Overseas briefing

August 6, 2009

Australia

Performance 'compact' unveiled

The Australian Government is to tie teaching and research performance to negotiated "compact agreements" with universities in an effort to encourage distinct institutional missions and focus research funding among the best performers. The Australian newspaper reported that two discussion papers mooting the idea have been released, with the Government set to host a series of meetings next month to discuss the arrangements. Canberra proposes that the compacts contain a preamble defining the mission and strategy and components on teaching and research performance. Kim Carr, the Innovation, Industry, Science and Research Minister, said compacts would encourage universities to adopt different missions and take on more responsibility while the Government ensured that national priorities in teaching and research were safeguarded.

Bulgaria

Exam-fixing ring caught by police

Police have busted an organised group that routinely fixed examinations at the University of National and World Economy in Sofia. The Bulgarian Interior Ministry said two men, one of them a professor at the institution and another an intermediary, were arrested on 23 July in connection with the crime. According to the Sofia Echo newspaper, the group used doubles who stood in for prospective students at admission exams using counterfeit identification. Fees for the service ranged from 500 leva (£217) to 4,000 leva, the police said. Investigators are checking whether the group carried out similar activities at other universities. The institution said it would sack any staff involved in the ring.

Singapore

Gay-row scholar cancels course

A law professor from Singapore who was due to teach a human rights course at New York University Law School in the autumn has withdrawn after students protested about what they called her "anti-gay views", The New York Times reported. Thio Li-ann, a professor at the National University of Singapore and member of her country's Parliament, had opposed the repeal of a law in Singapore's penal code that criminalises sex between men. During a parliamentary debate, she described homosexuality as a "gender-identity disorder". Richard L. Revesz, dean of NYU's Law School, said Professor Thio's course would be cancelled as she had changed her mind about teaching at the institution because of "the atmosphere of hostility by some members of our community towards her views and the low enrolments in her classes", the paper reported.

France

Great leap forward to digital age

A EUR16 million (£8 million) programme has been launched to overhaul digital provision in France's universities. The money will be used to install wireless internet connections on campus and develop podcasting for online courses. The initiative is in response to a report published last year that claimed that French universities needed to catch up with communication technologies if they were to satisfy the demands of the new generation of "digitally native" students, the University World News newspaper reported. Announcing the plan, Valerie Pecresse, Minister for Higher Education and Research, said it represented a "leap forward" that would "transform universities into high-tech places".

United States

Adviser's ousting raises hackles

A national journalism group has criticised Morgan State University in Baltimore after carrying out an investigation into why its student newspaper adviser found herself out of a job. Following a period in which The Spokesman was critical of Morgan State's administration, Denise Brown's contract with the university was not renewed. A report by College Media Advisers, the national organisation of student journalism advisers in the US, calls Morgan State's policies "legally questionable". It says the university denied student journalists the right of free expression and this resulted in the unfair termination of Ms Brown's position, according to the Inside Higher Ed website. "The decision not to renew Ms Brown's contract was based on personnel issues and was not specifically related to her service as adviser to the newspaper," Morgan State said.

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