ISSN 1756-297XIssue No: 0184 14 August 2011
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EAIE 2011

LH Martin Institute

HE Events Diary

The first meeting of the UN Academic Impact initiative, linking higher education institutions with each other and the UN to support common principles and tackle global challenges, was held in South Korea last week. See this week's Special Report.

In Commentary, Ramez Maluf investigates why some Saudi universities, such as King Saud University (pictured), claim top spots in rankings despite severe limits to academic freedom in the country.

Education Ministers in the East African Community have adopted a report that could advance the planned harmonisation of education systems in the region. See the News report.

Exiled political scientist Giles Ji Ungpakorn calls on the new Thai government to stop the use of the controversial lèse majesté law to trample on academic freedom, following the arrest of a student blogger. See the Features and Commentary sections.


University World News was a media partner to the Talloires Network Leadership Conference in 2011, the OECD’s Institutional Management in Higher Education Conference in 2010, and the Unesco World Conference on Higher Education in 2009.


This week’s highlights

This week YOJANA SHARMA reports on the first United Nations Academic Impact conference, held in South Korea. The arrest in Thailand of a 23-year-old student blogger on charges of lèse majesté has dismayed many students, writes SULUCK LAMUBOL, and exiled political scientist GILES JI UNGPAKORN calls on the newly-elected Thai government to stop use of the law to trample on academic freedom. SHARON DELL looks at two reports published in South Africa calling for urgent action to reverse the decline of the humanities. In Commentary MARCELO KNOBEL proposes reforms to make Brazil more attractive to international students and academics, and RAMEZ MALUF argues that the Arab world needs to encourage academic freedom if its universities are to be truly world-class.

United Nations Academic Impact

The first meeting of the United Nations Academic Impact initiative was held in South Korea last week. University World News reports.

GLOBAL: UN Academic Impact a ‘global enterprise’
Yojana Sharma
What started with just a few universities and “the simple wish to harness academia’s great power for the common good, has become a global enterprise,” said United Nations Secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon, opening the UN Academic Impact forum in the South Korean capital Seoul last week.
Full report on the University World News site

GLOBAL: Leadership education gets a boost through UN
Yojana Sharma
As the United Nations attempts to tap the wealth of knowledge and expertise available in universities to solve major global problems, one of the key areas of collaboration will be in capacity building in the developing world.
Full report on the University World News reports

GLOBAL: Collaboration winds blowing North-South-South
Yojana Sharma
Under the United Nations Academic Impact, an innovative method of university collaboration involves linking universities in developed countries of the North with those in a group of developed countries in the South – the so-called North-South-South model.
Full report on the University World News site

NEWS: Our correspondents worldwide report

INDIA: 300,000 more lecturers needed
Alya Mishra
India’s universities and colleges are working with fewer than half the number lecturers they require, a recent government assessment has found. Around 300,000 more academics are needed.
Full report on the University World News site

RUSSIA: Medical school scandal rector fired
Nick Holdsworth
The rector of the Russian National Pirogov Research Medical University, Nikolai Volodin, has been fired. His axing followed an inquiry into student admissions fraud, which found that hundreds of highly qualified but fictional students had been granted government-funded places that were later quietly sold to real students with poorer grades.
Full report on the University World News site

LATIN AMERICA: Higher education integration for bloc
Chrissie Long
Member states of Latin America’s left-leaning political bloc known as Alba are organising to create an integrated higher education system. The eight participating nations aim to pool resources with a view to strengthening their universities. But the initiative, which has a strong soc ialist and anti-US agenda, has come in for widespread criticism.
Full report on the University World News site

EAST AFRICA: Ministers adopt harmonisation report
Gilbert Nganga
Education Ministers in the East African Community have adopted a report that could advance the planned harmonisation of education systems in the region. The master plan details how to harmonise educational systems and training curricula and touches on the fields of education, science and technology as well as culture, sports and youth affairs.
Full report on the University World News site

SWITZERLAND: Rectors can set foreign student quotas
Michael Gardner
Universities can limit the number of foreigners they enrol if they fear overcrowding, according to an expert opinion commissioned by the Swiss Rectors’ Conference. The report was prompted by fears of a huge influx of German students into Switzerland this year.
Full report on the University World News site

ISRAEL: Palestinian prisoners’ study funds frozen
Wagdy Sawahel
The Israeli prisons authority has frozen the education funds of 280 Palestinian prisoners enrolled with the Hebrew Open University until further notice, according to a statement from the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs.
Full report on the University World News site

SINGAPORE: Push to develop local technology talent
Emilia Tan
Singapore has announced a SGD70 million (US$58 million) programme of postgraduate funding and scholarships to boost “research, innovation and enterprise talent” and become a leader in engineering and applied research in Asia.
Full report on the University World News site

TOGO: Government yields to student pressure
Tunde Fatunde
After more than eight weeks of suspended classes, sit-ins and violent clashes with security forces, students at Togo’s largest higher education institution, the University of Lomé, forced the government to the negotiation table. Students were protesting against a new semester system, a minimum pass mark and inadequate facilities, among other things.
Full report on the University World News site

SOUTH AFRICA: Universities call for funding change
Karen MacGregor
South Africa’s vice-chancellors are to call for a differentiated funding formula aimed at strengthening the ability of universities to deliver on their individual missions and at easing a funding ‘bias’ towards research. The university leaders achieved consensus – often a difficult task, given vast institutional differences – at their annual meeting in Pretoria.
Full report on the University World News site

SOUTH AFRICA: Disturbances at technology universities
Munyaradzi Makoni
Three universities of technology have been hitting the headlines in South Africa. At one, a top administrator used qualifications obtained from a bogus university to land the vice-chancellorship. At another, the vice-chancellor has had his leadership style questioned, and at the third students went on the rampage over government loans.
Full report on the University World News site

ZIMBABWE: China loan for new military university
Kudzai Mashininga
China has loaned Zimbabwe US$98 million to establish a military university after the African country mortgaged its diamonds to service the credit facility. But the move to set up the training institution is proving controversial.
Full report on the University World News site


THAILAND: Student blogger charged with lèse majesté
Suluck Lamubol
Norawase Yotpiyasathien, 23, a business administration student who graduated this summer from Kasetsart University, was arrested last week for his online blog posts. He is the youngest and the latest victim of Thailand’s lèse majesté law, and his arrest has caused deep dismay among many students.
See also this week’s commentary by Giles Ji Ungpakorn.
Full report on the University World News site

SOUTH AFRICA: Action on humanities urgent – reports
Sharon Dell
Two separate reports, both released last week and authored by teams of leading South African academics, have called for urgent action to promote the value of the humanities and arrest their post-apartheid decline, evidenced by decreasing student numbers, falling graduation rates and inadequate funding.
Full report on the University World News site


BRAZIL: What is holding higher education back?
Brazil lacks the critical mass of researchers needed to compete on the international stage. Despite moves to professionalise and expand higher education, there are still problems in the pipeline to the sector as well as language, bureaucratic, curriculum and internationalisation challenges. MARCELO KNOBEL suggests ways forward for the country and which areas should be prioritised.
Full report on the University World News site

THAILAND: New rulers must act on academic freedom
The arrest of Bangkok student Norawase Yotpiyasatien and the role of the leadership of Kasetsart University in his arrest is testament to the lack of academic freedom in Thailand. The new government is running out of time to show it is serious about democratic reform, argues GILES JI UNGPAKORN.
Full report on the University World News site

ARAB WORLD: Academic freedom key to being world class
Arab university rankings are based on web visibility and biased towards technical disciplines. If the Arab world wants truly world-class institutions it needs to encourage academic freedom, argues RAMEZ MALUF.
Full report on the University World News site


AUSTRALIA: Mums kept on the hop
Geoff Maslen
What defines devotion to the cause of research? Try this: two postgraduate students perched atop a three-metre tower outside a 22-hectare paddock, watch kangaroos through telescopes for several hours a day, seven days at a time. And there’s more: they note at three-minute intervals what the females carrying joeys are doing, how many bites of grass they take and their number of steps, an indication of whether each kangaroo is after better-quality grass.
Full report on the University World News site

UK: Galaxy-sized twist in time
A University of Warwick physicist in Britain has produced a galaxy-sized solution to explain one of the outstanding puzzles of particle physics – while leaving the door open to the related conundrum of why different amounts of matter and antimatter seem to have survived the birth of the universe.
Full report on the University World News site

SWEDEN: Cure against diarrhoea
Jan Petter Myklebust
Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm are leading the world in the transplantation of intestinal flora from normal faeces to people suffering diarrhoea, as a result of taking antibiotics for example.
Full report on the University World News site


US: Top for-profit group sued for fraud
The US Department of Justice and four states last week filed a multibillion-dollar fraud suit against the Education Management Corporation, the nation’s second largest for-profit college company, charging that it was not eligible for the $11 billion in state and federal financial aid it had received from July 2003 to June 2011, reports Tamar Lewin for The New York Times.
More on the University World News site

VIETNAM: Jailing of professor draws fire
The US, France and a human rights group have strongly criticised the conviction of a French-Vietnamese maths professor who was sentenced to three years in a Vietnamese prison for belonging to a banned pro-democracy group and publishing an anti-Communist blog, reports CBS News.
More on the University World News site

MEXICO: Anti-tech group linked to university bombs
A violent anti-technology group linked to attacks against academics in Europe was responsible for a package bomb that injured two professors in Mexico, a state prosecutor said last week, reports Fox News.
More on the University World News site

IRAN: Gender segregation plan for 20 universities
Twenty Iranian universities have reportedly announced that in the coming academic year, 40 departments will begin accepting either male or female students, reports Radio Zamaneh.
More on the University World News site

GLOBAL: Social media sells education
The explosion in internet access has transformed the 3.5 million strong market for international education, according to a four-year global research project by the British Council’s Education Intelligence unit, writes Stephen Matchett for The Australian.
More on the University World News site

SRI LANKA: Universities return to normal
With academics resuming duties at their voluntary administrative posts from Monday, normalcy has now returned to universities after a two-month long protest and tug-of-war between academics and vice-chancellors, writes Lakna Paranamanna for The Daily Mirror.
More on the University World News site

NEPAL: Academics protest top appointments
The Nepali Congress-aligned Democratic Professors’ Association and Unified CPN-Maoist-aligned Nepal National Professors’ Organisation last week padlocked universities across the country to protest the government decision to appoint vice-chancellors, reports the Himalayan Times.
More on the University World News site

US: Debt deal spares student aid scheme – for now
If the devil was in the detail of the hard-fought, last-minute deal to reduce US federal spending by trillions of dollars, there was an angel looking out for higher education, writes John Marcus for Times Higher Education.
More on the University World News site

US: Complex link found between education and faith
For years, a commonly held belief has been that more educated Americans are less likely to embrace religion. But an article forthcoming in The Review of Religious Research suggests that the relationship between education and faith is more nuanced, and that more education has a negative impact only on certain religious questions, not on all of them, writes Scott Jaschik for Inside Higher Ed.
More on the University World News site

SOMALIALAND: First higher education body formed
President Ahmed M Silanyo last weekend announced the formation of Somaliland’s first Higher Education Commission before he left the country for his first China visit, reports Somaliapress.
More on the University World News site

UK: Small colleges could gain university status
Smaller higher education institutions in England would be able to gain university status, under proposals put forward by the government, reports the BBC. The proposals suggest removing the current requirement for universities to have at least 4,000 students.
More on the University World News site

UK: Students face leaving university with £60k debts
Recent figures reveal that undergraduates enrolling on courses in England, where costs are higher than elsewhere in the UK, can expect to owe £59,100 (US$96,150) when degrees finish, writes Graeme Paton for The Telegraph.
More on the University World News site

UK: More universities seek top grades
Six more leading institutions in the UK want students to achieve the ‘super grade’ in one A-level this year, while a further two will require one from next year, write Kate Loveys, Inderdeep Bains and Sarah Harris for the Daily Mail.
More on the University World News site

PHILIPPINES: Teachers warn of threats to quality
A teacher group in the Philippines warned last weekend of further deterioration in the quality of higher education and more drop-outs next year, as funding for 50 state universities and colleges will be cut by more than P500 million (US$11.75 million), reports the Sun Star.
More on the University World News site

SWAZILAND: University closed by cash crisis
The University of Swaziland has not opened for the new academic year after the government failed to provide money for student fees, reports the BBC.
More on the University World News site

SIERRA LEONE: University runs out of paper for exams
Students at Sierra Leone’s respected Fourah Bay College were unable to take their final exams because of a lack of paper, reports the BBC.
More on the University World News site
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