Overseas briefing

June 3, 2010

United States

Not seeing the big picture

Most students rule out colleges based on the upfront cost of tuition fees without considering how much financial aid they may receive, a survey in the US has found. The findings come from the Student Poll, a collaboration between the College Board and Art and Science Group, which specialises in strategic marketing for universities. "Above all, the survey's results suggest that many families make college choices without accurate or sufficient information," The Chronicle of Higher Education said. Fifty-nine per cent of students say that they looked only at upfront prices, while 28 per cent say they considered the net cost of university study, including the available financial aid. From next year, the federal government will require all institutions to provide "net-tuition calculators" to help families determine the true cost of degrees.


Grant chaos, and not in Britain

Thousands of Irish students still do not know whether they will receive grants in the current academic year. Proving that grant chaos is not limited to the UK, 3,436 applicants are still awaiting decisions on their grant applications by the country's Vocational Education Committees. Gary Redmond, incoming president of the Union of Students in Ireland, described the figures as "astonishing", the Irish Independent newspaper reported. He added that there were "horror" stories this year of vulnerable students facing serious financial hardship because of the delays in getting their grants. The Department of Education and Science said there had been a 29 per cent increase in applications for grants this year - up from 43,267 at the end of January 2009 to 55,833 at the end of January this year.


'Super tax' to the rescue?

The Australian academy has lobbied its government to channel funds from a mooted tax on the profits generated by the country's natural resources industry into its universities. Kevin Rudd's government has proposed introducing a 40 per cent tax on the "super profits" made by the natural resources sector, which estimates suggest could raise as much as A$9 billion (£5.2 billion) a year from 2013-14. Vicki Thomson, executive director of the Australian Technology Network, a coalition of five universities, told The Australian newspaper: "We have a recent study that irrefutably lays out the impact of (the higher education) sector on the economy in terms of lower health costs, increased productivity and increased living standards. We are an intrinsic part of the economic and social fabric of the Australian landscape. If the resource tax, should it come to pass, is about our ability to invest in Australia's future, then that investment must include the nation's university sector."


Men only

Female scientists have queried why there were no women among the 19 international scholars selected to take part in Canada's C$200 million (£130 million) Research Chairs project. The ScienceInsider website said that the inaugural class of government-funded Canada Excellence Research Chairs had two things in common: "They are all illustrious scientists. And they are all men. In fact, not a single woman was even nominated." The group, which will carry out research in four strategic areas, includes scientists from the US, Europe and South America. Each chair will be established with C$10 million over seven years at one of 13 Canadian universities. "The fact that only men's names were put forward indicates to me that our ideas about who can succeed in science and who we want to celebrate remain very gendered," said Elana Brief, president of the Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology.


Too high a price

Chinese students are being put off study in Hong Kong because of the cost. The China Post newspaper said that higher tuition fees were a key reason for the decrease in the number of mainland applicants to Hong Kong universities. Laura Lo, director of Chinese mainland affairs at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said: "Students and parents are more sensible about applying for universities in Hong Kong now."

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