Overseas briefing

May 28, 2009

United States

Lawyer loses on 'frivolous' grounds

A lawyer who sued Columbia University for failing to offer men's studies courses has lost his case. Roy Den Hollander accused the university of bias against men because women's studies courses were on offer. However, his case was thrown out by a District Court in Manhattan. Noting that Mr Den Hollander had claimed that feminism was a "religion", the judge said: "Feminism is no more a religion than physics, and at least the core of the complaint, therefore, is frivolous." According to The New York Times, the claimant responded by accusing the judge of being a feminist. "The only thing frivolous and absurd is men looking for justice in the courts of America," he is reported to have said.

Austria

Cern exit decision reversed

A U-turn has been announced by the Austrian Government over its decision to pull out of Cern, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research. Austria had said it would withdraw its EUR17 million (£15.3 million) annual contribution because it was consuming too much of its international research budget. But after hearing protests from around the world, including from UK particle physicists, it has reversed the decision. "The worldwide declarations of solidarity by our scientific colleagues, not just in particle physics, but in many other scientific areas, have provided important contributions to the debate," said Christian Fabjan, director of the Austrian Academy of Sciences' Institute for High Energy Physics in Vienna. "We will increase our efforts to communicate to the public the value and the return of our membership touching all areas of our activities."

United Nations

Online studying offered by UN

The United Nations has launched an online university. Students, who will be placed in classes of 20, will log on for a weekly lecture, discuss their work with fellow students and sit their examinations online. About 200 students from 52 countries have already registered. They pay only a minimal admission fee and no tuition fees. The university has been set up by the UN Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technology and Development. It will need to sign up 15,000 students if it is to sustain itself.

Australia

Two-year cash crunch

A tough two years are being forecast for Australian universities as they wait for the Government's budget package to come through. The Australian newspaper said that while the sector has welcomed a A$5.7 billion (£2.8 billion) budget package to stop the erosion of funding, universities remain in limbo because they will not see much of the recurrent funding until 2011-12 - after the next election. It has also highlighted concerns about the country's large budget deficit. "We are reliant both on a return of the incumbent Government, as an election is due before many of these changes will take effect, and on the accuracy of the economic forecasts being sufficient to generate the budget position to allow future distributions," said Tim Brailsford, president of the Australian Business Deans Council and dean at the University of Queensland.

China

Jobs for the boys and girls

The prospect of a sharp rise in graduate unemployment in China has prompted the Government to order officials to pull strings to find jobs for young people. Officials in Weifang, Shandong province, have been told to use their influence to find work for three university graduates each, the Qilu Evening News said. The move has caused consternation among some, who worry that graduates from poor families may miss out on the assistance.

United States

Packing for college

Concealed handguns may be carried on campus by students and staff at Texan state universities and colleges, senators have ruled. The Bill was introduced in the Texas Senate by Jeff Wentworth, a Republican, after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. He said he thought it unfair that students were unable to defend themselves. "I would feel personally guilty if I woke up one morning and read that something similar had occurred on a Texas campus," he told the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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