World in brief - 19 February 2015

February 19, 2015

United States
Close college for two years, say lawmakers

State legislators have provoked anger by saying that a historically black college experiencing financial problems should close for two years. A legislative panel in South Carolina has passed a measure – which is not yet law – that would shut down South Carolina State University for two years to give it a “clean slate”, citing its millions of dollars in debts and low graduation rates. Thomas Elzey, the university’s president, said that it “will not close” and that the legislators’ move had “incited worry and panic among our students, their parents, faculty, staff, alumni and our supporters everywhere”.

Divestment commencement

A Gothenburg university has become the first Swedish academic institution to divest its fossil fuel assets. Chalmers University of Technology will dispose of investments in the coal, gas and oil industries worth about Skr5 million (£393,000) after the Church of Sweden and the city of Örebro took similar steps. Universities could play a key role in promoting social change akin to the significance of the boycott of South African products during the apartheid era, said John Holmberg, the vice-president of Chalmers.

‘McCarthyism at the gates’ of Hong Kong institution

A state-backed newspaper in China has warned against anti-communist “McCarthyism” at the University of Hong Kong after a mainland student running for office was criticised by pro-democracy activists. Eugenia Yip, a former member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Youth League, is running for social secretary of the students’ union of the University of Hong Kong. The Global Times said that critics had claimed that she was a “pawn” in the party’s supposed infiltration of the university, according to Reuters. “Hong Kong University must not let McCarthy enter the gates,” the newspaper said in a commentary.

Campus France to target Asian students through TV

Campus France, the national body responsible for promoting French higher education and attracting foreign students, has struck a deal with the international TV channel TV5MONDE. The agreement makes the channel’s whole network, broadcasting French-language content 24/7 to more than 260 million homes in more than 200 countries, available for Campus France’s promotional campaigns. In response to a government initiative, a campaign targeting Asian students and their families will be broadcasted on TV5MONDE Asia.

American University to rise in Tunis

Three US institutions have agreed to collaborate in the creation of a new American University in Tunis. Clayton State University and Savannah State University, both in Georgia, along with Michigan State University will partner with Tunisia’s private Montplaisir University for the $103 million (£67.3 million) project at the Tunis Financial Harbour site, which is being developed by Bahrain-based Gulf Finance House. The university, which is expected to be completed in 2020, is being funded by the US institutions, banks and other investors, a GFH statement said.

Second review of sector bill

The Australian Senate has launched a second inquiry into the government’s controversial higher education bill, which would lead to a cut in government subsidies and to caps on tuition fees being removed. The topics to be examined by the inquiry, which will report by 17 March, include future demand for places, implications for the student loans system and alternatives to deregulation. Meanwhile, David Leyonhjelm, a cross-bench senator, said the government was “interested” in his suggestion that the bill be split in two, allowing those opposed to cuts to vote for deregulation.

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