Overseas briefing

September 18, 2008

Australia

Podcasts replace lecturers

A student petition at the University of Western Sydney is demanding cuts in fees to match cuts in face-to-face teaching time. Tammy Lawlor, a 21-year-old first-year arts student, said she was not impressed with the new "podcast era" at the University of Western Sydney. She said that students had recently learnt that six of the 13 lectures in one of their key units would become podcasts. She told the Australian newspaper: "I think a podcast is an inadequate replacement. A lecture is better for the atmosphere involved. I can go and ask the lecturers questions afterwards." The dean of her faculty said he believed the complaint to be isolated, but was open to hear more from students. Meanwhile, The Australian also reported that the country's Universities Climate Consortium told a parliamentary inquiry that there was a shortage of academic staff schooled in climate change in most Australian universities.

Sweden

Neutron research deal with US

A bid by Sweden to host a proposed £1 billion neutron facility, the European Spallation Source (ESS), has received a major boost. ESS Scandinavia - a consortium of Scandinavian countries pushing for the ESS to be built at Lund in Sweden - has announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee to establish joint ESS-US research programmes. The deal is considered a major coup for the ESS bid because Oak Ridge is currently the most powerful research facility using neutrons. Other sites in the running are in Hungary and in the Basque Country of Spain.

Vietnam

Hanoi gets British University

The British University Vietnam, founded by a private training organisation, has been officially launched in Hanoi. The Thanh Nien daily said that the university would offer business and technology degrees accredited by the University of London and Staffordshire University. All programmes will be taught in English by overseas lecturers. The university is expected to open a second establishment in Ho Chi Minh City in 2011.

United States

Faculty banned from admin office

Oakland University in Michigan has responded to the threat of student violence against staff by restricting access to its administrative offices - even to academics. According to the website Inside Higher Ed, a professor on her way to deliver a complaint to the senior vice-president was barred from entering the office and told that she could not come in unless she had an appointment. An open letter distributed by the campus branch of the American Association of University Professors said: "Universities cannot respond to isolated acts of violence or even terrorism by denying such free access and becoming examples of closed societies."

Japan

Stem-cell first for Kyoto

Japan has granted what is believed to be the first patent in the world for stem-cell research to Kyoto University. According to a report from AFP, quoting Naoko Takasu, who is in charge of intellectual property issues for the university, the move is aimed at preventing a pharmaceutical company from taking out its own patent and then seeking money from researchers for their work. Teams at Kyoto University and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the United States last year discovered how to use skin to produce stem cells. Another group of Japanese scientists said last month they had derived stem cells from wisdom teeth. Japan announced a Yen10 billion (£52 million) plan to advance stem-cell studies last year.

United States

Grieving parents sue college

The University of Delaware is facing a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit filed by the parents of a student who died in 2006 after being given drugs by a former boyfriend. News website examiner.com reported that the parents of Laura Shanks are alleging that lax security allowed Ms Shanks' former boyfriend, who had been expelled the previous year when marijuana was found in his room, to be on campus. The suit also alleges that the university gave misleading information about its security capabilities in publicity material.

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