World in brief – 2 April 2015

April 2, 2015

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A Christian university has defended itself after receiving criticism for requiring students to attend a rally where Ted Cruz, a Republican US senator, announced his intention to run for president. Students posted comments on social media to say that they were compelled to attend the speech, meaning the image of a packed hall at Liberty University in Virginia was somewhat misleading. Attendance was required “just like class is required for students”, said Jerry Falwell, the university’s president. “No one is expected to agree with every speaker on every point.”

Scholars issue ‘wish list’

Polish academics have issued a set of demands to the government. The list from the Polish Humanities Crisis Committee, signed by representatives of more than 70 research units and supported by the trade unions, was presented to the Science Ministry. It included calls for greater transparency in the evaluation of academic staff and changes to the funding of higher education, so that subsidies to universities are no longer so dependent on student numbers. Other demands included separate research evaluation systems for different scientific disciplines and increased overall funding for science.

140-character ‘insults’ may spell jail for tweeter

A student may be jailed for up to four and a half years for posting tweets alleged to have insulted Turkey’s president. The 21-year-old at Ege University, in the western city of Izmir, whose name is Alp A., is accused of insulting Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the country’s prime minister at the time, using a Twitter account he ran from 2013, Zaman newspaper has reported. Dozens of people, including journalists, students and a former Miss Turkey, have been prosecuted for insulting Mr Erdogan on social media, under a law that prohibits insults towards public officials.

Reforms disappoint

Government reforms of the education system in Chile fall short, according to an influential student group. Michelle Bachelet, the country’s president, has enacted a new law that will ban selective admissions in privately owned primary and secondary schools that receive state subsidies and tuition fees. However, the University of Chile Student Federation, which campaigned for the changes and organised mass protests between 2011 and 2013, said the reforms do not go far enough at school level and do not address their demands for universal access to higher education.

Dozens charged

Sixty-five people have appeared in court in Burma charged over a student protest against the national education bill. A mix of students and activists, they were arrested last month. The bill is seen as centralising power over higher education in Burma, where students are a political force, having led protests against the military regime in the 1980s. Protesters “were calling for more power to be devolved to universities and higher education institutions, the right to form student unions, and teaching in ethnic-minority languages”, the BBC reported.

Penalties plan over unpaid debts

Australian universities may be penalised financially if their students fail to repay student loans. Christopher Pyne, the education minister, proposed the scheme to a cross-bench senator ahead of last month’s vote on the government’s higher education reforms, which the government lost. In a letter to the senator, David Leyonhjelm, Mr Pyne said that levels of unpaid student debt could be kept down by making “a relatively modest amount” of universities’ direct grants dependent on their students’ repayment levels, motivating them to focus on employability.

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