Overseas briefing

December 17, 2009

Australia

Closures leave foreigners in lurch

International students studying at two Australian colleges have been left high and dry after the institutions were shut down by a state regulator. The Australian Institute of Career Education and the Australian International College of Commerce were closed by the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority after they failed to meet the "most basic education standards". About 40 Melbourne colleges teaching overseas students are currently being audited in a bid to weed out operators threatening the reputation of Australia's multibillion-dollar international-education industry.

United States

Boon for baboons on death row

Baboons that were to be used to test an anthrax vaccine at Oklahoma State University have been spared after the intervention of the university president. Burns Hargis was forced to reject claims he had stepped in due to pressure from animal-rights extremists or wealthy benefactors unhappy about the 124 baboons' fate. His last-minute decision to axe the tests raised eyebrows, as the experiments had been cleared by both the US National Institutes of Health and the university's own animal-use ethics committee, New Scientist magazine reported.

China

Baby kidnap raises questions

A university has been told to take action to address security failures at its hospital after the kidnapping of a newborn baby by an impostor posing as a nurse. The First Hospital, part of Xi'an Jiaotong University, is "responsible for the theft", according to Ge Yunfeng, an official in the Shaanxi provincial health department. He added that the Government would leave it to the university to take action, as it was responsible for internal personnel and disciplinary matters. Xinhua, the state-run news agency, reported that the baby was taken just 15 hours after she was born. She was reunited with her mother, a 20-year-old woman, two days later, when police found the baby in southern Guangdong Province.

South Africa

Brickbats for bursary failures

The Higher Education Minister of South Africa has heavily criticised universities in the country for failing to help poor families. Blade Nzimande told the South African Students Congress that universities were failing to use the extra cash made available to them to fund bursaries for poor students. He said that families with more than one child of university age were particularly hard hit, as institutions frequently imposed inflexible rules, providing bursaries only to families that earn less than 120,000 rand (£9,780) a year regardless of the number of children planning to study. Dr Nzimande pledged that his department would tackle the problem, as well as examining the funding of postgraduate students.

United States

'Master Plan' under scrutiny

Policymakers in California have held the first of several hearings on the state's 50-year-old Master Plan for Higher Education. The 1960 Master Plan created a co-ordinated structure of colleges and universities, a world-class system that acted as a major driver of California's economic growth. But the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper reported that far smaller sums of public money are now being invested in higher education, prompting a crisis. Charles Reed, chancellor of California State University, told the hearing that the plan "is not broken", but that without a cash injection, it could be brought to its knees. He added: "The future of California is tied to education." Ira Ruskin, co-chairman of the committee evaluating the plan, said: "We can all agree that our current system is in crisis and that we can rescue it before it's too late."

Canada

App in hand for big bucks

The University of Saskatchewan has become the first in Canada to offer a course in the potentially lucrative field of iPhone applications. The applications, which can range from games to electronic tools, can earn their developers a small fortune if they are successfully marketed on Apple's iPhone and iPod. Chad Jones, a lecturer on the software development course, said the market was "huge", with iPhone "apps" generating revenue of C$500 million (£289 million) a month.

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