World in brief - 8 May 2014

May 8, 2014

France
Exchange workshop

Measures to help more students, staff and PhD candidates at French universities spend time abroad have been explored at a special workshop on the subject in Paris. The gathering saw 12 vice-presidents for international relations, officials from the French government and representatives of the European University Association (EUA) and the Academic Cooperation Association (ACA) look at topics including how to promote exchange opportunities, language challenges and how mobility is funded. Similar workshops – part of a EUA/ACA project on staff and student mobility in Europe – are set to follow in Lithuania and Hungary.

Turkey
Stronger ties with Arab world

Istanbul has hosted the first conference to improve links between Turkish and Arab universities. The Turkish Arab Congress on Higher Education was held from 26 to 28 April and was set to attract delegates from more than 130 universities, ministries and other organisations from across the region. Sultan Abu-Orabi, secretary-general of the Association of Arab Universities, was quoted as saying of Turkey and the Arab world: “We have a common culture, we share the same religion and same history. So, we can make use of these common points to cooperate.”

Brazil
Engineering woes

Universities in Brazil are facing a shortage of engineering professors, according to new figures. A survey by the country’s ministry of education found that between 2010 and 2012 the number of first-year engineering students increased by 65 per cent but the number of professors rose just 21 per cent, the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper reported. Students at two universities have protested about the lack and quality of engineering professors.

China
Positive partnership

China’s largest online learning portal has strengthened its ties with US Mooc platform edX. XuetangX, which is made up of partner universities including Tsinghua, Peking and Shanghai Jiaotong universities, will license all courses from edX, translate them for Chinese learners and make them available as Moocs. It will also host edX.org content (including video) on servers within China, giving learners unrestricted access to all edX content, which is unprecedented for the country. Anant Agarwal, chief executive of edX, said the platform saw the partnership as “a unique opportunity to use technology to overcome the access gap” in China.

Russia
Kremlin may treble Crimean wages

The salaries of university lecturers in Crimea could be trebled after Russia pledged to align the region’s higher education system with its own. Russia’s minister of education and science, Dmitry Livanov, said that about £600 million will be invested in Crimea after it took control of the former Ukrainian province in March. There are also plans to provide about 17,500 state-funded places for Crimean students at Russia’s top universities in addition to the already mooted proposal to create a new Russian federal university in Crimea by uniting several local institutions.

Australia
Student debt warning

Australian students could still graduate with huge debts even if a “soft cap” on borrowing was introduced in an attempt to mitigate higher fees, the country’s National Tertiary Education Union has warned. It was responding to comments from Andrew Norton, co-author of a major review of the country’s demand-driven system, who suggested that such a borrowing limit could be an alternative if tuition fee caps were removed. However, the union said students could still end up with debts of A$100,000 (£55,000) as the current lifetime borrowing limit on a related government loan scheme is as high as A$120,000.

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