Overseas briefing

November 19, 2009

United States

Speak out, professor

American academics are being urged to speak out to protect their freedom of speech amid fears over the potential impact of a Supreme Court ruling. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has launched an awareness campaign called "Speak Up, Speak Out: Protect the Faculty Voice". The action stems from an AAUP report on academic freedom and tenure that examined the 2006 Supreme Court decision in a freedom of speech case, Garcetti v Ceballos. The court found that the Government could restrict the speech of public employees when they commented on issues related to their "official duties". Although the decision set aside "speech related to scholarship or teaching", the AAUP said that several lower courts have since ruled that academics who speak out on matters affecting their institutions are not protected under the First Amendment.


'Ritualistic sexism' in Sydney

The University of Sydney is to introduce an institution-wide approach to harassment allegations following claims about an "alcohol-soaked culture of ritualistic sexism". The Australian newspaper reported claims that male students at the university were operating a points systems to rate their sexual exploits, and were holding "tight and white" parties at the all-male St Paul's College, to which female students are invited and told to wear wet, skimpy clothes. The newspaper said that past and present students of St Paul's had also set up a "pro-rape, anti-consent" group on Facebook.


Sino-Arabian science links

Chinese and Arab universities have set out plans to build scientific research links at the Forum on Chinese-Arab Co-operation in Fields of Scientific Research, held in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum. Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, said participants stressed the need to increase the number of students moving between China and Arab countries. Li Lianhe, a representative of China's Foreign Ministry, said: "Education is the base of everything, and we believe this standing co-operation is fruitful and will achieve common benefits for China and the Arab countries. China is concerned with developing its relations with the Arab countries and increasing the level of partnership in the field of higher education."


High time for an overhaul

Plans for a radical overhaul of India's higher education system, including legislation to allow foreign universities to operate in the country, should have been introduced a decade and a half ago, a government minister has said. Kapil Sibal said the Administration's plans to establish a new legal framework to unshackle India's universities would lead to the creation of world-leading institutions and were long overdue. He told the Indian Economic Forum: "World-class institutions can't be built overnight, but that doesn't mean we can't lay the foundations for world-class universities over the next five to ten years. We have no time. This should have happened 15 years ago." As Times Higher Education has reported, the Indian Government plans to introduce a foreign education Bill in the next parliamentary session.


Record rise in student numbers

The number of students entering higher education in Ireland has hit a record level. According to figures from the Higher Education Authority, there has been an 8.6 per cent increase - the largest ever - in the number of students accepting places this year. The number of first-year students in the country stands at 45,582, bringing the number of full-time undergraduates to more than 110,000. The Irish Independent reported that the increase in first-year students represents a 22 per cent rise since 2000, and said there were now more students in Ireland than people working in the farming industry. Michael Kelly, chairman of the HEA, said the increase in numbers was "phenomenal". "They clearly show the strong demand for higher education. Up to two out of every three 18-year-olds are now taking a place (at university or college)."

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