Overseas Briefing

February 18, 2010

United States

Ivy League cutbacks

Financial hardship has prompted an Ivy League institution to lay off staff and cut back on scholarships for students. Dartmouth College has announced that it will axe 76 staff from the ranks of its managers and hourly workers. In addition, students from families with incomes above $75,000 (£48,050) will no longer be entitled to scholarships: they will have to take out loans instead. Dartmouth eliminated loans from all financial-aid packages two years ago and replaced them with scholarships. The college's president, Jim Yong Kim, said that "financial realities" had dictated the changes. The Chronicle of Higher Education said: "Dartmouth is the first Ivy League institution to scale back its policy, with changes going into effect for students who enter in the autumn of 2011. Observers wonder if other colleges will make similar moves."

Australia

Sector warns of access 'rethink'

Universities must overcome a funding gap of up to A$15 billion (£8.4 billion) if they are to meet the Australian Government's 15-year participation targets, leading figures have warned. Unease about infrastructure funding overshadowed last week's Australian Technology Network (ATN) conference in Melbourne, The Australian newspaper reported. Ross Milbourne, vice-chancellor of the University of Technology, Sydney, and ATN chairman, said: "I think the Government and the sector are going to have to have a rethink about how increased participation is going to be achieved." Speaking from the floor, Steve Somogyi, chief operating officer of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, warned that fulfilling the targets would strain the balance sheets of all universities.

India

Minister rejects 'profiteering'

India must not allow "profiteering" in higher education, a Cabinet minister has said. Kapil Sibal, Minister for Human Resource Development, was speaking at an interactive session on the "Changing face of Indian education" in New Delhi, The Hindu newspaper reported. "Let us be clear that Indian businessmen, who probably because of the meltdown do not get profit anywhere, want to get profit out of education. I, as a minister, will stand as a rock to ensure it does not happen," he said. Mr Sibal added that educational institutions could make a profit, but that it must be reinvested in the sector. He asked: "Which country allows profits from education? No country. Harvard is a trust. Yale is a trust. Stanford is a trust. Mr Stanford is not known for his business, but for his philanthropy."

New Zealand

PM: take study seriously, or else

Students who "refuse to take their tertiary studies seriously" will not be given government funding, New Zealand's Prime Minister has hinted. John Key, leader of the centre-right National Party, told the country's Parliament that he wanted to improve value for money from the NZ$2.78 billion (£1.2 billion) the Government spends on higher education annually. It will make changes to ensure that courses are relevant to the job market and "of a consistently high quality", he said. "We will also take a careful look at the policy settings around student support to ensure that taxpayers' generosity is not being exploited by those who refuse to take their tertiary studies seriously, or who show little inclination to transition from training into work," he added. David Do, co-president of the New Zealand Union of Students' Associations, said: "We reject the characterisation that students do not take their studies seriously."

Ireland

Call for fewer science places

The number of undergraduate places at Irish universities should be cut, according to leading scholars. In a submission to a review of higher education strategy, the Royal Irish Academy says: "Undergraduate education has been compromised by accommodating students inadequately prepared for higher-level courses." It argues that to improve the quality of science education, the number of places should be reduced. Rory More O'Ferrall, emeritus professor of organic chemistry at University College Dublin, and one of the report's authors, said: "Everyone is shovelled into university. The funding model is based on the idea that they take in as many students as possible."

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