If the South African Government decides to cap student fees, it will undermine university autonomy and income as well as quality and research, the nation's vice-chancellors warned in a hard-hitting report published this week. Fee-capping will also have the unintended consequence of making higher education cheaper for the wealthy while not improving access for poor students or easing the financial burden they bear – a problem that sparks perennial protests on campuses.
The Mediterranean Universities Union (Unimed) has elected Abderraouf Mahbouli, head of the University of Tunis, as its President, reports La Presse of Tunis. It is the first time a country south of the Mediterranean has headed the union, which has 84 member establishments in 20 countries mostly in the Mediterranean basin.
English has lost its place as the world’s most widely spoken language and even its top spot on the internet has evaporated, according to new research. While universities around the English-speaking world deplore the decline in foreign language enrolments, other tongues are becoming dominant.
Applications from students to enrol in British universities for 2008 are at an all-time high. Numbers are up by almost 7% on last year – an increase of at least 26,000. The rise follows a record number of applications last year and was higher than expected. Figures published earlier this month by UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Application Service, showed that the number applying from poorer families had also increased slightly from almost 29% to nearly 30%.
The European Parliament has overwhelmingly supported the European Commission’s plea for an improvement in the conditions for researchers, which it hopes will stop Europe falling further behind internationally in R&D. A parliamentary report, carried by 602 votes against 18, calls on the 27 EU member countries to abolish barriers that hinder researchers from entering the EU and stresses the importance of increasing research spending – especially to facilitate the transition towards digital.
The growing emphasis in schools on basic English literacy to better prepare students for the workforce has led to a crisis in university humanities faculties around the world, according to an international group of academics. The academics claim the teaching of English in schools has become too focused on basic literacy and examinations, and a new approach is necessary.
In an unusual gesture of bipartisanship, the US House of Representatives approved the College Opportunity and Affordability Act last week. The bill addresses soaring university costs, streamlines the federal student loan process, introduces consumer protection for student loan borrowers, assists students in managing textbook costs and increases financial aid for military and low-income families, and students with disabilities.
The South African government has committed R3.6 billion (US$500 million) to universities to reverse a funding decline, reward institutions that produce more graduates, improve infrastructure and relieve financial pressure to raise fees – an issue that propels students to protest and has disrupted campuses recently. But Minister of Education Naledi Pandor warned students that demands for free tertiary study would never be met.
In an unprecedented move, the Bombay High Court has ordered the closure of 14 technical colleges in the cities of Mumbai and Pune in Maharashtra for not having the requisite authorisation from the All India Council for Technical Education to conduct their courses.
Universities across Australia joined with the national Parliament last Wednesday in formally apologising to the nation’s indigenous people for the past wrongs committed against them and, in particular, for the forcible removal of Aboriginal children from their parents – children who became known as the Stolen Generations.
Universities in Iraq have suffered from being cut off for two decades from progress in educational curricula, resources, teaching methods, modern technology and research, according to a report released last week. The report says the current situation in Iraq requires a comprehensive review to develop curricula, scientific specialisations and degree programmes. These should be brought in line with those of the world’s leading higher education institutions, as well as corresponding to Iraq’s developmental requirements.
Violent student protests disrupted campuses in South Africa last week with hundreds of students at the Durban University of Technology clashing with police during a march against escalating tuition costs and exclusions of poor students who cannot pay fees. Institutions around the country are negotiating with students to try to resolve these and other problems that disrupt learning at the start of each academic year. But other universities have also experienced protests and students are anticipating more turmoil this month.
Fearing unrest among students, the Zimbabwean government has reportedly ordered public higher education institutions to remain closed until after national elections on 29 March. In late January students marched in Bulawayo, protesting against plummeting educational standards among other things, and the higher education minister announced that students at all universities must learn Chinese language and history – a policy aimed at supporting the ‘Look East’ policy adopted after sanctions were imposed by western countries.
The European University Association has announced the launch of the first organisation to develop and promote doctoral education and research training across Europe. The EUA Council for Doctoral Education (EUA-CDE) has been a long-sought goal of European universities wanting “a more structured approach to promote cooperation and exchange of good practice between doctoral schools and programmes,” according to EUA president, Professor Georg Winckler.
The American government has approved the sale to Russia of one of the world's most advanced supercomputers – the first time the export of such advanced technology has been allowed to the former Soviet Union. IBM's Blue Gene supercomputer, used by the US Department of Energy for modelling the destabilising effect of time on America's stockpile of nuclear weapons, runs at speeds so fast they are mind-boggling.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has submitted a Bill that would allow female students to wear headscarves at university. But the move towards religious freedom at universities was tempered by a step backwards on academic freedom with the announcement on 28 January that a professor has been sentenced to 15 months in jail for insulting the nation's founder Kemal Ataturk.
Education in Kenya has been one of the sectors hardest hit by the mayhem that erupted across the country as a result of the disputed presidential polls in the most closely contested elections in Kenyan history. From the most basic education to universities, the system has been thrown into disarray as the escalation of violence in several parts of the country has continued unabated for the last month.
A great deal of free information is available through the internet and a vast amount is of incalculable benefit. But why shouldn't there be even more? Wouldn't the spread of free software and universal access to scientific and cultural knowledge be a huge gain for everybody? The Dutch certainly think so.
First to enter the fray – the Panhellenic Federation of University Lecturers with two 24-hour strikes on 1 and 13 February (designated as Labour Day by the trade unions); followed by the Technological Institutes with a 24-hour strike this week and a 48-hour stop-work on 14 and 15 February.
The British government will press ahead with its controversial plans to cut funding from students wanting to enrol in courses that offer equivalent or lower qualifications (ELQs) than those they already have. This is despite fierce opposition from leading academics, unions and the adult education lobby. The Open University will be particularly hard hit as it will lose more than £30 million ($60million) from its teaching grant.
A desperate shortage of local students has forced Australian universities to offer free tuition to attract hundreds of masters, PhD and post-doctoral students from other countries. The nation's booming resources industries are luring local engineering and science graduates with salaries of up to $100,000 (US$88,000) a year compared with the usual $20,000 as a postgraduate on a research scholarship.
British universities are challenging their American counterparts as the world’s most popular places to study. According to a survey of more than 11,000 prospective students from 143 countries, 95% of students rated Britain as attractive or very attractive, compared with 93% who rated the US in the same way.
America is losing the competition for international students because its competitors have what the US lacks: a proactive national strategy to mobilise all its assets and enable the federal bureaucracy work to attract international students, according to a new report.
Dankook University in South Korea has announced the imminent completion of a project huge in scale and decades in the making: the world’s largest and most comprehensive Chinese dictionary. Dankook’s Institute of Oriental Studies initiated research on the dictionary in 1977, partially motivated by a desire to have a Korean work to rival the Chinese-character dictionaries produced by neighbouring countries.
South African universities are expected to expand rapidly in the next few years, boosting the participation of young people in tertiary education to more than 18%. But the institutions will battle to fill seats with students after yet another year of disastrous school-leaving examination results. Only 85,000 of 565,000 pupils, or a mere 15%, who wrote the final exams scored well enough to qualify automatically for university.