Overseas briefing

October 2, 2008

India

University offers legal aid

An Indian university has pledged to provide legal aid to two students accused of involvement in a series of bomb attacks in Delhi last month. The Jamia Millia Islamia University, which has suspended the students, said it would provide legal assistance because it believed in their innocence. The blasts killed 20 people. The arrests prompted Mushirul Hasan, the university's vice-chancellor, to appeal for "restraint and dignity" from other students. "These are, doubtless, difficult times for each one of us, but we must stand firm against the attempts to defame and malign the reputation of our university," he said in an appeal to students reported by Daily News and Analysis, the Indian news website.

United States

Cheerleading cover-up

The University of Idaho has ordered its cheerleaders to "put some clothes on", calling time on skimpy two-piece outfits. The squad's black, white and gold microskirts and halter tops will be replaced by a more modest outfit. The San Jose Mercury called it "the great Idaho cheerleader cover-up", quoting Bruce Pitman, dean of students, who said: "A number of fans were concerned that the uniforms were inappropriate." He added: "To be fair, there were a number of fans who liked them."

Saudi Arabia

Students recalled from abroad

The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Higher Education has recalled 512 students from foreign universities and expelled them from its international scholarship scheme for "poor performance", the Saudi Gazette reported. The Government has paid for about 10,000 students to study abroad each year over the past four years, with the goal of equipping citizens with specialised skills not available at local universities. However, with so many recalled for poor academic performance or poor attendance, the ministry has now set up an orientation course to prepare students for the rigours of life at universities abroad.

China

Watchdog tackles corruption

An increase in the number of scandals involving bribery and other forms of corruption at Chinese universities has prompted a government watchdog to demand tougher anti-corruption action in the sector. Xinhua, the state-run news agency, reported that a meeting of 300 university leaders heard that one in four scandals in the education sector happened at universities, with corruption most likely to be found in the areas of admissions, finance and infrastructure construction. Xiong Bingqi, a professor of higher education reform at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, said: "Power without restriction and supervision leads to corruption." However, others fear the national watchdog's demands could be a threat to universities' independence.

Australia

Undergraduate courses get chop

A "revolution from below" is transforming Australian higher education as universities reform their undergraduate courses in advance of a government policy overhaul. Many of the country's leading universities had "jettisoned the credentials characterising Australian higher education", The Australian newspaper reported, in favour of fewer broad undergraduate programmes integrating arts and sciences. The University of Western Australia has announced plans to cut the number of undergraduate courses from 70 to six, and Macquarie University intends to cut 75 per cent of its undergraduate courses.

United States

College pays out for bad tuition

A US college will pay a total of $500,000 (£2,000) to 16 former students who sued over the allegedly poor quality of teaching. The Bates Technical College, in Washington State, was taken to court by students over its civil engineering technician and surveying course, which the students told the News Tribune left them ill prepared for their careers. They alleged that the professor often failed to show up for lectures, and that the standard of teaching was inadequate when he did. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that this was the third time since 2002 that the college had agreed to pay compensation to students over the quality of its education.

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