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World Round-up
GLOBAL: Cyberspace abuzz over Medpedia
Cyberspace is buzzing with news of Medpedia, a global collaboration wikipedia-type project that will offer a massive amount of up-to-date medical and health information for free to anyone with an internet connection, reports Medical News Today. Among the groups that have already agreed to provide information to the initiative described as the "world's largest collaborative online encyclopaedia of medicine" are Harvard Medical School, Stanford School of Medicine, the University of California at Berkeley School of Public Health and the University of Michigan Medical School.
US: Libraries taking the (really) long view
As libraries shift more of their resources to holdings that either originate as digital or become digital through scanning, it has become clear that just because something lives in the virtual stacks does not mean it will be around forever, writes Andy Guess in Inside Higher Ed. Anyone who has ever suffered through a hard drive crash (or tried futilely to save a scratched DVD) has faced the inherent physical limitations of digital storage. Now librarians are doing the same as they determine how digital holdings fit into their central mission: preserving works so that they can be accessed not just today, not just tomorrow, but indefinitely.
CHINA: Chemical education in need of reform
China's university chemistry departments are struggling to attract students despite the rapid expansion of the country's higher education system, reports Chemistry World. China currently offers 198 chemistry-related science degrees and 224 chemical engineering-related technology degrees but they are failing to entice students taking national college entry exams. Many undergraduates end up on chemistry courses because they have simply failed to make the grades needed to get onto their first choice of degree course.
INDIA: States must spend more on education
The ministry of human resource development (HRD) has said the country's gross enrolment ratio, or GER, cannot be achieved unless state governments increase their expenditure on education by at least three times, reports The Statesman.
AFRICA: Low enrolment impedes development
Low enrolment in higher education poses a series of impediments to Africa's development, according to the Director-General of UNESCO Koichiro Matsuura, reports This Day. Speaking at the opening of the Microsoft-organised Education Leaders Forum titled "Success and Sustainability: Tertiary education's global challenge", at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, Matsuura observed that "while higher education enrolment in Africa rose by some 66% between 1999 and 2005, the average enrolment rate is still a mere 5%."
US: Governor backs student loan plan for New York
Governor David A Paterson has called for a publicly financed, low-interest student loan programme, saying New York had fallen behind other states in making college more affordable for its residents, reports Newsday. The loan programme, a version of which was approved by the State Senate last month, is among recommendations - also including hiring 2,000 faculty and creating a $3 billion science research grant programme - from the state Commission on Higher Education, which delivered its report last week.
UK: Debt-ridden students get reality pay check
Students are running up substantial debts but earning less than they expect on graduating, research indicates. The authors of a study say that government ambitions to push half of all school-leavers into higher education could be to blame for the mismatch between expectations and reality, reports The Times.
UK: Universities boosting Olympic medal prospects
Following the finalising of the British team for the Beijing Olympics, Universities and Colleges Sport (Bucs) has hailed higher education's influence on the current crop of athletes, reports Manchester.com. Bucs chief executive Karen Rothery claims that 57% of athletes in the Olympic team are either students or graduates - and that a number of Beijing athletes trained with students at universities "due to the quality of facilities and coaching on offer".
US: 'Emergency' data request raises suspicion
Stymied in its efforts to alter federal laws and regulations to make it easier for students to transfer academic credits from one institution to another, the US Education Department plans an "emergency" survey of federal Pell Grant recipients that seems designed to build a case that changes are necessary, reports Inside Higher Ed. The request has agitated some higher education officials, who questioned both the premise and the purpose of the department's information expedition.
INDIA: Doors shut on top UK universities
Since it began market reforms in the early 1990s, India has rolled out the red carpet for many British corporations, reports The Independent. Vodafone, British Telecom and Rolls-Royce all have operations there, helping to push foreign direct investment to nearly £8 billion (US$16 billion) last year. But while Britain's phone companies, cars and expertise in higher education are welcomed, its universities are not.
UK: Universities shun A-levels for admissions
At least 18 universities are setting their own admissions tests because they believe they can no longer rely on A-level results alone to gauge a candidate's ability, a report reveals today. Universities UK - the body representing vice-chancellors - estimates that one in seven of its 132 members has introduced such exams, reports The Independent. Its findings are a further blow to the credibility of A-levels, and have angered critics who claim the university entrance tests will help middle-class students whose parents can afford coaching for them.
UK: Hawking 'mulling over' Canadian invitation
Professor Stephen Hawking is "mulling over" an invitation to quit Britain because government policy is making the country the home of "dull science", colleagues have said, reports The Telegraph. Last month the 66-year-old scientist accused the government of making "disastrous" £80 million (US$160 million) cuts to research funding.
KUWAIT: Students banned from key universities
Kuwaiti students have allegedly been barred by their Education Ministry from attending three universities in Bahrain and others in Egypt, reports Gulf News. The Kuwaiti Education and High Education Minister Nouriya Al Subaih issued a decision to temporarily stop sending Kuwaiti students to certain universities and institutes in Bahrain and Egypt, according to Kuwait's Al Watan daily.
US: University apologises to KKK book-reading janitor
A janitor whom a university official accused of racial harassment for reading a historical book about the Ku Klux Klan on his break has received an apology, months later, from the school, reports Associated Press. Charles Bantz, chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, apologised to Keith John Sampson in a letter, saying the school is committed to free expression. "I can candidly say that we regret this situation took place," Bantz wrote.
US: Animal rights protesters torment scientists
In the hills above the University of California's Berkeley campus, nine protesters gathered in front of the home of a toxicology professor, their faces covered with scarves and hoods despite the warm spring weather, writes Associated Press. One scrawled "killer" in chalk on the scientist's doorstep, while another hurled insults through a bullhorn and announced, "Your neighbour kills animals!" Someone shattered a window. Borrowing the kind of tactics used by anti-abortion demonstrators, animal rights activists are increasingly taking their rage straight to scientists' front doors.
US: Universities strive for work-life balance
It's called the 'unfinished revolution'. The women's liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s changed the landscape of the working world, but feminist leaders feel the changes did not go far enough. Now universities are on the forefront of a growing trend, searching for solutions to balancing work and life with children, reports ABC News. This is the topic of a new book by Mary Ann Mason, who became the first woman dean of Berkeley's graduate schools in 2000, titled Mothers on the Fasttrack: How a new generation can balance family and careers. It covers not only academics, but women with advanced degrees in professions like law and medicine.
AUSTRALIA: League tables 'inevitable'
Research policy experts believe the federal government's proposal to measure academic research performance will result in unofficial university rankings, despite the exercise being designed to prevent this occurring, reports The Australian Higher Education. But research commentators are also closing ranks in support of the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) programme in the face of intense criticism from disgruntled academics.
SOUTH AFRICA: Poor will pay for free higher education
The university vice-chancellors' association, Higher Education South Africa (HESA), has challenged the concept of free higher education, arguing that all South Africans - including the poor - will have to foot the bill, reports the Mail & Guardian. The ruling African National Congress-linked South African Students' Congress (Sasco) and the South African Union of Students (SAUS) have called for free university education.
KENYA: PhDs rare in African universities
Lack of enough lecturers with PhD degrees in public and private universities is diminishing the value of higher education, reports The Standard. Outside South Africa, many universities in Sub-Saharan Africa are lucky to have 10 PhDs in their ranks. In Kenya, with the exception of the University of Nairobi where about 50% of faculty have PhDs or equivalent qualifications, doctorate cadres are thinly spread in 24 accredited and licensed universities.
UK: Art and computing students face jobless risk
Students taking creative arts degrees and computing courses are 50 times more likely to be left unemployed than those studying medicine, according to official figures, reports The Telegraph. One-in-12 graduates from courses including fine art, drama, dance and music were not in work or further study six months after leaving university.
SAUDI ARABIA: Revamp for higher education
Forty-five health colleges and five health institutes for girls that were hitherto under the Health Ministry will be brought under universities in various cities, reports Arab News. Higher Education Minister Dr Khaled Al-Anqari said King Abdullah had also approved the establishment of 17 new colleges in different parts of the country.
UAE: Government to fund extra 3,000 students
Thousands of Emiratis who faced missing out on places at government universities will now be admitted after the Cabinet approved funding for an additional 3,000 applicants, reports The National. Students who meet entrance requirements will be able to take up places in September.
SOUTH KOREA: Lawyers, universities urge end to protests
The Korea Council of University Education and the Korea Bar Association have called for a return to law and order and an end to street protests against the import of American beef, reports Chosun. The council, an association of presidents of 198 universities nationwide, issued a resolution and an open letter from university presidents. "We are gravely concerned that society is in a touch-and-go situation. The government and politicians must bear the responsibility for it," they said.
INDIA: Foreign varsities itching for a base in India
International players are increasingly setting up campuses in India, reports Business Standard. Some have already begun offering courses, mostly in management, but others are waiting for the passage of the Foreign Education Bill, which has been pending in Parliament for two years. Sources say that 40 international universities have sought land from the Maharashtra government in the Mumbai-Pune-Nashik belt to set up campuses in India. The investments lined up by these institutions are substantial.
US: Leaving combat for the classroom
The war spending bill President Bush signed into law recently includes one of the most dramatic bumps in troop benefits to come along in decades: a new military funding measure that roughly doubles the money troops would be eligible to get for college once they have completed at least three years in the military, reports Newsweek.