Overseas briefing

March 26, 2009

United States

Appeal against jock rap

An American university is appealing against sanctions imposed after some of its star athletes were given test answers in advance to help them pass courses. The scandal, which highlights the lengths to which some US universities will go to strengthen their sports teams, involved 61 athletes at Florida State University (FSU). They were found to have been helped to pass a music history course in 2006-07. The Associated Press reported that sanctions imposed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which stripped FSU of some sports scholarships, are being appealed. Jim Smith, chairman of FSU's trustees, said that the university itself had reported the cheating, adding that it was something "that none of us condones".

Canada

Little monster uncovered

The remains of a tiny dinosaur that was half the size of a domestic cat have been found by academics in Canada. The Hesperonychus elizabethae, dubbed a "mini-saur", hunted alongside meat-eating giants such as Tyrannosaurus rex, and was related to the velociraptor. Nick Longrich, a palaeontologist at the University of Calgary, described the mini-saur, which is the smallest dinosaur ever found in North America, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "Its discovery ... raises the possibility that there are even smaller ones out there waiting to be found," he said.

Singapore

Fee hike shelved due to downturn

Singapore's three public universities have frozen student fees as a concession to the difficulties caused by the global economic downturn. Students had been facing a fees hike of 4-10 per cent, The Straits Times newspaper reported, but the plans have been shelved for at least a year. The National University of Singapore, the Nanyang Technological University and the Singapore Management University have all said that they will review the decision next year in light of any change in the economic situation. Annual fees at the universities range from S$6,620 (£3,080) for courses in the arts and social sciences to S$18,960 for medicine.

Australia

Sex film recruitment probed

A university has called in the police after a film-maker put up posters on campus trying to recruit students to auction their virginity online and film the results. Monash University, Victoria, said it had received complaints about the posters, which offered A$20,000 (£9,430) each to a man and a woman with no sexual experience to appear in a feature-length documentary, newspaper The Australian reported. The film-maker, Justin Sisley, also promised the recruits 90 per cent of the money made from auctioning their virginity on the web.

India

Dirty tricks accusation over land

Academics have accused a state Government in India of "playing a dirty game" after it was ordered to return 70 acres of land to a university. A high court has ordered the Government of Maharashtra to return the land to Nagpur University, despite its claim that the ownership rights had never been bought by the university and had simply been "allotted" by the Government, an allocation that could be reversed. The dispute focuses on plans to build a general-purpose sports complex on the site. Nirmal Singh, a senior academic at Nagpur, told The Times of India newspaper: "These local politicians want to deprive Vidarbha's population from getting a good education."

Yemen

Angry protests over shooting

Students took part in furious protests after a security guard allegedly shot dead a student as he entered a university in Yemen. Saleh al-Houti, 20, was reportedly killed when the guard opened fire on his car at Sana'a University in the Yemeni capital. His brother told News Yemen, a daily online newspaper, that Mr al-Houti had informed the guard he was a student shortly before the shooting started. Students responded by pelting the car of the university's president, Khalid Tumaim, with stones, and marching outside the Yemeni Parliament. Sana'a said the guard had been arrested and a full investigation would be held.

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