World in brief - 15 May 2014

May 15, 2014

United States
Justices’ reaffirmative decision

The US Supreme Court has upheld the right of states to prevent public higher education institutions from considering race in decisions about university admission. The case, Schuette v Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, et al, ended with justices voting 6-2 to affirm the constitutionality of a voter-backed Michigan law banning affirmative action in university admissions. But the ruling does not override the court’s decision last year in Fisher v The University of Texas at Austin that it is constitutional in certain circumstances to consider race.

Anglo-French accord

Students and lecturers from Paris are set to spend time at the University of Cambridge as part of a new five-year strategic alliance. Paris Sciences et Lettres – a coalition of about 20 higher education institutions in the French capital, including universities, grandes écoles and research institutes, which is also known as PSL Research University – will also host academics and students from Cambridge as part of the deal, which is designed to further Anglo-French research projects.

Firm foundations for research

The scale of Poland’s recent investment in universities has been highlighted by the country’s minister of science and higher education. Lena Kolarska-Bobi´nska spoke at a ceremony to lay a foundation stone at the University of Gda´nsk, where a new building to house the Institute of Biotechnology is under construction. She said that more than Zl billion (about £5.25 billion) had been invested in the infrastructure of higher education and science over recent years, but stressed that the modern facilities must now be used to conduct high-quality research.

Troubleshooter’s charter

A higher education reform bill in Chile that could result in the appointment of an administrator to private universities with financial problems has been signed by president Michelle Bachelet. The bill would allow such administrators to take control of an institution’s academic, management and financial operations, the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina reported. Media reports suggest that the first administrator will be appointed to Universidad de Mar, a private institution in the city of Viña del Mar. The bill has yet to be approved by Congress.

Women gain from charitable aid

A ceremony has honoured women in Malawi who have been able to attend university thanks to scholarships provided by a Scottish charity. So far, 39 women have had their tuition fees paid for by the Soko Fund. Earlier this month, the women were addressed by Malawi’s minister of education at a ceremony in the capital Lilongwe. The Soko Fund was created in 2003 to address concerns that women from poor backgrounds find it particularly difficult to enter university because of the “traditional roles they are expected to fill”.

Universities back extension of demand-driven system

Universities Australia has backed the extension of the country’s demand-driven funding system to non-university providers of higher education. The proposal, which would include private providers, was made in a recent government-commissioned review. Sandra Harding, chair of Universities Australia, said that the umbrella body was “not opposed to greater competition” but it hoped that any extension of the system would maintain universities’ per-student funding and avoid damaging the quality and reputation of Australian higher education.

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