World in brief – 18 June 2015

Higher education news from around the globe

June 18, 2015
Opposition student rally, Caracas, Venezuela, 2011
Source: Corbis

Venezuela

‘Respect our autonomy!’

Professors and students took to the streets in five cities across Venezuela to demand better working conditions and salaries for those working in universities, along with respect for institutional autonomy. The protests came after a government announcement that all university places would now be assigned to a National Intake System, controlled by the Ministry of Higher Education. Previously only 30 per cent of places were controlled by this mechanism, leaving public universities for the most part free to choose which students they admitted.


Finland

Fees for foreign students

Finland is to introduce tuition fees for international students to help to mitigate about €500 million (£364 million) of cuts to higher education. As part of austerity measures to reduce the nation’s public spending by €4.5 billion by 2019, which were announced last month, financial aid to students will be cut by €150 million a year. Jukka Kola, rector of the University of Helsinki, said that while the government wants “to make Finland a leading country in education and to increase both the quality and impact of research”, the cuts would “have the complete opposite effect”.


India

BJP considers international campuses

Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, has apparently revived plans to allow foreign universities to set up campuses in the country, which stalled under the previous government. Mr Modi “summoned a meeting of top bureaucrats” at his official residence to discuss the topic, The Economic Times reported, raising the prospect that his ruling BJP party could reverse its previous position. The foreign educational institutions bill was thwarted under the last, Congress-led government, after being “opposed tooth and nail by the opposition parties including the BJP”, the newspaper said.


Malawi

No place for ‘trivial’ pursuits

Academics have criticised the president of Malawi after he said that they should spend less time commenting in the media on “trivial public issues”. Peter Mutharika, chancellor of the University of Malawi and a former academic himself, told lecturers at a fundraising dinner at the institution to concentrate on doing “more research which should get published in international journals”. “As university lecturers, let’s avoid commenting on trivial public issues, leave this to others who are fit to comment,” the president added, according to the local Nyasa Times.


South Africa

Joint health initiative established

Switzerland and South Africa have created the first bilateral research chair in global environmental health. Based in Cape Town, the joint initiative between the University of Basel, the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute and the University of Cape Town will be supported by funding from the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation and the South African Department of Science and Technology. The initiative is part of a collaborative programme that has led to increased student and faculty exchanges, as well as about 50 joint research projects since 2007.


Australia

Less is more for undergrad courses

The University of Sydney may abandon its current range of 122 undergraduate degrees in favour of a much smaller number of four-year liberal arts degrees. The suggestion was raised in a university discussion paper published this month on “developing a distinctive undergraduate education”. The paper says that the change would “permit both depth of intellectual foundations and breadth of skills and experience in the interests of longer-term learning”.

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