ISSN 1756-297XIssue No: 0011  13 January 2008
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Academic Freedom Newsletter
Academic freedom, which is under attack in many countries, is our Special Report topic this week.

Perinbam newsletter
Lewis Perinbam, formerly of CIDA and the Commonwealth of Learning, died at the age of 82. Read his obituary in the People section.

SPECIAL REPORT: Academic Freedom

Academic freedom is under threat in many nations around the world. Yet, as the Canadian Association of University Teachers says, post-secondary educational institutions serve the common good of society by searching for and disseminating knowledge, truth and understanding – and by fostering independent thinking and expression among academic staff and students. “Robust democracies require no less. These ends cannot be achieved without academic freedom,” the union declares.

In this special series of reports, our correspondents discuss the situation in their countries.

US: Academics confront a political minefield
John K Wilson
American academics are under attack from a growing group of right-wing politicians and ideologues who accuse the nation's higher education system of being dominated by liberal professors and administrators. The political backlash has included efforts by state legislatures and Congress to control higher education and ban political discussions in the classroom and on campus, as well as restrictions on visas by the Bush administration against controversial professors.
Full report on the University World News site
Longer analysis by John K Wilson in the Features section below

RUSSIA: Freedom under threat
Nick Holdsworth
Academic freedom in Russia is increasingly subject to political interference as the influence of the security services grows. The eight years since Vladimir Putin was elected president have seen more and more meddling in academia. At best, academics have been put under pressure to join the pro-Kremlin party, United Russia. At worst, they have been jailed on spying charges for their research in security-sensitive fields.
Full report on the University World News site

EUROPE: Three nations worst for academic freedom
Ard Jongsma
A report on academic freedom among countries within the European Union has placed the formerly communist countries at the top, after Finland, while Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK are at the bottom.
Full report on the University World News site

DENMARK: Academics feel the noose
Ard Jongsma
The study placing academic freedom in Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK at the bottom of 23 European Union countries has further fuelled a fiery debate that had already been ablaze since the introduction of a new university law in 2003. Research Minister Hellge Sander called the results ‘ridiculous’ but Danish academics see it as yet another confirmation that their freedom to undertake research is in jeopardy.
Full report on the University World News site
Download the full study by Terence Karran

UK: Terrorism ignites debate
Diane Spencer
The terrorist threat to Britain has rekindled the debate over academic freedom. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has asked his education ministers to lead discussions with universities on how to maintain academic freedom and ensure that extremists never stifle debate or impose their beliefs. At the same time, the leading academics' union has published a consultation paper, asking members to join the debate.
Full report on the University World News site

GREECE: Unlimited freedom – for now
Makki Marseilles
There are no restrictions, institutional or constitutional, on the freedom of academic expression in Greece. But efforts to undermine this freedom exist, mainly in the private sector but also to be found in the public domain.
Full report on the University World News site

FRANCE: Historians combat politicians' 'official history'
Jane Marshall
France prides itself on its high degree of academic freedom, its roots traceable back to the Revolution and the Declaration of Human Rights. In this secular country, however, there are limits that require university teachers and researchers, as state employees, to observe strict religious, philosophical and political neutrality.
Full report on the University World News site

SOUTH AFRICA: Freedoms gained now being lost
Karen MacGregor
South African higher education needs an audit of university regulations and a free speech code to thwart creeping infringements of academic freedom that hark back to apartheid, says Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) director Jane Duncan. She warns that laws and rules, and interventionist and disciplinary trends, are undermining democracy.
Full report on the University World News site

CANADA: Freedom an enforceable right
Marcus Harvey
Academic freedom is an enforceable right through practically all of Canadian higher education. So it is not surprising that the events of 9-11 – though felt by academics – did not result in the sort of anti-intellectual backlash seen in the United States. While the Canadian government took a number of regrettable steps by increasing surveillance and decreasing civil liberties, the academy has not been singled out, either culturally or politically, in the new security climate.
Full report on the University World News site

JAPAN: Freedom guaranteed. Or is it?
Charles Jannuzi
Unlike in the pre-war period of early modern Japan, academic freedom is now firmly established as a positive right in the Japanese constitution, which the Occupation government promulgated in 1946. This document, along with fundamental laws creating a new education system, took effect in 1947, a year when most Japanese were struggling to feed, clothe and house themselves. Along with the more commonly stated rights of' freedom of speech, thought, conscience, assembly and association, the constitution states that academic freedom is guaranteed. So who or what limits this constitutional right?
Full report on the University World News site


TURKEY: Head scarf ban divides country
Brendan O’Malley
The Turkish government appears poised to remove the ban on wearing headscarves in universities, imposed by the country's generals. But nothing is certain in Turkey, which is deeply divided over potential threats to secularism.
Full report on the University World News site

US: Academic freedom – A disputed territory
John K Wilson
Academic freedom in America is deeply disputed territory, with strong debates about what dangers exist and how to address them. A growing right-wing attack accuses academia of being dominated by liberal professors and administrators who suppress the rights of conservative faculty and students. Part of this conservative movement has reacted by trying to impose greater control over higher education and restricting freedom on campus.
Full report on the University World News site


OBITUARY: Lewis Perinbam: International education pioneer
Philip Fine
Much of Canada's involvement in international educational projects can be traced back to a diminutive, gentlemanly civil servant named Lewis Perinbam who died on 12 December in Vancouver at the age of 82. Perinbam influenced many Canadian academics to take on a larger role in the developing world, when London and Paris, not Malawi or Kenya, were the places where Canadians went to study.
Full report on the University World News site

US: Stanford professor to head Carnegie
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, one of the more influential foundations on education research and policy, has announced that its next president will be Stanford University education professor Tony Bryk, reports Inside Higher Ed. Although his research has been on schools, Bryk said Carnegie would not shift away from higher education.
More on the University World News site

UNI-LATERAL: The unusual side of university life

GREECE: Former chancellor on hunger strike
Makki Marseilles
Jailed for 25 years, former chancellor of Athens' Pandio University, Emilios Metaxopoulos, has gone on a hunger strike. This follows rejection of his application for release from prison on serious medical grounds for the second time by the Appeals Parole Board. Metaxopoulos is serving the sentence for mismanaging university property in a celebrated €4 million misappropriation of funds case involving several academics and university staff members.
Full report on the University World News site

CHINA: Year of fluorescent green pigs
A fluorescent green Chinese pig has given birth to two piglets which share their mother's transgenic characteristic after she mated with an ordinary pig, state media said. As reported by Scientific American, the mother sow is one of the three fluorescent green pigs successfully bred by a research team in December 2006 after they injected fluorescent green protein into pig embryos.
More on the University World News site


US: Scholars reflect on HE and globalisation
Some 160 scholars gathered on the Berkeley campus of the University of California recently to share views on significant changes facing higher education, as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Center for Studies in Higher Education. A report titled A reflection and prospectus on globalisation in higher education encapsulates the discussion and features an historical look at how the scholarly field on higher education has grown and changed over the past five decades.
More on the University World News site

UK: Europe must close higher education gap with US
Just as Britain hosts the world's top tennis tournament but never wins it, so Europeans are in a similar situation with education, writes Lykke Friis, pro vice-chancellor of the University of Copenhagen, in The Scotsman. While the world’s venerable old universities are scattered across Europe, US institutions are out-performing, out-spending and out-researching them.
More on the University World News site


UK: A degree of deception
There was a time when a backstreet education meant sending off a coupon in a magazine and getting back a certificate from the University of Nowhere, writes the BBC’s Angela Saini in The Guardian. These quick-buck ‘degree mills’ have given way to a much more sophisticated and lucrative kind of operation, with fronts so elaborate and ‘professors’ so convincing that students can complete a degree course without realising they are being ripped off.
More on the University World News site

UK: Students who overstay visas ‘not deported’
Foreign students who overstay their visas are not being deported as they are not regarded as a high priority by the Home Office, reports The Telegraph. As part of a recent change in the law, designed to crack down on student over-stayers, people who apply to extend their visas for study purposes can be turned down.
More on the University World News site

CHINA: Universities transform with state and society
Chinese society has undergone major changes in the past 30 years and universities have not fought the trend, reports the Cornell Daily Sun. Due to the exponential growth in the number of universities – there are about 2,000 today – 18% of high school pupils become university students, according to Southeast University vice-president Yuepu Pu.
More on the University World News site

INDIA: Distance learning expansion on the agenda
The National Knowledge Commission, in a letter to India’s prime minister, recommended massive expansion of the open and distance learning system to achieve gross enrolment of 15% by 2015, reports the Times of India. The Commission also raised concerns about the quality of distance learning higher education, and called for its improvement.
More on the University World News site

VIETNAM: Drastic measures needed to boost quality
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Training, Nguyen Thien Nhan, said that the quality of higher education in Vietnam is low and drastic measures are needed to improve it, reports Nhan Dan. Nine key tasks have been proposed to improve quality by 2020.
More on the University World News site

CANADA: Gap year no job disadvantage later
A new report suggests that youth who put off higher education are not at a disadvantage later on in the labour market, as long as they complete college or university once they have started it, reports
More on the University World News site

US: Yale to increase spending from endowment
Facing pressure from Congress and some donors to use more of its multibillion-dollar investment gains, Yale University has announced that it will increase the amount of money it spent from its endowment by nearly 40% next year, reports the New York Times. The additional money will be used for financial aid and new scientific and medical research.
More on the University World News site

SCOTLAND: Access versus research at ancient universities
Scotland's ancient universities should not have to widen access at the expense of cutting-edge research and teaching traditional school leavers, according to the head of Scotland's funding council, reports The Herald. Instead, said Roger McClure, efforts to widen participation should be focussed on ‘new’ universities.
More on the University World News site

SOUTH AFRICA: Poor urged to use state scholarships
Letjeka Makgathu passed her 2007 school-leaving examinations with two As out of seven subjects, yet she is worried that she cannot afford higher education this year, reports The Times. The government is urging poor but high-performing youngsters to make use of state tertiary loans and scholarships, with have funded 100,000 students in seven years.
More on the University World News site

ISRAEL: Strike hits pockets of students and universities
Ravit, a 22-year-old chemistry and physics major, worked in high tech for a year and saved up money to fund her studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, reports Haaretz. She was counting on funding the rest with a summer job. But now that a lecturer strike is into its 80th day, she'll have to spend the summer in class, making up sessions missed. Many students are in a similar predicament, and universities too are suffering financial damage.
More on the University World News site
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