Overseas briefing

January 21, 2010

China

Chinese burns for Yale benefactor

A Chinese graduate who made an $8,888,888 (£5,444,076) donation to Yale University has sparked an online backlash by overlooking his home alma mater. Zhang Lei graduated from Renmin University with a degree in international finance in 1989 and the Yale School of Management in 2002. He then set up an investment fund in Beijing. A comment on the Global Times newspaper's website branded him "scum, trash, dog faeces, traitor ... The Chinese education system helped you, but Americans have only ever given us trouble. Helping them hurts China. Got it?" But others backed his move and one said it amounted to a "silent protest" over the state of Chinese universities.

United States

Helping hand for Africa

Partnerships between African and American universities are set to receive a $15 million (£9.2 million) boost. The investment is laid out in a US federal spending bill for 2010, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported. The funds will expand collaborations focused on strengthening higher education in sub-Saharan Africa as a way to develop the region's economy. The US Agency for International Development and the Higher Education for Development group last year announced an initial round of grants to 20 African and 20 US colleges.

Sweden

That's a negative

Affirmative action in Swedish universities is to be abolished as it has led to male students being given priority for some courses. The Government has allowed universities to use affirmative action since 2003, with the aim of ensuring an equal number of male and female students. But men have been given priority on courses where they are under-represented, such as medicine, psychology and dentistry. Tobias Krantz, Sweden's Higher Education Minister, said in an article in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper: "The education system should open doors - not slam them in the face of motivated young women."

Canada

'Elitist?' We're really in trouble

A former academic who could become Canada's next prime minister has denied that his tour of the country's universities is "elitist". Michael Ignatieff, who has taught at Harvard University, the University of Cambridge and the London School of Economics, is the leader of Canada's Liberal Party. The National Post newspaper reported that at the University of Montreal, he fielded questions from students on subjects ranging from the financial crisis to the US position on greenhouse-gas emissions. "People say I am elitist to be spending time in universities," he told the audience. "My goodness, if it is elitist to focus on post-secondary education, then we are really in trouble."

Germany

Shorter degrees, higher dropouts

A study has found that more German students are dropping out of the shorter degrees introduced under Europe-wide reforms, supporting claims that undergraduates are being "overwhelmed". The study, by the Higher Education Information System, looks at dropout rates at German colleges and universities and students' reasons for quitting. The Deutsche Welle website said the report shows that many of the new three-year bachelor programmes, which replaced the longer Magister under the Bologna Process, are "asking students to do too much in too little time". It added that the study states that while dropouts had decreased for language and humanities courses, students in mathematics, science and engineering are leaving in greater numbers.

France

THE writer anointed by Sarkozy

A professor of sociology and African and African-American studies at Harvard University has been appointed to the second Haut Conseil de la Science et de la Technologie by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Michele Lamont, who wrote an analysis of the recent upheaval in the French academy for Times Higher Education last month, joins a distinguished team of academics and research directors to advise the Government on policy issues. Professor Lamont has made her career in the US but studied for a PhD at the University of Paris and has held visiting professorships at other French institutions.

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