Overseas briefing

July 10, 2008

Canada

Per-head funding sees major fall

Universities in Canada are receiving thousands of dollars less per student than they used to, a report has found. Last year, state funding amounted to about C$15,000 (£7,475) a head, compared with C$21,000 in the early 1980s and C$17,000 in the early 1990s. The result is crowded classrooms, less contact with professors and ageing buildings, The Globe and Mail newspaper reported. The study by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada found that funding for public universities in the United States now exceeds that received by their Canadian rivals by an average of C$8,000 per student.

India

Delhi entry grades soar to 95%

Competition for places at top Indian universities is so strong that disappointed students are being turned away despite having university entry exam grades of more than 90 per cent. The cut-off point for applicants to Delhi University, announced last week, was as high as 95 per cent for the most popular courses, in subjects such as commerce and maths. The impact of such tough entry requirements has been compounded by lower than expected scores in this year's Higher Order Thinking Skills exam, on which students are allocated university places, according to the Times of India.

United States

Border wall imperils campus unity

A university that aims to promote relations between the US and Mexico could see its campus split in two by a steel border-control fence. Officials at the University of Texas at Brownsville have criticised the plans, saying that they make a mockery of the institution's mission. Built close to the Rio Grande where the two countries fought during the Mexican-American War 160 years ago, the university recruits Mexican students, offers classes in English and Spanish and turns out much-needed bilingual teachers. Juliet V. Garcia, the university's president, told Associated Press that the cross-campus border control fence "violates the essence of this university".

West Bank and Gaza

Bank pioneers loan scheme

A student loan programme has been launched in the West Bank and Gaza. The scheme, which is the first of its kind, is funded by the Bank of Palestine and will provide up to $10 million (£5 million) to 8,000 students a year. It is backed by the International Finance Corporation, which is linked to the World Bank. A World Bank spokesman said that it would "help create a culture of repayment for education loans while providing universities with a stable flow of tuition funds".

China

Official arrested over exam scam

A local government official has been arrested in China as part of an investigation into a gang suspected of fiddling the national college entrance examination. Huo Jigang, an official in east Shandong Province, surrendered to police after a warrant was issued for his arrest for allegedly organising the scam. Police believe that fake registration documents were obtained for students, including Mr Huo's son, a number of whom then sat exams on other students' behalf. The alleged cheats were exposed at an examination being sat in Tianshui city in Gansu after one of them mistakenly signed his own name, state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

Australia

Casuals treated like 'domestics'

Sessional lecturers are the "domestic servants" of the modern Australian campus and carry up to 80 per cent of the undergraduate teaching load, according to a new report. The study - which looked at the rise of a "casualised" class of academic - warns that traditional teaching and research academics are now "totally dependent on the contribution of sessional staff, in the way that Victorian middle-class lifestyles were dependent on domestic servants". The report, commissioned by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council, warns that the trend will be difficult to reverse and puts pressure on supervisors. Rob Castle, one of the report's authors, told The Australian newspaper: "If anything, we are better off than the US, where so much is done by teaching assistants."

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