Overseas briefing

March 25, 2010

United States

Papers trail leads to freshman

A student who worked in the archives of Drew University in New Jersey has been accused of stealing letters written by Abraham Lincoln. William John Scott appeared before a magistrate charged with knowingly stealing an object of cultural heritage from a museum, The New York Times reported. Federal prosecutors said Mr Scott, a first-year political science student, also stole letters by John Wesley, the founding father of Methodism, while working part-time at Drew's archives. He is alleged to have sold some of them for thousands of dollars and left others sitting in a dresser drawer, where FBI agents found them after searching his room. Mr Scott, a member of Drew's lacrosse team, was arrested as a bus bringing the players back from a tour returned to the university.

Australia

Crashing out

A new online application system for research grants is so frustrating that it risks driving away talent, according to a researchers' body. Gabby Fennessy, policy and strategy programme manager at Research Australia, spoke out in The Australian newspaper after the system for medical research grants became so overloaded that it crashed three times in 24 hours in the run-up to the country's largest medical grant round. "People drop out of the industry all the time because of the cycle of having to apply for their own jobs," Dr Fennessy said. "This is another straw to break the camel's back." Medical research bodies told the newspaper that researchers often were able to complete only one line of a 20-page application before the system froze.

Canada

Miss out the middlemen

The current higher education funding programme for native Canadians is failing and should be scrapped, a think-tank has argued. The MacDonald-Laurier Institute said the money should go directly to students instead. The CBC News website said that at present more than C$300 million (£193 million) goes towards the programme each year, with the money "transferred from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada to individual native bands. Those bands then distribute the money to the students." The think-tank says in a report: "This funding system is failing the tests of accountability and transparency; most importantly, it is failing the test of getting the money to those it is intended to help...While certain bands have proven capable of effectively distributing the funds, many have not." The report says problems include nepotism and favouritism.

Pakistan

Money for old rope

Students in Pakistan are campaigning against being forced to pay for an examination that has "no worth", but without which their degrees are not recognised. Members of the Scholars Welfare Association (SWA) demonstrated outside the Higher Education Commission in Islamabad, the Daily Times newspaper reported. They are angry that the commission does not recognise their MPhil and PhD degrees without the $200 (£130) Graduate Record Examination, or GRE. Jabir Hussain Syed, SWA general secretary, told the newspaper: "GRE is a US-based testing system that has no worth for Pakistani students. Instead of honouring the decision of the academic council, which also rejected its policy on GRE, the commission has not reversed its decision, which is causing unrest among faculty members and students."

New Zealand

Success will pay...failure won't

Universities and polytechnics will have their funding cut if students fail their courses, New Zealand's higher education minister has warned. The penalties unveiled by Steven Joyce follow his previous announcement that failing students will not qualify for further student loans, The New Zealand Herald reported. Mr Joyce said that the link between institutions' funding and their students' performance would be low to start with to give them time to adjust. "But linking some funding directly to academic performance is on its way," he added. "I'm confident that this approach will encourage institutions to provide more support for their students and achieve better results." The Herald said the move left Mr Joyce open to claims that it "will create incentives for universities to pass students who don't deserve it".

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