World in brief - 6 February 2014

February 6, 2014

Tax measure ‘threatens’ funding

A body of leading Australian universities has criticised the government’s “kneejerk, short-sighted” attempt to recoup more than a billion dollars in research and development tax concessions from big business, warning that it could result in a drain in research funding. Les Field, chairman of the Group of Eight elite universities’ committee of deputy vice-chancellors of research, said the move – which would try to claw back A$1.1 billion (£585.6 million) – could jeopardise 30 per cent of funding at his own institution, the University of New South Wales. The proposal, initially made by the Labor Party, would cut lucrative tax concessions for companies whose aggregate assessable income is above A$20 billion, The Australian reported. The new coalition government said the measure would reduce waste by targeting small and medium-sized businesses. However, in a submission to a Senate inquiry, Professor Field claimed smaller businesses rarely produced “new-to-world innovations”.

Rallying talk for way forward

The Pakistani government is committed to promoting higher education as it is the country’s “only way forward to earn a respectable place in the comity of nations”, a minister has said. Ahsan Iqbal, federal minister for planning, development and reform, made the comments while addressing the Urdu Debate Competition, organised by the Federal Government College for Girls. “We should not lend ears to conspiracy theories floated by certain pessimists,” Professor Iqbal said. “Rather we should gear ourselves up for better performance through better education, greater hard work, and improving our credentials on honesty and integrity,” The Nation reported.

Call to limit government influence

University leaders in Israel have called for government reform to limit the education minister’s influence on appointments to the country’s higher education council. The Committee of University Heads (CUH) made the comment in a communiqué to a new government higher education committee two weeks ago. The document, obtained by Haaretz newspaper, states that the body is seeking academic freedom to be enshrined in law. It also recommends that Shai Piron, the education minister, renounce the chairmanship of Israel’s Council for Higher Education in favour of a former university president. The document also reveals a request for the financial subcommittee of the Council to be required by law to consult CUH before “making rules that constitute intervention in the running of the institutions”.

‘Poor record’ compared with China

A former vice-chancellor of an Indian university has praised China’s progress in global higher education in comparison with his own country’s position. S. M. Ramasamy, former vice-chancellor of the Gandhigram Rural Institute, told the 22nd convocation of Mother Teresa Women’s University that China had gone from one representative in the top 500 global institutions in 2000 to 32 a decade later. In comparison, India had dropped from two institutions at the turn of the millennium to one in 2010. He added that more than two-thirds of universities and 90 per cent of the colleges in India appeared to be below average in terms of quality, The Hindu reported. Mr Ramasamy felt that the country should consider adopting the Nai Talim principle – that knowledge and work are not separate – propounded by Mahatma Gandhi, and begin providing basic education in the mother tongue of the students.

United States
Boycott funding bill passed

The New York Senate has passed legislation preventing any public or private college or university from using state funds to finance groups supporting academic boycotts. The bill, introduced by Democrat Senator Jeff Klein, states that institutions cannot aid an “academic entity” financially “if that academic entity has undertaken an official action boycotting certain countries or their higher education institutions”. It comes in reaction to the American Studies Association’s controversial boycott of Israel over the country’s treatment of Palestinians, The Albany Times-Union reported. Mr Klein amended his stronger original bill, which would have denied all state funds to any school that supported such an organisation.

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