World Encompassed

June 29, 2007

Middle East gets super-size campus

The King of Saudi Arabia is opening a new graduate university in the Middle Eastern state.

The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology is thought to have one of the largest university endowments in the world, although the size of the King's donation will not be revealed until autumn.

The campus at Rabigh will open in 2009.

An international search has begun for the university's first president, who will be appointed by the end of the year or early 2008. Other top administrative posts will be filled after the president is in place.

The university will include four research institutes on resources, energy and the environment; biosciences and engineering; materials science and engineering; and applied mathematics and computer science.

Grants of up to $1 billion (£500 million) over ten years will pay for research collaborations with universities worldwide into desalination and water supply, carbon capture and hydrogen-rich fuels, industrial biotechnology, catalysis and polymer chemistry, language software technologies and computational linguistics, and scientific computing.

There will also be scholarships for students. The Discovery Scholars scheme pays for tuition and accommodation for up to 250 undergraduates at other universities and colleges who would start at postgraduate course at KAUST when they finish their studies. The King Abdullah Scholars Programme will support outstanding students who will represent KAUST at their home institutions, attend seminars and research events on the campus.

Antioch to close but hoping for revival

The alma mater of scientist Stephen Jay Gould and civil rights campaigner Coretta Scott King is to close next summer, although it hopes to find enough money to reopen in four years' time.

Student enrolments at Antioch College in Ohio have fallen, leading to financial problems. The college's chancellor will set up a commission to look at the college's future and redesign the campus and curriculum with the intention of reopening in 2012.

Donated art must remain at Fisk

A US university has been ordered not to sell art including works by Picasso, Cezanne, Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec.

A judge told Fisk University in Tennessee that it could not sell any of the 101 pieces of work in the collection donated by artist Georgia O'Keeffe in 1949. The judge said the works were to be used for art education. He added that dividing up the collection "destroys the identity and effect of the charitable purpose [of O'Keeffe's gift]".

Spinning gives black holes a good kicking

When black holes collide they could be catapulted into other galaxies, a team at a German university have found.

The team at Friedrich-Schiller-University in Jena found that black holes that collide and form a new black hole can be "kicked" much more powerfully if they are spinning. Previous studies, which showed lower "kick" speeds, had focused on black holes that do not spin.

Australian call for shared terror info

Australian universities and the security services should set up a forum to share information on terrorism, according to a report.

The study, from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, says vice-chancellors' body Universities Australia should represent institutions on the forum on research requirements on terrorism as well as education and training issues. The Government and universities should also work more closely on priorities for terrorism research.

The report, Australian Universities and Terrorism , adds that there should be a national academic consortium to generate interest in terrorism research and to co-ordinate the support provided for this work by government agencies. At present, universities are limited by their capacity to undertake a small amount of classified work.

Large endowment could be a drawback

An Australian think-tank says that generous endowments to universities from fossil-fuel companies could compromise academic freedom.

The paper, University Capture , from the Australia Institute says universities need clearer guidelines to protect them from conflicts that could occur when working with industry.

Official: money can't buy you happiness

Americans are less happy now than they were 30 years ago, Italian academics have found.

Longer working hours and a deterioration in relationships with friends and family are not adequately compensated for by an increase in US incomes, the team from Siena University said at a conference on policies for happiness.

They said a person with no friends or social relationship with their neighbours would have to earn $320,000 more each year to enjoy the same level of happiness as someone who has those good relationships.

The study found that US wages had not risen enough to compensate for the deterioration in the quality of relationships. However, happiness in Europe appeared to have stayed stable over the period. The team said increasing hours and pressure in American workplaces had contributed to the drop in happiness, while Europe had avoided some of that trend.

Computers give you a pain in the neck

Students in search of a scientific excuse for not slaving away in front of a hot computer may have found what they are looking for.

A small study at the Harvard School of Public Health found that the more time students spent on computers, the more likely they were to suffer from musculoskeletal problems during that 24-hour period. The study of students found those who averaged three or more hours per day on the computer were 50 per cent more likely to have symptoms.

Some 96 per cent of students in the study report some sort of problem at least once, usually neck, back or shoulder pain.

Jack Dennerlein, associate professor of ergonomics and safety, conducted the study. He said that further research was needed to protect students, adding that larger studies should be carried out to look at posture and other pain risk factors.

Webcam takes over US invigilation chores

Have you ever wished there was a machine that could do the tedious task of invigilation on your behalf? One US university is testing out just such a device.

Troy University in Alabama will film its distance-learning students on a webcam as they sit their exams online. The university, which has about 11,000 students - including about a third at military bases worldwide - will start rolling out the technology in the autumn. The device films and records the studentsas they sit the test and flags up any significant noises or movements for the invigilator to watch later. They can see whether a student leaves the room or answers the phone and whether there is an improvement in performance afterwards.

The device also locks down a computer during the test so that students cannot search their files or the internet, and it includes fingerprint authentication of the person sitting the exam.

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