Overseas Briefing

January 14, 2010

France

Elite turn noses up at poor

The elite grandes ecoles have been criticised by the French Government for their reluctance to accept more students from poor families. La Conference des Grandes ecoles said that lowering entry qualifications to boost the number of grant-aided students would "lead to a lowering of standards", adding that the 220 institutions must remain the preserve of a "veritable Republican elite". Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, has said that 30 per cent of candidates preparing for entrance examinations to the grandes ecoles should come from low-income families. Luc Chatel, the Education Minister, said: "To suggest that standards would be lowered by admitting students from poorer backgrounds is profoundly shocking."

Iran

Protest over abuse of reformers

Nearly 90 academics at Iran's largest university have written to the nation's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, criticising the treatment of student and faculty protesters. The letter, by 88 academics at the University of Tehran, was posted on the reformist website Rahesabz. "The issue that has left a bitter taste in the mouths of the devout Muslim patriots of this land is the violent encounters, particularly with students and faculty members," it says. The academics ask the Ayatollah to order those who have engaged in campus violence to vacate the university, demand official apologies for university members who were beaten and call for the unconditional release of detained students and faculty.

Canada

'D' is for doctorates

Not enough Canadian students are completing doctorates because funding is too widely dispersed across a growing number of universities, according to a report. The Conference Board of Canada, an independent research group, gave Canada a "D" grade for its PhD graduation rate in its Education and Skills rankings. The country won an "A" rating overall for education, but with just 209 people completing doctorates per 100,000 25- to 29-year-olds, it ranked last out of 17 comparable countries for PhDs. Sweden was top, while the UK was fifth.

China

Phantom menace identified

The market in ghost-written academic papers was worth about £63 million in China last year, according to a study. Researchers at Wuhan University found that the trade in academic papers is big business, with annual sales increasing more than fivefold since 2007. The study says Chinese academics and students often buy and sell scientific papers to swell publication lists. Many of the supposed authors do not write the papers they sign, the report says.

India

Australian murders rekindle row

The deaths of two Indian men in Australia have reignited a simmering diplomatic row over the treatment of Indian students in the country. News of the death of Ranjodh Singh, 25, whose partially burnt body was found south-west of Sydney, followed the murder of Nitin Garg, 21, a Central Queensland University graduate who was stabbed in Melbourne. A spate of attacks last year in Melbourne and Sydney led to riots in India and fears that Australian universities would lose vital income from Indian students. S.M. Krishna, India's External Affairs Minister, called Mr Garg's murder "an uncivilised brutal attack on innocent Indians". He added that the attack "will have some bearing on bilateral ties between our two countries".

Taiwan

Rankings bust-up

The National Taiwan University has protested about an allegation that it resorted to "bad practices" to inflate its status in a world university ranking. Spain's Webometrics Ranking put NTU in 26th place for 2009, up from 55th place in 2008. However, Webometrics, which is run by an offshoot of the Spanish National Research Council, has accused NTU of resorting to dodgy practices to climb the table. Taiwan News reported that it accused NTU of "hosting large numbers of academic papers authored by scientists who do not belong" to the institution. NTU said that the allegation was not "clear" enough and had undermined its reputation.

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