Overseas briefing

January 1, 2009

Vietnam

$400m plan to climb rankings

In a bid to climb the world university rankings, the Vietnamese Government has agreed in principle to spend $400 million (£268 million) on four new universities. The aim is to build institutions that will meet international standards, with funding already secured in the form of loans from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. The effort is part of Vietnam's 2008 strategy on education development, which sets out government-led projects in the sector until 2020. According to news website Vietnamnet.vt, "It is expected (by the Government) that the universities will be named among the 200 top universities in the world."

United States

Universities 'restrict free speech'

They are supposed to be bastions of academic freedom, yet three in four universities and colleges in the US stand accused of restricting freedom of speech. According to a survey by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, 0 of the 364 higher education institutions assessed maintain "unconstitutional speech codes", The Chronicle of Higher Education reported. Each of these had "at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech", the report says, citing anti-harassment policies that ban staff from "taunting" and "insulting" colleagues or students as examples. The organisation, which said public universities were the worst offenders, said there was a "systematic" violation of freedom of expression in the sector.

India

Lecturers strike for pay rises

About 8,000 university lecturers in Delhi went on strike to demand pay rises ahead of a government review of university salary structures. Inder Kapahi, professor of physics at Kirori Mal College, told The Hindu newspaper: "I do not think classes will resume until we see action from the ministry." The strike involved staff from 75 colleges under the auspices of Delhi University. Kumar Rahul, a senior faculty member at Ramjas College, said delays in the pay review led to the industrial action, but acknowledged that the timing was "unfortunate" for students facing exams in the next few weeks.

Australia

V-c cleared of misconduct

A crisis at the top of an Australian university has ended with the departure of the chancellor and the clearing of the vice-chancellor over allegations of misconduct. The rift between the two executives at the University of New England in New South Wales led to an investigation into the financial dealings of Alan Pettigrew, the vice-chancellor, and cost the university tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. John Cassidy, the chancellor, had urged the vice-chancellor to make way for someone with sharper business skills, The Australian newspaper said, but he refused. Now Mr Cassidy has left his post, and the vice-chancellor wants the matter closed.

Canada

Freshers sought on Facebook

A demographic downturn is prompting Canadian universities to turn to social-networking websites such as Facebook to attract students. The universities of Ottawa and New Brunswick are among the institutions that have set up recruitment programmes using Facebook, Canada.com reported. Mary Dila, a partner at the marketing firm that developed Ottawa's campaign, said: "Social networking is where (teenagers) live and breathe; 70 per cent of our applicants are on Facebook, so we have to be there." New Brunswick's campaign challenged would-be students to make a Facebook page that sets out why they wanted to attend the university, offering the creator of the best page one year's free tuition as a prize.

Greece

Protesters find a campus haven

The main university in Athens became a stronghold for anti-Government protesters involved in last month's civil unrest, who took advantage of a decades-old code barring police from campuses. The protests, which spilled over into riots, were sparked by the police shooting of a teenage boy and were fed by anger about the country's deteriorating economy. "The grounds of the Athens Polytechnic (became) a combination of sanctuary and makeshift armoury for bands of young men and women," Associated Press reported.

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