World in brief - 23 January 2014

January 23, 2014

United States
Stanford’s Steele heads to Berkeley

A highly ranked university in California has poached a senior academic from one of its nearest rivals. It was announced last week that Claude Steele, a social psychologist and dean of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, would become the University of California, Berkeley’s next executive vice-chancellor and provost. Berkeley’s chancellor Nicholas Dirks, who previously worked with Professor Steele at Columbia University, described him as a “world-class scholar, an extraordinarily gifted administrator and a visionary leader” in a statement. Professor Steele will succeed George Breslauer, who is retiring after more than seven years in the position, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Bouncing back Down Under

The Australian international education sector is healthier, according to new government data. Department of Immigration and Border Protection statistics have shown a marked improvement in the number of visa applications by and visas granted to prospective overseas students, with the former rising by 7.1 per cent between June and September last year against the same period in 2012. The introduction of streamlined visa processing is driving reinvigorated demand for places, The Australian reported. Higher education accounted for more than 40 per cent of student visa applications. After four years of decline, applications from India and China have risen. Applications made by, and visas granted to, students from India were up by 7.3 and 22.4 per cent respectively. In a rise of 5 per cent, 17,850 visas were issued to Chinese nationals, a group that now comprises 25 per cent of the total.

State accuses ‘lobbying’ scholars

Several Russian scholars are still being investigated by the government for links to a prominent critic of Vladimir Putin, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, even though he was recently pardoned. Academics at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow have been accused by the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation of illegally receiving funds to lobby on behalf of Mr Khodorkovsky in a matter known as the “case of experts”. The case has placed the institution in the middle of what some Russians see as an effort by Mr Putin to silence academics who speak out against government policies, The New York Times reported. Tamara Morshchakova, head of the institution’s department of judicial power and justice administration and one of the scholars being investigated, said: “The attack on us was ordered by authorities in order to threaten and mute us.”

Students’ detention prolonged

A large group of students of an Egyptian university have had their detention by security forces renewed by a further two weeks. The 174 students from Al-Azhar University in Nasr City, Cairo, were accused of inciting riots and detained after violent protests on campus at the end of December. The decision by prosecutors in Nasr City to extend the detention has drawn criticism from the university’s students’ union, which called the move a “desperate attempt to scare Al-Azhar’s free students and break their stubborn will”. Female Al-Azhar students demonstrated outside the headquarters of the National Council for Women to draw attention to the 23 women among the detainees, Daily News Egypt reported.

United States
It’s lonely at the top

A public university in the US has barred its incoming president from sharing her official residence with any romantic partner while she remains unmarried. Gwendolyn Boyd, who starts as the new head of Alabama State University on 1 February, has signed a contract that prohibits her from living in the presidential home with any “romantic relation”. The contract notes that Dr Boyd, who is single, is obliged to live in the house, and that the no-cohabitation clause will remain in place for as long as she remains unmarried, Associated Press reported. In a statement last week, Dr Boyd said that she was aware of what was in the contract and was not bothered by it. The university said in a statement that the clause was not about Dr Boyd but rather the “increasing scrutiny” that presidents face “as the top image-makers of their respective universities”.

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