Overseas briefing

August 20, 2009

India

After you ... no, after you

Higher education leaders have been doing some soul-searching about the quality of research in India, with the head of the National Knowledge Commission warning that change takes "too long" in the country. Sam Pitroda, speaking at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, said that while policies to improve standards had been designed, progress was too slow. "Most of the problems have solutions on the table, but still the debate is going on," he said. "In reality, it is time for the vice-chancellors of universities, directors of institutes and heads of departments to act, but unfortunately everybody is waiting for others to take the initiative."

Canada

Lawsuit over campus assault

A lawsuit over a sexual assault perpetrated on campus has raised questions about institutions' responsibilities for the safety of staff and students. Carleton University in Ottawa is being sued by a graduate student who was working alone at night in an unlocked chemistry laboratory in 2007 when she was attacked by an intruder. She is demanding C$25,000 (£13,880) from the university for failing to protect her. However, in its statement of defence, Carleton says the student was negligent for failing to keep a "proper lookout" and not alerting others she was working late.

China

Fossil law mustn't be set in stone

Scientists have petitioned the Chinese Government to modify regulations intended to curb fossil-smuggling in light of legitimate researchers' needs. The legislation, drafted earlier this year, places strict controls on the excavation of fossil sites, but researchers have suggested that they go too far. Zhou Zhonghe, executive director of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said the laws should be revised. He told Xinhua, the state-run news agency: "The national research institutes and universities should have more freedom to excavate fossil sites and carry out appropriate research co-operation with overseas partners."

Australia

Recruitment incentives 'logical'

Offering foreign students incentives for recruiting fellow overseas pupils is a "logical development" of the entrepreneurial campus, it has been suggested. Under a scheme operated by Central Queensland University, student recruiters can win iPods, laptops and even airfare and accommodation packages. The Australian newspaper reported that it has obtained documents showing that the university has been operating the policy for a decade. Stephan Vincent-Lancrin, an analyst at the OECD Centre for Educational Research and Innovation, said the practice of "buying a recommendation" was inappropriate in higher education, but added that it was "a logical development" of the entrepreneurial university that must recruit more students to bring in fee income.

South Africa

Sector blasts school standards

Representatives of South Africa's universities have bemoaned the state of the country's education system. Members of Higher Education South Africa, which represents the country's 23 institutions, told the South African Parliament that first-year undergraduates could barely read, write or do simple mathematical calculations. Theuns Eloff, the association's chair, blamed the country's outcomes-based education system for the problems, South Africa's The Times newspaper reported.

United States

For-profit debt levels worst of all

Graduate debt levels in the for-profit university sector are the worst in the US, according to a report by the College Board, a not-for-profit membership association. The study adds that debts are rising for graduates of the public and private non-profit sectors, but at a slower rate. The report, How Much Are College Students Borrowing?, states that debt levels vary according to the type of institution. Only 10 per cent of students at four-year public institutions owe more than $40,000 (£24,100), it says, while 22 per cent of equivalent students at private institutions and a quarter of those at for-profit private universities had debts of that level.

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