World Encompassed

December 7, 2007

AUSTRALIA VOWS TO CUT STUDENT DEBT

Australians have a new Education Minister following Labor's victory in the general election.

Julia Gillard will take on the post and will also serve as Deputy Prime Minister and Industrial Relations Minister.

During the election campaign, Labor pledged to halve students' loan debt if they studied maths or science and to halve it again if they worked in those areas after graduation. Labor also promised to double the number of postgraduate scholarships and create 1,000 fellowships to keep the most talented mid-career researchers in Australia.

Full fees for undergraduate courses are to be phased out from 2009. Stephen Smith, the new Foreign Minister and formerly Labor's education spokesman, has said that universities will be compensated for the lost income.

He also promised greater investment for the country's 39 universities but said they must specialise in areas where they are strong, particularly if these align with national priorities.

PSYCHOANALYSTS FEAR DISPLACEMENT

Psychoanalysis study is booming in universities - except in psychology departments, according to a new report.

The American Psychoanalytic Association study says that 86 per cent of courses mentioning the subject are being taught outside psychology departments in the 150 universities surveyed.

Psychology textbooks tended to view psychoanalysis as out of date, the report says. But interest in psychoanalysis has increased in other disciplines, particularly in the humanities.

The authors see no reason to believe that psychoanalysis will become more widely studied in psychology departments in future. The association has started a task force on psychoanalysis in undergraduate education to find ways to increase the exposure of students to the subject.

VITAMIN E MAY CUT RISK OF HEART ATTACK

Vitamin E could help ward off heart attacks in some people with diabetes, a new study suggests.

The research by Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Clalit Health Services in Israel found that heart attacks, strokes and related deaths halved after 18 months in people with a particular gene who took the vitamin.

Forty per cent of those with diabetes have the haptoglobin 2-2 gene. A study of 1,434 people with the gene found that seven individuals in the subgroup taking vitamin E had had a heart attack, compared with 17 in the subgroup that was not taking it.

MORE CASH FOR POOR STUDENTS IN FRANCE

France's universities minister has agreed to accelerate some higher education reforms after discussions with striking students.

At a meeting with Unef, the French students union, Valerie Pecresse, Minister for Higher Education and Research, promised grant increases from January for the poorest students.

However, the union remains concerned about reforms that could allow universities to become more selective and could introduce more private funding to the sector. The union intends to consult its members on these issues.

The recent occupation of university buildings by students came alongside strikes by public sector workers and have caused the cancellation of some classes.

INDIA MOVES TO STOP DEADLY 'RAGGING'

Nine people committed suicide and three were seriously injured in India last year after being subjected to initiation rituals at universities and other institutions.

According to Shrimati D. Purandeswari, the Minister of State for Human Resource Development, a Supreme Court committee monitoring the problem - which is known as "ragging" - had come across 70 cases of the practice during the current academic year.

The Indian Government has launched a campaign against ragging, which tends to take place in institutions such as universities, the police and the army. The committee also produced a report on how to prevent the problem.

Meanwhile the country's Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment said that the rising cost of higher education was making it more difficult for disadvantaged groups to study.

The Minister, Meira Kumar, said the number of people from disadvantaged castes and tribes in higher education was declining, even though they form almost a quarter of the country's population. A committee has been set up to review the admissions policies of India's elite institutes of management, along with their courses, structure, expansion plans, student costs and the availability of loans.

WATCHDOG TELLS LOAN FIRM TO REPAY £17M

A Pennsylvania loans company is the latest firm to come under fire for improperly claiming millions of dollars in government subsidies.

An audit by the US Inspector General of Education found that the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency had claimed £17 million to which it was not entitled.

The subsidy programme gave lenders extra interest payments as an incentive for them to offer cheap loans to students while general interest rates were high. When interest rates fell, legislators introduced amendments to the law to try to curb the subsidies.

The report recommends that the loans company return the cash. The lender said it had complied with the law and all funds had been used to further educational opportunities for people in Pennsylvania.

FREE WHEELS ROUND SEATTLE CAMPUS

Bicycles have long been a feature of university cities. Now one US institution has taken a modern approach to two-wheeled campus transport.

The University of Washington will install 40 electric bicycles around its Seattle campus next autumn. Students and staff will pay to use the machines for trips around campus and may return them to any one of several locked parking sites. The scheme aims to reduce automobile use in and around the university.

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