Overseas briefing

October 23, 2008

United States

Funding terminator 'interferes'

Action hero-turned-California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger stands accused of threatening academic freedom after funding cuts for two research centres. The centres for employment and labour research at the University of California's campuses at Berkeley and Los Angeles, which have been active for eight years, are at risk after Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the $5.4 million (£3.1 million) they received in funding. In a letter to the Terminator actor, 400 faculty and staff complained that their programme was the only individual item to be vetoed in the university's $3 billion annual budget, and claimed that the decision violates their freedom to research controversial topics. They said: "Given the tiny amount of savings, it is hard to understand this action as (anything) other than politically motivated. We see this as unwarranted political interference."

Australia

Sex and fraud probe for professor

A prominent economics professor is being investigated in Australia over allegations of sexual harassment, academic fraud and overbearing conduct. Michael McAleer, of the University of Western Australia, is also accused of using university computers to access pornographic websites and of falsifying expenses claims. An ongoing investigation is to be widened after the federal court rejected his application for a permanent stay on disciplinary proceedings brought by the university. The ruling followed a previous decision by the court that the university had denied him natural justice by failing to give sufficient detail of the claims against him, according to The Australian newspaper.

Saudi Arabia

Women ahead on foreign study

The number of Saudi Arabian women securing scholarships to study at universities abroad has outstripped the number of men this year. For the first time, all 5,775 students who applied to the King Abdullah foreign scholarship programme were successful, according to the Ministry of Higher Education. Of the 4,779 to win a scholarship for masters programmes, 2,585 were women, as were 86 of the 1 selected for doctoral degrees, the Arab News website reported. It added that the total number of Saudis studying abroad, including those paying their own way, is now about 50,000, across 20 countries.

China

Feng shui wins university status

After a long debate about whether it should be classed as science or superstition, a feng shui course has been launched by a Chinese university. The traditional lore of "geomantic omens", in which physical surroundings, usually inside a building, are arranged to create environmental "harmony", is to be studied at Wuhan University of Science and Technology. According to news agency Xinhua, 130 students - more than twice the number expected - have signed up for the course.

India

Foreign universities get green light

Legislation to open up Indian higher education to foreign universities will be put to the Indian Parliament after a long delay. The Foreign Educational Institutions Bill, which was approved by the Indian Cabinet last year, covers the regulation of entry and operations, maintenance of quality and the "prevention of commercialisation", the Press Trust of India news agency reported. The Government will introduce the Bill to Parliament this session. If it passes, all foreign-run institutions will become Deemed Universities under the ambit of University Grants Commission regulations.

Zimbabwe

Higher education in meltdown

The higher education system of Zimbabwe is "imploding", with universities likely to remain closed for the rest of the year, it has been reported. According to the Harare Tribune, the University of Zimbabwe failed to reopen at the start of the academic year, while other institutions that did reopen have since closed. Observers say worsening inflation and political uncertainty have hit funding. John Makumbe, a political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, said: "There is no money to run the institutions, and there is no money to pay the staff ... Lecturers have no money to get on buses or trains and come to work."

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