World Encompassed

November 30, 2007

ACADEME 'AS INEFFICIENT AS PROSTITUTION'

With the possible exception of prostitution, higher education is the profession that has done least to improve its productivity in two millennia, according to the head of an American think-tank.

Richard Vedder, director of the Centre for College Affordability and Productivity, said in a recent report that the US spends too much public money on higher education. The report said that higher state spending on higher education often goes hand in hand with lower economic growth.

The additional spending was not all going into tuition but was being spent on "frills" such as athletics programmes and higher staff pay, the report said.

It also said that the cost of education had gone up while the cost of most other goods and services had dropped due to advances in productivity.

"With the possible exception of prostitution, teaching is the only profession that has had absolutely no productivity advance in the 2,400 years since Socrates taught the youth of Athens," Dr Vedder said.

"It takes more resources today to educate a post-secondary student than a generation ago."

Dr Vedder argued that universities should have greater concern for profit in order to become more efficient. He said that public funding should be become more limited, with vouchers enabling needy students to shop around, that teaching loads should be increased and that pay and bonuses for university heads should be tied to cost savings.

CANADA WARNS OF LECTURER SHORTFALL

Canadian universities will need to recruit about 35,000 academics by 2016 because of anticipated retirement, competition and expected growth in student numbers, a new report has said.

A study by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada said that in 2005, one third of academic staff were over 55 while just 20 per cent were under 40.

The number of academic staff grew by 21 per cent between 1998 and 2006 while, at the same time, student numbers have increased by 37 per cent and are set to grow by between 70,000 and 150,000 full-time students over the next decade.

The percentage of female staff in Canadian higher education has risen from about 14 per cent in 1976 to about 33 per cent in 2006. Women form only a fifth of full professors but more than half of lecturers.

JOB INSECURITY ON RISE FOR US PROFESSORS

Less than a third of US professors are tenured or likely to become so compared with almost all their counterparts four decades ago, an academics lobby group has said.

The Association of American University Professors said just 32 per cent of professors were tenured or on the tenure track, which provides extra job security, whereas 97 per cent had that status 40 years ago.

Almost half of US professors are part time and a further fifth work full time with no prospect of gaining tenure.

However, one US university recently moved to buck this trend.

The University of Michigan said it will invest £15 million to hire 100 new tenure-track academics. The university is also planning a £50 million initiative with companies, philanthropic foundations and other universities in the state to commercialise academic research.

PAKISTANI STUDENTS WARNED NOT TO PROTEST

A Pakistani university has warned its students that they will face "strict disciplinary action" if they take part in demonstrations against the Government.

On it website, Bahria University posted a notice warning students that they must not take part in any "strike or agitation against the government authorities" or incite others to do so. In particular it warns against violence, "disruption of the peaceful atmosphere", inflammatory speeches, gestures that may cause resentment, issuing pamphlets or cartoons casting aspersions on the Government and talking to the press.

It added that students who are arrested while protesting will be "dealt with severely" and will not be able to join academic or government institutions in future. Bahria University was established in the 1980s by Pakistan's navy.

HYPERACTIVE BRAIN DIFFERENCES LOCATED

Development of parts of the brain is slower in children with a type of hyperactivity problem, scientists have found.

The brains of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder develop more slowly, especially in the outer mantle, which controls thinking, planning and attention.

However, the team of researchers from McGill University in Montreal and the US National Institutes of Health found that the children's brains developed normally, albeit more slowly, which could explain why some outgrow the disorder.

The research indicated that one part of the brain lagged in development by five years while another part controlling movement developed faster in children with ADHD, which could explain the fidgety movements associated with the condition.

In future studies, the researchers hope to find genetic reasons for the delay and ways to improve recovery from the disorder. The researchers scanned the brains of 446 children at least twice at about three-year intervals.

COPYRIGHT MAY NOT BENEFIT CREATORS

Copyright laws do not encourage creativity, a new book published by an Australian university has argued.

Benedict Atkinson, a lawyer whose book is published by Sydney University, said lawyers and policymakers often stated that copyright laws provided creators with the incentive to produce.

However, his study of archived records found that copyright laws were set up to satisfy vested interests, such as the recording industry, rather than give incentives to artists to balance their needs with those of consumers. He said government and educational institutions paid about £42 million a year in copyright fees and there was scope to allow more free usage.

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