World in brief – 12 March 2015

March 12, 2015

Source: Getty

Not paying? Then you won’t be driving

Students in British Columbia who are not making payments on outstanding student loans could find themselves unable to renew their driving licence. According to Mike de Jong, finance minister of Canada’s third most populous province, more than C$185 million (£97.3 million) in student loan payments are outstanding, and proposed new legislation would allow the Insurance Corporation of BC to refuse licence renewal to those who are not repaying, The Vancouver Sun reported.

Marchers demonstrate against degree reforms

Thousands of students in Spain have joined protests against university reforms. A demonstration in Barcelona on 25 February attracted around 6,000 people unhappy with a new law that cuts an undergraduate degree course to three years and extends master’s qualifications to two years, aligning Spain’s degree cycle with those elsewhere in Europe. Around 7,000 students held a rally in Valencia, and 3,000 did so in Madrid. Students claim that the law is unjust because extending master’s courses and reducing the length of undergraduate courses – with the former being more expensive – will increase the costs of study.

Going home

The Swedish government has decided to return human remains held by the Karolinska Institute to New Zealand and French Polynesia. These consist of two Maori skulls, a tattooed and mummified head, and the remains of two individuals from Tahiti and five from the Marquesas Islands. Most were originally acquired by Swedish travellers and scholars in the 1880s. Announcing her decision, Helene Hellmark Knutsson, minister for higher education and research, said: “It is important that these remains reach the correct recipients, who will take care of them with dignity. Any future cases must be dealt with more promptly by the higher education institutions in question.”

Stand aside for science

Science in Brazil is to enter a new phase after the country’s Congress amended several articles of the country’s Constitution. Jacob Palis, president of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, said that the “milestone” changes define research activities as a priority issue, which means that science should trump other interests when there is a conflict in the courts. Scientists will be treated differently from other government officials. Previously, research was subject to the same budgetary bureaucracy as infrastructure projects such as bridges.

Legal first for postgraduates

The Middle East’s first US-style graduate law school is being opened in Qatar. The law school at Doha’s Hamad bin Khalifa University, which will open this autumn, will offer three-year Juris Doctor programmes. It is a partnership with Chicago-based Northwestern University, which already has an undergraduate branch campus at Doha’s Education City. Clinton Francis, a professor at Northwestern University School of Law, will serve as interim dean.

Changes leave the wrong impression

More than 80 per cent of respondents to a survey commissioned by the Australian government mistakenly thought that the country’s landmark higher education reforms involved the introduction of upfront tuition fees. The government has been criticised for launching a publicly funded A$15 million (£7.7 million) advertising campaign to promote its reforms, which would lift the cap on tuition fees but retain income-contingent loans. Officials told a Senate inquiry that the campaign was justified by such widespread misconceptions. The reforms are mired in the Senate, with diminishing prospects of being passed.

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