Overseas briefing

September 11, 2008

United States

Professor quits in race row

A professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, has resigned from an admissions committee after claiming that officials are breaking rules to admit more black students. Tim Groseclose, a professor of political science, said applicants often reveal their race even though public institutions are banned from using it as an admission criterion. According to The Orange County Register, 235 of the next student cohort are black, more than double the 96 of two years ago, but the university has denied that it has engaged in positive discrimination. Professor Groseclose, who insisted that he supports widening-access programmes, called for a statistical analysis to examine whether students were being admitted by race. The university refused to supply the files requested on privacy grounds.

Australia

Marking secrets must be revealed

An Australian university faces legal bills of up to A$100,000 (£47,000) after it failed in a bid to deny a former student access to exam-marking guides. Zane McKean, a -year-old finance graduate, took on the University of Melbourne in the courts after it refused a Freedom of Information Act request for copies of the documents. At a failed appeal at the state of Victoria's Supreme Court, the university argued that the guides had to stay under wraps because they contain exam questions that are reused. Mr McKean told The Australian: "The university should be open, and I should not be obstructed if I wish to scrutinise how I'm being assessed. I wanted value for money; not only that, I wanted good marks, and if I didn't get them, I wanted a good reason why."

China

Hacker embarrasses university

A computer hacker left officials at a top Chinese university red-faced after breaking into its IT system and posting a fake news article on its website. The link on Tsinghua University's site read: "Tsinghua President Gu Binglin - China university education is pouring shit into students' minds," reported CNET Asia. A lawyer who was quoted by the news site said the hacker, if identified, could face more than five years in jail.

United Arab Emirates

Paltry pay offer angers foreigners

Overseas academics working at a Gulf university have hit out after being awarded what they say is a meagre pay rise. They dismissed a 5 per cent rise for non-Emirati staff at Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates as "a slap in the face". With inflation running at 11 per cent last year, the offer fails to match the rise in living costs, and is well below the 28 per cent offered to UAE-national colleagues, UAE newspaper The National reported. "Faculty will leave, there's no doubt about it. Morale has been very low," one academic said.

Canada

Students buy into sexonomics

An attempt to make economics a more attractive area of study at a Canadian university has resulted in a new course in "sexonomics". Students at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia are reported to be "queuing up" to take the 12-week course, which explains economic theory in terms of sex and relationships. Marina Adshale, who normally lectures on international monetary trends, said: "Most people would agree that sex involves some form of negotiation; it involves investment and, particularly where marriage is concerned, a contract. I could teach a course about industrial organisations and maybe only have 5 per cent of the students fully engaged after a while."

India

International students wooed

Measures to cut red tape and make India more attractive to international students are expected to be put forward when a new committee reports to the Government. The interdepartmental committee - which was set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to counter an increase in the number of complaints from the country's 50,000-strong foreign student population - is due to make its first recommendations this month. According to The Indian Express, among the areas addressed will be the visa-application process, scholarships, and plans for a uniform fee structure, as well as improving English-language skills among staff.

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