Overseas briefing

May 13, 2010

Australia

Fringe benefits of spending boost

Raising Australia's higher education spending to the average of the world's leading economies would add 6.1 per cent to the country's gross domestic product by 2040, a report claims. The KPMG Econtech study says by increasing the spending, the federal government could also raise living standards by 5.5 per cent by 2040. The report, commissioned by Universities Australia, says higher education gives graduates better salaries and governments a superior rate of return on investment. "The rate of return in higher education is one of the highest around," said Glenn Withers, chief executive of UA. The Australian newspaper said his remarks "anticipate a push to promote better investment in the nation's intellectual infrastructure".

India

Foreign campus bill introduced

A bill regulating the operation of foreign universities has been introduced in the Indian Parliament, after years of wrangling. If passed, the foreign educational institutions (regulation of entry and operations) bill would allow foreign universities to establish branch campuses in India and offer their degrees through links with Indian institutions. Basudeb Acharia, of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), told Parliament that allowing "foreign teaching shops" would further "distort the already elitist educational structure in the country". But Meira Kumar, the speaker of the house, allowed Kapil Sibal, the minister for human resource development, to introduce the bill, saying that opposition at the introduction stage was "not valid".

Ireland

Funding chief advocates mergers

There are too many universities in Ireland and some must merge to survive, the head of its higher education funding body has warned. Tom Boland, chief executive of the Higher Education Authority, made a speech setting out what the Irish Independent newspaper described as "a reform agenda for the biggest ever shake-up of the country's third-level system". Mr Boland said Ireland's 40 state-funded higher education institutions must be reduced in number to create institutions that had a critical mass of students and could compete globally. The Irish Independent said it had learned that a national strategy being prepared would include merging colleges and universities, along with "the provision of new employment contracts; ending a number of programmes and courses; and more effective monitoring of academic staff".

United States

Survey uncovers rude students

The rude behaviour perpetrated by US students, including sleeping in class, has been unveiled by a research project. A study presented at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association surveyed the experiences of 339 academics. "The types of student incivility it covered included: passive behaviour, such as sleeping or texting in class; more actively disruptive behaviour, such as coming to class late or talking on cellphones in the classroom; and behaviours that appeared directed at the instructor, such as open expressions of anger, impatience, or derision," the Chronicle of Higher Education said. When the researchers, from the University of Redlands, broke their data down by gender, they found that 24 per cent of male academics could not recall incidents of uncivil student behaviour, in contrast to just 9 per cent of women. Female academics were much more likely to report that the rude behaviour was severe, or to say that they had been upset by it.

China

Call for quality not quantity

The president of Stanford University in the US believes China is 20 years away from creating a world-class university. The presidents of 121 Chinese universities and 20 overseas universities from 11 countries attended the Chinese-Foreign University Presidents Forum in Nanjing on 3 May. The People's Daily website said that John Hennessy, Stanford president, told reporters that China should focus more on the quality of its higher education and less on building more universities. He believed it would take China at least two decades to create a world-class university. Dr Hennessy said that the problems facing Chinese universities included a culture of teacher-centred learning instead of group discussions, which had a negative impact on students.

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