Overseas briefing

January 28, 2010

United States

Medics reject Baptist merger

Moves to strengthen links between a medical college and a Baptist university have led to protests over a potential clash between religion and science. Hundreds of staff and students have signed a petition opposing closer links between Baylor College of Medicine and Baylor University, a Baptist institution it separated from 40 years ago. The interim president of the medical college, William T. Butler, confirmed that it was discussing "a strengthening of our longstanding affiliation with Baylor University", The Chronicle of Higher Education reported. The petition tells college management: "The religious ideologies that permeate throughout BU's academic policies may adversely affect both scientific progress and the culture at BCM, particularly in relation to issues such as evolution, embryonic stem cells and sexual orientation ... We believe that science and medicine must be separate from religion, and urge you to reject any such merger."

France

Buoyed by the black stuff

A French business school is to offer degrees in Qatar, establishing itself as the centre for an oil company's executive training. The Qatar Foundation, which runs the Education City campus in Doha, and HEC Paris have signed a deal allowing the latter to establish itself in the emirate. HEC Paris will offer courses such as an executive masters in business administration through the Qatar Foundation's Management Education and Research Centre. The oil company Total said it will make HEC Paris in Qatar its centre for management and executive development in the Middle East. Mohamed Fathy Saoud, president of the Qatar Foundation, said HEC was the first French institution to set up shop in Education City, which is already home to branch campuses of a number of US universities.

India

Riots as institutions lose status

Violent protests have met the Indian Government's decision to strip 44 institutions of university status. In a report to the Supreme Court, the Government said that a review committee "came across several aberrations in the functioning of some of the institutions deemed to be universities". Nearly 200,000 students are enrolled at the institutions. The Times of India newspaper reported that in one protest, 3,000 students at Vinayaka Mission University "blocked traffic and stoned buses", injuring a senior police officer. The institutions affected include three government-sponsored bodies: the Nava Nalanda Mahavihara in Bihar, the National Museum Institute of the History of Art, Conservation and Museology in Delhi, and the Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development in Sriperumbudur.

Ireland

Umbrella body put down

The National University of Ireland (NUI), an umbrella body representing nine institutions, has been dissolved by the Irish Government. Batt O'Keeffe, Minister for Education, said the small number of administrative and academic functions still carried out by the NUI would be redistributed among its members, the RTE website reported. The umbrella body, which was established in 1908, awards qualifications up to PhD level from a range of institutions including University College Dublin and University College Cork. Brian Hayes, Fine Gael Education Spokesman, criticised the decision, claiming it was made without consulting the institutions.

Unesco

'No' to commodification

Students worldwide have united to oppose the "commodification of higher education". European, Asian, African, Arab, North American and Australian student organisations met this month at the headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in Paris to issue a Global Student Declaration. The groups stated their opposition to "opening up higher education as a free market through processes such as World Trade Organisation negotiations and the General Agreement on Trade and Services". Ligia Deca, chair of the European Students' Union, said: "We oppose restricting access by imposing tuition fees or increases in their levels. Such developments are inevitable if governments continue allowing commodification of education while moving away from it as a public responsibility."

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