University World News Global Edition
17 June 2012 Issue 0226 Register to receive our free e-newspaper by email each week Advanced Search
Higher education and the UN Conference on Sustainable Development

This week we publish a Special Report on universities and the UN Conference on Sustainable Development – Rio+20 – including an article by world-leading sustainability scientist Walter Leal Filho, who argues that the time for talking about action plans on sustainable development has passed. Now is the time to ensure they are enforced.
In World Blog, William Patrick Leonard writes that higher education institutions in America should better prepare for inevitable swings in the economic cycle. In Commentary Dlawer Ala'Aldeen, a former higher education minister in the Kurdistan regional government in Iraq, writes that Kurdistan has made huge leaps in reforming its higher education system and improving quality.
John Akec argues that private universities in South Sudan should not be closed, as this will not improve quality but will deny access to many people seeking a second chance at education. And Grace Karram reveals a paradox in the OECD’s just-published Economic Survey of Canada, which finds post-secondary education strong but innovation weak.
In Features, Mimi Leung and Yojana Sharma write that China will allow changes in residency rules for the ferociously competitive university entrance examination, the gaokao. And Geoff Maslen reports on the growing numbers of students enrolling for online learning and the doubling of student numbers at Open Universities Australia in the past four years.
Karen MacGregor – Global Editor
Brendan O’Malley

The UK is expected to increase its intake of overseas students by 30,000 in the next decade, outpacing the United States, its greatest competitor. But a significant slowdown in the rate of growth means UK universities and policy-makers should rethink their strategies, a new report warns.
Helena Flusfeder

The University Centre of Samaria in Ariel took a step closer to gaining full status as an Israeli university – the first in the occupied West Bank – by approving the appointment of a future president last week.
Yojana Sharma

While universities in China have been rushing headlong into teaching in English, Yunnan province in the south-west has announced an ambitious initiative to train students to become proficient in regional languages, in preparation for the Association of South East Asian Nations economic community to be set up by 2015.
Wagdy Sawahel

A screening card for measuring how effectively universities are governed has been endorsed by the World Bank as a means of encouraging institutional reform in the Middle East and North Africa after trials at 41 universities in four countries.
Jan Petter Myklebust

University reforms in the Czech Republic, including proposals to introduce tuition fees and reduce student influence over decision-making, have been shelved. Instead, new Education Minister, Petr Fiala, says he will negotiate with university representatives over alternatives.

A delegation of research leaders from an Australian network known as the Innovative Research Universities began a week-long visit to Malaysia on Monday aimed at forging new research collaborations and strengthening existing links.
The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, known as Rio+20, kicks off in Rio de Janeiro next week. University World News takes a look at ways in which universities around the world are involved in sustainable development and environmental debates, research and projects, and their role in Rio+20.

Walter Leal Filho

Universities have been integral to debates about sustainable development and many action plans have been created at the international level. But implementation has been a problem, so a certain amount of scepticism has set in. This needs to be tackled, and attempts made to take action on a local and regional basis.
Yojana Sharma

A new Global Universities Partnership on Environment and Sustainability was officially launched by the United Nations Environment Programme and participating universities this month, in advance of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development – Rio+20 – in Rio de Janeiro on 20 June.
Jan Petter Myklebust

The Rio+20 conference will be presented with a demand by leading social scientists from around the world for a new organisation aimed at better integrating sustainable development into United Nations structures, in a move as radical as the international governance reforms that followed World War II.
Stephen Eisenhammer

Universities are playing a key role in every part of the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20. But with widespread strikes at a number of public universities across the country, some feel an important opportunity is being missed.
Yojana Sharma

Universities in Asia-Pacific nations have been linking together to collaborate on sustainable development research and projects, and are considered to be more networked than in other world regions in tackling climate change and other environmental issues.
Wanda Hennig

The demands of the 21st century global economy have spurred the integration of new ideas into the education process at management schools. To this end, and against a backdrop of the Occupy Wall Street movement, a rapidly rising number of universities are walking the talk, adding responsible management to the core curriculum and offering degrees in sustainability and sustainability management.
Alya Mishra

Sustainable development is becoming a buzzword in higher education in India, with institutions offering degree programmes and opting for green campuses. But the movement is limited to a handful of enthusiasts and experts say capacity building is needed, along with a deeper understanding of the concept, if higher education is to make a difference.
Michael Gardner

Germany has played a pioneering role in promoting renewable energy and campaigning for green policies internationally. But scientists at a conference in Lower Saxony earlier this year called for a much wider approach given the obvious lack of progress regarding sustainability since the 1992 Rio summit.
Moses Magadza

The recently established Namibia-based Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Use is working with higher education institutions across the region to develop new postgraduate courses on climate change.
Mimi Leung and Yojana Sharma

China’s Ministry of Education has said it is willing to allow changes in residency rules for the country’s ferociously competitive university entrance examination known as the gaokao. But it has not outlined a timetable for change.
Geoff Maslen

A vast and ever-increasing number of the world’s students are studying for degrees without ever setting foot on a campus. Open Universities Australia, the 20-year-old antipodean pioneer of online learning, is a prime example – it has experienced an unprecedented doubling in enrolments over the past four years.
World Blog
William Patrick Leonard

Higher education institutions in the United States have had to make swingeing cuts due to the economic crisis. But financial crises are inevitable so why are institutions not better prepared, since they have contingency plans for other, more unlikely emergencies?
Dlawer Ala'Aldeen

Kurdistan in Iraq has implemented a series of reforms aimed at improving the quality of higher education in the region. Despite some opposition from political groupings and vested interests, the determination of reformers has resulted in significant progress.
John Akec

Private universities give many South Sudanese a second chance. Closing them will not improve the quality of education, but will restrict access. The government needs to learn from the mistakes other countries have made and focus on quantity as well as quality.
Grace Karram

The OECD’s Economic Survey of Canada 2012 was released on 13 June, assessing the nation’s macro-economic trends and making recommendations for the future. The paradox revealed by the report lies in the striking difference between the country’s (weak) innovation and (strong) post-secondary education sectors.
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World Round-up

India and the US last week announced eight institutional partnership projects for the first Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative awards, in a milestone for educational ties between the two countries, reports the Press Trust of India.

The economic crisis in Europe could open up a major divide in university funding across the continent, the European University Association has warned, writes Elizabeth Gibney for Times Higher Education.

When it comes to the internationalisation of higher education, the Russian Bear has remained in hibernation, write Jason Lane and Kevin Kinser for The Chronicle of Higher Education. Such a situation is surprising when one considers the amount of internationalising activity engaged in by the other emerging economies of the BRIC group.

A panel of business and academic leaders has warned that funding cuts to higher education are hurting the global competitiveness of US research universities, the latest sign of financial strain that is intensifying battles over leadership and has led to several high-profile departures of presidents, write Jack Nicas and Cameron McWhirter for The Wall Street Journal.

When college tuition bills come in, be prepared for a shock. The average tuition fee at a four-year public university in America climbed 15% between 2008 and 2010, fuelled by state budget cuts for higher education and increases of 40% and more at universities in states like Georgia, Arizona and California, reports Associated Press.

Computer science major Zhang Yuqing decided to quit her college in Beijing this year and apply to one of the grandes écoles in France, an idea inspired by the weakening of the euro, write Wang Zhuoqiong and Li Xiang for China Daily.

The Afghan higher education system has capacity for 34,000 students, but thousands more are being admitted into universities to meet demand. Steps are being taken to create new places, but for now some students have to settle for any department they can get, writes Samira Sadat for Afghanistan Today.

Private providers are to compete directly with universities for undergraduate places for the first time, after the UK government announced that it aimed to bring them under the same controls on the number of students accessing public loans, and the same quality assurance regime, as the rest of the sector, writes David Matthews for Times Higher Education.

Small spec ialist colleges in Britain will be given new powers to become universities in the biggest expansion of higher education in 20 years, it was revealed last week, writes Graeme Paton for The Telegraph.

The quality of teaching in higher education could become clearer if plans to collect more and better data about academics go ahead, writes Bernard Lane for The Australian.

Knesset legal advisor Eyal Yinon took the unusual step last week of preventing members of Israel’s house of representatives from introducing a bill that would make holding Nakba Day events at universities illegal, or even a criminal offence, writes Michal Shmulovich for The Times of Israel.

Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande has thrown his weight behind the “progressive development” of South African distance higher education as an “indispensable and integral component of our national higher education system”, writes Victoria John for the Mail & Guardian.

Once, UK students were expected to do little more than sit in a few lectures and take notes. No longer. Not only have they become more active learners, they are also increasingly being invited to offer opinions about what they are taught, how they are taught it, and even strategic decisions about how their university is run, writes Harriet Swain for the Guardian.

A whistle-blowing professor has lifted the lid on what he brands the "corrupt" exam system at universities in the UK, in which lecturers are being pressured to pass underperforming students, writes Richard Garner for The Independent.

Oxford University is to provide up to £22,000 of financial support per student from Scotland in a move to encourage more applications. Those from low-income families will be eligible to apply for a mix of bursaries and fee waivers, writes Seonag MacKinnon for the BBC.

Kevin Peterson, who helped General Electric redesign a tool to speed up the disassembly of gas turbines last year, is listed on the patent application as one of the inventors. Now, at the age of 20, he is working on a rocket-launch system in Alabama for Boeing, write Craig Torres and Steve Matthews for Bloomberg.

A Social Sciences and Humanities Academy will be established across all universities in Malaysia to bridge the gap between science and humanities, writes Sylvia Looi for the New Straits Times.

After the cartoon controversy in which a Jadavpur University professor was arrested, the West Bengal government has issued show cause notices to two public college professors for appearing in a television programme where they allegedly made “anti-government” comments, reports the Press Trust of India.
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