Overseas briefing

May 8, 2008

AUSTRALIA

V-c copies work from Wikipedia

A vice-chancellor embroiled in a row over an A$100,000 (£47,000) grant from Saudi Arabia has admitted copying incorrect information about Islam from Wikipedia. As Times Higher Education reported last week, Ian O'Connor, vice-chancellor of Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, was forced to defend the Saudi gift to the Islamic research centre after claims that the kingdom was buying influence. However, a rebuttal published in The Australian newspaper has landed him in more bother after it emerged that errors in it were lifted from the online encyclopaedia. Professor O'Connor, for example, was said to have confused strands of Islam and Christianity, prompting religious commentators to accuse him of writing "utter nonsense". Professor O'Connor has denied that the copied sentences amount to plagiarism, as the work was "not a piece of academic scholarship".

SOUTH KOREA

19-year-old hired as professor

A 19-year-old is to become the world's youngest-ever full-time professor at a university. Alia Sabur, who is from New York, has been hired as a professor at the Department of Advanced Technology Fusion at Konkuk University in Seoul, South Korea. The appointment comes five years after she earned a bachelor's degree, having enrolled at Stony Brook University in the US aged ten. She will start teaching physics at Konkuk next month and is currently teaching maths and physics at Southern University in New Orleans. Looking forward to taking up her position in Seoul, she said: "It's a great honour to be in the company of such great scientists."

UNITED STATES

Officials resign in degree scandal

A degree scandal involving the daughter of a US state governor has led to the resignation of two top officials at West Virginia University. The departures follow an investigation into a degree awarded to Heather Bresch, the daughter of Governor Joe Manchin III, which a degree-panel ruled she had not earned. Among several university administrators deemed to have acted inappropriately were R. Stephen Sears, the dean of the business school, and Provost Gerald Lang, both of whom have handed in their resignation and will leave at the end of June. The university's president, Mike Garrison, has said he has no plans to follow suit. Ms Bresch works for one of the university's leading donors and is a friend of Mr Garrison, The New York Times reported.

MALAYSIA

Europeans should look east

European countries should stop viewing the flow of students from Asia as a one-way street, the Prime Minister of Malaysia has said. Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said that while it had become the norm for Asia to send its young people to study at European universities, a reciprocal flow had never materialised. If more Europeans were to travel to study in Asia it would benefit cultural understanding and international co-operation, he said. Speaking at a forum on international cultural diversity, he said cultural exchange programmes should focus on young people who possess "idealism, enthusiasm and creativity", the New Straits Times reported. While European students are rare at Malaysian universities, those from Africa, India, Japan and South Korea are not, he said.

UNITED STATES

Student dies of 'unknown' causes

An academic has been put on administrative leave following the death of a student who fell into a coma at his home. Emergency services were called to the home of Michael Todd, a psychology professor at Paradise Valley Community College in Arizona, after Andria Ziegler, one of his students, fell unconscious. She was pronounced dead a short while later in hospital. No cause of death has been determined and toxicology results are pending, the East Valley Tribune reported. Professor Todd, 51, has been placed on paid leave following the incident, which is being investigated by police as an "unknown" death. Homicide has been ruled out.

A friend of Miss Ziegler has reportedly told a private detective hired by her family that Professor Todd had sought to date the student but that she had declined.

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