Overseas briefing

February 14, 2008

CHINA: DISTANCE-LEARNING SOARS AHEAD

The number of Chinese students awarded degree-level qualifications through long-distance programmes in the past three years has topped 6 million. Education programmes using television, radio and the web to teach and guide students also helped to provide training to a further 40 million, the news agency Xinhua has reported. China's Central Radio and Television University has been operating such programmes since 1978, with 44 provincial colleges since added to the national distance-learning network. At a symposium on distance education held last week, state councillor Chen Zhili described the provincial colleges as a "backbone" of China's distance-learning drive, which provides opportunities for the millions unable to attend university. She said that the provincial colleges help to promote fairness in the education system, as well as cultivating talent. The colleges are also credited with spreading technical skills in rural areas, including those relating to soil science, water conservation and agricultural processing.

GERMANY AND THE UK: RESEARCH PARTNERSHIP ANNOUNCED

The Arts and Humanities Research Council has unveiled a new framework for funding collaboration between researchers in Germany and the UK. The new arrangement will be run by the AHRC and the German Research Foundation, following a memorandum of understanding signed last year by the two organisations. Project teams of mixed nationality will now be able to obtain joint funding, avoiding "double jeopardy", by allowing researchers to submit a single, integrated proposal to one of the funding agencies, which will then lead on the application and peer-review process. Philip Esler, chief executive of the AHRC, said: "This new funding framework will enable two strong humanities research communities to have a greater number of opportunities to work together than were previously available."

- See: AHRC report

UNITED STATES: PROVE WORTH, PRIVATE COLLEGES TOLD

Private colleges in the US have received a call to arms following fears that Congress could interfere in their financial spending and pricing policies. Susan Hockfield, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, warned the annual meeting of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities that they needed to be more effective in proving their worth to the public good. She also called on her colleagues to articulate better to lawmakers why colleges, and not the federal Government, should set their own financial policies, reported news portal InsideHigherEd.com. Addressing the conference in Washington, Dr Hockfield said: "Our story isn't well understood by Congress or the public. There's a new struggle for the future of higher education, and here at home our model is under assault."

INDIA: EXAM RESULT CHANGE URGED

India is hoping to boost graduates' mobility by bringing forward the date that degree results are released. The University Grant Commission has written to all universities in the country urging them to announce results in July or August for the benefit of students going on to postgraduate study, The Financial Express newspaper reported. However, there is currently no framework to ensure that Indian universities hold exams at a particular time.

AFRICA: FASTER CONNECTION FOR ACADEMICS

A high-speed computer link promises to boost African research capacity by allowing scholars based on the continent to share information and data with the rest of the world. The link will connect the UbuntuNet Alliance, which covers nine countries in sub-Saharan Africa, to the international community. The link will be made via the European Union-funded GEANT2 network, which connects more than 30 million research and education users in 34 countries in Europe. Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, said: "Bringing together the best minds from Africa and Europe is beneficial for all citizens of a world that depends increasingly on technology, innovation and collaborative research."

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