Overseas briefing

November 20, 2008

United States

Peru to sue Yale over artefacts

The Government of Peru has indicated that it will sue Yale University in an attempt to recover thousands of Inca relics excavated by a US explorer almost a century ago. According to newspaper El Peruano, a public prosecutor is to be appointed by a team of ministers convened to recover the items. The artefacts, whose number is disputed, were sent to Yale by American anthropologist and politician Hiram Bingham, who discovered the mountain-top ruins at Machu Picchu in 1911. Peru claims that the university has 45,000 pieces, including jewellery, ceramics and textiles. A Yale spokesman said that reasonable offers to return some of the items had been made, and added that a lawsuit would not serve the interests of the public or posterity.

Senegal

Leader decries education 'crisis'

The Prime Minister of Senegal has highlighted the "deep crisis" that he says has gripped African higher education for the past 20 years. Sheik Hadjibou Soumare, addressing a recent conference in Dakar, said that falling standards had prompted most African governments to undertake reforms, but with mixed results. Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, the Gambian-born director of Unesco's office for education in Africa, added that education remained the best guarantee for viable development in the continent and that Africa should aim to emulate the success of countries in Asia and Latin America. She said that between 5 and 7 per cent of the African population had access to university education, which was far too low.

United States

Economic chill hits Harvard

Even the world's richest university is feeling the pinch from the current economic downturn. Drew Faust, president of Harvard University, is looking to reduce spending, raising the prospect of programme cuts as its $36.9 billion (£24.2 billion) endowment faces losses. The university is also reassessing its expansion plans, The Boston Globe reported. "We must recognise that Harvard is not invulnerable to the seismic financial shocks in the larger world," Professor Faust told university staff in an internal email. She did not specify what cuts were being considered, but a wage freeze for administrators and academic staff, as well as a budget freeze for all programmes, are reported to be on the cards.

China

Campus lockdown over cholera

An outbreak of cholera forced a week-long quarantine of a university in southern China. Some 31 students were struck down with stomach problems and eight were diagnosed as confirmed cases of cholera at Hainan University, news agency Xinhua said. The Government responded to the health emergency by placing the entire institution in quarantine for eight days, lifting it only when it was satisfied that the bug had spread no further. Classes continued to be held for those students living on campus within the boundaries of the quarantine, but no one was allowed to leave the confines of the university grounds. Those students who were living elsewhere were banned from attending lectures for the duration of the quarantine.

Australia

Californian model is attractive

The vice-chancellor of a leading research-intensive institution has argued that Australia should introduce a community college network modelled on the California university system. Glyn Davis, of the University of Melbourne, said that colleges combining degrees with vocational training opportunities could be created from the amalgamation of universities and vocational education providers, particularly in rural and regional areas, but they would not offer research degrees or compete for competitive research grants. Professor Davis told The Australian newspaper: "I see this model as a way to address the important and legitimate needs for higher education provision outside metropolitan Australia." California's 110 community college campuses serve 2.7 million students, and enrolments are reported to be soaring as the economy slides into recession, with the growth attributed to the institutions' open enrolment policies, relatively low tuition fees and large number of courses with a vocational focus.

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