World in brief - 20 March 2014

March 20, 2014

Australia
Postgrad funding ‘deeply flawed’

The allocation of government supported postgraduate places in Australia is deeply flawed, irrational and inequitable and in dire need of an overhaul, according to an academic. Forty per cent of master’s coursework students are now subsidised; the number has doubled in the past five years. While 73 per cent of architecture and building master’s places are subsidised, only 21 per cent of IT and 33 per cent of engineering – both areas of critical skills shortage – are government aided. Andrew Harvey, director of the Access and Achievement Research Unit at La Trobe University, believes “inconsistencies abound within courses, between courses, and between institutions”. “Similar courses attract funding at one institution but not at another,” wrote Dr Harvey in The Australian.

United States
Social science, what’s it worth?

Conservative politicians in the US House of Representatives are renewing their push to limit the National Science Foundation’s support for social science research. Under a proposal introduced last week by Republican Lamar Smith, chairman of the House’s science, space and technology committee, the NSF’s social, behavioural and economic sciences directorate would see its recommended funding cut by 42 per cent, Nature reported. The legislation also proposes major changes to the peer-review process by which the agency awards its grants. Mr Smith’s plan would require the NSF to provide written justification that every grant it awards – in all fields – is in the “national interest”. This is defined broadly as research that satisfies at least one of six goals including economic competitiveness, partnerships between academia and industry, and national defence.

Indonesia
Fight for access

Activists are urging the Indonesian government to revise university admissions standards that they claim discriminate against disabled students. The campaigners say entrance requirements set by the National Higher Education Entrance Exam for courses at a number of universities discriminate against speech-, sight- and hearing-impaired students, UCA News reported. The provisions apply to 62 state universities that accept students through the standardised entrance exam and particularly discriminate against disabled students wishing to study professional courses such as dentistry, the activists say. Doni Koesoema, founder of Pendidikan Karakter Education Consulting, said: “Restricting access to education cannot be justified, though we admit that there are a number of specific requirements for each profession.” Febi Yonesta, director of the Legal Aid Institute in Jakarta, said an education policy that discriminates against the disabled is contrary to the constitution, which ensures that education is the right of every citizen.

India
Helping hand for Goans

Students in the Indian state of Goa will receive financial help from the government to pursue higher and technical education courses if their parents’ income does not exceed 300,000 rupees (£2,944) a year. The bursary scheme, operated through Goa’s Education Development Corporation, is available to students undertaking professional education. The maximum amount of funding available will be limited to 40,000 rupees a year. Only those courses where the total fee does not exceed 60,000 rupees a year will be considered under the scheme and beneficiaries will have to refund the state government after finding employment. The institutions at which students wish to study must be affiliated to Goa University and should be recognised by the directorate of higher education or technical education.

South Africa
Enrolments soar

The number of enrolments at South African universities has approximately doubled since 1994 to almost 1 million students. Enrolments to universities – including technikons and teacher training colleges – have risen from 495,356 in 1994 to 938,201 in 2011, according to the 20 Year Review, released last week. By 2011, women made up 54 per cent of all students enrolled in contact university programmes – but participation rates were still skewed in favour of white and Indian students, according to a report on the allAfrica website.

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