Overseas briefing

October 1, 2009

Spain

Sun won't shine on Israeli team

The Spanish Government has disqualified a team from an Israeli university from taking part in a biennial competition to design and build houses using solar power because the institution is located in the West Bank. Solar Decathlon Europe 2010, which will take place in Spain next year, features 20 teams from universities around the world. The event's director-general, Sergio Vega, said: "The Ariel University Centre of Samaria is located in occupied territory in the West Bank, and the Government of Spain is obliged to respect the international agreement regarding this area." Ariel accused Spain of violating international charters regarding academic freedom, the website Israelnationalnews.com reported.

United States and Canada

Scientists' DIY media future

Thirty-five research universities in the US and Canada have launched an online news service to publish their research findings directly online. The project, led by Duke University, Stanford University and the University of Rochester, is an attempt to tackle the problem of the American media's "dramatically" declining interest in and coverage of science. A statement on the site, Futurity.org, which was formally launched last month, describes it as an "online research magazine" to highlight fresh discoveries from leading higher education institutions in North America.

Ireland

Heads refuse pay-cut plea

The refusal of seven university presidents in the Republic of Ireland to take a voluntary pay cut six months after Batt O'Keeffe, the Minister for Education and Science, requested that they do so has led to growing tensions between college heads and the minister. The Irish Times newspaper reported that some university presidents are furious about the minister's comments, arguing that they have already accepted cuts in take-home pay because of a levy on pensions. A spokesman for the Irish Universities Association said the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector would determine salary levels. The presidents earn up to EUR3,000 (£246,000) a year.

South Africa

Network primed for take-off

The Pan-African University (PAU), a continental network of institutions that will train postgraduate students and promote research in science and technology, is set to open its doors to its first 100 students next February at the University of Stellenbosch. The centre at Stellenbosch, one of five institutions that will host the project, will focus on space sciences, South African newspaper the Mail and Guardian reported. Supported by the African Union, the PAU will not construct new infrastructure, but will use existing universities to train masters and PhD students.

Fiji

Six to become one of three

A new university in Fiji, an amalgamation of six existing state-run tertiary institutions, is set to open early next year. Filipe Bole, the Education Minister, told local radio that the Fiji National University would be based at the Fiji College of Advanced Education at Nasinu. A vice-chancellor, independent of the constituent institutions, will be appointed to run the university. There are currently only two universities based in the country: the University of the South Pacific and the University of Fiji.

Canada

The weaker sex need help

A Canadian academic is calling for men to be classed as a disadvantaged group in post-secondary education. Torben Drewes, professor of economics at Trent University in Ontario, where more than 60 per cent of students are female, told the Ottawa Citizen newspaper that hard work alone would not bring boys to the level of their female counterparts. "Whatever is going on in the high-school system rewards girls more than boys," he said. A study authored by the professor concludes that just under half of the difference between male-female grades can be explained by girls studying more than boys. The paper argues that the other half is the result of females' greater efficiency in converting a given amount of study time into grades. In 2006, about 56 per cent of Canadian undergraduates were women.

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