Overseas Briefing

March 27, 2008

INDIA

UNIVERSITIES 'LACK HIGH STANDARDS'

Only 30 per cent of Indian universities offer "high quality" education, according to a report by India's parliamentary estimates committee. It says: "It was regrettable to note that most universities lack high standards even after the existence of the University Grants Commission for 50 years ... Our university standards are not up to those of internationally renowned universities and our universities do not figure in the lists of globally popular ratings." It points out that only four Indian institutions, including the universities of Delhi and Calcutta, were in the Times Higher Education world rankings.

CHINA

SECTOR FACES DEBTS OF £35.6BN

Chinese universities face debts of up to 500 billion yuan (£35.6 billion) and will have to invest another one trillion yuan to hit enrolment targets of 30 per cent, a top political adviser has said. Xu Hui of the Central Committee of the China Democratic League said it would take the Government 40 years to cover the expense, news agency Xinhua reported. He said that although publicly owned universities accounted for 85 per cent of students, they had just 57 per cent of sector funding, adding that the failure of the Government to fulfil its funding commitments had left many universities "unable to make ends meet".

UNITED STATES

HEAD DEMOTED AFTER ABSENCE ROW

A row over a strict attendance policy for senior staff at the University of Akron, Ohio has led to a department head being removed from his post. The university ordered department chairs to be present on campus from 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, unless they had written permission from a dean. Howard M. Ducharme Jr, the philosophy department head, said the first he knew of the edict was when he was called at home at 4.30pm one day asking why he was absent. He insisted that his day had begun with a meeting at 6.30am, but The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that he was told the dean considered him to be Awol. The professor complained to the provost, but received a letter informing him of his demotion from the post he had held for 11 years. He will continue at Akron as a professor.

AUSTRALIA

ACADEMICS CRITICAL OF MANAGERS

Almost half of Australia's academics believe their university managers are incompetent. In a survey of 1,200 academics in 21 institutions, 40 per cent said they disagreed with the assertion that their management was providing competent leadership. Only 30 per cent agreed, and 30 per cent did not respond. Lynn Meeks, director of the LH Martin Institute for Higher Education Management and Leadership at the University of Melbourne, told The Australian newspaper that the sector had "a long way to go". Ms Meeks said: "The evidence suggests that our institutions are characterised by cumbersome administrative processes, inadequate internal communication systems and support structures in teaching, research and management that leave a bit to be desired."

ROMANIA

EXAM VETERAN BOASTS 600 PASSES

A 64-year-old man has enrolled as a student in 12 subjects at Bucharest's Spiru Haret University. Ioan Hanganu, who lives in Bacau, eastern Romania, attends two of the courses daily and does the rest via distance learning. He said: "I will have over 180 exams every year and have passed 600 since I started studying. During the past session, I had almost 90 exams and I passed them all. Some of my peers and lecturers see me as a special case, though most of them can't see how I can cope with all these exams." His studies cost him about 12,000 leu (£2,500) a year.

AUSTRALIA

SECTOR TO GAIN IN FUNDING REFORMS

The Australian Education Minister has confirmed that 2010 is the first year in which universities are likely to see significant new money from the Rudd Government. Julia Gillard outlined a process for funding reform, putting finance agreements for individual universities, known as compacts, at the heart of the long-term strategy. A review of this system is due to be completed by the end of the year, and negotiations over individual compacts will not start until 2009, for implementation in 2010, she said.

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