Overseas briefing

April 8, 2010

United States

Palin's payday draws fire

Former US vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin is expected to earn nearly $200,000 (£133,000) for an appearance at California State University, Stanislaus. The San Francisco Chronicle newspaper said that the university foundation, which is hosting the event at the institution's Turlock campus in June, will not reveal what it is paying the former governor of Alaska. Its silence angered a California state senator who is behind a bill for greater transparency in public university foundations. "The CSU should immediately disclose how much money is being diverted from students to pay Ms Palin's exorbitant speaking fees," said Leland Yee. "At a time when students are struggling to afford an education at CSU, I would hope that spending potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars on a guest speaker for a black-tie gala would be low on the priority list." University officials said that students would benefit from the $500-a-plate fundraiser. Ticket sales reportedly have been brisk.

South Africa

Grave concerns over HIV rates

A survey of South African universities has found that 3.4 per cent of students and 1.5 per cent of academic staff are infected with HIV. The infection rate among the general population between the ages of 15 and 49 is 16.9 per cent. The survey, commissioned by the Department of Higher Education and Training, had 23,000 respondents from 21 of South Africa's 23 universities. News website timeslive. co.za quoted higher education and training minister Bonginkosi "Blade" Nzimande as saying that he would support a campaign to raise awareness of the epidemic on campus. "If we don't incorporate HIV/Aids awareness, we are merely training our young people for the grave," he said.

Australia

Macquarie mulls over bond issue

Sydney's Macquarie University may move to issue bonds after receiving the third-highest rating available from a leading financial risk analyst, Business Week magazine reported. "We are examining our financing options, including the possibility of a bond sale," said Greg Welsh, media manager at the university. "We should reach a decision in the next month." Moody's Investors Service gave the university an Aa2 rating because of its "sound operating performance, positive liquidity level and strong market position". Moody's noted that the high rating was also based on the fact that the Australian government would be likely to offer Macquarie financial support in a "crisis situation".

China/Malaysia

The feeling is mutual

Government officials from China and Malaysia have met to discuss plans for mutual recognition of university degrees in both countries. The Malaysian national news agency Bernama reported that a delegation from China's Education Ministry visited Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, to advance proposals previously outlined in a memorandum of understanding signed in November 2009. Hou Kok Chung, Malaysia's deputy minister for higher education, said there were currently 9,000 students from China studying in Malaysia, and 2,000 from Malaysia at universities in China. He added: "We believe the outcome of the discussions will be beneficial for both countries ... there are only some technical problems to be resolved."

Canada

First Nations institution reprieved

Funds have been returned to Canada's only aboriginal-run university one week before its money was set to run out, The Globe and Mail newspaper reported. The First Nations University of Canada, dogged by allegations of financial mismanagement for years, has been promised four years' funding by the Saskatchewan government. Rob Norris, the province's advanced education minister, said he would be "lobbying aggressively" for the federal government to follow Saskatchewan's lead in reinvesting in the university. Earlier this year, both governments stopped more than C$12 million (£7.8 million) in annual funding to the institution. The withdrawal was prompted by the firing of the university's senior financial officer after he exposed questionable spending practices by senior staff. The officer later filed a claim for wrongful dismissal.

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