News in brief - 5 December 2013

December 5, 2013

Plea to cut bureaucracy

The main lobbying group for universities in Australia has told the federal government’s new commission into public spending that some projects brought in under Labor were over-bureaucratic and “onerous”. Universities Australia has also called for a single reporting body to be set up for universities to avoid replication. In its submission to the government’s Commission of Audit, the group notes that institutions are required to provide annual financial reports to at least seven separate agencies, The Australian reported. It says much of the information required is too detailed and, in the case of state governments, out of proportion to the funds contributed. Among the Labor initiatives the submission singles out for criticism is the MyUniversity information website, which it calls “onerous for institutions to monitor and verify, and is expensive for the government to maintain and develop”.

An opportunity to go Dutch

Students attending Kolkata’s Presidency University will in future have the chance to spend time at one of the Netherlands’ best-known universities. An agreement signed by the University of Groningen, one of the oldest institutions in the Netherlands, and Presidency means that three students in science subjects and one from the humanities will be offered a 10-month internship at Groningen. “As of now the number stands at four, but we are trying to increase it to six students…three in science and three in humanities,” Presidency vice-chancellor Malabika Sarkar told India’s IANS news service. “The host university will take care of the tuition fees, boarding and all other expenses.”

United States
Weak STEM performance

About half of US undergraduates in science, technology, engineering and maths leave the field before completing their degree, according to a report from the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. The report calculated the attrition rate in STEM fields and looked at the characteristics of students most likely to abandon such subjects, Inside Higher Ed reported. It used data that tracked students enrolling on a bachelor’s or associate degree course in the 2003-04 academic year. Of those who had entered a STEM programme, 48 per cent of bachelor’s degree candidates had left the field by 2009. The attrition rate was greater for associate degree candidates – 69 per cent of STEM entrants had left the subject during the course of the study.

Protest at political subjugation

An academic and activist for the Uighur ethnic community has attacked moves to prevent students in China’s troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang from graduating unless they pass a test of political views, Radio Free Asia reported on its website. Education officials in the region said that their institutions were the front line in a “life and death struggle” for the people’s hearts, according to the Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper in the area, the Xinjiang Daily. Students seeking to graduate from the region’s colleges will be held back unless they pass a political test that requires them to renounce “ethnic splittism”, the paper quoted officials as saying. Ilham Tohti, a Beijing-based economics scholar and critic of China’s policies towards ethnic minority Uighurs, said: “The way they carry out their anti-splittism campaigns is always less intelligent in Xinjiang than it is in other places. It’s insulting, blatant and draws attention to itself.”

United States
Taking an unkind cut

An administrative assistant at a body representing US medical schools has admitted to stealing more than $5 million (£3 million) from the organisation, according to The Washington Post. Ephonia Green, who earned $56,000 a year at the Association of American Medical Colleges, pleaded guilty at a US District Court to carrying out the theft over an eight-year period. US Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr said in a statement that she faced years in prison “as a result of the millions she stole for her own self-indulgence that were initially intended to benefit educational programs”. “We are truly stunned,” said Darrell G. Kirch, the AAMC’s president and chief executive, in a statement that referred to Green as a “long-time, trusted employee”.

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