Overseas briefing

January 15, 2009

United States

Payout ends tuition fee wrangle

A university has paid a total of $33 million (£21.6 million) to 35,000 former students to settle a lawsuit over tuition fees. The University of California paid out up to $12,000 per student after an appeal court ruled that it had unfairly raised fees in 2003. Complainants accused the university of falsely promising that fees would not rise, before sharply increasing them in certain schools, including UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall law school, the Contra Costa Times reported. A spokesman for the University of California said the payout would not affect the university, despite recent budget cuts.


Union to vote on Israel boycott

The violence in Gaza, in which Israeli bombs have damaged the Islamic University, has prompted a union representing Canadian lecturers to propose a ban on Israeli academics. The Ontario arm of the Canadian Union of Public Employees said it was responding to an appeal from a Palestinian professors' union. Sid Ryan, president of the group, told the National Post newspaper: "We are ready to say Israeli academics should not be on our campuses unless they explicitly condemn the university bombing and the assault on Gaza in general." The resolution, which will be put to members at the end of January, will seek to prohibit Israeli academics from speaking, teaching or researching at Ontario universities.


Ban worsens lecturer shortage

Universities in Vietnam have hit out at new regulations barring visiting lecturers unless they already hold the title of professor or have a "certificate of pedagogical training". Institutions are already struggling with a chronic shortage of lecturers, with the student-to-staff ratio reportedly as high as 243 to one in some universities. The ban on using, for example, journalists to lecture on journalism courses or business- people to lead business courses may exacerbate the situation. Nguyen Van Minh, dean of the e-commerce faculty at the Trade University in Hanoi, told news website VietnamNet.vn that such rigid regulation was unnecessary.


National league table planned

A new university league table is to be launched to rank Indian universities. The country's National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), which was set up by the higher education funding council, is devising a framework for the rankings by studying other global league tables, including those published in the UK. Professor H.A. Ranganath, director of NAAC, told the newspaper Business Standard: "We intend to introduce our own rankings, based on world-class indicators. Such an Indian ranking ... should be respected by institutions across the world." The league table is expected to be unveiled in 2010-11, the paper said.


Students' work cited in fraud case

Work by students at an Australian university was used in an alleged ruse to fool the US Government and Nasa into handing over millions of dollars for scientific research. Masoud Samandi, a former lecturer at the University of Wollongong, told a US court that an Arizona company he worked for submitted false applications to win research grants from the US departments of Energy and Defence, as well as Nasa. To win one grant, the company said it had built a sophisticated "filtered arc deposition system", a method to apply hard coatings to a surface. But according to a statement to the US District Court in Tucson, the system was created at the University of Wollongong, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.


First graduates for new institution

The National Open University of Nigeria has marked its first graduation ceremony by awarding the country's former president a postgraduate diploma in theology. Nigeria's Guardian newspaper reported that the institution now has 100,000 students and more than 140 courses, making it the country's largest university. Its rapid growth reflects a British Council report on higher education in Nigeria last year, which predicted that increasing demand for university education in the country would lead to more Nigerians studying in the UK as a result of poor domestic provision.

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