Overseas briefing

June 26, 2008


R&D spending shoots up 25%

Spending on research at Australian universities has rocketed in recent years. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveal that total expenditure on research and development rose by 24.9 per cent between 2004 and 2006, the most recent period for which figures are available, to A$5.4 billion (£2.6 billion). The rise, which has been driven by an A$460 million increase in spending on medical research, is set to continue as money pledged by the Government in 2006 flows through. By 2010, funding for the National Health and Medical Research Centre will have increased 500 per cent over 15 years, The Australian newspaper reported.


Protest over v-c sex allegations

Thousands of students staged a protest at a university in Iran over allegations of sexual harassment by the vice-chancellor. About 3,000 took part in a sit-in last week at Zanjan University, in the north west of the country, demanding the resignation of the board of directors. They also called for a public apology from the Higher Education Minister over the alleged harassment of a female student, according to the reformist Etemad newspaper. It reported that students who were incensed by the allegations broke into the vice-chancellor's office and handed him over to security.

United States

Animal-rights campaign expands

Non-research colleges in the US are being targeted by anti-vivisection campaigners in a bid to ramp up pressure on universities involved in animal experimentation. Evidence pointing to the new tactic includes a pledge recently signed by 11 teaching-only institutions not to subject animals to "severe pain or distress". The pledge, which was drawn up by the Humane Society of the United States, has been sent to more than 300 non-research institutions. The move is an attempt to corral support for the animal-rights movement from within higher education, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

United States

Swindler's gift returned

Donations to a university of more than $500,000 (£253,000) have been returned to the estate of a swindler. Bob McLean, who committed suicide on the eve of bankruptcy proceedings last year, is believed to have given Middle Tennessee State University nearly $1 million out of his ill-gotten fortune of about $67 million, The Tennessean newspaper reported. Bankruptcy court officials charged with retrieving as much money as possible for the investors he defrauded have negotiated with the university to return $570,000 to his estate.


Number of exam cheats drops

The number of cheats caught in the world's largest university entrance exam has fallen this year, the Chinese Government has said. During the national college entrance exam, which was taken by 10.38 million people this year, a total of 2,645 cheats were found, according to a spokesman for the Ministry of Education. Wang Xuming said the number this year was about 800 fewer than last year, and represented the lowest proportion of cheats for ten years in the annual exam, which is known as gao kao. According to Mr Wang, government departments cracked down on cheating by tightening checks on students' identity, boosting the number of invigilators and watching out for radio transmitters and receivers.


Politicians 'lack scientific literacy'

Scientists in India have given a damning assessment of the country's politicians, branding them the most unscientific group in the country. A study of scientific literacy by the Centre for Inquiry in India, in collaboration with Trinity College, Connecticut, in the US, polled the views of 1,100 scientists at Indian universities. It concluded that these researchers judged the scientific literacy of India's politicians to be "very low", below that of schoolteachers and journalists. One scientist told Indian newspaper The Economic Times: "Many of our politicians are not well educated. They come to power riding on money and muscle power. It is unfortunate that our policymakers are unscientific. It's bad for the growth of science in a country."

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