Overseas briefing

July 17, 2008

Canada

Right-to-die research halted

The decision to shut down a controversial research project on assisted suicides has been criticised as a breach of academic freedom. The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) is investigating Kwantlen Polytechnic University's decision to halt the study by Russel Ogden, a professor of sociology. Professor Ogden won approval from an ethics board in 2005 for the right-to-die research project, but he was later told that he could not observe assisted suicides, the National Post reported. James Turk, executive director of the CAUT, said: "It appears to be a flagrant violation of academic freedom and has serious implications for controversial research on any campus. Although assisting in a suicide is illegal in Canada, it is my understanding that observing illegal behaviour is not forbidden by law." Professor Ogden refused to comment, citing his "concern for keeping my job".

United States

Staff pay for poor to learn

Academics at a California college are offering to pay poor students' tuition fees. The unusual scholarship programme at Santa Ana College aims to improve access for bright students who struggle to pay their way. Academics at the community college have agreed to pay for a full year's tuition for disadvantaged California residents. Although the fees are relatively low, averaging only a few hundred dollars a year, lecturers said that students regularly dropped out because they could not pay, reported InsideHigherEd.com.

China

Tourist ban at Beijing campus

One of China's most prestigious universities has banned tourists from visiting its campus during the Olympic Games amid fears it would be overrun. The temporary ban at Beijing University, which will last almost two months, follows an attempt by the institution to ban all tour groups from its campus in 2006. As more and more Chinese are able to afford holiday travel, the university has seen a surge in the number of visitors, which has threatened to swamp the campus. Neighbouring Tsingua University is now bracing itself for a sudden influx of Olympic tourists, state news agency Xinhua reported.

Australia

Action on lecturer drought urged

The threat of a staffing drought has led to demands for urgent research into the academic workforce levels in Australia. Academics in key disciplines including engineering, science, law, business, finance and accounting are in increasingly short supply, The Australian newspaper reported. Now universities are calling for sector-wide research into the issue. Jane den Hollander, deputy vice-chancellor of Curtin University in Western Australia and spokeswoman for lobby group Universities Australia, said low salaries and slow career progression were to blame for the shortfall. "An academic career takes 10 to 12 years of hard labour to get to any kind of sunshine, whereas in industry you can get there much faster," she said.

European Union

Two-man shortlist for top EUA job

Two candidates are in the running for the presidency of the European University Association. Jean-Marc Rapp, a former president of the University of Lausanne and current vice-president of the EUA, and Sijbolt Noorda, a former president of the University of Amsterdam and the current president of the Association of Dutch Universities, have been officially nominated by the EUA council. The election is due to take place at the association's autumn conference in Rotterdam in October.

United States

Flooding costs hit new heights

A university devastated by flood waters has tripled the estimated repair bill for its campus to more than $231 million (£117 million). Officials at the University of Iowa made the revised estimate at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, The New York Times reported. The damage, which was first valued at just £75 million, was caused by a severe flood after the Iowa River and several others broke their banks in June. The new cost estimate includes $136.2 million in damage to 20 campus buildings, while damage to building contents was estimated at $55.5 million.

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