Overseas briefing

September 17, 2009

Australia

Put a stop to 'exploitation'

Private education provision should be overseen by an independent national regulator to put a stop to the "exploitation" of foreign students, critics in Australia have said. The federal Government is being urged to step in following complaints from overseas students, including claims that private colleges have falsely marked them as absent and barred them from submitting assignments because they have missed payments. Students have complained that such practices have put their visas at risk, leaving them under threat of deportation unless they pay at once. David Barrow, president of the National Union of Students, told ABC News: "The stories you hear from international students are enough to make you weep. You hear about exploitation of all sorts, particularly in private colleges, and the State Ombudsman offices are not doing enough."

Hong Kong

Former dean goes down for fraud

A former dean of medicine at the University of Hong Kong has been sentenced to 25 months in jail after admitting misconduct in public office. Lam Shiu-kum pocketed HK$3.8 million (£294,000) in donations for medical research and payments for medical treatment at Queen Mary Hospital, which is linked to the university. The 66-year-old professor claimed the money was used to maintain an academic network, but the trial judge ruled that it was for his personal use, The Standard newspaper reported. The judge noted that Professor Lam had repaid the money and said he was otherwise a man of good character.

United States

Cartoon censorship angers critics

The decision to remove controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad from an academic book has landed Yale University in hot water with scholars and alumni. Yale University Press excised the cartoons from a book about the furore they caused across the Muslim world when they were published by Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper, in 2005. The Cartoons That Shook the World, by Jytte Klausen, professor of politics at Brandeis University, contained 12 caricatures that were deemed too inflammatory to print. A group of 25 prominent Yale alumni have written to the university to protest against the decision, while the American Association of University Professors said the censorship indicated that "we do not negotiate with terrorists, we just accede to their anticipated demands". Yale University Press said: "The decision rested solely on the experts' assessment that there existed a substantial likelihood of violence" if the cartoons were reprinted.

Iran

Make it more 'Islamic'

The study of humanities is set to be "Islamised" at universities in Iran, after the country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that Western teachings made students question religion. According to the Islamic Republic News Agency, the Institute for Humanities and Cultural Studies has been tasked by the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council to revise its human sciences curriculum. "In our country, a large part of the syllabus ... is not in line with our Iranian-Islamic culture. This calls for a revision," said Hamid Reza Ayatollahi, the head of the institute. During a recent meeting with academics, Ayatollah Khamenei criticised the humanities taught in the Islamic republic's universities. "If we teach a copy of what Westerners have said and written to our young people, then we are conveying to them both doubt and disbelief in Islamic principles," he said.

Canada

Higher fees to balance the books

Students face a hike in fees as Canadian universities strive to balance their books. Among the institutions to have announced increases for the new academic year is the University of Saskatchewan, where a 4 per cent hike will be accompanied by cuts to services. University officials said their operational budget was short by C$9.5 million (£5.3 million). Law students at Saskatchewan face an even greater increase, with fees set to rise by 8 per cent year on year, CBC News reported. The University of Regina is also raising its fees. In the new academic year, students will pay 3 per cent more than they did in 2008-09.

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