World in brief - 27 February 2014

February 27, 2014

New Zealand
Export initiatives get cash boost

Schemes designed to attract international students to New Zealand’s universities have been given a NZ$465,000 (£232,000) funding boost. The New Zealand government will fund 12 new international higher education growth initiatives, according to Steven Joyce, tertiary education, skills and employment minister. Recipients of the second round of the International Education Growth Fund grants include Massey University, which is developing a new joint degree programme in China, and a group of Auckland institutions piloting a recruitment programme in South America, The New Zealand Herald reported. “New Zealand’s future prosperity depends on our ability to successfully export our products and services internationally, and that includes the delivery of New Zealand education offshore, as well as recruiting more students to study here,” Mr Joyce said.

United States
A call to eschew arms

Occidental College, a private liberal arts college in Los Angeles, has pledged not to invest its endowment in companies that manufacture assault weapons for public sale. The move, described by activists as the first of its kind by a US college or university, was urged by academic faculty members in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December 2012. “It’s a statement of principle about the mission of higher education to be a voice of reason in a world of a lot of violence,” Peter Dreier, professor of politics at Occidental, told the Los Angeles Times. The board of trustees of the college, which has no existing investments in firms making such products, voted to ensure it stays away from such stocks in future.

Teachers are made, not born

An education minister in New South Wales has urged Australian prime minister Tony Abbott to consider whether all teachers should have postgraduate qualifications as part of a government review of teacher training. Adrian Piccoli said he was impressed by the University of Melbourne’s policy of offering teacher training only via a two-year postgraduate degree rather than an undergraduate degree, saying that it “would strengthen the profession for all teachers to have postgraduate degrees”, The Age reported. It was announced earlier this month that Greg Craven, vice-chancellor of Australian Catholic University, will chair an eight-person panel on teacher training. Professor Craven said that the panel will focus on course content, instruction methods and integrating practice and theory. “You can’t select quality teachers by looking at a mark branded on their forehead when they are 17,” he said.

Academy key to future: minister

Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistan’s federal minister for planning, development and reform, has said that the country’s future success lies in a “well-established system of higher education”. Addressing a conference on 15 February at the National University of Modern Languages in Islamabad, Mr Iqbal said it was an “immense pleasure” to see universities and institutions putting effort and resources into the development of quality research, adding that in all “developed and civilised countries, universities had contributed tremendously to achieving national development goals”, the Pakistan Observer reported. He also praised the host university for being a centre of excellence for teaching.

Iversity reaches half-million mark

Germany’s massive open online course platform Iversity has now enrolled about half a million students, just four months after its launch. The Berlin-based start-up currently offers 28 courses, and some 5,000 students completed the first five Moocs that recently came to an end. Two courses in business studies and in marketing, developed by RWTH Aachen University and Lübeck University of Applied Sciences respectively, allowed students to apply for European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System recognition. To earn credit, online students had to complete an on-site exam at one of several locations in Germany. A spokesman said that a few dozen students took the on-site exams, each paying €129 (£107). Hannes Klöpper, Iversity’s managing director, said the demand for online courses was “growing rapidly”. He added: “What matters for online students is to receive certificates that count towards their studies.”

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