ISSN 1756-297XIssue No: 0105 13 December 2009
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This week's UWN interview sees top biologist Paul R Ehrlich answer questions from our correspondent.

Somalia's higher education sector has suffered a cruel blow with a bombing killing students, graduates and the country's Minister for Higher Education. See the story in our News section.

Size really does matter when it comes to the ability of forests to store large amounts of carbon. See the story in the Science Scene section.


University World News was the official media partner to the Unesco World Conference on higher education, held in Paris from 5-8 July.


NEWS: Our correspondents worldwide report

SOMALIA: Bomb kills students, ministers at ceremony
Wagdy Sawahel
A bomb attack has killed 23 people, including students, graduates and three cabinet ministers – among them Minister for Higher Education Ibrahim Hassan Adow – at a graduation ceremony of the medical school of Benadir University in Mogadishu, capital of war-torn Somalia.
Full report on the University World News site

GREECE: Rioting youths put rector in hospital
Makki Marseilles
Athens University Rector Christos Krittas was attacked and injured by a group of rampaging youths who invaded the central administration building of the institution during widespread demonstrations, marches and violent incidents in the centre of the Greek capital. The protests occurred on the first anniversary of the death of 16 year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos, shot by a police officer last year when extensive damage was caused by rioting youngsters.
Full report on the University World News site

US: Tertiary institutions oppose new tax
Sarah King Head
A David vs Goliath battle is looming in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, over a proposal by the city council to levy a 1% tuition tax on the city’s postsecondary students. At a cost of up to $409 per student, the revenue generated would cover the $15 million necessary to keep the city’s pension fund afloat.
Full report on the University World News site

EU: Quest to cut red tape in research
Jan Petter Myklebust
The issue of bureaucratic red tape in EU research framework programmes was recently addressed by the Parliament Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. Chair of the European Association of Research and Technology Associations, Christopher John Hull, called for a simplification. Hull warned that the average personnel cost certification in its present form was likely to be a complete failure.
Full report on the University World News site

DENMARK: Quest for world-class universities
Jan Petter Myklebust
Denmark’s goal of 1% of GNP spending on public research will be achieved next year, according to Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation Helge Sander. The nation’s total research budget is proposed at DKK18.4 billion (US$3.8 billion), or 1.04% of GNP – a 20% increase since 2006 and part of Denmark’s plan to create world-class universities.
Full report on the University World News site

FINLAND: Women dominate the campus
Ian R Dobson*
It is no surprise that more women than men study in Finland’s universities given they have been in the majority for nearly 30 years. What differs from the pattern in many countries is that the female dominance has not increased much over the years and is quite modest when compared with the considerable female over-representation in some countries. In 2008, women made up 53% of all university enrolments in Finland, up from 50% in 1981. But these averages conceal significant discipline-based polarisations.
Full report on the University World News site

AFGHANISTAN: Five-year higher education plan
Wagdy Sawahel
Afghanistan has launched a US$560 million five-year national higher education plan to redirect universities towards producing graduates relevant to the market as well as providing scientific solutions for key economic and social problems.
Full report on the University World News site

MALAWI: Politician axed for slating university quotas
A top politician has been arrested after criticising Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika for allegedly promoting tribalism by championing a controversial university quota system. Harry Mkandawire, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party director of political affairs and governor of Northern province, wrote a critical open letter to a newspaper in October questioning the President’s endorsement of the system in which students were selected for university on the basis of district or region rather than straight merit.
Full report on the University World News site

NI GERIA: UK to set up cross-border campuses
Tunde Fatunde
After months of negotiations, the Ni gerian government has agreed to allow British universities to establish campuses within selected local higher education institutions. The aim is to enable students to obtain British degrees without leaving the country and to open higher education opportunities for young people who qualify for university but are unable to access the limited places in Ni geria’s 93 public and private universities.
Full report on the University World News site

SOUTH AFRICA: Doubt over R&D spending of 1% GDP
Munyaradzi Makoni
South Africa’s goal of raising its research and development expenditure to 1% of gross domestic product by next year might not be achieved. Figures released last week showed that while R&D spending grew in volume by nearly 13% in 2007-08, it dropped from 0.95% to 0.93% of GDP – the first decline since 2002.
Full report on the University World News site


AFRICA: Universities benefit from used lab equipment
Munyaradzi Makoni
The ability of African universities to undertake in-depth research is often hampered by lack of appropriate technology. Now institutions are benefiting from Seeding Labs, a non-profit US-based organisation that works with universities and companies to provide second-hand laboratory equipment in good condition for the developing world.
Full report on the University World News site

EGYPT: Abolishing faculty upsets academics
Ashraf Khaled
A decision by Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt’s second biggest public higher education institution, to abolish the faculty of specific education has angered its academics who are fighting the move in court, and raised fears among lecturers at other government-run universities.
Full report on the University World News site

MOROCCO: US$1.7 billion reform plan
Wagdy Sawahel
Morocco has launched a four-year US$1.7 billion emergency plan to overhaul its education system. This includes reforming universities in an effort to boost the country’s science and technology workforce and promote knowledge-based sustainable development.
Full report on the University World News site


IRAN: French academic in court
Daniel Sawney and Jonathan Travis*
France 24 reports that Clotilde Reiss, a 24 year old French academic, appeared before an Iranian Revolutionary Court for a second time on 17 November to face charges of “collecting information and provoking rioters” in the turbulent aftermath of the presidential elections in June. Reiss was arrested at an airport in Tehran on 1 July having allegedly taken pictures of the protests that followed the election on her mobile phone and emailed them to friends. She initially appeared in court on 6 August in a televised mass trial of those accused of fomenting unrest but was granted bail and released from Insein Prison on 16 August to the care of the French Embassy in Tehran, on the condition that she remained there to await a verdict.
More Academic Freedom reports on the University World News site


GERMANY-BRAZIL: Forests and carbon storage: size matters
New research from Brazil and Germany indicates environmental concerns are best met by conserving large and entire tracts of forest. Researchers at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig and the University of São Paulo found the collective biomass of many small forests was less than that of a single large forest even when the small forests covered the same total area as the larger one.
Full report on the University World News site

US: Storing electricity on paper
The humble sheet of paper can be transformed into an effective battery with a coat of ink made of tiny carbon tubes and silver wires, a researcher at Stanford University has reported. It can even be crumpled up and still continue functioning as a battery.
Full report on the University World News site

SWEDEN-US: Fit teenage boys are smarter
Men who are fit as teenagers tend to be smarter and more successful in later life, Swedish and US scientists have found. But more brawn does not equate to more brains.
Full report on the University World News site


US: The population bomb is still ticking
In this interview one of the world’s best-known biologists, Paul R Ehrlich, answers questions from Dr John Richard Schrock.
Ehrlich is Bing Professor of Population Studies and President of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University. He received his PhD from the University of Kansas. As co-founder with Peter H Raven of the field of co-evolution, Ehrlich has pursued long-term studies of the structure, dynamics and genetics of natural butterfly populations.
The full interview can be read on the University World News site


SOUTH AFRICA: Initiative to save collapsing archives
Alison Moodie
South Africa’s archive system is showing signs of collapse. Post-apartheid transformation of the archival sector has been fraught with difficulties. Lack of funding and political will, as well as loss of personnel and skills, is putting valuable documents at risk and destroying a system that is vital to preserving not just a rich multicultural history but also for research. Last month, archivists and academics joined forces to ensure South Africa’s archives receive the attention they deserve.
Full report on the University World News site

GERMANY: Solving problems locally
Stephan Weidt*
Health is a topic the LMU Center for International Health at Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich focuses on. The centre is one of the five winners of the competition Exceed – Excellence for Development.
Full report on the University World News site


SOUTH AFRICA: Intellectuals, the state and universities
Jonathan Jansen*
More than ever before, intellectuals are more likely to be found outside rather than inside the South African university. The transition from legal apartheid to a young constitutional democracy created major dilemmas for the anti-apartheid intellectual. First, where does the loyalty of the post-apartheid intellectual lie? Second, what would be the costs to intellectuals of working outside the state?
This is a chapter from Poverty of Ideas: South African Democracy and the Retreat of Intellectuals.
Full chapter on the University World News site

UK: Global warming – beyond debate?
Is belief in global-warming science another example of the ‘madness of crowds’? asks Martin Cohen, editor of The Philosopher and an environmental activist, in Times Higher Education. That strange but powerful social phenomenon, first described by Charles Mackay in 1841, turns a widely shared prejudice into an irresistible ‘authority’. Could it indeed represent the final triumph of irrationality?
Full commentary on the Times Higher Education site

UNI-LATERAL: Off-beat university stories

US: Sioux in court to fight for college nickname
The Fighting Sioux of the University of North Dakota were to be no more, another collegiate nickname dropped after being deemed hostile and abusive to American Indians, writes Monica Davey for The New York Times. Except that some members of the Spirit Lake Tribe, one of two groups of Sioux in the state, say they consider the nickname an honour and worry that abandoning it would send them one step closer to obscurity. “When you hear them announce the name at the start of a hockey game, it gives you goose bumps,” said Frank Black Cloud, a tribal member. “They are putting us up on a pinnacle.”
More on the University World News site

US: Lincoln University ends obesity rule
For the past few weeks, ‘Fitness for Life’ may well have been the most discussed college course around. From now on, however, no one at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania will be required to take it, writes Scott Jaschik for Inside Higher Ed. The course became famous because of a requirement adopted for classes that entered in 2006 or later: that any students with body mass index scores above 30 shows that they have lost weight or taken the course by the time they graduate.
More on the University World News site


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IRAN: Crackdown on student protesters intensifies
Iran intensified its crackdown on demonstrators last Tuesday as thousands of pro-government militiamen stormed the grounds of the country’s most prominent university and assaulted students who had gathered in protest, writes Thomas Erdbrink for The Washington Post. Armed with steel clubs, electric batons, pepper spray and tear gas, members of the Basij paramilitary organisation attacked several hundred students at the University of Tehran.
More on the University World News site

VENEZUELA: Hundreds of students protest fatal shooting
Hundreds of university students held protests in Venezuela on Wednesday to condemn the fatal shooting of an undergraduate during a demonstration earlier this week, reports Fox News. Hundreds of protesters gathered in a Caracas plaza chanting “No to violence! No to impunity!” They marched through the streets and onto a highway, blocking traffic.
More on the University World News site

EGYPT: Veil ban in universities masks religious rift
When Egypt’s government banned Islamic veils and all-encompassing robes in the dorms of public universities, it cited reports of men wearing the garb to sneak into women’s quarters, writes Sarah El Deeb for Associated Press. But there was a deeper reason behind the move: an intensifying struggle between the moderate Islam championed by the state and a populace that is turning to a stricter version of the faith, whose most visible hallmark is the niqab — the dress that covers the entire female form.
More on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: Universities face results-based funding
Education Minister Julia Gillard has warned universities that she will be looking for results as the government ties new performance funding to teaching outcomes from 2012, writes Andrew Trounson for The Australian. And in line with school reforms, she said details of performance and an individual university’s targets will be made readily available to students to drive their choices once student-demand is deregulated from 2012.
More on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: Poor students top at elite universities
Students from poor backgrounds are less likely to attend Australia’s prestige universities, but those who do are likelier to finish their degrees, according to a new report by the Group of Eight leading research institutions, writes Luke Slattery for The Australian. The report will inform a Go8 equity strategy that is being hammered out in response to the government’s call for a boost in the proportion of undergraduates from low socio-economic backgrounds to 20% by 2020.
More on the University World News site

UK: ‘Fiasco’ of student loan failures
Student leaders say “heads must roll” after a report into university loan delays in England found “conspicuous failures”, reports BBC News. There have been widespread complaints about the Student Loans Company – with the problems still unresolved as the end of the university term approaches. The report found only 5% of phone calls were answered at the peak of delays. In response the Student Loans Company says there will be a “restructuring” of senior management.
More on the University World News site

UK: Climate scientist receives death threats
An Australian-born scientist at the centre of the East Anglia University email affair says he has received a number of death threats, reports Antonette Collins for ABC News. Dr Tom Wigley, a former director of the university’s Climatic Research Unit, is unable to reveal the details of the threats, as they are being investigated by the FBI and UK police.
More on the University World News site

CANADA: Scientists protest Pfizer boss on research panel
Opposition continues to mount against the Canadian government’s appointment of a top pharmaceutical executive to the council governing the country’s largest health-research agency, writes Margaret Munro for The Gazette. More than 3,700 people, including several prominent ethicists and researchers, have signed a petition calling for the withdrawal of the appointment of Dr Bernard Prigent, vice-president and medical director of Pfizer Canada, to the governing council of the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.
More on the University World News site

US: Campus mourns professor slain by Saudi student
One after another, students and faculty members at Binghamton University trickled out of a classroom lab that had been converted, for convenience and tragic necessity, into a grieving room for the day, writes Michael S Schmidt for The New York Times. On 4 December Professor Richard T Antoun, an expert in Middle East studies, was killed in his office by a Saudi postgraduate student who repeatedly stabbed him, according to authorities.
More on the University World News site

US: Slight rebound for endowments
Early indications from a survey released last week suggest that after a brutal 2008, college endowments began to rebound in the first part of this year, writes Doug Lederman for Inside Higher Ed. That’s one of the apparent findings from a preliminary version of a survey of institutional endowments conducted by the National Association of College and University Business Officers and Commonfund.
More on the University World News site

US: Universitas 21 in dire straits
Of all the projects to build international online universities, U21 Global might have been the most ambitious, writes Steve Kolowich for Inside Higher Ed. Universitas 21, the international consortium of highly reputed research universities that opened U21 Global in 2001, predicted the programme would enrol 500,000 students and be netting $325 million annually by 2011. But the initiative has been fraught with financial losses over its eight-year run, and currently enrols only 5,000 students. A number of affiliated universities have walked away, including four in the last two years.
More on the University World News site

TAIWAN: University scholarships for Chinese students
Several leading universities in Taiwan are seeking to attract outstanding Chinese students by offering them scholarships, reports Taiwan News. But instead of using government subsidies for this purpose, the universities plan to raise funds from the business and industry sector.
More on the University World News site
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