Overseas briefing

July 24, 2008

Japan

Demography menaces sector

Japanese universities are in danger of being bankrupted as changing demographics and falling public funding hit home. This year's tally of student applications is 700,000 lower than its 1992 peak. The sector has little room to manoeuvre, with 75 per cent of 18-year-olds enrolled in higher education. Three colleges have been forced to shut because of low enrolment rates, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported.

Canada

Cleared academic fights dismissal

A senior academic who was fired a fortnight after being cleared in a sexual assault investigation is suing a Canadian university for unfair dismissal. According to a statement of claim filed by Colin Wightman, the former acting dean at Acadia University in Nova Scotia was investigated over a "consensual one-time fantasy sex encounter" with a young woman last year that "involved some elements of bondage". He said the woman had no connection to the university and he had since received a letter from police informing him that he would face no charges. He insisted that he kept the administration informed of the situation, even suggesting he be placed on leave, but in early September he was fired. Wightman claims the university acted in bad faith by alleging he had used his university computer to engage in sexual conversations, and he claims the university labelled his sexual activity as "aberrant behaviour ... incompatible with the purpose, principles and operative imperatives" of Acadia.

Australia

Slow start for Carnegie Mellon

A "slower than expected" start for the Australian campus of Carnegie Mellon University has meant public funding is equal to A$2,000 (£111,000) for every student. The Adelaide campus of the elite US institution, which is nominally private, received a total of A$25 million two years ago from the Government of South Australia towards its start-up costs. Since then, a lack of students has forced it to close its much-vaunted Entertainment Technology Centre, while enrolments in its business courses have been modest, InsideHigherEd.com reported. Public investment by Australia in the branch of the US university, which has an endowment of US$1.1 billion (£549 million), is about 16 times higher per student than that received by any of the other three universities in Adelaide. Alexander Downer, who as Foreign Minister was influential in bringing Carnegie Mellon to Australia, admitted that the venture had "got off to a slower start than I would have hoped".

India

Squads to tackle 'ragging' abuse

Anti-ragging squads have been set up at Indian universities to crack down on senior students abusing newcomers. The practice of "ragging" - which can include mental and sexual abuse - is a tradition in higher education in the country, prompting the Indian Supreme Court to issue a directive calling for principals to take action to stamp it out. At Delhi University this has led to the formation of squads, set up with the help of city police, to catch culprits and protect new students, Thaindian News reported.

United States

New medium, sneaky old message

Students are sharing ways of cheating via videos posted on YouTube. Footage of a student making a replica label for a Coke bottle with "cheat notes" on the underside was highlighted on a blog by University of California academic Liz Losh. She said such clips "combine cheating advice with a DIY aesthetic", adding, "I plan to look for these tricks in my own classes, which will join classics like writing-on-the-visor." One poster to her blog asked: "Can we make a video that teaches them how to study?"

India

Masters degrees appear by magic

The world's first "university of magic" is being established in India. The institution, which is being founded by magician P. C. Sorcar, will open in Kolkata, West Bengal in November. "The university will start with a dozen graduate students selected after thorough scrutiny," Sorcar told reporters. Courses will cover psychology, acting and lighting, and students will be awarded a degree called a masters of illusion.

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