Overseas briefing

May 15, 2008

India

Weak foreign partners unwelcome

"Third-grade" Western universities are not welcome in India, the higher education minister has said. Arjun Singh, speaking to an Indian newspaper, said that some inferior universities which could not compete at home saw India as a "virgin area" in which to install themselves. He said that such institutions, as well as universities that fail to comply with local regulations, were not welcome in India's rapidly expanding higher education sector. Mr Singh, one of the architects of a government quota system designed to boost the number of students from poor backgrounds and lower castes at Indian universities, also revealed that these quotas are to be imposed on privately funded institutions. "Education is the only equaliser. We don't want to have an elitist society," he said.

United States

Academic sacked over divorce

An evangelical Christian college forced a long-serving teacher to quit after he refused to explain why he was getting divorced. Kent Gramm, who has taught at ultraconservative Wheaton College, a private university near Chicago, for 20 years, said that he had resigned before he was fired. He criticised Wheaton for insisting that he reveal details of his split from his wife of 34 years, despite being contractually obliged to uphold "biblical standards of behaviour". The agreement signed by staff makes divorce for any reason other than adultery or abandonment a sacking offence, but Mr Gramm refused to divulge whether he had fallen foul of it. He said: "Why are college administrators better able to judge my divorce than I am?"

Canada

UK scholarship cuts draw fire

Plans to axe a Commonwealth scholarship scheme that funds study by Canadians at British universities have been criticised by academics. Canadian masters and doctoral-level students will lose out as the UK Government shifts funding to scholars from countries such as China and India, Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail reported. The move has caused concern among Canadian academics, who have called on Ottawa to put pressure on Whitehall to reconsider. Jennifer Humphries, vice-president of membership and scholarships at the Canadian Bureau for International Education, said it was a "slap in the face" for Canadian higher education, which she said had traditionally been a strong partner of the UK. Since 1960, more than 1,500 Canadian scholars have been funded by the programme. The withdrawal of Commonwealth scholarships, which will save Britain £10 million a year, also affects the Bahamas, Brunei, Cyprus, Malta, New Zealand and Singapore.

Africa

Call to halt brain drain via pay

An African brain drain is feared as Western demand for scientists and medical practitioners intensifies. A conference at Great Lakes University in Kisumu, Kenya, heard that demand in the developed world could rob the continent's universities of researchers and its hospitals of doctors and nurses. David Sanders, dean of public health at the University of West Cape, South Africa, said that African governments should offer better pay to medical personnel and invest more in postgraduate training. He said: "Africa is a net exporter to the rich world and a huge borrower of colossal amounts of money for developing health care."

United States

Food costs shrink campus pizzas

The price of a meal at the campus canteen is set to rise, students in the US have been warned. Soaring world food prices have provoked riots in less affluent countries, but caterers at US universities have until now kept students' costs down by serving up smaller portions. For example, at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge pizzas served on campus have half an ounce less cheese than they used to. However, tweaking the menu alone is failing to make ends meet, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported. Rich Neumann, director of dining services at Ohio University, said that students could expect to pay 3.5 per cent more for meal plans in the next academic year, although quality will also improve. He said: "The only way we see out of this dilemma is increasing our revenue."

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