Overseas news

April 17, 2008


E-mail change sparks spying fears

Staff at a Canadian university fear that US authorities will snoop on their e-mails after the introduction of a new IT system. An official grievance has been launched by staff at Lakehead University after they were told that the new e-mail system would pass their communications through the US. According to technology law website Out-Law.com, the university told employees and students not to send private data by e-mail, as the system has been outsourced to Google systems. William Malcolm, a data protection specialist from law firm Pinsent Masons, said: "The fact of the matter is once the data's there, if it can be accessed locally, legitimately under local laws there is very little you can do to prevent that."


Most staff are on short contracts

About 80 per cent of researchers at Australian universities are on short-term contracts, according to the National Tertiary Education Union. A study found that up to 10,000 researchers were on such contracts, which the union said led to low morale in universities. Some staff had been on rolling annual contracts for over 30 years, it said. "We know of some researchers who have spent 32 years on contracts," Ken McAlpine, the union's senior national industrial officer told The Australian newspaper. "Traditionally a lot of researchers are pretty obsessed with the research they are doing and don't spend much time thinking about their working conditions. But there is a growing feeling there are lots of better employment opportunities (elsewhere)."

United States

Hirsute student turns FBI suspect

A student and his professor were quizzed by the FBI after the former was spotted photographing a poultry plant for a university project. Jim Diffly, a student at the University of Georgia, took snaps of the processing plant in Gainesville, Georgia, for a field project on the history of the state's poultry industry. However, Mr Diffly, who has a long dark beard, was spotted by police and questioned about his appearance, which he says has been mistaken for Middle Eastern in the past. He was subsequently contacted by an FBI agent from the Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Gainesville Times reported, and asked to attend an interview along with his professor Jim Hayes, who vouched for him.


Africa to get education funding

The Prime Minister of India has pledged to boost development in Africa by creating regional and pan-African higher education institutions. Speaking at an Indo-African summit, Manmohan Singh said the institutions would focus on science, information technology and vocational education. He also pledged to increase spending on research in agriculture and renewable energy, and to increase college scholarships in India for African students. The moves are seen as part of India's efforts to compete with China's heavy spending in Africa, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported. Mr Singh said: "Both India and Africa are blessed with young populations. Only by investing in the creative energies of youth will the potential of our partnership be fulfilled."


More students are returning home

The number of Chinese students who return home after studying abroad is rising. According to official figures released by the Chinese Ministry of Education, some 44,000 Chinese students who went overseas returned to the country in 2007. The figure is an increase of just under 5 per cent on the year before, while the total number travelling abroad to study also rose, up by just under 8 per cent, to 144,000. About 1.2 million Chinese studied abroad between 1978 and 2007, and 319,700 returned during that period, state-controlled news agency Xinhua reported. At present, 657,200 Chinese students are enrolled at foreign colleges and universities.

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