Overseas briefing

June 10, 2010

Australia

Student debt debacle

The University of New South Wales has written off A$5.35 million (£3.1 million) in student debt, according to The Australian newspaper. In its 2009 annual report, tabled in the New South Wales Parliament last week, the institution records a write-off of A$2.9 million, which has been added to a A$2.45 million debt cancellation the year before. The problem arose in the 1990s when the university could not reconcile two financial systems running within the institution, and nobody had ultimate responsibility for student debt. Students were reportedly allowed to enrol, sit exams and then graduate without paying fees. A university spokeswoman said: "We now have very effective checks and balances in place and student debt provisions are being steadily reduced. Our priority had to be to ensure students were not disadvantaged by our administrative problems. So where there was inconsistency, we preferred to write off the debt."

United States

Subpoena stand-off

The University of Virginia has confirmed it will fight demands from the state attorney general for documents relating to research-grant applications. Ken Cuccinelli has issued a subpoena for documents relating to climate scientist Michael Mann, who worked at the institution from 1999 to 2005. He is now a professor at Pennsylvania State University, the website Science Insider reported. Mr Cuccinelli is seeking access to information about five grant applications that Professor Mann prepared before leaving Virginia, as well as email exchanges between him and his research assistants, secretaries and other US scientists.

India

European collaboration

Representatives of the Association of Indian Universities have visited 12 European institutions in the Netherlands, Finland and Scotland to explore the potential for international collaboration in research. The universities, which include the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda (MSU) in India and the University of Lappeenranta in Finland, intend to partner up in a wide range of disciplines, from forest science to applied mathematics, tourism to business administration, reported the Indian Express. "The visit to the European varsities has been a success and many of the universities have shown interest in collaborating. We are now moving forward to finalise the collaborations," said Ramesh Goyal, MSU's vice-chancellor.

Pakistan

Decline of the American dream

There has been a decline in applications from Pakistani nationals for student visas in the US as a result of terrorism incidents linked to Pakistan, including the attempted bomb attack in New York's Times Square, The Washington Post reported. Pakistani-American community leaders, including Shaista Mahmood of Mount Vernon, Virginia, said the stress of living under suspicion had a major impact. Pakistani technology students in the US also told the paper they would be looking for work elsewhere, including Britain and Canada, after graduation. But the NBC News World Blog claimed students from Pakistan have always preferred UK institutions over US universities because of the colonial link between the countries, and the fact that their education systems are more closely aligned.

China

Zero tolerance for cheats

Chinese scientists must manage their projects closely and set up well-documented archives detailing their progress to ensure that researchers working in Shanghai are given proper credit for their success, a government body has said. The Shanghai Daily newspaper reported that proposals unveiled by the Shanghai Science and Technology Commission (SSTC) instigate a policy of zero tolerance towards forgery and plagiarism in the city. Those caught cheating will be stripped of their research income, their names will be published and they will prevented from applying for future research funding. But Shou Ziqi, director of the SSTC, said that scientific failure must also be tolerated because testing hypotheses was the bedrock of scientific development, and would inevitably entail some failure along the way. "We must tolerate failure if we encourage innovation," he said.

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