World in brief – 11 June 2015

Higher education news from around the globe

June 11, 2015
John F. Kennedy
Source: Alamy

United States

And the Emmy goes to...

A course on President John F. Kennedy’s career and legacy taught by a University of Virginia politics professor has become the first massive open online course to be nominated for an Emmy Award. Larry Sabato’s “The Kennedy Half Century”, produced in partnership with Paladin Media Group, is a Mooc available on Coursera and iTunes U that is based on Professor Sabato’s best-selling book of the same title. The class offers more than eight hours of video in 45 lessons.


Estonia

Shot in the arm for well-being

The Estonian government has announced plans to make grants worth €359 million (£264 million) available to researchers, research establishments and universities to help increase the role of science in community life and improve well-being. In 2007-13, more than half (56 per cent) of the structural funds for research were devoted to modernising infrastructure and purchasing equipment. In 2014-20, 75 per cent will go direct to substantive research activities. The ASTRA programme, worth €129 million, will support initiatives designed to increase opportunities for doctoral students, promote international competitiveness (including the use of foreign staff) and increase cooperation with the business sector.


India

Society banned for ‘criticising PM’

The Indian Institute of Technology, Madras has banned a student group that distributed a speech critical of Narendra Modi, the nation’s prime minister. An anonymous complaint to the Ministry of Human Resource Development about the Ambedkar Periyar Student Circle had claimed that its pamphlet, carrying a portion of a speech given by a Dravidian University academic at the IIT, Madras, attempted to spread hatred against Mr Modi by “mobilising” scheduled caste and scheduled tribe students “to question government policies on the use of Hindi and the ban on cow slaughter”, The Times of India reported. The IIT, Madras derecognised the group after the ministry wrote to “inquire about the case”.


Argentina

More students cross finish line

Graduation rates in Argentine universities increased by more than 5 percentage points over four years, but remain low, according to a report. The research, by the Centre for Studies of Argentine Education at the University of Belgrano, found that 31 per cent of students due to graduate in 2012 did so, up from 26 per cent of those due to graduate in 2008. Graduation rates in private universities remain higher than those of state universities. In 2012, 27 per cent of state students expected to graduate that year did so, compared with 42 per cent of private students.


Italy

Rector refuses to quit over Miss University

The head of one of Italy’s top universities has been urged to quit after hosting a student beauty contest in which women were offered plastic surgery as prizes. Eugenio Gaudio, rector of Sapienza University of Rome, was criticised by female Italian academics for his support for the Miss University 2015 competition. More than 2,300 people have signed a petition saying the “disgraceful” participation in the event “shows all too clearly how backwards our society remains”. But Professor Gaudio told La Repubblica that he “did not have to apologise to anyone” as the evening was “not vulgar”.


 Australia

End political donations, says chief auditor

Three universities in New South Wales have made “small” political donations since 2008, the state’s auditor-general has said. Such spending was “designed to maintain relationships and gain a thorough…understanding of major public policy commitments”, said the report from Grant Hehir. But Mr Hehir said that the use of public money to support political parties should be banned. Meanwhile, John Doyle, Victoria’s auditor-general, warned the state’s universities to ensure that travel expenses are appropriately “authorised and controlled” after finding that they collectively spent A$137 million (£69 million) on trips in 2014.

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