Overseas briefing

April 3, 2008



The pay gap between male and female academics in the US is more heavily influenced by the type of institution that women teach in than the subjects they teach, a study suggests. Paul D. Umbach, assistant professor of higher education at the University of Iowa, analysed the careers of 8,000 academics at 472 institutions using a new statistical technique known as a cross-classified random-effects model. The results suggest that the salary gap is more strongly driven by the concentration of women academics at certain types of institution - such as public, masters-level institutions lacking in research funding - than by discipline. However, even allowing for differences between institutions, the study found that there was an unexplained gap of 4.2 per cent, or an average of $3,200 (£1,600) a year, between male and female academics' salaries.



Teaching training qualifications are under the spotlight in Australia after a university course was refused accreditation. After the ruling on the four-year degree in early childhood education at the University of Wollongong, three other universities - Newcastle, Macquarie and the Australian Catholic University - announced that they would be restructuring their 12-month graduate diploma courses. The Australian newspaper reported that the New South Wales Institute of Teachers refused to accredit the Wollongong course after concluding that it left students ill-prepared to teach the primary-school curriculum.



Four in ten Chinese citizens believe that a large gap exists between investment in education and the returns. A survey of 3,355 Chinese citizens aged between 16 and 60 years in both urban and rural areas found that only 16 per cent believed there was a good return, and graduates were among the most critical. The news agency China Daily quoted one 26-year-old university graduate as saying that his "textbook advantage" over those without degrees was of no use in the job market. He added: "I disappointed my parents, who gave me at least 30,000 yuan (£2,120) to attend a postgraduate management course in a key university for three years." Hong Chengwen, professor of management at Beijing Normal University, said: "Vacancies in the employment market have not caught (up with) the pace of economic development in recent years."



Palaeontologists have solved a 550 million-year-old mystery, proving that a find previously dismissed as fossilised faeces is in fact the remains of a marine creature. Mary Droser of the University of California at Riverside and Jim Gehling of the South Australia Museum in Adelaide studied the tube-like fossils found in South Australia's Flinders Ranges. They concluded that the previous identification of the fossils as ancient excrement was wrong, and that they are in fact the remains of simple creatures that anchored to the shallow sea bed in clusters, The Australian newspaper reported. Funisia dorothea had the same growth strategies as modern marine invertebrates long before the rise of the ancestors of modern animals, the scientists concluded.



The fallout from one of the most serious cases of scientific fraud seen in chemistry is continuing to send shock waves through Indian universities. Pattium Chiranjeevi, a professor of chemistry at Sri Venkateswara University, was found guilty last year of plagiarising or falsifying results in more than 70 journal articles, offences he continues to deny. Now attention has turned to the senior academics who co-authored some of the discredited papers, Chemistry World reports, including heads of university physics, geology and mathematics departments. The vice-chancellor of SVU has pledged to investigate, and the renowned Indian chemist Goverdhan Mehta has criticised academics for putting their name to papers without vetting all the data. Professor Mehta, who heads a government committee that assesses the country's universities, said the unusual level of collaboration alone should have flagged up the "colossal" fraud earlier.

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