Overseas briefing

July 30, 2009

Sweden

Ban the bomb work for Iranians

Iranian nationals have been banned from Swedish university programmes with ties to nuclear and missile technology on the advice of the country's security service, Sapo. According to the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper, two Swedish higher education institutions - the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg - have stopped accepting Iranian nationals on their nuclear-technology programmes. Patrik Peter, a Sapo spokesman, said the measures had been enforced in the interests of security and concerned "not only those courses that are directly affected by nuclear weapons, but also aerospace technology".

Australia

Rural merger plans scrapped

Costly plans to create a national rural university have been abandoned after the scheme failed to attract partners. The Australian Government had backed plans by Southern Cross University to pursue a merger with Charles Sturt University to form the basis for a national rural institution. However, costs of up to A$625 million (£310 million) proved prohibitive, given the economic downturn's effects on federal finances. The Australian newspaper reported that with A$1.5 million of government funding allocated to the project, Southern Cross is proposing a collaborative model across all regional universities as an alternative solution.

China

Affirmative action announced

Positive-discrimination plans have been unveiled to help students in China's less-developed middle and western regions enter university. The China Daily newspaper said quotas will be introduced for the autumn semester that will raise the total number of students enrolled from the middle region by 6.5 per cent and from the western region by 7.3 per cent. Hao Ping, the Vice-Minister for Education, said: "We must ensure that students in western regions enjoy equal access to quality education."

India

Political conformity at last

The University of Delhi has announced plans to reform its teaching. According to The Times of India newspaper, the syllabus for Delhi's BA in political science, which is offered by 46 colleges, has been revised to standardise the degree across the country. Achin Vanaik, Delhi's head of social sciences, said the faculty would now provide a list of accredited textbooks highlighting important chapters and page numbers. "With a single reading list and prescribed topics, students from every college will have a level playing field," he said.

Canada

Strike threat to mass renovations

Industrial action by municipal workers in Toronto has halted expensive university renovation projects, leaving institutions worried that the delays could cost them millions in funding. According to The Globe and Mail newspaper, striking officials' refusals to issue building permits have left universities at risk of missing crucial deadlines and losing government funding. As part of its economic stimulus plan, the Government announced in May that it would spend almost C$1.4 billion (£775 million) to expand and refurbish 181 colleges and universities across the country. However, the projects must meet a construction deadline of March 2011. A spokeswoman for the University of Toronto said: "There is concern. But we're hopeful that we can get the approvals we need."

United States

California raises fees

The California State University system has raised student fees by 20 per cent as part of a budget plan that will also shrink enrolment and force nearly all employees to take two days' unpaid leave a month. The board of trustees voted 17-1 to raise undergraduate fees by $672 (£406) a year to $4,8 in the nation's largest four-year university system. The increase, which follows a 10 per cent hike approved in May, is part of the university's plan to close a $584 million budget shortfall caused by an unprecedented drop in state funding to the 23-campus system, the Associated Press reported. "We face a huge economic tsunami," said Jeffrey Bleich, the board chairman. "What we're doing today doesn't give anyone pleasure."

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