World in brief – 9 April 2015

April 9, 2015

Source: Getty

United States
Spike in cheating claims

Stanford University’s provost has written to academics to warn them about an “unusually high number of troubling allegations of academic dishonesty” reported to the university’s Office of Community Standards during the winter quarter. One allegation concerned as many as 20 per cent of students on one large introductory course. “With the ease of technology and widespread sharing that is now part of a collaborative culture, students need to recognise and be reminded that it is dishonest to appropriate the work of others,” wrote John Etchemendy. “I ask you to continue to reflect on ways to discuss the importance of academic integrity frankly and openly with our students.”

Topless protests

Female students marched topless to Iceland’s parliament to protest against the over-sexualised representation of women’s bodies. A group of University of Iceland students also entered a public swimming pool without wearing bikini tops as part of the “Free the Nipple” day on 26 March. Women were encouraged not to wear bras on the day by the university’s feminist association. “It still seems to be a bit embarrassing if the nipples can be seen, which is weird because everyone has nipples,” said Heiður Anna Helgadóttir, the association’s chair.

Petition against threats to freedom

Activists in Hong Kong have signed a petition “warning of growing threats to academic freedom and the educational system amid fears of a broader Chinese clampdown,” according to Reuters, the news agency. The petition, published in the Ming Pao newspaper, states: “Academic freedom and the autonomy of educational institutions are fundamental rights guaranteed to Hong Kong.” Reuters said that the petition cited “personal attacks on prominent academics in the pro-Beijing media” as well as “growing perceptions of political bias and improper influence in the appointment of university officers and members of governing bodies”.

Bologna moves closer

Belarus’ bid to join the European Higher Education Area and Bologna Process has been given a boost. The Bologna Follow-Up Group (BFUG), composed of representatives of all members of the process and the European Commission, gathered in Latvia ahead of next month’s Bologna ministerial conference, where decisions on new members will be made. The BFUG recommended that the admission of Belarus – where Western observers have said that elections are not free – should be considered, provided that the country implements a number of reforms to its higher education system over the next three years.

White scientists win bulk of fellowships

White scientists won three-quarters of research fellowships awarded by a Brazilian funding agency in January, a report has revealed. Just 22 per cent of all funding for master’s degrees, PhDs and research projects from the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development went to Afro-Brazilians. The study, published on 16 March, highlights the problems surrounding research funding for minorities in the South American country. About half of Brazil’s population are Afro-Brazilian, according to the US Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook, but they are under-represented in science.

Pyne rises above the pessimism

Christopher Pyne, the education minister, has vowed to press on with a third attempt to push his university reforms through parliament despite a pessimistic prognosis from the elite Group of Eight universities. The G8 supports the reforms, which include the uncapping of fees, but last week said that there was little prospect of their passing without being so compromised that they would no longer offer universities secure funding. The G8 called for a “de-politicised” review to be set up instead, but Mr Pyne tweeted: “Another review is not a substitute for action.”

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