Overseas briefing

July 16, 2009

United Arab Emirates

Scholar blasts foreign 'gold rush'

An academic has hit out at a "branch-campus gold rush" in the United Arab Emirates. Kevin Schoepp, assistant director of the Abu Dhabi campuses of Zayed University, said that at least 55 overseas universities were operating in the UAE - a country of just 4.5 million people. "More often than not, the allure of financial gain for the home campus seems to be a major driving force for establishing branches," he writes in the current edition of International Higher Education, the journal of the Boston College Centre for International Higher Education. Two high-profile overseas ventures in the UAE have failed - the University of Southern Queensland closed its campus there in 2005 after just 12 months in operation, and George Mason University shut its outpost this year after only three years. Mr Schoepp, a doctoral student in higher education leadership at the University of Calgary, said that more failures were likely, adding that "the UAE is worse off than when it opened its doors".

United States

Get set for education crunch

Education will be the next "bubble to burst", according to Mark C. Taylor, chairman of the religion department at Columbia University. In The New York Times' blog Room for Debate, Professor Taylor said: "Make no mistake about it, education is big business and ... is in big trouble. Colleges and universities are in the same position that major banks and financial institutions are: their assets are plummeting, their liabilities are growing, most of their costs are fixed and rising, and their income ... is falling."

Africa

'Brain drain' warning

African countries must act to avert a "brain drain", Blade Nzimande, South Africa's Higher Education Minister, has warned. He told the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) World Conference on Higher Education in Paris: "Far too many students are leaving their home countries to study elsewhere." Although South Africa had benefited from student mobility within Africa, he said: "One major challenge is that many of the best students do not return home. We need to be able to retain our graduates within the continent, while at the same time ensuring we attract the best talent from other parts of the world."

Australia

Downturn scuppers Monash deal

A project to expand student accommodation at Australia's largest university has been scuppered by the global financial crisis. A development deal worth A$300 million (£145 million) between Melbourne-based Monash University and property company Equiset has collapsed, according to The Australian newspaper. "The current global financial crisis has placed significant, and ultimately insurmountable, constraints on the commercial feasibility of components of the approved project," Monash says in a statement. The university still wants to pursue the project at its Caulfield campus and could re-tender, the newspaper added. Glenn Withers, chief executive of Universities Australia, told the paper: "If institutions of the stature of Monash in the present climate can't find appropriate funding, it shows that there are still deficiencies in the project finance market. There should be a role for the Government to come to the party."

United States

Elite fail spelling test

About 15 per cent of the world's top universities have at least one spelling error on their websites, according to a spellchecking site. The spellr.us annual survey of higher education's online content found a range of errors posted by institutions listed at the top of the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings. The word "university" was misspelt by 13 of the world's top 20 institutions, as was "professor" on Harvard Law School's primary navigation menu, and even in one instance "Yale University" on Yale's site. Spellr.us automatically examined the first 1,000 pages of Times Higher Education's top 20 world universities for spelling errors, broken links and missing images. Duke University had the most errors, with 300. The top five misspelt words were "accommodation", "technology", "university", "harassment" and "research".

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