Overseas briefing

July 2, 2009

United States - Axe falls at Harvard

Harvard University has announced that it will cut 5 jobs in response to the collapse of its endowment income. It appears that most of the institution's ten schools will be affected. The Boston Globe news- paper has reported that layoffs have already begun in its business and law schools, as well as many college libraries. Drew G. Faust, president of Harvard, told staff in an email: "Such decisions, in their human dimensions, are among the hardest that an institution like ours can make. But difficult circumstances have called for difficult decisions across the university." The value of Harvard's endowment has fallen by 30 per cent as a result of the global economic downturn, and its plans to freeze the pay of about 9,000 staff next year and a voluntary early-retirement programme have not generated sufficient savings, the university said. "The fact that this is happening at Harvard, which is still sitting on a chest of billions and remains the richest university in the world, shows it is pursuing an incredibly narrow path of naked self- interest," Geoff Carens, a library assistant and union representative at the university, told The Boston Globe.

Italy - G8 boycott call over 'sexist' PM

A group of female academics is urging the wives of world leaders due to attend next month's G8 summit in Italy to boycott the event in protest over Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's "sexist" attitude to women. Three academics - Chiara Volpato of the University of Milan-Bicocca, Angelica Mucchi Faina of the University of Perugia and Anne Maass of the University of Padua - have written an "Appeal to the First Ladies", which has attracted hundreds of signatures from "women employed in the world of universities and culture", The Times newspaper reported. It says: "We are profoundly indignant... at the way in which the Prime Minister treats women both in public and in private." Mr Berlusconi is facing domestic allegations that escorts were paid to attend his parties by businessman Giampaolo Tarantini.

United Nations - No more grist to 'degree mills'

Plans to eradicate "degree mills" that provide worthless qualifications to unsuspecting students have been set out by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The organisations have produced a series of recommendations for the international community that include mounting public information campaigns about rogue operations and adopting a zero-tolerance approach by mounting legal action against them. They are also offering websites to help students identify legitimate institutions. Judith Eaton, CHEA president, said: "It will take all of us - higher education, accreditation, credential evaluators, government and business - to address the challenge posed by rogue operators."

United States - Please give generously

Potential benefactors are being invited to "save a course" - and have it named after them - by the City College of San Francisco. The San Francisco Chronicle newspaper reported that the institution is facing budget cuts so severe that about 800 courses have been earmarked for cancellation. Classes that generous donors can save from the axe include elective courses such as "Psychology of shyness" and "Self- esteem and advanced kung fu", as well as more traditional academic programmes.

Australia - An offer they couldn't refuse

Deakin University, Victoria has bucked the trend of gloom and doom caused by the global economic downturn by offering workers a generous pay package. The university has just agreed a 16 per cent rise over four years with staff, topped up by A$1,000 (£490) sign-on bonuses for new workers. The Australian newspaper reported that the deal has helped the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) to settle on a minimum figure it will be willing to accept in pay talks with other universities. Grahame McCulloch, NTEU general secretary, told the paper: "There is now sufficient information from the market for the union to make a judgment on what is the minimum it will accept." He indicated that the figure was 4 per cent a year.

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