World in brief - 9 January 2014

January 9, 2014

United States
Modelling aircraft

Three universities are among six sites chosen by the US federal government to test unmanned drone aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration announced that Virginia Tech, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and the University of Alaska would help to explore the setting of safety standards, the training and certification of ground-based pilots, how to ensure that aircraft can operate safely if radio links are lost and how to avoid collisions, The New York Times reported. Virginia Tech plans to conduct “failure mode” testing to discover what happens when a craft’s control link is lost.

Politics of refusal investigated

An Australian academic has enlisted the help of the National Tertiary Education Union to investigate whether his support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel influenced the Australian Research Council to reject one of his grant proposals. Last year, Jake Lynch, associate professor in the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney, submitted to the federally funded ARC an application for A$290,000 (£155,794). He believes that its rejection may have been influenced by a previous incident in which senior officials at the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAid) “improperly took my support for BDS into account” when they turned down a separate grant application. Documents secured by The Australian under Freedom of Information rules showed that AusAid secretly considered blocking a grant of A$580,000 intended for Professor Lynch’s centre, with Rebecca Bryant, AusAid’s assistant director general at the time, saying she feared that approving the grant might “compound” media attention surrounding BDS.

United States
Boycott Israel? No thanks

Almost 100 US universities have released statements rejecting the boycott of Israeli institutions by an academic organisation. A total of 92 universities have snubbed the American Studies Association’s boycott, and four institutions have severed ties with the organisation in protest against its stance. Robert Sugarman, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, expressed appreciation to university leaders who “stood up against this discriminatory and unjustified measure and rejected the ASA boycott of Israel”, The Jerusalem Post reported. The 5,000-member ASA announced last month that it had endorsed and would participate in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

People problems

The Indian prime minister has called on the country’s university standards regulator to address the staffing problems at institutions in addition to other issues in higher education. Manmohan Singh made the comments about the University Grants Commission during its diamond jubilee celebrations last week. Dr Singh, who ran the UGC in the early 1990s, said the organisation had to address the shortage of faculty in institutions, which is a serious problem that is “likely to become even more acute” as India’s higher education sector expands. He added that the “tasks that lie ahead require fresh thinking and innovative ways of doing things”. The UGC should play the role of a national thinktank, he said, and organise a purposeful discourse about the sound management of the higher education system, The Times of India reported.

New Columbian exchange

More and more Latin American students are heading to Spain to study at its business schools. Although Spain’s economy is flagging, its business schools report that they are increasingly attracting recruits from Latin America, many of whom have international business experience and plan to return to the region after completing their studies. The New York Times reported that these students find Spanish classrooms to be more diverse than US ones and the business culture to be more familiar. At the Escuela Superior de Administración y Dirección de Empresas (Esade), a Barcelona-based business school, 19 per cent of this year’s graduating class hail from Latin America. Latin Americans comprise 15 per cent of the students at IESE – another Barcelona-based institution – and about 22 per cent of those at Madrid’s IE Business School.

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