World in brief - 21 August 2014

August 21, 2014

United States
The perfect place for party animals

Syracuse University in New York is the top “party school” in the US, according to a survey of 130,000 students. The declaration is based on an annual university rankings survey carried out by test preparation service The Princeton Review, which includes questions on alcohol and drug use, and the number of hours spent studying. Elsewhere in the rankings, Mormon-run Brigham Young University in Utah was declared most sober, while Vanderbilt University in Nashville was found to have the happiest students.

Leader’s learned friends

Bulgaria’s minister of education and science, Rumyana Kolarova, last week named her new management team, with two out of three deputy ministerial posts going to fellow academics. Valeri Mladenov, vice-rector of the Technical University in Sofia, takes over responsibility for higher education and science. Meanwhile, Nikolai Denkov, professor of physical chemistry at Sofia University, will oversee the Science and Education for Smart Growth project and a number of European programmes implemented by the ministry.

British hostage forced to do hard labour

A British medical student has been held hostage for two weeks in Ukraine by pro-Russia rebels. Mohammed Gasim, 21, was studying at a university in Donetsk when he was captured from the street after armed militants heard him speaking English. Mr Gasim, from Hounslow, in West London, was accused of being a mercenary and was forced to dig ditches in east Ukraine until his release in early August. He is now believed to be back in Donetsk and has telephoned his parents, telling them that his passport and identity papers have been taken from him.

African students seek tuition fee harmony

Universities in Uganda have been told by the government to charge students from other East African countries the same tuition fees as home students amid a broader move towards regional integration. Other countries in the region, including Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda, are also moving towards harmonising fees, and the government was responding to complaints from students at Makerere University in Kampala that they were paying too much compared with their Ugandan coursemates, according to local reports.

Communist group end ‘padlock’ protest

Alleged irregularities at Pokhara University are being investigated by the Nepalese authorities, after protests from communist students. The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority is investigating allegations of irregularities in “building construction, granting of affiliations to different colleges and the university’s procurement process”, according to reports. A student group close to the Unified CPN-Maoist party had previously “padlocked the university”, putting forward demands including “an end to irregularities”, but lifted their protest after the authorities began investigating.

‘Junk’ patent fears

The suggestion by Ian Macfarlane, industry minister, that block grants for research should be distributed on the basis of the number of patents registered by researchers has been condemned. The grants are distributed on the basis of paper numbers, but Mr Macfarlane last week said the focus of funding should be on “applying the knowledge…into practical outcomes that deliver commercial advantages”. Critics claimed this would encourage researchers to register “junk” patents for inventions that are never commercialised.

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