ISSN 1756-297XIssue No: 0020  16 March 2008
HE Events Diary

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This week's special report focuses on adult students - a group often lampooned for sitting at the front of lectures and studying conscientiously, but increasingly important for many universities.

Bribes are an unwelcome part of university life in some countries. But in Siberia, a student hit back after his bribe didn't pay off. See our Uni-Lateral section opposite.

Women account for 58 per cent of Saudi Arabia's students - but their prospects for employment after graduation are poor. See the story in this week's news section.

University World News will not publish its global edition on Sunday 24 March, over the Easter Weekend. However, all readers will receive a Special Africa Edition on the controversial topic of 'Race and universities in South Africa'. University leaders and critical thinkers in South Africa and abroad will explore what the recent case of racism on the part of white students at the University of the Free State reveals about higher education and society, and what more universities could have and should have been doing to eradicate this odious legacy of apartheid.


SPECIAL REPORT: Adults and higher education

Older adults now comprise a rapidly increasing number of university students in many countries around the world. They also outnumber younger people in many colleges offering post-secondary training and life-skills courses. The range of ages and the reasons adults return to the classroom or the lecture theatre, often many years after leaving school, are as varied as the people themselves. For some, occupational reasons loom large, for others it is the prospect of a new adventure in learning, and for yet others it is the sheer joy of discovering something new – about the world and about themselves.

In South Africa, there is a huge demand for basic skills; in Greece, adult education centres and second chance schools are thriving, and distance learning students enter a lottery for places; in Australia, old-timers are out-stripping school leavers in the demand for higher education; and the EU is stepping in to make sure that a statistical framework will foster the growth of lifelong learning. Our correspondents report.

UK: An old but endangered movement
Diane Spencer
Britain has a long tradition of adult education, from the self-help days of the Victorian Samuel Smiles to the Workers' Educational Association and the Open University. Lifelong learning was part of the "education, education, education" mantra of Labour when it came to power 11 years ago. David Blunkett, then Education Secretary, presented a vision of a "learning age" in a Green Paper, but since then his successors have focused resources and policies mostly on young people.
Full report on the University World News site

EUROPE: Lifelong learning to benefit from new rule
Alan Osborn
A significant first step towards the desired re-alignment of European education was taken last month with the formal approval of a regulation by the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers concerning statistics on education and lifelong learning. By itself, the measure will change little in European academic and research circles but it will lay the basis for political decisions in EU institutions to make potentially far-reaching changes – initially perhaps in the area of mutual recognition of diplomas, teaching qualifications and research assessments. But clearly any reform proposals not based on comprehensive, relevant, accurate and up-to-date data are likely to fail. Such data has not been available in a useful form so far.
Full report on the University World News site

GREECE: Adult education – pathway to the future
Makki Marseilles
Adult education took a backseat in Greece until recently, although the educational level of the population has been pushed substantially upwards in the last half century as a result of rapid economic development – and following membership of the EU, it has accelerated enormously. Now, adult education has become an important part of a drive for improved conditions and services in the country. The General Secretariat for Adult Education, jointly funded by the European Social Fund and the Greek Government with €30 million, is responsible for designing and implementing a wide range of programmes in lifelong learning.
Full report on the University World News site

SOUTH AFRICA: Boom in adult basic education
Karen MacGregor
Dreams of attracting large numbers of mature students into higher education in South Africa, especially those who missed out under apartheid, have proved to be just that – dreams. Universities have had their hands full accommodating a swelling student body of school-leavers, although they and private providers also enrol a quarter of a million adults on mostly short courses. And adult basic education is booming: in the largest programme of its kind in the world, the distance-learning University of South Africa has trained more than 80,000 adult basic education practitioners since the mid-1990s – and it is hoped that many of its graduates will participate in a huge literacy campaign starting this month.
Full report on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: The cyber-campus for older students
Geoff Maslen
Old-timers in Australia are flocking to university in their thousands. Whereas the number of young Australians enrolling in higher education has barely changed in the past five years, their parents and grandparents seem eager to improve their knowledge and skills and are rushing to find a course to study – on and off campus. While ‘mature age’ enrolments continue to rise, applications from school-leavers were down again this year, for the third year in a row.
Full report on the University World News site

NEWS: Our correspondents worldwide report

SAUDI ARABIA: More female graduates but no more jobs
Tabitha Morgan
The government of Saudi Arabia has urged the kingdom's private sector to play a bigger role in creating jobs for the rising number of women graduates. UNESCO and Saudi government figures show that women make up 58% of the total student population at universities. Higher Education Minister Dr Khaled Al-Anqari said this was a record for women's education in the region. But such an impressive achievement in tertiary education participation is not matched in the workplace: only 16% of Saudi women work, mostly in education, where the system of classroom segregation provides opportunities generally lacking in the private sector.
Full report on the University World News site

MALAYSIA: Election results will impact on higher education
David Jardine
National and state-level elections held across Malaysia earlier this month occurred against a background of inter- and intra-ethnic tensions, reflecting in part long-held resentments about the constitutional privileging of Malays over Chinese and Indians, who have serious complaints about access to universities and scholarships for their offspring.
Full report on the University World News site

NEW ZEALAND: No nukes – now no American studies
John Gerritsen*
More than 20 years after New Zealand effectively banned US warships from its harbours, the country is set to lose its only stand-alone American studies programme, in part because of anti-American sentiment among young New Zealanders. The University of Canterbury has proposed a restructuring of its college of arts that would mean the end of American studies. The university cites relatively low student numbers and says the subject is not a core humanities programme.
Full report on the University World News site

GERMANY: Funding for women professors raises questions
Mike Gardner
Germany's Education and Science Ministry has begun implementing a government programme announced last December to create 200 additional positions for women professors. The Professorinnenprogramm was launched by the ministry on International Women's Day and was given a cautious welcome by the Teaching and Science Union, GEW. But the union warned the move could not act as a substitute for a staff policy systematically oriented towards gender equality in higher education and research.
Full report on the University World News site

IN-BRIEF: Extra funds for UK higher education
English universities and colleges will get an extra 3.3% or nearly £7.5 billion ($15 billion) for 2008-09, the Higher Education Funding Council for England announced last week, reports Diane Spencer.
Full report on the University World News site


GREECE: Former Education Secretary fights for life
Makki Marseilles
For the last two months, former Greek Education Secretary Marietta Giannakou has been seriously ill in hospital where, following a series of delicate operations, surgeons were forced to amputate part of her right leg. Although her health is improving, the doctors are cautious as to whether Giannakou has entirely escaped danger.
Full report on the University World News site

UNI-LATERAL: Off-beat university stories

RUSSIA: Corrupt academics, bureaucrats and politicians
Nick Holdsworth
A Siberian university student bit back when a bribe he was asked to pay a teacher to pass an examination failed to deliver the success. The final-year student at Tyumen State Agricultural Institute, more than 2,000 kilometres east of Moscow, complained to state prosecutors when his 39-year-old senior lecturer in the faculty of soil science and agrochemistry demanded a 2,000 rouble ($85) bribe. The student told investigators that although the bribe was paid, the expected exam pass was not forthcoming. An investigation into this case – and other suspected incidents of financial extortion at the institute – is underway.
Full report on the University World News site


US: America could lose a generation of researchers
Five consecutive years of flat funding the budget of the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, is deterring promising young researchers and threatening the future of Americans' health, a group of seven top academic research institutions have warned, reports ScienceDaily. In a new report the group of concerned institutions (six research universities and a major teaching hospital) described the toll that cumulative stagnant NIH funding is taking on the American medical research enterprise. And they warned that if NIH does not get consistent and robust support in the future, the nation will lose a generation of young investigators to other careers and other countries and, with them, a generation of promising research that could cure disease for millions for whom no cure currently exists.
More on the University World News site

US: The charms of Wikipedia
Wikipedia is just an incredible thing. It's fact-encirclingly huge, and it's idiosyncratic, careful, messy, funny, shocking, and full of simmering controversies – and it's free, and it's fast, writes novelist Nicholson Baker in a New York Review of Books article on John Broughton’s Wikipedia: The missing manual. In a few seconds you can look up, for instance, ‘Diogenes of Sinope’, or ‘turnip’, or ‘Crazy Eddie’, or ‘Bagoas’, or ‘quadratic formula’, or ‘Bristol Beaufighter’, or ‘squeegee’, or ‘Sanford B Dole’, and you'll have knowledge you didn't have before. It's like some vast aerial city with people walking briskly to and fro on catwalks, carrying picnic baskets full of nutritious snacks.
More on the University World News site

UK: Data gaps cloud quality and diversity picture
Wide variations in the quality of equity data for higher education are revealed in a new report for the Equality Challenge Unit. A review of main information sources found that although there is good data available, it is not always used effectively, leaving a number of gaps in key areas such as disability, ethnicity, faith and s exual orientation. Among its recommendations are: the collection of data on the experiences of staff and students regarding religion, belief and s exual orientation; gathering of more meaningful data in some equality categories; identification of the greatest areas of inequality; more monitoring of staff progression and careers; and capacity building to help staff access and better use existing, relevant equality data.
More on the University World News site


RUSSIA: Banned university stages blog protests
Protests were expected when last month authorities shut down St Petersburg's European University, one of the city's most respected higher education institutions. But the revolt unleashed by the closure may have exceeded authorities' worst expectations, reports RadioFreeEurope and RadioLiberty. Defiant students and professors have launched an all-out campaign to save the university using internet forums, blogs and videos to coordinate their efforts.
More on the University World News site

US: Population shift sends universities scrambling
Colleges and universities are anxiously taking steps to address a projected drop in the number of high school graduates in much of the nation starting next year and a dramatic change in the racial and ethnic makeup of the student population, a phenomenon expected to transform the country's higher education landscape, educators and analysts told The Washington Post.
More on the University World News site

CANADA: Online Facebook 'scapegoat' hailed
Applause and cheers greeted first-year Ryerson student Chris Avenir last week as he stepped out of the engineering building. He had just contested an academic misconduct charge and possible expulsion for his participation in a Facebook study group. But Avenir, 18, who helped to run the chemistry group, will have to wait a week before he finds out if he has a reason to celebrate, reports The Star. The faculty appeal committee has five working days to decide what the penalty should be – from failing the assignment or the course, to being expelled from the university.
More on the University World News site

CANADA: Debate on sanctions for internet antics
Students who behave badly online are at the centre of an emerging debate on Canadian campuses as some consider whether to revamp their codes of conduct to impose academic sanctions for internet antics, reports the National Post. Several universities, including Ryerson University in Toronto, Bishop's University in Sherbrooke and Trent University in Peterborough, have looked at rewriting their codes of conduct to discipline students for activities on social networking sites such as Facebook.
More on the University World News site

MALAYSIA: Foreign student numbers soar
The number of foreign students in peninsular Malaysia has risen more than 30%, which augurs well for the country’s aim of becoming a regional hub of educational excellence, reports The Star. A total of 65,000 foreign students enrolled in international schools and both private and public institutions of higher education last year, compared with 48,000 in 2006.
More on the University World News site

KENYA: Varsity charters to be revoked, warns minister
The government might be forced to revoke the charters of certain public and private universities that do not conform to required academic standards, reports The Daily Nation. Minister for Education, Professor Sam Ongeri, warned that undercover inspectors would be dispatched to institutions to establish their level of conformity with standards.
More on the University World News site

Rwanda: Students criticise loan scheme procedure
The procedure to identify needy students to benefit from the government's loan scheme for higher education has come under criticism from students, reports The New Times. Some unsuccessful loan applicants have complained that the Students Financing Agency for Rwanda’s selection process is inefficient and has excluded genuinely poor students.
More on the University World News site

INDIA: Research in universities on a decline
Research work in universities show a declining trend although there is an overall increase in such activities, especially by scientific research institutes, reports The Hindu. Minister of State for Human Resources Development D Purandeswari said there was an increase in research activities in the country as research workers have risen from 17,898 in 2004-05 to 18,730 in 2005-06. But the number of PhDs from universities are a matter of concern and efforts are on to strengthen linkages between universities and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.
More on the University World News site

PAKISTAN: Commission to set up research network
The Higher Education Commission is to establish a high-speed National Research and Research Education Network (NREN) for universities and other academic sectors, reports The Post. An HEC spokesman said NREN would provide students, faculty members and researchers with a fully integrated communication infrastructure using advanced information and communication technology which will encourage collaborative research, knowledge resources sharing and distance learning.
More on the University World News site
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