Overseas briefing

May 6, 2010

United States

Student debt mountain grows

Nearly a fifth of US students borrow $30,500 (£19,896) or more to complete their bachelor's degrees, according to a new analysis. A report from the College Board Advocacy and Policy Center also notes that a disproportionate number of high-borrowing students are black. The students who borrow the most are more likely to have attended a private non-profit or for-profit college than a public four-year institution, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported. About 17 per cent of students graduated with debts of $30,500 or more in 2008. Another 25 per cent of all college-degree recipients graduated with at least $24,600 of debt, and 10 per cent were left at least $39,300 in the red, says the report, Who Borrows Most? Bachelor's Degree Recipients with High Levels of Student Debt.

Africa

Self-assessment

The African Union (AU) has launched a scheme to monitor quality in the continent's universities. Vice-chancellors in AU member states have been asked to respond to a questionnaire circulated by its Commission on Teaching and Research. The survey, Developing a Quality Rating Mechanism for African Higher Education, asks institutions to assess their own quality levels, The East African newspaper reported. Speaking in Nairobi at the first round-table meeting of East African education ministers, AU representative Beatrice Njenga said that the continent's universities had no choice but to ensure that the calibre of graduates they produced met modern demands.

Australia

Watching the watchers

Universities Australia (UA) is pushing for greater control of a new higher education agency following concerns that it may undermine institutional autonomy. Peter Coaldrake, chairman of the umbrella group, has written to Lisa Paul, secretary at the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, calling for the functions of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (Teqsa) to be phased in gradually. The Australian newspaper reported that UA is "advocating the creation of an interim higher education advisory committee to oversee the design and early implementation of Teqsa. The committee would have strong university representation." Professor Coaldrake said that the reputational damage caused by poor-quality private providers "requires that registration and accreditation be the early and high-priority focus" in regulatory reform.

India

One way in

Seven newly created central universities in India are to offer a combined entrance examination. The NDTV website reported that the institutions involved are the central universities of Bihar, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kashmir, Kerala, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. The move is a "significant step" aimed at reducing the need for students to sit multiple admissions tests, and will see combined exams introduced for about 25 courses, the website said. B.P. Sanjay, vice-chancellor of Tamil Nadu Central University, said: "This will provide an opportunity to aspiring students in any part of the country to apply for any of the seven central universities."

Canada

Bogus journeys blocked

The Ontario provincial government is launching a crackdown on private universities that try to attract foreign students using bogus degrees. The province has introduced rules allowing it to shut down colleges that offer degrees without approval from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. The move comes as Ontario aims to attract up to 50 per cent more foreign students. Until now, to take action in such cases, the government had to seek recourse through the courts, The Globe and Mail newspaper reported. "At the centre of the crackdown are such schools as Hawkesbury University, which bills itself online as 'an independent, co-educational business and liberal arts international institution of higher learning'," the newspaper reported. "The institution, which is headquartered at Prestige Restaurant in Hawkesbury, has no approvals from the Ontario government to do business in the province as a university."

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