Overseas briefing

April 15, 2010

United States

Pay up and play the game

California's hard-up state universities are diverting funds meant for classrooms and students to cover land deals and construction projects, according to reports. The Los Angeles Times newspaper said that student fees at the University of California, Los Angeles were being used to renovate its basketball stadium, and that California State University, Sacramento used general cash to cover a bad land investment. "Experts say the moves, made without wide student knowledge or public oversight, show that administrators have put aggressive business plans ahead of the teaching mission," it said. "When things go wrong, they're dipping into student fees, scholarship funds and money meant for classes to pick up the tab." In 2006, UCLA launched a campaign to raise $100 million (£65 million) from private contributors to pay for the $185 million stadium upgrade. But when the recession hit, the plan was changed to include $25 million from student fees, the newspaper alleged.


A well-rounded education

Higher education is being asked to play its part in propagating France's devotion to wine while combating binge drinking. A report recommends that university canteens hold wine-tasting sessions. The report was commissioned by Valerie Pecresse, minister for higher education, and offers a range of proposals on student drinking, including "initiation to a moderate consumption of wine". Jean-Pierre Coffe, a celebrated gourmand and co-author of the study, argued that universities should give students an education in wine. "Why is there sex education and not viticultural education? You can learn wine, too," he said. However, Ms Pecresse said: "Yes to education of taste, no to wine at lunchtime for students."


OECD: expose them to the market

Students in Finnish universities would be more in tune with the labour market if they had to pay tuition fees, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. The news agency AFP reported that the OECD, which brings together governments "committed to democracy and the market economy", discussed higher education in its economic survey of Finland. The study says Finnish students are "insulated from labour-market signals by not having to repay the cost of their tuition". The OECD, which highlighted the "ready access to generous in-study benefits" that supposedly contributes to this insulating effect, said tuition fees could also shorten study times at university.


No scarfing matter

The right to wear an Islamic headscarf is reportedly among the reasons why 1,000 Turkish students have left home to go to university in Bosnia. Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister of Turkey, officially opened a new campus of the International University of Sarajevo on the outskirts of the Bosnian capital. "I hope that a cultural bridge will be created at this university that will connect the people and secure peace in the Balkans," he said. Mr Erdogan heads an Islamist-rooted government and his wife wears a headscarf, Reuters noted. However, Turkey remains a secular state and women are forbidden to wear headscarves at university there. "I came here because of a scarf problem," architecture student Cahide Nur Cunuk told Reuters, explaining that she could not enrol at a Turkish university after graduating from an Islamic theological high school.


Minister aims to repair link

An Australian Cabinet minister met with one of his Indian counterparts to discuss how his country is improving student safety following a wave of attacks on Indian nationals. Kapil Sibal, India's human resource development minister, met Stephen Smith, Australia's foreign minister, in Perth. "The visit assumes significance in the wake of more than 100 incidents of assaults against Indian students," The Hindu newspaper said. Mr Smith said: "We discussed the ongoing steps that Australian governments are taking to ensure that Indian students in Australia remain safe ... We also looked to the future of the Australia-India education relationship, which presents enormous opportunities."

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