Overseas briefing

September 3, 2009

United States

Private loans on the increase

Students are taking out private loans in the US before exhausting avenues for federal financial support, according to a report. An analysis of US Department of Education data found that two thirds of students who took out private loans in 2007-08 had taken out less than they could have in federal Stafford Loans, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported. The proportion of students taking out private loans grew from 5 per cent in 2003-04 to 14 per cent in 2007-08.

Germany

Police probe 'cash for PhD' claim

German prosecutors are investigating claims that an academic consulting firm paid bribes to more than 100 professors to advance the academic careers of its clients. There are fears that the scandal, in which professors are alleged to have awarded PhDs to unqualified candidates in return for cash, will dent the reputation of German universities. The consultancy at the heart of the claims, Institut fur Wissenschaftsberatung, was raided in 2008, and police have now reported on their findings. "We went through tonnes of material after the raid and that is what produced the concrete suspicion against the people who have now been indicted," Gunther Feld, senior public prosecutor in Cologne, told Spiegel Online.

Australia

Foreign students fear for safety

Fears about the safety of foreign students in Australia have spread from India to China as concern about violence against Asians widens. A series of attacks on Indian students has prompted widespread anger, and after a number of attacks against Chinese nationals, anxiety is spreading among Chinese students. Jasmine Wang, a student at the University of Sydney, told the China Daily newspaper: "My classmates don't dare leave their homes when it gets dark." Some 120,000 Chinese students study in Australia, where the A$15.5 billion (£7.9 billion) international education market is the third-largest export industry.

Sri Lanka

EU adviser receives death threat

A senior Sri Lankan academic and human rights activist said he has received a death threat because of advice he gave to the European Union. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, executive director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, is among many critics of government policy to have received threats in recent months. The threatening letter was reportedly sent because the EU is planning to end trade concessions to Sri Lanka in October. "Come October and Sri Lanka is denied (the concessions) you will be killed," the letter says.

United States

Pell Grant spending rises sharply

An increase in the number of enrolments in US higher education this autumn could cause problems for Barack Obama's radical healthcare plans, the website InsideHigherEd reported. A government report from the Office of Management and Budget claims that federal spending on the Pell Grant programme will be $ billion (£16.6 billion) higher over the next decade than the Administration has estimated. There has been a sharp increase in the number of students claiming federal aid to enter college this year after President Obama called for every American to have at least one year of higher education. It is feared that the increased cost of Pell Grants could affect other goals, such as the healthcare reforms, which are to be funded with a planned $87 billion saving on student loans.

Australia

Online group seeks federal funds

An online higher education service owned by a group of public universities wants to tap into federal teaching subsidies to accelerate the expansion of online education in Australia. Stuart Hamilton, chief executive of Open Universities Australia (OUA), said subsidies made sense given plans for a major increase in tertiary education places by 2025. "We're in discussions with the federal Government about the opportunities that open universities can offer to help reach their ambition," he told The Australian newspaper. The OUA is owned by seven public universities: Monash, Curtin, Macquarie, Griffith, RMIT, Swinburne and South Australia. Mr Hamilton said it also planned to broaden its offerings.

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