World in brief – 7 May 2015

May 7, 2015

Source: Alamy

United States
No funding, no findings

A report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has highlighted some of the opportunities for scientific research missed by US organisations, including the discovery of the Higgs boson particle at Cern in Geneva and the successful landing of a probe on a comet by the European Space Agency. The Future Postponed: Why Declining Investment in Basic Research Threatens a U. S. Innovation Deficit says that “wide-spread concern” over US innovation performance “is attributable in part to declining public investment in research”. Such investment has fallen from almost 10 per cent of the total federal budget in 1968 to less than 4 per cent today, the report says.

Republic of Ireland
Beware insularity

Tom Boland, chief executive of the Republic of Ireland’s Higher Education Authority, used an address at Trinity College Dublin to explore what he sees as the challenges facing higher education. He urged his audience to “beware the academic” who “equates academic freedom with the right to do what he pleases…with an obstinate disregard for resource management in a university and a haughty disdain for ‘bureaucracy’ and the ‘marketplace’”. He also urged universities to “reflect deeply…on how their organisation and culture act unconsciously to restrict entry to people who do not share the values and life view prevailing on campus; on how they are perceived as alien places to thousands of families”.

Hello world

Estonia’s minister of education and research, Jürgen Ligi, has signed an agreement with China’s vice-minister of education, Li Weihong, on mutual recognition of higher education qualifications. The initiative, designed to facilitate cooperation and student exchanges, is part of a wider internationalisation strategy that has helped to triple the number of foreign students in Estonia in the past five years. The University of Tartu already cooperates with Chinese universities in fields such as chemistry, economics and international relations. The new agreement will encourage other institutions to develop similar programmes.

Down and out in Spain

Venezuelans studying abroad have made a documentary about their experiences of being unable to access foreign currency. In Adrift (A la deriva), a 12-minute film posted on YouTube, seven students discuss how they have been affected by the government’s refusal to allow them access to an official exchange system, which means they must use the black market and its much less favourable rates. One student shows the 24 m sq apartment that he has to share with four others. A couple who owe €20,000 (£14,320) to a university that they had to drop out of explain that they took jobs washing cars.

Call to redouble campus security

The Association of African Universities has urged higher education institutions across the continent to step up security. The call was made in the wake of last month’s attack by militants from the Islamist al-Shabab group on Garissa University College in Kenya, which left 148 people dead and many others wounded. “The association is again calling on all universities to increase collaborations with the various security forces in their countries to ensure that campuses are well protected and very safe spaces for academic work,” a statement said.

Ministry fast-track approval considered

India’s government is considering legislation allowing ministries to create new higher education institutions. The Times of India said the plan was being looked at by the office of the prime minister, Narendra Modi, but “could run into rough weather in Parliament”. Currently, Parliament must pass individual bills to establish new institutions. Government sources suggested that the new rules would mean that “instead of several legislations for specific institutions”, ministries could be empowered to “set up institutions without going to Parliament again and again”, the newspaper said.

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