Overseas briefing

March 4, 2010

United States

Scientists go to Washington

Representatives of leading research universities have visited Capitol Hill to plead their case for more federal funding to rebuild neglected science facilities. Administrators from several US institutions appeared before the House Research and Science Education Subcommittee last month. Among them was Leslie Tolbert, vice-president for research at the University of Arizona, who testified that this year alone, her institution was about $200 million (£131 million) short of what it needed for building maintenance, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported. Daniel Lipinski, the subcommittee's chairman, said he was concerned that the US "could lose our position as scientific leader" as a result of universities' crumbling infrastructure.


Hike fees or 'students will suffer'

Quebec's experiment with low tuition fees has been a failure that is harming its universities and economy, according to a former leader of the province. Ex-premier Lucien Bouchard has joined others pushing the provincial Liberal Government to end a tuition freeze that has stood for more than 15 years. The freeze was put in place by Mr Bouchard's Parti Quebecois in the mid-1990s as a way of guaranteeing access to higher education in the province, reported the Canadian Press news agency. "Quebec universities are dangerously underfunded compared with those in (the rest of) ... North America," Mr Bouchard said. "These precarious finances have now reached a critical stage. If nothing is done, it is students who will suffer first." Quebec students pay roughly C$1,700 (£1,050) a year in tuition, barely one third of the Canadian average.

South Korea

Nobel ambitions

Ten Nobel Prize or Fields Medal winners in science and mathematics are being sought as part of a South Korean university's ambitious recruitment programme. Pohang University of Science and Technology has unveiled a W150 billion (£84.3 million) project to break into the ranks of the world's top 50 universities. However, The Korea Times newspaper said that "the school's plan appears to be lacking in detail". It reported that Pohang refused to respond to its questions about how it would attract and retain ten Nobel laureates or pay for the programme. From this month, the university will conduct all its courses in English and require all students to speak only English on campus, the newspaper stated.


Deliver us from Climategate

University leaders in Australia want to see a public campaign to restore the intellectual authority of science in the wake of recent climate change scandals. Peter Coaldrake, chairman of Universities Australia and vice-chancellor of Queensland University of Technology, told The Australian newspaper that he was "concerned about the way the climate change debate has flowed". "It worries me that this tabloid decimation of science comes at a time when we have a major issue in terms of the number of people taking science at university," he said. Margaret Sheil, chief executive of the Australian Research Council, added that she was deeply concerned about the backlash generated by emails hacked from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit and criticisms of Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.


Cops can stay, judges rule

Paramilitary police were allowed to remain on a university campus following a ruling by the Indian Supreme Court. Last month thousands of police occupied the vast Osmania University campus in Hyderabad, which educates about 300,000 students, following claims that the institution had been infiltrated by Maoist guerrillas. An order by the Andhra Pradesh High Court that the state Government should pull the police out was temporarily lifted by the Supreme Court last month. However, the Hindustan Times newspaper reported that the court also ordered that the occupation of the campus should be supervised by Gopal K. Pillai, India's Home Secretary, and that "paramilitary forces should not be allowed to misbehave in any manner with the students".

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