Overseas briefing

June 18, 2009

India

Foreign universities to be let in

India is planning legislation to allow foreign universities to set up in the country, opening a potentially huge market in higher education. Kapil Sibal, the new minister for higher education, was quoted by The Wall Street Journal saying: "I would hope that come 2010, universities around the world will be sprinting to come to India." He said that despite India's 1.1 billion population, a shortage of educated workers could damage economic growth.

United States

Fiddling the figures?

Universities are allegedly manipulating their data submissions to the influential US News & World Report newspaper in order to lift their positions in its annual rankings. The Inside Higher Ed website reported that the University of Southern California (USC) had exaggerated the number of National Academy of Engineering (NAE) members on its books - a criterion in the US News table of top engineering schools. Although USC said it had 30 NAE members, the body reported that it had only 22. The controversy came a week after an official at Clemson University, South Carolina, revealed at a conference that the institution had given low scores to competitors on the table's reputational survey and had increased class sizes in areas where the change would not affect its standing, while reducing them in more influential sectors. Clemson denies unethical conduct.

Malaysia

Inquiry into admissions cock-up

The Malaysian Government has launched an inquiry into how thousands of students were incorrectly told they had gained undergraduate places at the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) - and has warned that it will be more cautious before granting universities further autonomy. Last month, USM told the 8,173 applicants who met its entry requirements that they had gained places for 2009-10, when only 3,599 had. As a government-designated "Apex university" in recognition of its "world-class status", USM was granted control over its undergraduate admissions for 2009-10. Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, higher education minister, was quoted by the New Straits Times saying that after the incident, "the Government will now take a longer time" to consider demands for more autonomy from Apex institutions. "We must be certain they are prepared and able," he said.

Saudi Arabia

US giants offer cutting edge

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Kaust) has signed up industrial giants Boeing and IBM to its Industrial Collaboration Programme, designed to develop Saudi's capabilities to meet the kingdom's emerging technological needs. Kaust is a £5 billion institution being built from scratch and has already struck deals with the universities of Cambridge, Imperial College London, Oxford, Berkeley, Harvard and Stanford.

Australia

Cracking under the strain

The reputation of the University of Western Sydney (UWS) is threatened by a decline in its teaching quality, a report jointly funded by the National Tertiary Education Union and the institution itself says. The Australian newspaper reported that the study, Overload, highlights a high staff-student ratio, and warns: "(Lecturers) are often ashamed of poor preparation and the pressure to assess too many students too quickly."

United States

Ex-First Lady topples chancellor

A university head has resigned over questions about his role in the controversial hiring of a former First Lady. James Oblinger, chancellor of North Carolina State University, said he is stepping down as a result of the "distracting and undue public scrutiny" the institution was under because of the employment of Mary Easley. Ms Easley was hired as a member of faculty when her husband, Mike Easley, was Governor of North Carolina. The Press Association reported that Dr Oblinger had asked Ms Easley to resign, but she had declined. He said: "I am ... confident that when this chapter of (our) history is written, the only conclusion drawn will be that the university and all its officials acted both correctly and honourably." Ms Easley's contract has now been terminated.

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