World in brief - 5 June 2014

June 5, 2014

United States
‘Blender’ comment stirs ratings row

There is growing opposition to US president Barack Obama’s plan to introduce a college ratings system, which is intended to lower the cost of study by allowing prospective students to compare institutions by factors such as completion rates and graduate earnings. “It’s like rating a blender,” Jamienne Studley, deputy under secretary at the US Department of Education, was this week reported to have told college presidents at a meeting in November. Charles L. Flynn Jr, president of the College of Mount Saint Vincent in the Bronx, told The New York Times, which ran a story on mounting concerns, that the plan was “uncharacteristically clueless”.

Staff shortage

Turkey needs to increase its cohort of academics by about one-third to bring class sizes in line with international standards, a report says. Some 45,000 more university lecturers will be required over the next five years to ensure that there is one academic for every 16 students, the average level found in Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, according to the study, titled Growth, Quality and Internationalisation: A Road Map for Higher Education in Turkey, published by Turkey’s Council of Higher Education.

McDonald’s cleaner moves to Cabinet

Former television star Smriti Irani, who cleaned floors in McDonald’s while starting her acting career, will be the minister responsible for India’s universities and colleges in Narendra Modi’s new government. Ms Irani, who before beginning her political career won a record five consecutive Indian Television Academy Awards for Best Actress, was sworn in as minister for human resource development on 26 May. At 38, she will be the youngest minister in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s Cabinet.

Latin America
Five challenges for the next five years

The pressure to increase research capacity, the need to establish links with industry, demographic change and internationalisation will be the main factors affecting higher education in Latin America over the next five years. This is according to a survey of university leaders conducted by the Alfa PUENTES project, which promotes higher education collaboration in the region. Leaders in Mexico and Central America also pointed to curriculum reform as a key issue.

Simple remedy for sick migrants

Qatar’s huge migrant worker population would benefit from having pictograms on medicine labels because of their low literacy skills, a Qatar University study has found. The study set out to address the often “inappropriate” use of medicines by migrant workers, the majority of whom lack good English or Arabic skills. Using pictograms in addition to English and Arabic allowed the workers, who often come from the Indian subcontinent, to better understand instructions such as “take two tablets three times a day”.

Foreign fee revenue soars in NSW

The average fee revenue from international students at universities in New South Wales rose by nearly 32 per cent between 2008 and 2012. A report by the state’s auditor-general, published last week, revealed that fee income from domestic students rose by 13 per cent over the same period. In 2012, the University of Sydney had the highest difference between average fees received from overseas students and domestic students, with the former paying 237 per cent more. At Southern Cross University, in contrast, the difference was just 29 per cent.

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