World encompassed

April 13, 2007

Poor organisation pushes poles abroad

Polish academics would appear to be something of a law unto themselves when it comes to setting up courses and turning up to work.

Disgruntled students are voting with their feet and applying in record numbers to universities overseas, including to the UK, amid claims that Polish lecturers set up classes at short notice and at inconvenient times and often change lecture times without prior warning.

“I travel a long way to get to university. Sometimes, I turn up for nothing or I have to wait for hours. Everything is arranged to suit them, not us,” says Karolina Ostatek, a student at Kielce University.

According to the latest figures, there are 4,325 Poles studying in UK universities, up from 2,165 in 2004. Poles are the eighth most numerous foreign student contingent, behind Greeks, Germans, the French, Cypriots, Italians and the Spanish.

Better teaching to aid access in Australia

The question of how to get more people from poor backgrounds into university is an international problem.

Glyn Davis, vice-chancellor of Melbourne University, has called for a sustained national effort to improve schooling. Failure at school is seen as the single biggest barrier to progression to higher education, he said. “Universities will only reflect the full range of Australian society when this systematic disadvantage has been removed,” he told a higher education summit in Melbourne.

Why snakes are more scary than cars

Disgust was likely to have developed as an evolutionary mechanism to protect our ancestors, according to Dan Fessler, associate professor of anthropology and director of the Center for Behavior, Evolution and Culture at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Unfortunately, such evolutionary adaptations may not serve us all that well today.

“We often respond to today’s world with yesterday’s adaptations,” Professor Fessler said. “That’s why, for instance, we’re more afraid of snakes than of cars, even though we’re much more likely to die today as a result of an encounter with a car.”

£30m to develop lifelong healthcare

A new all-Ireland institute, the Institute of Biomedical Informatics, has been established to conduct research and develop international standards in biomedical informatics.

The total investment in the institute is expected to reach €30 million (£20 million) over the next five years. The IBI aims to develop the software tools required to achieve the ultimate goal of the “post-genome” era - to use genetic information to develop personalised lifelong healthcare. An example of this would be understanding why a particular drug has a beneficial effect on one patient and invokes a toxic response in a second.

Centenarian donates £5m to Princeton A 100-year-old American woman has proved that you are never too old to donate money to the US university of your choice.

Kathryn Wasserman Davis, who graduated in 1930, and her son Shelby M. C. Davis, a member of the Princeton University’s class of 1958 and a university trustee, have made a $5 million (£2.5 million) gift that will provide ongoing support for Princeton’s International Center.

The centre provides support to students and scholars who come to university from around the world.

Nordic five join forces to boost engineering

Five leading Nordic technological institutions have joined forces to improve their global competitiveness and become a hub for international students taking engineering MScs.

Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology and Royal Institute of Technology, Finland’s Helsinki University of Technology, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and the Technical University of Denmark have joined to form the Nordic Five Tech.

They bring together 60,000 bachelors and masters students, 4,500 PhDs and 7,500 scientists.

Thorbjorn Digernes, rector of the Norwegian University, said: “This will lead to a broader range of specialised masters programmes, joint degrees and better continuing education. It is expected that Nordic Five Tech will become an attractive partner for other leading universities of technology around the world.”

www.nordicfivetech.org Website offers advice on study in Australia

The Australian Government’s website aimed at potential students from Europe has just been relaunched with more information, improved search facilities and more interactive features.

It includes a web version of the Guide to Studying and Living in Australia , which until now was available to UK, Irish and European students only, through embassies or consulates.

The website will give updated information on visa requirements and useful contacts and links. It is available in 17 European languages and receives more than 40,000 visitors a month.

The number of European students studying full or part time in Australia has risen over the past eight years from 8,000 to 30,000.

www.studying-in-australia.org

Call for Quebec to tackle funding gap

Heather Munroe-Blum, principal of McGill University in Montreal, has called on all Quebec’s political parties to join together to tackle the province’s crisis in university funding.

Dr Munroe-Blum said the gap with other Canadian provinces, especially Ontario and Alberta, continued to widen. “Our universities remain a disturbingly low priority for a public that may take for granted a certain level of service and repute. We must work together to rekindle Quebecers’ stake in our universities,” she said.

Pigs offer clues to Polynesian ancestry

New DNA research from the universities of Auckland, Oxford, Durham and Adelaide suggests the pigs carried into the Pacific region by Polynesian ancestors can be traced back to mainland Southeast Asia rather than Taiwan or the Philippines.

These findings differ from human genetic and linguistic research, which suggests the ancestors of the Polynesian people came from Taiwan.

Lisa Matisoo-Smith, associate professor of anthropology at Auckland, said it was most likely that another group of people had moved pigs to where the two pathways collided. “The ancestors of the Polynesians then incorporated those pigs into their cultural and economic base, which they carried with them to the islands they colonised.” £4m for youth mental health research

Morris Iemma, premier of New South Wales in Australia, has given A$10 million (£4.1 million) for the Youth Mental Health Clinical Research Facility at the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Research Institute. This will combine cutting-edge research with outreach services.

Ian Hickie, director of the institute, said: “Emotional and behavioural disorders currently account for more than 60 per cent of disability costs in those aged 15-34 years, with 75 per cent of major mental illnesses starting before the age of 25.”

He said the costs were expected to rise rapidly because of the psychiatric effects of mental illness and drug abuse in young people, and dementia in older people.

 

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