Overseas briefing

October 16, 2008

Australia

Research funding shortfall

The failure of the Australian Government to fund the full cost of research leaves universities out of pocket by A$900 million (£350 million), claims David Siddle, vice-chancellor of the University of Queensland. He said this shortfall meant that university research was effectively being bought at a "severely discounted rate", adding that this was "neither sustainable nor justified". Professor Siddle, who warned that institutions could not afford to carry on picking up the funding shortfall, urged the federal Government to "assume a leadership role in advocating full cost recovery for all research income received by universities". He told The Australian newspaper: "This is exactly what the UK Government has done, prompted largely by a desire to see university research places on a sustainable footing."

Singapore

Students' censorship protest

A group of students staged a rare demonstration at a university in Singapore to challenge censorship of their campus newspaper. The protest at Nanyang Technological University followed the decision force the student newspaper to remove an article about a forthcoming visit by a pro-democracy activist. To get around a law banning gatherings of five or more people in Singapore without a police licence, the protest was led by four students and watched by 70 more. Scott Teng, one of the protesters, told The Australian newspaper: "This is about the censorship of the news. We are proposing responsible editorial independence." The university justified its decision to pull the article by arguing that the student paper should not "be used as a platform for unsolicited guests to air their views".

Zimbabwe

All universities close indefinitely

Universities in Zimbabwe failed to open for the new academic year after staff rebelled over pay. All four of the country's public universities are reported to be closed "indefinitely" after staff were told that demands for a monthly salary equivalent to £870 could not be met. News website Zimbabwe Today said it was "clear that none of the institutions could afford this level of pay", and Clever Bere, president of the Zimbabwe National Students Union, added: "The end loser was always going to be the student. First we lost out on quality of teaching, now we are losing out on any teaching at all."

South Korea

Collaboration with the West

Top researchers from the elite universities of the West are being targeted by South Korea as part of a plan to internationalise the country's insular higher education sector.

A £460 million "World Class Universities" programme launched by the Government has attracted applications from 1,000 foreign academics, many from the UK and US, according to the state-run Korea Science and Engineering Foundation. The five-year programme, launched earlier this year, will finance collaborative projects between overseas and South Korean scholars in a bid to boost academic activity in fields that will boost economic growth, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported.

United States

Lab faked stem-cell paper

A high-profile laboratory at the University of Minnesota falsified evidence in experiments on adult stem cells, investigators have ruled.

According to a statement by the university, a paper published in a journal in 2001, which reported that scientists had isolated stem cells from adult bone marrow that could develop into different types of tissue, included four faked images.

United States

Harvard collects $125 million

Its extraordinary wealth already makes its rivals green with envy, but Harvard University is now even richer after receiving its largest-ever donation. A business school alumnus donated $125 million (£72 million), the biggest individual gift ever received by Harvard, to start a bioengineering institute. Philanthropist Hansjorg Wyss, an engineer and entrepreneur, earned his MBA from the university in 1965, Associated Press reported. Harvard's endowment is worth over $35 billion.

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