Overseas briefing

March 12, 2009

United States

It only takes a minute

A 60-second "microlecture" can work just as well as a longer class when paired with assignments and group discussion, a US college has claimed. San Juan College, a community college in New Mexico, is offering lectures online that last just one minute, and a spokesman said they can rival traditional modes of delivery. These 60-second bursts, which aim to distil the content of longer lectures into key concepts and themes, form the crux of a new course in occupational safety at the college, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported. The approach is being considered for other courses. The concept is a more extreme version of 20-minute lectures that have been trialled with some success at other North American institutions, such as York University in Toronto.


Papal event on Devil's chaplain

The Vatican has held a five-day conference to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species. The event, which focused on the compatibility of evolution and creation theories, was organised by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and took place at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. It was attended by philosophers, theologians and scientists, including physicist Stephen Hawking. Pope Benedict XVI said he saw no contradiction between the Christian concept of creation and science, The Times reported.


Cash will follow students

Limits on student numbers at Australian universities will be scrapped and demand for courses will determine institutions' funding levels. Julia Gillard, the Education Minister, said that the recommendations made by the Bradley review of higher education for funding to follow students would be adopted from 2012. "The era of directives about what Australians can study and where - and the culture wars waged by politicians against subject offerings, course content and research subject matter - are over," she was quoted as saying in The Sydney Morning Herald. But there are fears that the move will see regional universities suffer as students flock to elite institutions with greater capacity, with vital subjects such as teaching ignored in favour of more popular courses, such as law.


School removes web links to UK

A private college in Singapore that claimed to be partnered with three British universities has removed references to the institutions from its website. The Lincoln School of Management, Singapore, claimed to have links with Coventry, Napier and Central Lancashire universities. However, when contacted by Times Higher Education, the trio said that no such links existed and demanded that the school remove the claims from its publicity material. Adeling Tong, chief executive of the Lincoln School of Management, told newspaper The Strait Times that she had misunderstood memorandums of understanding signed with the institutions. "I had the understanding that ... we could list (them) as partners on our website and our students could also get course exemptions," she said.

United States

Suit by preacher who can't testify

A travelling preacher is suing an American university for breaching his constitutional right to freedom of speech. Evangelist Jeremy Sonnier claimed that he was threatened with arrest if he did not stop preaching on the campus of Southeastern Louisiana University, Associated Press reported. However, the state-funded university insisted that it had the right to limit the time, place and manner of free speech on its premises. It said it required visitors to apply a week in advance for permission to speak on campus.


Funding boost for expansion drive

Universities in India are being promised more money after an interim budget indicated that allocations would increase by a fifth this year. The cash will be used to drive the expansion of the higher education sector. The University Grants Commission, which oversees the sector, has been charged with setting up 12 new central universities and upgrading three state institutions to central status, Calcutta newspaper The Telegraph reported.

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