Overseas briefing

May 14, 2009

United States

Fees hike for Californian students

Students in California face a fees hike after the 23-campus state university system announced plans to raise the cost of tuition by 10 per cent. The decision, which follows a period of deterioration for US university finances thanks to the global economic crisis, will see fees increase for as many as 460,000 students across the state. Charles Reed, the university system's president, told the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper that he blamed underfunding by the Californian Government for the hike. He added that financial aid would help many students cope with the increase, with one third of the extra $1 million (£84.5 million) in revenue to be set aside for this purpose. The Chronicle said that the state's worsening budget crisis was forcing the university system to turn away thousands of eligible students for the first time in its history.

Malaysia

Audits to promote standards

Universities across Malaysia will be audited as part of an ongoing push to establish the country as a "world-class education hub". The audits, which will be carried out by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency in August, were announced by Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, Malaysia's Higher Education Minister, in Putrajaya, the country's administrative capital. He told the New Straits Times newspaper: "There is no such thing as compromise when it concerns our institutes' academic quality." About 20 public universities and 29 private institutions have already signed up to a benchmarking system, which aims to assess the strengths of the Malaysian higher education sector over a period of six years.

Australia

V-c doubts access target

A vice-chancellor has claimed that there is a fatal mismatch between government targets for widening access in Australia and the number of eligible young people from poor families. Glyn Davis, vice-chancellor of the University of Melbourne, called for new targets that were based on "plausible" numbers, The Australian newspaper reported. The current goal is for the proportion of students from poor backgrounds to rise from 17 per cent to 20 per cent by 2020 - an increase of about 55,000 students. Professor Davis said: "This is an incredibly difficult target ... there aren't enough (eligible) people in Victoria to meet a 20 per cent target." He added that in the longer term, university access would be best improved by focusing on early-years education: "If you are going to spend money on (equality), you wouldn't spend it on universities, you would spend it on early childhood," he said.

Canada

Flu, no. Booze and ping-pong, yes

Ping-pong and beer helped to avert a diplomatic row when 22 Canadian students were quarantined in China amid fears that they could be carrying the swine flu virus. The students were held for seven days after arriving in the northeastern city of Changchun, despite reportedly exhibiting no symptoms of the virus. Martin Leroy Deslauriers, a student from Montreal who was among those quarantined, said: "I think it's mostly symbolic because we are Canadian and some people had the flu in Canada." The Canadian Government demanded an explanation from the Chinese authorities shortly before the students were released, but Mr Deslauriers took the incident in his stride. "We had access to the yard, ping-pong, pool, things like that. And they gave us some beers, so that really helped," he told the Associated Press.

Japan

Fears grow for US academic

Rescue teams were dispatched to search for an award-winning US poet and professor who disappeared on a volcanic Japanese island. Craig Arnold, a 41-year-old professor at the University of Wyoming, was hiking on the small island of Kuchinoerabu-jima when he vanished two weeks ago. A large-scale search was set in motion, but later scaled back when no trace of Professor Arnold was found, the Associated Press reported. Professor Arnold had been travelling around the world researching a book about volcanoes. He is the author of two award-winning books of poetry and was in Japan on the US-Japan Friendship Commission's Creative Artists Exchange Fellowship.

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