Overseas briefing

August 13, 2009

United States

Illinois trustees told to resign

A panel investigating admission irregularities at the University of Illinois has recommended that all its trustees should submit their resignations and leave it to Pat Quinn, the State Governor, to decide which ones to accept. The Illinois Admissions Review Commission found that unqualified students were admitted because of their political connections, Associated Press reported. Several trustees have already tendered their resignations and a number have been accepted. Governor Quinn formed the commission in June after the Chicago Tribune newspaper revealed that Illinois maintained a list of politically connected applicants, some of whom were admitted ahead of better-qualified candidates.

Australia

Link claim causes upset

The Australian RMIT University has lodged a complaint with the Singaporean authorities over claims that Singapore's Brookes Business School has misrepresented its relationship with the institution. According to a report by the Observatory of Borderless Higher Education, RMIT has no association or agreement with Brookes, yet it claimed to offer a one-year course leading to an RMIT undergraduate degree. RMIT lodged the complaint with Singapore's Ministry of Education and the Consumers Association of Singapore.

United States

HRT papers 'funded by drug firm'

Twenty-six scientific papers backing the use of hormone replacement therapy in women were produced with the help of ghostwriters paid by a pharmaceutical company that stood to benefit from the conclusions, The New York Times newspaper has reported. It said that the papers, published in 18 journals between 1998 and 2005, played down the risks and emphasised the benefits of the treatment. Wyeth, a pharmaceutical giant that markets two major HRT drugs, paid a medical communications firm to draft the papers, it said. Documents detailing the ghostwriting were uncovered by lawyers suing Wyeth.

Australia

Union calls 24-hour strike

Academic union leaders have called a national 24-hour strike in Australia. The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) plans industrial action on 16 September, with further action threatened over employment conditions. According to The Australian newspaper, the NTEU is seeking to win back previous limits on the use of fixed-term contracts and demanding stricter regulation of members' workloads. Grahame McCulloch, NTEU general secretary, told the paper: "Our patience has been exhausted and we expect very strong member support." The Australian Higher Education Industrial Association, which represents 30 universities, said more flexibility was needed.

China

Scholar on trial for 'subversion'

A Chinese academic who lost his university post after founding a political group that challenged Communist rule went on trial this week for "subversion of state power". Guo Quan has been detained numerous times since founding the China New Democracy Party in 2007, the Associated Press reported. The trial, which could lead to his imprisonment, was due to start as Times Higher Education went to press. He was reported to have pleaded not guilty at the People's Intermediate Court in the city of Suqian. Professor Guo is a Chinese literature expert who lost his teaching job at Nanjing Normal University after founding the group.

India

Protest hangs by a thread

Students tied holy threads around policemen's wrists in the Jammu region of northern India amid protests about the location of a new central university. The plans for the institution in the state of Jammu and Kashmir have threatened to create a divide along regional lines, IBN Live, the Indian news website, reported. In Jammu, students carried out the unusual form of protest as they called on the Government to locate the university in their region rather than Kashmir. One student said: "We decided to tie rakhis on every policeman's wrist because we want their support in our fight for a central university." Central universities are formed by the Government by an Act of Parliament.

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