Overseas briefing

April 16, 2009

India

Foreign institutions might get in

Foreign universities may be allowed to set up shop in India if proposals made by a committee considering curriculum reform are heeded. The committee, led by Yash Pal, the eminent physicist, met vice-chancellors and other higher education leaders in Mumbai to discuss its interim report. Professor Pal said a new Higher Education Commission should be set up to take over the academic functions of existing organisations such as the University Grants Commission. He added that plans to open India's borders to universities from other countries, which had been put on the back burner, could be reconsidered. "We are not against foreign universities," he told the Daily News & Analysis India website. "But we have to see if they are looking at only the commercial aspect."

Australia

Downturn clobbers investments

Cash-strapped Australian universities have been rocked by disastrous losses of A$800 million (£385 million) to their investments, more than twice the amount expected. According to Universities Australia (UA), a representative body for the sector, the collapse of the world's financial markets has hit university investments particularly hard. It warned that student services, teaching quality and the ability of the sector to help the national economy recover from the downturn were all under threat. Glenn Withers, chief executive of UA, used the news to ramp up pressure on the Government to increase higher education funding, The Australian newspaper reported. "Now is not the time to pull back on investing in our universities," he said. "What we need in the May Budget is a commitment to a five- to ten-year plan of substantial funding reform in the sector to give us some hope and certainty."

United States

V-c aims to shame pot revellers

The University of California, Santa Cruz is attempting to discourage an annual unsanctioned "marijuana festival" at the university by asking parents to intervene. Felicia McGinty, vice-chancellor of student affairs, emailed parents to encourage them to talk to their children about the event, which is scheduled for 20 April. "Ask direct questions about the choices they make and express your expectations regarding marijuana, alcohol or other drug use," she wrote. The San Jose Mercury newspaper said that every year the festival "attracts thousands to eat, inhale or otherwise consume copious amounts of (pot). In the past, a grey haze quickly formed over the meadows as thousands of revellers lit up and continued smoking throughout the late afternoon."

Canada

Wiki generation lacks study skills

Universities in Canada are struggling to educate a generation of "Wikipedia kids" who are poorly prepared for tertiary education, a survey suggests. The poll of academics and librarians by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations mirrors concerns raised in other parts of the world that many young people lack study skills and expect success without putting in the effort. The organisation said: "The Government is applauding itself for increased graduation rates from secondary school. However, it appears that secondary students are not receiving the requisite skills they need to be successful in university studies." About 55 per cent of the poll's 2,000 respondents said that students are less prepared now than they were three years ago, the Ottawa Citizen newspaper reported.

China

Fury over 'mentally ill' remark

A leading Chinese academic has caused uproar after describing people who repeatedly petition the Government as "mentally ill". The comments by Sun Dongdong, head of the Judicial Expertise Centre at Peking University, prompted about 100 campaigners to descend on the university in protest. Several of the activists were arrested or removed by security guards. According to Reuters India, the professor said his remarks had been taken out of context by the media. He did not say that 99 per cent of all "professional petitioners" in China were mentally ill, only that 99 per cent of "those whom he had met" were. "I extend my sincere, deep apology to those people whose feelings are hurt," he said in a statement sent to the China Daily newspaper.

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