World in brief - 27 March 2014

March 27, 2014

Australia
‘Poor standards’ a fiction

There is no evidence that some Australian universities are softer markers or have lower academic standards than others, a study has found. The four-year “Office for Learning and Teaching” project, led by Kerri-Lee Krause, pro vice-chancellor (education) and professor of higher education at the University of Western Sydney, analysed 11 universities and found no patterns in assessment outcomes and learning standards across institutions or disciplines, The Australian reported. Professor Krause said that there was greater commonality of views on threshold standards and whether an assessment task was a pass or fail than there was on assessment inputs (criteria, tasks and guidelines). She said that she hoped the pilot would prove to be a “validated robust approach for assuring subject achievement standards” that could be easily implemented more widely.

India
Women obliged to stay indoors

An Indian university locked female students in their dorms during a religious festival to prevent them causing a “nuisance”. Officials at Punjabi University locked the entrances to all six girls’ hostels on Holi, the festival of colours, banning students from leaving the buildings. Female students told The Times of India that entrances remained closed for almost the entire day. They also alleged that security guards lashed out at some of them after they found colours smeared on their faces, indicating that they had taken part in festivities. The step was taken “keeping in mind security of girl students and to prevent any kind of nuisance on the campus”, said K. S. Dhillon, dean of students’ welfare. “Misbehaviour with girls could have led to quarrels and clashes,” he added.

United States
Beat the clock, and beat the fees

A US university is offering free tuition to students in their final semester if they can finish their degrees in four years. The University of Baltimore’s policy could boost its flagging graduation rates and reduce student debt loads. The “Finish4Free” plan will be offered to first-year students starting in autumn 2014 when they reach their final year, The Baltimore Sun reported. Baltimore’s undergraduate programme, which began admitting students in 2007 when it converted from a transfer school for juniors and seniors to a full four-year college, has struggled to graduate its students on time. The current graduation rate of full-time students is 8 per cent, second-lowest in the University System of Maryland. Although he denied that the plan was a response to a declining graduation rate, Baltimore president Robert L. Bogomolny said he hoped that it would help to motivate students to finish more quickly, to lighten their debt loads and to encourage more students to apply.

China
Recruitment frustration

Many Chinese are dissatisfied with the university recruitment system, according to a survey. The study by the China Youth Daily, which surveyed more than 18,000 people, found that more than 90 per cent believe severe corruption exists in university recruitment and 87.7 per cent said that they knew of people who have paid bribes to enter university, the Xinhua news agency reported. Xiong Bingqi, deputy head of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, said a lack of supervision over the administrative power of institutions was a reason why more recruitment corruption was occurring.

Portugal
‘Hazing deaths’

The drowning deaths of six students in Portugal in a suspected “hazing” ritual has sparked a debate about the practice at the country’s private universities. A police investigation, which followed the discovery of the body of Pedro Negrão, has yet to establish the precise circumstances surrounding the deaths. However, Mr Negrão had told his parents that he was meeting other students in a rented house to prepare hazing activities for Lusófona University. The sole known survivor of the encounter has been receiving psychological treatment and has not given his account of what happened, The New York Times reported. Eugénia Vicente, a university representative, said “at this moment…there exists no evidence of a relation between any activity conducted by the university and the tragedy that took the life of six of our students.”

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