operate their finances. The Senate's finance committee has asked the 136 wealthiest US colleges about their endowment spending, financial-aid policies and tuition increases over the past decade, reported news portal InsideHigherEd.com. University endowments receive generous tax breaks, and the senators' investigations focus on how these benefits are improving education and affordability. In a statement, Senator Charles E. Grassley said: "Tuition has gone up, college presidents' salaries have gone up, and endowments continue to go up and up. We need to start seeing tuition relief for families go up just as fast."

EUROPE - DOCTORAL COUNCIL UNVEILED

A new Europe-wide council for doctoral education and research is being launched. The body will be overseen by the European University Association, representing 800 universities. It aims to strengthen the international dimension of doctoral programmes, monitor trends outside Europe and support institutional strategies. Georg Winckler, president of the EUA, said: "Doctoral education will play a key role in achieving Europe's ambitious goals to strengthen its research capacity and international competitiveness, and the new council will be crucial for the development, advancement and improvement of these goals."

CANADA - NATIONAL SCIENCE ADVISER AXED

The Canadian Government is to axe the post of national science adviser less than four years after it was created. Arthur Carty, a career academic who was formerly president of the National Research Council and dean of research at the University of Waterloo, was appointed in April 2004. However, following the establishment of the Science, Technology and Innovation Council last May, the Government has decided to phase out the Office of the National Science Adviser and discontinue Dr Carty's role, CBC reports.

CHINA - LEGISLATION AIMS TO CURB CHEATING

Exam cheats in China are to be targeted by a new law. The Education Ministry has announced plans for legislation that will "upgrade exam order and standards". The ministry's spokesman, Wang Xuming, said students were developing innovative new ways to cheat, and tough penalties were needed to keep them in check. In Shanxi province, authorities cracked down on ten groups involved in organised cheating, China Daily reports, and in Guangdong province, some cheats were caught using two-way radios to communicate during exams. The newspaper said a recent poll of 900 students found 83 per cent admitted to having cheated in an exam.

UNITED STATES - AFRICA TRIP ENDS IN REFUNDS

The University of Washington has refunded thousands of dollars to students who participated in a disastrous study-abroad programme in Africa. The five-week programme saw 17 students travel to rural Ghana last summer to study "sustainable development and modes of empowerment". But it ended prematurely when 12 fell ill and eight had to be evacuated to hospital in the capital Accra, then flown to Seattle for further treatment. The university has refunded $2,500 to each of the 17 course participants, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports, and an internal review is continuing.

INDIA - DELHI TO ASSIST WITH ENGLISH SKILLS

Delhi University has finalised plans for an English-language proficiency course designed to help students understand study material. The university's Institute for Lifelong Learning is designing its course to meet the needs of students who are having trouble preparing dissertations and reports, according to The Times of India. A. K. Bakhshi, the institute's director, told the newspaper: "Many students are unable to use language skills with ease in academic and social contexts. Participation in classroom activities becomes less and they eventually lose confidence in reading or writing. In fact, many are hesitant in making dissertations as they are not proficient in English."

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