ISSN 1756-297XIssue No: 0174 5 June 2011
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HE Events Diary

The Association of African Universities held its biennial conference in South Africa last week, and more than 200 university leaders attended. University World News was there.

Burmese opposition politician Aung San Suu Kyi said that real education in her country would triumph. An edited version of her video broadcast to students and academics at Hong Kong University appears in Commentary. Credit: Shephard Fairey.

In a Commentary article, Dr Wendy Piatt discusses the challenges facing Britain's leading research-intensive universities, which include rising costs and increased global competition.


University World News was a media partner to the OECD’s Institutional Management in Higher Education Conference in 2010, and to the Unesco World Conference on Higher Education in 2009.


This week’s highlights

Burmese opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner AUNG SAN SUU KYI spoke via a video link to Hong Kong University on Monday, and her speech on the role of education is in the Commentary section. University World News covered the Association of African Universities biennial conference in Stellenbosch. In Features, YOJANA SHARMA and HONEY SINGH VIRDEE describe how a Malaysian university nearly came to grief after a partnership with America’s famous MIT, and WAGDY SAWAHEL reports on the first mapping of science, technology and innovation across Africa. Also in Commentary, IAN DOBSON writes about the Excellence in Research for Australia assessment scheme’s scrapping of the journal ranking method, MICHAELA MARTIN and CLAUDE SAVAGEOT outline how universities can acquire the technical know-how to construct a viable indicator system, and WENDY PIATT of the UK’s Russell Group argues that public funding should concentrate on universities that are best placed to compete globally.


NEWS: Our correspondents worldwide report

EUROPE: ERC plea to double budget
Dave Yin
The European Research Council made a public appeal last week for its annual budget to be doubled to around €4 billion (US$5.75 billion) from 2013.
Full report on the University World News site

GLOBAL: Who goes where and why?
A report published by the US Institute of International Education and the American Institute for Foreign Study examines the intricacies of student mobility. Commenting on the report, International Focus, a publication produced by the UK International Unit, notes that more than 3.3 million students now study outside their home country.
Full report on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: Protests force research policy change
Geoff Maslen
Widespread complaints about how Australian academic research is assessed has led to the scrapping of the most controversial aspect of the new assessment scheme: ranking academic journals. Federal Minister for Science and Research Senator Kim Carr announced last Monday that “enhancements” recommended by the Australian Research Council would be adopted.
Full report on the University World News site

INDIA: Proposal to raise fees every three years
Alya Mishra
The Indian government is planning to push for a 10% hike in university fees every three years at a meeting of state education ministers next week, in a move that could have a far-reaching impact on the resource-strapped public higher education system.
Full report on the University World News site

ARAB STATES: Obama and G8 back university links
Wagdy Sawahel
In response to the Arab uprisings, US president Barack Obama and leaders of the G8 nations have renewed their commitment to promoting investment in innovation and higher education and supporting university-industry partnerships across the Middle East and North Africa.
Full report on the University World News site

VENEZUELA: Medical specialties suffer bloodletting
Ricardo Flores
Postgraduate training in medicine is seeing sharp declines. For the past eight years, there has been a large decrease in the number of doctors applying for special medical training at the few universities that offer postgraduate medical studies.
Full report on the University World News site

EL SALVADOR: Admissions broaden for poorer students
Chrissie Long
New students at El Salvador’s only public university walked into classes this year with the lowest entrance examination scores in 10 years. A report released by the University of El Salvador says the average test score was 3.65 in 2011, a 27% drop from the benchmark in 2001. The decrease has nothing to do with a smaller applicant pool but rather a bigger one, with the number of applications growing by more than 1,000 since last year.
Full report on the University World News site

NIGERIA: President resists calls to end youth service
Tunde Fatunde
Ten graduates who were serving compulsory national youth service were murdered during Nigeria’s recent elections, allegedly by political thugs. The graduates were among some 100,000 people working as electoral commission agents. The killings sparked strident civil society campaigns for the abolition of the National Youth Service Corps.
Full report on the University World News site

Association of African Universities conference

The leaders of more than 200 universities attended the Association of African Universities biennial conference held at Stellenbosch University in South Africa from 31 May to 3 June. The conference theme was “Strengthening the Space of Higher Education in Africa”, and the sub-themes were creating an African higher education space, the role of ICT, regional centres of excellence and promoting open and distance learning. University World News was there, producing these stories and more in the coming weeks.

AFRICA: University support funds under-used
Munyaradzi Makoni
Association of African Universities Acting President, Professor George Magoha, has urged universities to exploit funds and opportunities that the association offers for teaching and development. The AAU has money for staff exchange and ICT training that is being wasted.
Full report on the University World News site

SOUTHERN AFRICA: Call for a regional research fund
Karen MacGregor
Southern African universities have called for a regional fund to boost public sector research, which is considered critical to the ability of countries to innovate and develop economically. A detailed plan for a $100 million five-year fund was submitted to the continent’s biggest higher education event, the biennial conference of the Association of African Universities, held at Stellenbosch University this week.
Full report on the University World News site

AFRICA: Higher education space gaining momentum
Karen MacGregor
Efforts to create an African Higher Education Space are gaining momentum, with three key areas – qualifications recognition, harmonisation of systems and quality assurance – actively supported by the African Union, regional economic bodies, university associations and international organisations. But far greater political will on the part of governments is needed.
Full report on the University World News site

AFRICA: Slow progress towards harmonisation
Sharon Dell
Adapting some of the lessons from Europe’s Bologna process to the African context could help to speed up the sluggish pace of higher education harmonisation on the continent, according to the African Union Commission’s Dr Yohannes Woldetensae.
Full report on the University World News site

AFRICA: Online laboratories extend higher learning
Munyaradzi Makoni
Universities in West and East Africa are using online science laboratories to conduct research on real hardware in remote locations. The new tools have augmented the teaching of science and engineering, expanding experiments and easing institutions’ lack of equipment. The iLabs initiative has extended the space for higher education on the continent.
Full report on the University World News site


EUROPE: Promoting creativity in doctoral education
Some 200 university leaders, researchers, politicians and other stakeholders are meeting this week in Madrid to discuss how universities can support the development of talented young researchers embarking on a PhD by implementing structures and creating conditions aimed at promoting creativity and innovation in doctoral education.
Full report on the University World News site

CANADA: Changing demographic trends
Sarah King Head
Universities and colleges in Canada will have to adapt to a profound shift in demographics, notes a recent report by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.
Full report on the University World News site

SOUTH AFRICA: Europeans start recruitment drive
Ard Jongsma
European universities trying to recruit overseas students made a careful reconnaissance entry into South Africa on 20 and 21 May when the European Delegation in Johannesburg set up the first Study in Europe Fair to be held in the country.
Full report on the University World News site

GLOBAL: First student survey project launched
A Toronto-based firm, Higher Education Strategy Associates, has launched what it claims will be the world’s first Global Student Survey. The firm says the survey results when compiled will provide “a comprehensive data tool to help institutions guide and refine [their] international recruiting strategies at the undergraduate and graduate levels”.
Full report on the University World News site


MALAYSIA: University close to insolvency
Yojana Sharma and Honey Singh Virdee
A tie up with a globally prestigious institution was no guarantee of success for the Malaysian University of Science and Technology, which almost went to the wall after its partnership with MIT floundered. The university is now picking up the pieces in a cautionary tale for branch campuses and collaborations in Asia.
Full report on the University World News site

AFRICA: Mapping science, technology and innovation
Wagdy Sawahel
To help African countries formulate policies for science development and promote knowledge-based socio-economic development, the first document mapping activities in science, technology and innovation in African countries has been launched.
Full report on the University World News site


BURMA: Real education will triumph
Burmese opposition politician Aung San Suu Kyi, released from house arrest in 2010, spoke to students and academics at Hong Kong University via video link from Rangoon last Monday as part of the university’s 100th anniversary Distinguished Lectures series. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, Suu Kyi donated her US$1 million award to Prospect Burma, an educational charity supporting Burmese students in universities around the world.
Full report of her speech on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: Troubled history of an ERA
Ian Dobson*
In what must be an embarrassing back-down for the Australian Research Council and the Minister for Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, one element of the controversial Excellence in Research for Australia assessment scheme has been scrapped: its method of ranking academic journals, which had been roundly criticised from the moment anyone started to take notice of it.
Full report on the University World News site

GLOBAL: A scorecard for higher education
Michaela Martin and Claude Savageot*
Indicator systems were established to ensure universities are accountable and to improve performance. However, many countries lack the ability to provide reliable information and many policy statements remain too vague. In this article we outline how universities can acquire the technical know-how to construct a viable indicator or scorecard system.
Full report on the University World News site

UK: Challenges facing world-class universities
Wendy Piatt*
In tough economic times and with President Barack Obama pledging to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world, public funding should build on success and be concentrated on institutions with the necessary critical mass, quality of research and excellence in provision, and which are best placed to compete on a global scale.
Full report on the University World News site


SOUTH AFRICA: Measuring cyclists’ brain waves
Researchers at the University of Cape Town have found a way to measure the brain activity of a cyclist pedalling at racing speed by using a specially modified MRI scanner that holds the subject’s head still while the legs are rapidly moving.
Full report on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: ‘Smoke detector’ gene in plants
Researchers at the University of Western Australia have discovered a gene that allows dormant seeds buried in the soil to detect germination stimulants called karrikins in bushfire smoke. The same gene has also been found to provide the means for plants to respond to a growth hormone called strigolactone, which controls shoot branching, the formation of beneficial fungal associations and germination of parasitic weeds.
Full report on the University World News site

UK: Changing times, changing lives
University of Leicester researchers are devising practical ways for people to change their lives in response to environmental change and natural catastrophes such as the floods in Pakistan and Australia, and rapid environmental events such as volcanic eruptions, landslides and tsunamis. A new centre Adapting to Changing Environments, launched last week, will form the nucleus for academics in a range of subjects to develop practical technologies and policy initiatives that aim to make a real impact on people’s lives.
Full report on the University World News site

UNI-LATERAL: Offbeat university stories

AUSTRALIA: Robot Ruby breaks Rubik’s record
The world’s fastest Rubik’s Cube-solving robot has been developed by students at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne. The robot, named Ruby, can solve the scrambled puzzle in just over 10 seconds, including the time taken to scan the initial status of the cube.
Full report on the University World News site

US: Entrepreneur pays students to skip college
In an apparent hunt for the next Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates (both famous college dropouts), Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, will pay 24 college-aged students US$100,000 not to attend college for two years. Instead, the students will spend their time developing business ideas in areas such as biotechnology, education and energy, writes Kayla Webley for Time.
More on the University World News site


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CHILE: Police clash with student protesters
At least 25,000 university student protesters have marched through the streets of Santiago, Chile’s capital, calling for reforms in education, reports Aljazeera. Local news reported that police used water cannons to disperse demonstrators after some students broke through police barricades and others hurled stones at riot police.
More on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: New bill to protect academic freedom
Academic freedom would be ex plicitly protected under legislation introduced by the Gillard government. The proposals honour a commitment made by the Labour Party before last year’s election and follows lobbying by the National Tertiary Education Union, writes Dan Harrison for the Sydney Morning Herald.
More on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: Standards for overseas students’ safety
Universities will need to provide housing guarantees to international students when the Australian Human Rights Commission releases its minimum standards for student safety later this year, writes Yuko Narushima for the Sydney Morning Herald.
More on the University World News site

IRELAND: Students to pay more after fees reversal
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn performed a U-turn on a key election promise last week by admitting he would not reverse a €500 (US$719) hike in college registration fees. And the minister refused to rule out the introduction of higher education fees and further student charges, another pre-election pledge, writes Edel O’Connell for The Independent.
More on the University World News site

CHINA: Top university accused of selling out
Corporate sponsorship is part of life for universities in the UK and US, which regularly raise hundreds of millions of pounds from donors. As Chinese universities race to transform themselves into world-class institutions, they are increasingly looking outwards for funding. But Tsinghua University’s decision to rename its No 4 Teaching Building, in large gold letters, as the Jeanswest Building seems to have crossed a line, writes Malcolm Moore for The Telegraph.
More on the University World News site

AFGHANISTAN: Graduating against the odds
Students chat happily on manicured lawns, proudly donning their black graduation robes and snapping photos of each other with family and friends. It is 26 May, graduation day at the American University of Afghanistan – the first since the university opened in 2006 – and the violence and misery of this country's decades-long war could not seem further away, writes Erin Cunningham for the Chronicle of Higher Education.
More on the University World News site

US: Government to monitor fee increases
The US federal government will attempt to restrict the rise of college tuition from 1 July. After that date, colleges with large tuition increases will be required to report to the Department of Education the reason for the increase and the actions that will be taken to minimise costs. The department will publish much of the reports for the public online, writes Meagan Clark for Times Observer.
More on the University World News site

ISRAEL: Ministry announces sites for research centres
The sites for the first four research centres of the Israeli Centres for Research Excellence (I-CORE) programme were announced by the Education Ministry last week, part of a multi-year plan to strengthen Israel’s position as a global leader in academic research and stem the brain drain of Israeli academics, writes Ben Hartman for the Jerusalem Post.
More on the University World News site

INDIA-GERMANY: Higher education summit?
India has proposed to host an Indo-German higher education summit this year to explore issues such as mutual recognition of qualifications and joint research programmes, reports the Daily News and Analysis.
More on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA-CHINA: Chinese classes miss point
China’s mass circulation newspaper, China Daily, has highlighted the paradox of Chinese who go abroad to study English only to find themselves in a classroom full of their countrymen, writes Bernard Lane for The Australian.
More on the University World News site

UK: No-confidence campaign launched
A campaign for a nationwide vote of no confidence in the government’s higher education reforms has been launched by a group of academics and students at the University of Oxford. The movement urges student unions and academic bodies across the country to put forward motions expressing no confidence in the policies of David Willetts, the Universities and Science Minister, writes Simon Baker for Times Higher Education.
More on the University World News site

UK: Call to action over dearth of black professors
Leading black academics are calling for an urgent culture change at UK universities as figures show there are just 50 black British professors out of more than 14,000. The number has barely changed in eight years, reports Jessica Shepherd for The Guardian.
More on the University World News site

UK: Rush for university places wanes
The surge in the number of university applicants has finally waned after a decade of record rises, amid concerns that higher tuition fees are already deterring students, writes Kate Loveys for the Daily Mail.
More on the University World News site

CHINA: Mongolian students locked in
Authorities in the Inner Mongolia region of China have closed the gates of major universities and colleges in the wake of protests sparked by the death of a herder at the hands of a mining truck driver, reports Radio Free Asia.
More on the University World News site

MALAYSIA: Raffles Education to set up university
Singapore-based Raffles Education, one of the largest private education groups in the region, is setting up a university in Johor, Malaysia, reports Xinhuanet. According to the Straits Times, the new institute, Raffles University Iskandar, will be located in Johor’s Iskandar EduCity, an education hub located in the town of Nusajaya just across a link with Singapore.
More on the University World News site
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