World Encompassed

November 16, 2007

French students asked to crank up protests

France's union of students has called for protests to be intensified to coincide with a walk-out by public-sector workers.

With civil servants set to strike on November 20, the UNEF urged students to step up their demonstrations against higher education reforms.

Some students demonstrated this week. The Reuters news agency reported marches through Paris. France's higher education ministry said about ten of the country's 85 universities had been occupied overnight. The students' union claimed that nearly 5,000 students met in "general assemblies" at ten universities.

President Nicolas Sarkozy's reforms, including more than £700 million of funding, would allow universities to be more selective and enable some private-sector cash to be introduced into the system.

Stanford row over Rumsfeld honour

A group of Stanford University academics is pressing the university to drop "distinguished" from the titles of their distinguished visiting fellows after the appointment of Donald Rumsfeld, the former US Defence Secretary, to an honorary post.

The faculty senate, Stanford's main committee of academics, will discuss the resolution plus a proposal to review how honorary appointments are made at their next meeting at the end of the month.

David Spiegel, a professor in the School of Medicine who sits on the committee, said: "It was clear that if his (Rumsfeld's) work in the past six years was distinguished in any way it was negative rather than positive."

He added that some committee members were concerned about bestowing the position on a member of the current political administration.

John Hennessy, Stanford's president, said recruitment panels were not allowed to look at political affiliations.

EU to act on failure to adopt visa scheme

The European Commission could sue 21 countries that failed to sign up to a fast-track visa system for academics.

Only six countries - Austria, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Portugal and Romania - made the system law by the October 12 deadline. France, Latvia, Lithuania and the Slovak Republic had partially implemented it.

The directive will give visas to people from outside the EU to conduct scientific research. Accredited research organisations (in effect universities) certify the status, skills, financial resources and health insurance of the visa applicant and the existence of a genuine research project. Once academics have the visa, they can move between any Schengen countries.

Overinvolved parents bring down grades

US students with parents who intervene frequently on their behalf have significantly lower grades than those whose parents are less involved in their education, a study has found.

But the National Survey of Student Engagement said that students with involved parents thought they were getting more from their education and were more likely to be able to take in activities that would help them to apply learning from a range of sources to a problem.

The survey of about 300,000 students from 587 colleges and universities found that 13 per cent of first-year and 8 per cent of senior-year students had parents who frequently intervened on their behalf, while 25 per cent of first-year and 21 per cent of senior-year students had parents who sometimes intervened.

Ford motors all the way to China

Car maker Ford has signed its first deals with Chinese universities to co- operate on research and training.

The deals, with Nanjing University of Aeronautics and the Astronautics and Shanghai Jiao Tong University, include funding a chair to promote the research of automotive technology. The company said Nanjing is known for its work with aluminium and diesel motors, while Shanghai Jiao Tong is strong in material and mechanical engineering.

California campuses in row over fee hike

A US university has been ordered to pay more than £12 million in compensation for overcharging its students.

University of California's campuses at Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz increased fees for professional courses despite promising in the prospectus that this would not apply to students already enrolled. Students were overcharged almost £17 million, a court said.

University spokesman Ricardo Vazquez said the university was disappointed with the decision, adding that its lawyers were considering options including a petition to the California Supreme Court. A petition would have to be filed by December 12.

Senators query loan companies' subsidies

A group of US politicians has called for an investigation into overpayments by the Government to student loans companies, which they say could total hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Democrat senators, including presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, said the companies were claiming an allowance from the Government that guaranteed a 9.5 per cent return. In some cases, the senators say, the companies were not entitled to do so. The subsidy began in 1980 to allow lenders to offer cheap loans at a time of high interest rates, but it became a boon for lenders as rates fell.

Taiwan graduates fare worst in jobs market

Taiwanese university graduates are more likely to be unemployed than their peers with a junior high school education.

Nearly 62 per cent of people who had been to college or graduate school had jobs, compared with 70 per cent of those who had a vocational education, 63 per cent of those who had been to junior high school and 77 per cent of those educated to junior college level, government figures show.

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