World in brief - 24 April 2014

April 24, 2014

United States
ASA’s Israel boycott boosts membership

The American Studies Association, an organisation that promotes the study of American culture and history, has increased its membership by more than 700 since it endorsed an academic boycott of Israel in December last year. A statement from the ASA said the organisation had collected “more membership revenue in the past three months than in any other three-month period over the past quarter-century”, and that “despite the backlash” the association has endured for its stance, the organisation was “thriving”.

EU ‘failing’ Roma

The European Students’ Union has called for Roma people to be given better access to higher education. The Brussels-based organisation said although they “constitute the biggest minority in Europe with a population of 12 to 15 million people”, they are also “the minority most affected by discrimination, hatred and violence”, with one Unicef report indicating that less than 1 per cent of the relevant age group in Central and Eastern Europe attend university. The ESU called for European Union governments to live up to their responsibilities by creating “a safe and discrimination-free [educational] environment and flexible learning-paths”.

Critic sacked

A Russian philosophy professor has been sacked by his university after comparing his country’s actions in Crimea to Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria in 1938. Andrei Zubov was dismissed by Moscow State Institute of International Relations, regarded as Russia’s leading university for aspiring diplomats, after penning a controversial piece in Vedomosti, a business paper. Some 12,000 students have signed an online petition calling for his reinstatement, saying the decision violates the principle of academic freedom, The Moscow Times reported. The university has denied that the dismissal had anything to do with his article.

South Africa
Spending gap

Government expenditure on South African universities will have to be doubled if it wishes to reach the levels of other Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, a new study has found. According to “The contribution of higher education institutions to the South African economy”, published in the South African Journal of Science, spending on the country’s higher education universities is well below the OECD average and would need to be boosted by 40 per cent to achieve parity, and doubled to be among the top quartile of the OECD countries.

Stronger ties with China

The Afghan minister for education has called for more support from China in the higher education sector to further strengthen links between the two countries. Speaking at the opening of the Centre of Science and Technology at Kabul University last week, Farooq Wardak said he was “hopeful” that China would contribute further in the “field of education”, the Xinhua news agency reported. Deng Xijun, the Chinese ambassador to Afghanistan, said he hoped that the centre, which was built with financial support from the Chinese government, would further enhance Sino-Afghan relations.

Expansion fee warning

Australian universities have welcomed the recommendation by a government-commissioned review that the country’s demand-driven higher education system be extended to sub-degree programmes, further education colleges and private providers. But observers warned expansion should not further erode funding per student, which has declined by 23 per cent in real terms since 1995. Conor King, executive director of the Innovative Research Universities mission group, said the report’s proposal to introduce a fee on top of student loans to help fund the system’s expansion “has the appearance of an accounting trick”.

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