World in brief - 29 January 2015

January 29, 2015

Jewish scholars’ PhDs reinstated in belated righting of Nazi-era wrongs

A Polish university has reinstated doctorates of Jewish academics that were annulled at the behest of the Nazi regime nearly 80 years ago. The University of Wrocław reconferred 262 PhDs stripped from scholars seen as hostile to Hitler’s dictatorship in the 1930s during a special ceremony last week. Wrocław was a German city known as Breslau when the academics’ degrees were annulled, but became part of Poland when Europe’s borders were redrawn in 1945.

Reforms aim to unshackle sector

The Estonian government has changed the law on higher education to give universities greater freedom in “planning their directions of development”, and to allow research institutions more autonomy in selecting their staff. Employment contracts for academic staff and researchers will now generally be for an unspecified period, rather than for up to five years, and staff will normally be evaluated at least once every five years. Meanwhile, a “needs-based special benefit” will provide additional financial support to poorer students.

Little Red Book gets bigger on campus

The Chinese Communist Party has told universities that they have a role “on the frontline of championing the concepts of Marxism, Chinese Dream, socialist core values and traditional culture”. The state news agency Xinhua reported on the “guideline”, which comes just weeks after Xi Jinping, the nation’s president, called for enhanced “ideological guidance” for universities and for institutions to pay greater attention to teaching Marxism. “The ideological and political work should be enhanced at the faculty level, with socialism with Chinese characteristics underlying teaching methods, according to the guideline,” Xinhua said.

Going for gold may be too dear

Brasilia may pull out of hosting the 2019 World University Games on cost grounds. The event, held every two years, brings together some 9,000 student athletes and officials from 170 countries. Announcing its withdrawal earlier this month, Rodrigo Rollemberg, the newly elected governor of the federal district of Brasilia, is reported to have said that his government could not justify spending €23 million (£17 million) to cover its share of the costs. In a subsequent development, federal ministers entered talks with Rollemberg in a bid to keep the Games in the city.

Businessman to open university for Syrian refugees

An education entrepreneur plans to open a university in Turkey for refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria. Enver Yucel told Associated Press that campuses will be located in cities close to the Syrian border, and will open later this year with 1,500 students and 400 academics, all of whom would be Syrian refugees. Ultimately, the university could accommodate 20,000 students, he said. “If we cannot educate these young people, they will be a big problem both for Turkey and for their own country – for the whole region,” said Mr Yucel, who runs a chain of private schools in Turkey and Istanbul’s Bahçeşehir University.

More low-scoring applicants win places

New data show that a growing number of applicants with low scores in Australia’s standard measure of school achievement have won admission to undergraduate study. In 2014, 40 per cent of those placed below the 50th percentile in the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank received offers, nearly four times the 2009 figure. Fields making offers to the highest proportion of low-scoring applicants were information technology and education. The rise has been attributed to the uncapping of undergraduate numbers, which began in 2010.

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