Overseas briefing

May 22, 2008

Australia

Plan to drop full-fee places slated

A university head has likened plans to abolish full-fee places for domestic students at Australian universities to outlawing private schools. The Labor Government wants to scrap the places, which some believe allow rich students to buy places they would not otherwise be offered. Labor has promised to compensate universities, but many fear they will have to cut staff and rely on fee-paying foreign students to recoup income. Gavin Brown, vice-chancellor of the University of Sydney, said it was akin to "banning Australian citizens from private high schools lest they purchase an advantage".

Lebanon

Street fighting disrupts classes

Violence forced universities in Lebanon to close this month as fighting between pro and anti-government forces gripped areas in and around Beirut. Some institutions, such as the Lebanese American University, did not close entirely, but cancelled classes and warned staff to use their judgment before travelling to work. The university reassured students that they would be able to complete the semester. Joseph G. Jabbra, university president, said: "Those students who fulfil the requirements for graduation can graduate on time; others can complete the semester's coursework and move on to the next year."

India

Clinical trials net £150m

Indian universities are cashing in on the market for clinical trials, with the country's income running almost 50 per cent ahead of that of its rival China. According to the Indian Planning Commission, the value of trials outsourced to India was estimated to be $300 million (£154 million) in 2006, the most recent year for which figures are available. A recent report predicted that this would increase, with pharmaceutical companies expected to spend as much as $1.5 billion on drug trials alone in India by 2010. Clinical trials are conducted in 15 universities, colleges and hospitals in Delhi, and demand for trials professionals is also forecast to rise to 500,000 by 2010.

United States

Bone-marrow transplants for dogs

A university in Seattle is to offer bone-marrow transplants for dogs with cancer. The procedure will cost $20,000 (£10,280) and will be offered at Washington State University, 18 years after a Seattle doctor won a Nobel prize for pioneering the treatment. Jeffrey Bryan, a veterinary oncologist, said the procedure has saved tens of thousands of human lives. "Dogs helped us figure out how to help save ourselves, so this represents a big giveback to the canine species," he told The Vancouver Sun. The project will be the world's first large-scale clinical transplant programme involving dogs.

Pakistan

Education budget to rise fourfold

Spending on higher education in Pakistan is to be dramatically increased, the Government has announced. Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani said the education budget would rise to 4 per cent of the gross national product over the next three years. This is a fourfold increase, up from the current level of about 1 per cent; some 30 per cent of the money is expected to go to higher education. The announcement follows a period of investment in university-level education in Pakistan, although the Government's efforts have drawn accusations of corruption. At the heart of the criticism has been the national Higher Education Commission, formed by President Pervez Musharraf in 2002 to regulate public universities.

China

Tibet tension defers conference

Pre-Olympics tension is being blamed for the likely postponement of a major conference in China. The International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences has told members that a conference planned for July is likely to be postponed. It was due to meet at Yunnan University in Kunming, southwestern China, which is not far from Tibet and which recently saw large-scale protests demanding Tibetan independence. The association's Chinese branch told the executive that it had "encountered complex difficulties", making it impossible to stick to the agreed time frame. The conference programme touches on potentially sensitive topics and includes dozens of papers on ethnic and linguistic diversity and four papers that specifically focus on Tibet.

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