World in brief - 3 April 2014

April 3, 2014

United States
Yale professor changes course

US massive open online course provider Coursera has appointed former Yale University president Richard Levin its chief executive officer. Professor Levin, 66, retired from the Yale presidency in June last year after 20 years in the post. In mid-April, he will take up his role at Coursera, which is the largest Mooc platform in the world. It currently offers more than 600 courses from 108 institutions to 7 million learners.

Ditch and switch

Forty per cent of students in Italy fail to complete their chosen course, a study says. According to a report by educational agency Anvur, 15 per cent of students on three-year courses drop out completely in the first year, while the same number switch courses. The remaining 10 per cent leave university later in their course – an attrition rate caused by “ineffective orientation, a deficit in preparing students and a weakness in training staff [to help] those enrolled”, says the report published on 20 March 2014.

Crimea’s new campus

Russia has announced plans to create a 10th federal university in the recently annexed province of Crimea. Natalya Goncharova, the Crimean minister of education, science, youth policy and sport, said that the institution should be set up as soon as possible. A working group of Crimean and Russian experts had been set up to address the issue, she added. According to Ms Goncharova, the plan will result in the merger of several institutions with the Taurida National University, The Voice of Russia reported.

YouTube bulletin

Students in Venezuela have posted on YouTube a message documenting the fallout from protests against the government of President Nicolás Maduro. “This struggle is for all Venezuelans. We protest for the rights of everybody,” they say in the four-minute clip. Across the country, more than 35 people have died in the demonstrations since they were started by students in February, according to media reports.

Terror threat

The leader of the Nigerian Islamic terrorist organisation Boko Haram has said that all universities in the country risk attacks unless they close down. Abubakar Shekau issued the warning in a video posted last week, with local media translating him saying: “You should leave university, I hate university.” His comments are the latest threat from the group – whose name roughly translates as “Western education is forbidden” – following a series of attacks on universities and students in Nigeria.

Fees warning

The experience of the UK shows that any increase in student fees could end up costing the government more, Australia’s National Tertiary Education Union has warned. The comments by union president Jeannie Rea came ahead of student protests against recent A$2.3 billion (£1.3 billion) cuts in university funding and possible increases in tuition fees following the current review of Australia’s demand-driven system. “While [an increase] might increase the income of universities in the short run, it will…ultimately undermine the financial viability of Australia’s income-contingent [loans] system,” she said.

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