Overseas briefing

April 29, 2010

Canada

Quebec outraged by fees hike

The Quebec government has threatened to claw back public funding for McGill University after the institution in Montreal said it would raise MBA tuition fees to C$30,000 (£19,568) a year. McGill announced that fees for the programme would climb in the autumn from about C$1,700 for Quebec students (those from elsewhere pay more). The Globe and Mail newspaper said: "The dispute between Quebec and the top-ranked university has turned into a showdown over funding: McGill, facing chronic underfinancing, says it needs more revenue to maintain quality, while the government says it has the ultimate say over setting fees." The provincial government has "sent McGill notice" that it will take back close to C$30,000 in financing for each Quebec student on the course to negate any gain from the hike, the paper added.

Taiwan

China and the great brawl

Dozens of Taiwanese MPs scuffled in parliament over a controversial bill to open local universities to students from the Republic of China. Several members of the opposition manhandled Chao Li-yun, an MP from the ruling Kuomintang Party, to stop her chairing a review of the bill, and grappled with others who tried to come to her rescue, the AFP news agency reported. A table was overturned and two lawmakers mounted a podium and shouted at each other in chaotic scenes that resulted in Ms Chao collapsing and being taken to hospital. Taiwan plans to admit Chinese students for the first time as early as this year to help fill a shortage of students caused partly by the island's dwindling birth rate. Kuan Bi-ling, of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, said the government was "selling out education to China".

Australia

Elite feel the heat

Newer and technology-focused universities have eaten into the research-intensive institutions' share of scholarly publications in their pursuit of funding. An analysis by Ross Williams, professorial Fellow at the Melbourne Institute, University of Melbourne, shows that the national share of research papers attributable to the older "sandstone universities" has fallen by almost 2 per cent recently. "In the five years to 2008, the pre-Dawkins universities (dating from before the 1989 reforms that introduced fees) increased their annual publications by about 40 per cent, whereas the increase for the post-Dawkins universities was 65 per cent," Professor Williams writes in the Australian Universities' Review. Ian Chubb, vice-chancellor of the Australian National University, said: "Perverse funding incentives reward universities for publishing anything at all and have no regard for its value or its quality."

Africa

Minister: mind the fundamentals

A Nigerian government official has bemoaned Africa's failure to establish world-class universities. AllAfrica.com reported on comments by Oladapo Afolabi, permanent secretary in the Federal Ministry of Education, who said the entire continent needed to get back to basics. He made the remarks in Abuja at a regional capacity-building workshop on issues such as institutional quality and assurance systems for Africa's anglophone and lusophone countries, the website said. Mr Afolabi said of African universities: "When you put the finished products, the graduates, to the test, you discover that their output is very discouraging. I look forward to a situation where some institutions can run effectively with the goal of attaining global standards. Let's go back to the basics, let's consolidate."

New Zealand

Give more to stop Oz brain drain

New Zealand has been warned that it will lose high-quality staff and students to Australia without more government investment in the academy. Sir David Skegg, vice-chancellor of the University of Otago, says in a statement to appear in Otago's accounts that the university attracts about NZ$28,000 (£12,947) per full-time student in government funding, the Otago Daily Times reported. That is about half the public funding received by the University of Western Australia, with which Otago works closely. "Unless this gap in funding can be narrowed, it is hard to see how New Zealand universities can continue to attract and retain staff and students of the highest calibre," he said.

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