World Encompassed

November 9, 2007

Studying grows dearer down under

Australian university students are paying twice as much for their education now as their predecessors did a decade ago, the elite Group of Eight universities has said.

Student-to-staff ratios have increased by nearly a quarter - from 14 students to each staff member in 1986 to 19 in 2006, Alan Robson, the group's chairman, said.

Public funding per university place has dropped by 20 per cent, while research and teaching costs have risen. The group said university funding should be overhauled with the real costs of education taken into account, loans available to every student and more scholarships.

Professor Robson said: "Current funding policies also fail to enable universities to respond to changing needs and sustain international competitiveness. It is time for major rethinking of higher education policy and financing. If the problems in university funding policy are not tackled urgently, Australia will fall further behind the world's leaders."

Stamp out corruption, Schwartz says

Universities must clamp down on corruption and unethical behaviour, according to the vice-chancellor of a leading Australian university and former head of a UK institution.

Steven Schwartz vice-chancellor of Macquarie University and former vice- chancellor of Brunel University, said examples of corruption in the sector included excessive payouts to executives, lavish expenses, lucrative contracts given to friends and relatives, deceptive advertising and conflicts of interest.

Speaking at a conference on public sector anti-corruption measures, he added: "On more occasions than I like to remember, I have been told that intentionally deceitful behaviour, such as giving contracts and jobs to friends and relatives, was not technically illegal because another employee, who was not a friend or relative, actually signed off on the job or contract."

He said universities needed ethical leadership in order to live up to the moral spirit as well as the letter of the law.

He added that universities should consider when to forgo maximum profit in favour of doing social good, citing the decision of the creators of the polio vaccine to license it to many companies, which made it more widely affordable but also reduced the money the university would make from the discovery.

"No one working in higher education could imagine this happening today. Everyone knows that universities desperately need the money that comes from monopoly profits," he said.

Lines of authority mapped across Europe

A project to map the governance arrangements of universities across Europe has been announced.

The European University Association will look at how higher education is run in different states and at the governance, accountability and autonomy of individual universities. The results are likely to be released at a conference of the EUA in March 2009.

Lesley Wilson, general secretary of the EUA, said legislation in some nations made it difficult for universities to gain more autonomy.

Princeton hands back Italian artefacts

A US university has reached an agreement with the Italian Government to hand over eight antiquities whose ownership had been disputed.

Princeton University will transfer ownership of all the objects to Italy, but it will keep four artworks, including two vases, on loan for four years. The university will hold on to seven other objects that had also been part of the inquiry.

Princeton said the Italian Government had also agreed to lend the university more works of art of "great significance and cultural importance" and to give its students "unprecedented access" to archeological sites it manages.

Take our money - but not our names

Big donors usually want departments named after them, but a group that raised almost £43 million for a business school has asked that the institution's name remain unchanged for 20 years.

The 13 University of Wisconsin-Madison alumni who formed the Wisconsin Naming Partnership raised the money for the university's Wisconsin School of Business. It is thought to be the first time that a gift intended to preserve rather than change the name of a business school has been made in the US.

Please ignore our invitation, ladies

An all-male US college almost became co-educational by accident when it mistakenly sent out recruitment brochures to women. Deep Springs College, California, bought the addresses of students with high test scores, but an oversight meant they mailed women as well as men. The college later issued an apology to women who had been sent the brochure.

Germany underwrites pursuit of excellence

The latest group of German universities to get a share of a £1.3 billion scheme to promote excellence in research has been announced.

Rheinisch-Westfalische Technische Hochschule Aachen, Freie Universitat Berlin, Freiburg, Gottingen, Heidelberg and Konstanz universities will join institutions in Munich and Karlsruhe, which had already been selected for the Government's "excellence initiative". The scheme will run from 2007 to 2011.

Call for research to benefit poor regions

Research universities should use their influence to help people in poor countries get access to affordable drugs, two US academics have said.

Dave Chokshi of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Rahul Rajkumar from the department of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston said that research universities should also carry out more work on diseases that have had little research.

They could include clauses in the licences issued on discoveries that would allow wider access to the findings by, for example, depositing papers in academic libraries, according to the academics.

Universities should be held to their ideal of disseminating knowledge in the public interest by helping ensure that poor people received better medical care, the two researchers said.

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