Overseas briefing

December 18, 2008

China

Peking kicks off fundraising drive

A leading Chinese university has launched a major "US-style" fundraising campaign to augment its state funding. Peking University has set up a development committee to oversee the fundraising drive. Xia Jiechang, an economics professor at the university, told China Daily: "(Government) funding falls far short of meeting the demands of the university. It was inevitable that universities would resort to raising money through other channels. Compared with top American universities that have hundreds of development staff and run regular campaigns, Chinese ones have only recently started asking for money, therefore they need to form an effective mechanism."

Australia

Government rejects bias claims

Claims of a systematic left-wing bias at Australian universities have been dismissed by a government inquiry into academic freedom and partiality. The senate inquiry rejected the allegations as anecdotal and unrepresentative, The Australian newspaper reported, although concerns were raised about teaching quality, and in particular the increasing use of casual and part-time tutors. "There is evidence that in some very few cases an academic bias may be accentuated through poor teaching, and this should concern departmental heads and faculty deans," the inquiry's report says. One senator said: "There can be no basis for arguing that universities are under the control of the Left and that this is reflected in course content and teaching style."

United States

Part-time employees 'vulnerable'

An academic union has accused a US college of failing to offer "basic protections" to a lecturer in a report that draws a line in the sand over the treatment of part-time staff. The American Association of University Professors criticised North Idaho College in its first investigation into alleged violations of new rules covering part-time employment. It said the college failed to give Jessica Bryan adequate notice that it was not renewing her appointment, failed to tell her why her contract had been cancelled and failed to give her access to the college's grievance procedures after she received an email on the last day of the autumn 2007 semester stating that she had not been assigned any classes for the following semester. The report, which says part-timers are "vulnerable no matter how long and how well they have served", pointed to a new policy adopted by the AAUP demanding that any staff member who has served three months should get at least one month's notice.

India

US upgrades Indian degrees

The flow of Indian students travelling to the US for postgraduate-level study may increase after the value placed on Indian degrees by American universities was upgraded. Indian newspaper Daily News and Analysis reported that one of the largest foreign-credential evaluators for North American universities, World Education Services, has ruled that India's highest-rated three-year degrees are on a par with American undergraduate programmes. As a result, students will now be able to apply to US graduate schools without holding a masters degree, as is required at the moment. However, one Indian higher education counsellor warned that it would take "some time" for all universities in North America to recognise Indian degrees.

Europe

New road map for infrastructure

More than ten new research infrastructure projects have been tabled in a report published by the European Commission. Among the projects recommended by the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructure, which was set up to plan large research ventures, is a test facility for carbon capture and storage, Physics World reported. The strategy forum splits funding across six categories, including energy, biomedical and medical science and social sciences and humanities. Carlo Rizzuto, chair of the strategy forum, said: "We wanted to have a road map that is unique in the world in that it covers every topic, not just physics and energy." Among the other projects proposed are a high-energy gamma-ray observatory costing EUR150 million (£131 million) and a EUR500 million system to connect European facilities studying plate tectonics.

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