Overseas briefing

April 22, 2010

United States

Undefended and suspended

A former student of Brown University in Rhode Island is suing the institution, alleging that he was suspended without a chance to defend himself after being accused of rape by the daughter of an alumnus and major donor. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that the student, William R. McCormick III, claims the university accepted the female student's allegations without investigating them, suspended him indefinitely and gave him a one-way ticket home to Wisconsin in September 2006. The lawsuit also alleges that the university impeded his ability to gather evidence for a judicial hearing and that he was coerced by his accuser's lawyer into signing an agreement to leave Brown permanently. To date, no criminal charges have been filed in the case. According to the Chronicle, the suit "alleges that throughout the process, the accuser's father, who has donated and raised very substantial sums of money for Brown, was in regular contact with high-level university officials and called its president, Ruth J. Simmons, directly".


Feeling the overseas squeeze

Immigration reforms could result in Australia losing out in the market for foreign postgraduates. Glenn Withers, chief executive officer of Universities Australia, said that the priority given to employer-sponsored skilled migrants could make it harder to attract PhD candidates from abroad, The Australian newspaper reported. "That is squeezing the independent category, where our PhD students, and indeed many of our undergraduates, choose to apply," he said. Dr Withers said that universities lacked the career structure to offer overseas PhDs the jobs necessary to sponsor them. A typical postdoctoral position funded by a three-year project grant from the Australian Research Council was not enough to qualify, he added.


'Culture of misconduct'

Rampant plagiarism and ghost-writing of research papers could hinder China's efforts to become a leader in science, the country has been warned. State-run media "recently exulted over reports that China publishes more papers in international journals than any country except the US", the Associated Press reported. But "academic fraud, misconduct and ethical violations are very common in China", said Rao Yi, dean of life sciences at Peking University. Critics blame weak penalties for offenders and a system that bases promotions and bonuses on the number, rather than quality, of papers published. Richard P. Suttmeier, an expert in Chinese science policy at the University of Oregon, said: "I suspect there will be less appetite for non-Chinese scientists to collaborate with Chinese colleagues who are operating in a culture of misconduct."


Black day in Islamabad

Academics at public-sector universities in Pakistan joined forces for a "black day" to protest about violence against staff. The Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Associations led the action, which saw academics dress in black for a protest in Islamabad, the Daily Times newspaper reported. The group called for action from federal and provincial governments to prevent violence, plus the release of Lutfullah Khan Kakakhel, vice-chancellor of Kohat University, who was kidnapped six months ago. In addition, the Sindh University Teachers Association demanded that the University of the Punjab take disciplinary action against members of the students' organisation Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, who are alleged to have assaulted a professor.


Green, green grass of home

The rise of "grass-eating" young people is being blamed for a 52 per cent decline in Japanese enrolments at US universities in the past 10 years. "Once a voracious consumer of American higher education, Japan is becoming a nation of grass-eaters," said the The Washington Post, using a Japanese expression referring to those who prefer their home turf. Drew Faust, Harvard University's president, said that when she visited Japan last month, she met students and teachers who told her that Japanese young people preferred the comfort of home to venturing overseas. They added that the economic advantage of attending a US college was questionable.

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