World in brief - 13 February 2014

February 13, 2014

United States
Balancing the books at Brandeis

A US university is offering voluntary redundancy to 150 members of staff to ease its multimillion-dollar budget deficit. Brandeis University is proposing early retirement buyout packages to the group, which represents about 13 per cent of its total workforce of 1,155, to address a deficit that is projected to be $6.5 million (£4 million). The buyouts, offered to staff who are 60 years or older and have served at least 10 years, do not apply to academic staff, said Ellen de Graffenreid, a university spokeswoman. “Administrative staffing needs change over time, which can lead to some areas that are overstaffed and – frankly – some areas that are understaffed,” she said in an email to The Boston Globe. “The voluntary early retirement program is intended to help balance out staffing and workloads to make our operations more efficient and effective.”

Australia
Casual culture expands

The number of casual staff at Australian universities rose by 17 per cent last year as universities hedged their bets against potential volatility in enrolments in a demand-driven system. According to the latest government data, the estimated number of casual staff increased by 17.4 per cent in 2013 to 22,958 full-time equivalent staff, the largest rise since 2010, when partial deregulation of student places began to fuel growth. “The massive increase in casual staff certainly reflects the demand-driven system, but it also reflects the changing nature of the workforce more generally and the fact that universities are under budgetary pressure,” said Belinda Robinson, chief executive of Universities Australia. She acknowledged that there were significant numbers of casual staff who felt locked out of full-time positions, The Australian reported.

South Africa
Deserving but wanting

Half of South African students who qualify for government financial help will go unsupported because of a shortage of funds, according to the head of a national aid scheme. Msulwa Daca, executive officer of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, last week told the South African Parliament’s standing committee on appropriations that although funding had risen significantly over the past five years, it was still not enough to cover all students from poor and working-class families. The scheme’s budget for this year was R9 billion (£500 million), but demand outstripped the financial outlay, the newspaper Business Day reported. Mr Daca’s comments came after numerous campus protests by students complaining about exclusion because of a lack of funds.

Dubai
Amity breaks ground in DIAC

An Indian university has begun work on a new multimillion-pound campus in Dubai. Amity University last week started construction on its Dh300 million (£50.2 million) campus at Dubai International Academic City. It says it intends the site to be a centre of research excellence and a hub for leading regional academics. According to an Amity press release, it will be the largest private university campus in the multi-institution higher education “free zone”, accommodating 5,000 students at full capacity. The campus will include extensive sports facilities as well as laboratories and other facilities for the departments of engineering, management, hospitality and forensic science. It is expected to be completed in 2015.

United States
Jobs go as numbers fall

A for-profit higher education provider is shedding more than 100 jobs to align staff numbers with student enrolments. At the end of January, Bridgepoint Education revealed that it had cut 117 jobs in San Diego, Denver and Clinton, Iowa. Shari Winet, a spokeswoman for Bridgepoint, said that the cuts were across all areas and that no single department had been targeted. Employees were told of the layoffs the day before the announcement, according to the U-T San Diego newspaper. Bridgepoint runs Ashford University – a mainly online operation that is based in San Diego but has a physical campus in Clinton – and the University of the Rockies, in Colorado. Cuts were made at Bridgepoint’s headquarters and the Ashford operations, but not the University of the Rockies, Ms Winet said. Enrolments at the institutions have fallen, “largely by design” to meet accreditation standards, the newspaper said.

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