World in brief – 19 March 2015

March 19, 2015

Source: Alamy

United States
Community college intake still shrinking

There has been a continued nationwide decline in community college enrolment in the US, a report has found. According to the latest edition of Trends in Community College Enrollment and Completion Data, published by the American Association of Community Colleges, enrolment was down 3.5 per cent in the year to autumn 2014. Some 39 per cent of all community college students graduate within six years, the report says.

Republic of Ireland
Academy ambitions take in tackling jobs crisis

A new strategy aims to “articulate a vision for the Republic of Ireland’s research and innovation system”. Ireland’s Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has begun a consultation process on plans intended to maintain and build “the capacity and capability of people in academia, RPOs [research-performing organisations] and in enterprise through the acquisition and transfer of knowledge”. Another aim is to create “a state-of-the-art research environment in Ireland based on adequate, appropriate infrastructure (and open access to it)”, with a particular emphasis on “areas of economic relevance” that can “address the jobs crisis”.

How much? Degree costs set to soar

Proposed reforms could result in a fivefold increase in the cost of attending university in Albania, student leaders have claimed. The country’s parliament is expected to approve a major new law on higher education, which is designed to give greater autonomy to universities and help them to diversify their sources of revenue. The draft law is based on a White Paper produced by a special commission headed by Arjan Gjonca, associate professor in demography at the London School of Economics. However, student groups have protested against the planned hike in tuition fees and the introduction of student loans.

Mummies show signs of decay

Ancient mummies stored at the University of Tarapacá’s archaeological museum are decomposing as a result of increased levels of humidity, despite their location in the deserts of northern Chile. Microbes have grown on the skin of some of the 120 historic Chinchorro mummies, stored in the port city of Arica, causing it to turn black and become gelatinous. Historians believe that the mummies date back to 5050BC and are 2,000 years older than Egyptian mummies. An increase in fog rolling in from the Pacific in recent years is thought to be behind the rise in humidity.

Alliance to tackle Africa’s big challenges

Fifteen of Africa’s leading universities have formed an association to improve research across the continent. The African Research Universities Alliance, which includes six institutions from South Africa and three from Nigeria, will aim to develop coordinated programmes of research and training to tackle the continent’s biggest challenges. Providing more opportunities for international postgraduates to study in Africa, rather than the US and Europe, will be another priority. The group was launched at the African Higher Education Summit, which was held in Dakar, Senegal.

Sidestep ‘dumb’ move on research, letter urges

A group of senior figures in research have written an open letter to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, urging him to end the uncertainty over the funding of national research infrastructure caused by a political stalemate over higher education reforms. The National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy funds 27 major research facilities and the letter warns that many of them are already preparing for closure. Christopher Pyne, the education minister, reiterated that funding depended on the passage of the reforms, including the removal of the cap on tuition fees. The Group of Eight, an alliance of research intensive universities, has taken out advertisements in the press warning that “shutting down research facilities is such a dumb thing for a clever country to do”.

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