World in brief – 25 June 2015

Higher education news from around the globe

June 25, 2015
Migrants sitting on a rescue ship
Source: Getty

Malta

Joint venture Mompa aims to help save lives in the Mediterranean

An observatory has been opened in Malta to collate and analyse data on the flows of migrants in the Mediterranean, with a view to informing European policy and better protecting individuals. The Mediterranean Observatory on Migration, Protection and Asylum (Mompa), a joint venture between Kingston University and Middlesex University’s campuses in London and in Pembroke, Malta, was officially launched in Valletta this month. A group of UK academics were joined by the director of the Migrant Offshore Aid Station, retired Brigadier General Martin Xuereb. The station has rescued almost 6,500 people to date.


Norway

Expelled Iranian PhD students head to court

Two Iranian students forced to leave Norway after being accused of learning about nuclear weapons technology have launched a legal appeal. One of the claimants, Hamideh Kaffash, a former PhD student at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, was obliged to quit Norway last year after security services said she might be gaining skills needed to make weapons of mass destruction. “It’s really shocking that something like this is happening in Norway,” said Ms Kaffash, whose doctoral research focused on reducing CO2 emissions in ferroalloy production. She has now taken her case to a Norwegian court.


China

Eye in the sky seeks out gao kao cheats

“Anti-cheating measures” including an airborne drone were in force as millions of Chinese high school students took the national university entrance exam, the gao kao, earlier this month. The exam’s reputation “has taken a battering in recent years over allegations of arranged cheating between some teachers and students”, reported Xinhua, the state news agency. Following the discovery that some students had been wearing headphones and receiving answers by radio, the education authority in Luoyang City in Henan province stationed an unmanned drone outside exam halls to detect radio and electromagnetic signals.


Venezuela

Brain drain toll tallied

More than 700 of the 4,000 professors who once taught at the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas have left over the past four years, according to Victor Márquez, head of the university’s teaching union. The exodus was triggered by a government wage freeze in 2010 and more recently a drop in public university funding, the union said. Many academics have been tempted to take up better-paying jobs outside academia or have left to work at institutions abroad, heightening concerns about the quality of teaching and research in Venezuela.


United Arab Emirates

New curbs on degree mills

The United Arab Emirates is to draft stricter laws to punish firms selling fake degree certificates and the people who buy them. The announcement was made last week at a press conference held by the country’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, following claims that 200,000 people from across the Gulf had bought bogus degrees online from a Pakistani company called Axact in the past four years. Axact’s chief executive, Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh, and four deputies were arrested in Pakistan in May, but the firm dismissed the allegations as “baseless”.


Australia

Bumper donation to be ploughed into pot research

A couple’s gift of A$33.7 million (£16.6 million) to fund research into medicinal cannabis at the University of Sydney is one of the largest donations for medical research in Australian history, it has been reported. Financial services magnate Barry Lambert and his wife Joy made the donation after their granddaughter, who has epilepsy, responded well to treatment with medicinal cannabis. The couple want researchers to explore the potential of medicinal cannabis to treat other conditions, including cancer and dementia. Michael Spence, vice-chancellor of Sydney, hailed “a great day for the people of Australia and the world”.

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