ISSN 1756-297XIssue No: 0033  22 June 2008
HE Events Diary

Opportunities Jobs

China is set to reap the dividends from its investment in education. See the story in our News section.

The Effelsberg 100-m radio telescope, used in new research on a distant university. See our Uni-Lateral section opposite. Photo: Norbert Junkes

This week, our Business section reports on the use of social networking websites to promote collaboration between researchers.


Reversing the brain drain


Africa loses 70,000 highly-qualified scholars and experts each year, mostly to developed countries. Now a new project plans to turn the brain drain into 'brain gain'. See our feature in this week's edition. Credit: University of the Witwatersrand

NEWS: Our correspondents worldwide report

CHINA: Investment in tertiary education on the rise
Subbiah Arunachalam
China's increasing investment in education will accelerate economic development, lead to rapid wage rises and increased consumer demand, and slow population growth, says a new report from MAPI, the Arlington, Virginia-based Manufacturers Alliance.
Full report on the University World News site

GERMANY: A crisis in teaching
Michael Gardner
The Stifterverband, Germany’s Donors’ Association for Sciences and the Humanities, has called for marked improvements in university teaching and learning. Addressing his organisation’s annual assembly in Essen, President Arend Oetker warned that higher education teaching was “slipping into a crisis”. Oetker said the Stifterverband was focusing its efforts on teaching this year and, together with state ministers of cultural affairs, had launched a new initiative to boost standards.
Full report on the University World News site

EUROPE: EQF success hailed at Brussels conference
Alan Osborn
A conference held in Brussels earlier this month to salute the European Qualifications Framework was told the four-year old initiative had been a great success. So much so that, for the first time, Europe's diverse education and training systems will share a common framework that relates their own national qualifications systems to each other.
Full report on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: Education revolution begins – with a review
Geoff Maslen
A full-scale review of Australia’s higher education system has begun with the release this month of a discussion paper setting out the parameters. Launching the 95-page document prepared by the review committee she established, Education Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard said: “We want to make sure there is a vision for our universities for the next 15, 20 years. We want that vision to include the ability of the poorest Australians to be able to aspire to go to university and have a fair chance of doing so. We want that vision to be one of universities leading the way with research that makes a difference to our lives…”
Full report on the University World News site

ZIMBABWE: Students support opposition ahead of poll
Clemence Manyukwe
The Zimbabwe National Students Union, which represents students at 40 tertiary institutions across the country, has passed a resolution supporting Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai against 28-year ruler President Robert Mugabe in the country’s fraught 27 June presidential election run-off. The resolution continues a tradition of student opposition to Mugabe’s rule since 1990 – and many senior opposition figures are former student leaders or academics.
Full report on the University World News site

N IGERIA: British universities scout for rich students
Tunde Fatunde
British universities have visited N igeria on a recruiting drive to attract rich N igerians who can afford high fees for their offspring to enrol as private students. A London-based company, British Canadian International Education, organised an education fair recently in two cities, Abuja and Lagos, on behalf of 15 British institutions. The fair gave parents the opportunity to prepare for the future of their children in the hope they would eventually secure, with internationally recognised university degrees, lucrative jobs as employees in multi-national companies in the highly competitive global economy.
Full report on the University World News site

AFRICA-CANADA: Poverty project produces graduates
Karen MacGregor
Nearly 50 computer scientists from four Francophone West African countries have just graduated as a result of a Canadian development project aimed at reducing poverty in Africa by producing high-level skills. A further 125 students should graduate next year from a distance learning degree programme, run as a partnership between Université Laval in Quebec and nine African universities. The project is being funded by the Canadian International Development Agency and managed by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and the African Virtual University.
Full report on the University World News site

RUSSIA: British Council faces back-dated tax demand
Nick Holdsworth
The Russian office of beleaguered cultural organisation the British Council was due in court in Moscow last Thursday (19 June) after being hit with a disputed back-dated tax demand. The bill – for monies Russian tax authorities say were not paid between 2004 and 2006 – is disputed by the council as incorrect.
Full report on the University World News site


US: Massachusetts revokes Mugabe’s honorary degree
The University of Massachusetts has revoked an honorary degree conferred on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe 22 years ago – the first time in its 145-year history that the institution has done so. “Rescinding an honorary degree is a step to be taken in only the rarest and most grievous of circumstances,” a press statement released by the US university quoted Robert J Manning, chairman of the Board of Trustees, as saying.
Full report on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: A$100 million supercomputing facility
The University of Melbourne is to host a A$100 million (US$94 million) supercomputing facility under a new state government life sciences computation initiative. The project aims to develop the world’s most powerful supercomputer and leading computational biology facility dedicated to life sciences research.
Full report on the University World News site

MALAWI: University for president’s home village
Malawian president Bingu wa Mutharika is to construct a private university in his home village. The institution will be called Kamoto University, a name derived from the village in the Thyolo District. “Land for the infrastructure has already been acquired,” the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training said in a brief response to University World News.
Full report on the University World News site


GLOBAL: Facebook for researchers promotes online collaboration
Keith Nuthall
We all know about Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace. These social utility websites allow us all to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, exchange messages, post pictures and play silly games – such as throwing a digital sheep at someone, or giving them a pixellated hellraiser cocktail. But now a new website has been developed for researchers, allowing them to exchange papers and comments about their work. It is called ResearchGATE.
Full report on the University World News site

EUROPE: Breath of new life for EUREKA
Alan Osborn
The European collaborative research network EUREKA has strengthened its links with the European Union amid concerns the independent initiative is “running out of steam”. The closer connection with EU institutions has manifested itself in the Eurostars programme – a six-year, €800 million project to support high-risk research by small and medium-sized European companies, which is a joint EUREKA-European Commission initiative. The first projects for financing are being analysed and the results should be known by the end of the summer.
Full report on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: Quantum physics outsmarts hackers
Geoff Maslen
Edgar Allen Poe once declared: “It can be roundly asserted that human ingenuity cannot concoct a cipher which human ingenuity cannot resolve.” That may once have been true but is no longer: physicists at the Australian National University (ANU) have used quantum cryptology to develop an “unhackable” system of transmitting information.
Full story on the University World News site


From: Professor Stanley N Ihekweazu, South Carolina State University
I refer to the article about N igerian lecturers without PhDs losing their jobs (UWN 30 March 2008). The idea of issuing a unilateral proclamation that all university lecturers must possess a PhD for continued employment in their present positions is ill-advised. It is tantamount to pursuing the shadow instead of the substance.
Full letter on the University World News site


AFRICA: New project to alleviate brain drain
Clemence Manyukwe
Africa, a continent with a critical shortage of high-level skills, loses 70,000 highly qualified scholars and experts each year mostly to developed countries, according to the World Bank. Initiatives by individual African countries to stem the outflow of talent have largely failed, forcing them to seek ways of harnessing the skills of top-flight academics and professionals who have left – people in the African diaspora. A new project involving Unesco, Hewlett Packard and universities in five African countries plans to turn the brain drain into ‘brain gain’ for Africa. The idea is to compensate for the crippling loss of skills by creating websites and networks, collaborative projects and strengthened links between researchers across the continent and in the diaspora.
Full report on the University World News site


UK: Standards in decline at many universities
Academic standards are in decline in many British universities, comments Professor Geoffrey Alderman, professor of politics and contemporary history at the University of Buckingham, in The Times. Students who would once have been failed their degrees pass, and students who would once have been awarded respectable lower seconds are now awarded upper seconds and even firsts. He blames an “insidious managerial culture obsessed with league tables and newspaper rankings”, under-funding, and too much emphasis on public image and ‘customer satisfaction’.
More on the University World News site

US: New SAT test not much better than old one
In 2005 the College Board unveiled the most dramatic changes in years in the SAT, reports Scott Jaschik in Inside Higher Ed. The dreaded analogies were removed. Mathematics questions were updated. A writing section was added, resulting in the test getting longer. Last week the College Board released ‘validity studies’ in which, for the first time, results on the new SAT were correlated with first-year grades earned by students who enrolled at four-year colleges. College Board leaders hailed the results as great news. “But the reports themselves suggested that the SAT’s strengths and weaknesses were not much different from before the big changes,” Jaschik writes. The validity studies are available on the College Board website.
More on the University World News site


EUROPE: Basic research gets a new champion
Keith Nuthall
Basic academic research – freed from commercial or industrial goals – has a new champion in Europe: Bernd Huber, the new chairman of the League of European Research Universities. Huber is president of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (Munich) in Germany and has been appointed head of Europe’s elite research higher education institutions for the next three years. Speaking exclusively to University World News, he outlined three priorities in his new job. Top of the list, he said, was encouraging politicians to take basic research more seriously.
Full report on the University World News site

UK: Yale provost to head Oxford
Diane Spencer
To the surprise and dismay of some in academia, a second outsider has been nominated as vice-chancellor of Oxford University. Professor Andrew Hamilton, a distinguished scientist and provost of Yale University, will take up his post next year, subject to Oxford dons ratifying his appointment this month.
Full report on the University World News site

UNI-LATERAL: Off-beat university stories

GLOBAL: Earth’s laws still apply in distant universe
The laws of nature are the same in a distant universe as they are here on Earth, according to new research conducted by an international team of astronomers. Results of the research, published in Science last Friday, found that one of the most important numbers in physics theory, the proton-electron mass ratio of 1,836.15, is almost exactly the same in a galaxy six billion light years away as it is in laboratories on Earth.
Full report on the University World News site

US: Victory for tree sitters at Berkley Oaks
A group of protesters who have occupied a stand of coastal oaks at the University of California, Berkeley, for 19 months claimed victory last week when a Superior Court judge ruled that a university project on the site must be temporarily delayed to address lingering concerns about the project, reports the New York Times.
More on the University World News site


PHILIPPINES: Asia must improve education quality
Developing countries in Asia need to improve the quality of their education systems as many graduates lack the skills needed in today’s rapidly changing workplace, the Asian Development Bank said last week, reports China View. “The shortage of skilled workforce in the Asia-Pacific region, male and even more so female, has been a major bottleneck in economic and social development,” the bank’s Vice President Ursula Schaefer-Preuss said at the launch of a research report on education.
More on the University World News site

MALAYSIA: Ministry sets transformation targets
The Higher Education Ministry has set several targets to be achieved in two years under its transformation plan, reports The Star. The ministry wants an 80% rate of repayment for student loans disbursed by the National Higher Education Fund Corporation: currently, it is below 50%. It also wants 30% of public universities’ revenue to be self-generated, against a current ratio of 10%. By 2010 there should be 80,000 foreign students enrolled in Malaysian higher education institutions. According to 2007 figures there are fewer than 50,000 now.
More on the University World News site

UK: Universities in bed with the military
Universities in the United Kingdom may be doing far more research for the military than official estimates acknowledge, according to a report released last week. Scientists for Global Responsibility, a Folkestone-based group that campaigns against military spending, says that of 13 universities surveyed, 12 received an average of around £2.4 million (US$4.7 million) each to conduct military and security-related research between 2005 and 2006, reports Nature News. Some received as much as £5 million.
More on the University World News site

UK: Whistle-blower warning on degrees
Degrees are being awarded to overseas students who speak almost no English, claims a whistle-blowing academic. BBC News reports the academic, at a famous UK university, as saying that postgraduate degrees are awarded to students lacking in the most basic language skills. There are concerns that financial pressures to recruit overseas students for cash rather than quality could threaten the credibility of degrees. But Universities UK says there are “rigorous” checks on standards.
More on the University World News site

US: Law schools growing, but jobs are not
To hear many students tell it, law school is a guaranteed ticket to a well-paying career, writes Justin Pope for Associated Press. So a recent milestone must have sounded like good news. The United States last week became the world’s first nation of 200 accredited law schools, as the American Bar Association gave provisional approval to two North Carolina institutions.
More on the University World News site

US: Faculty split over Milton Friedman centre naming
Few names are more associated with the University of Chicago than Milton Friedman’s. But that is exactly the problem, say some faculty who want to put the brakes on a plan to name a new research centre after the Nobel Prize-winning economist, reports the Chicago Tribune. And critics say the proposed Milton Friedman Institute would be a right-wing think tank.
More on the University World News site

N IGERIA: More must access higher education
N igeria should aspire to give 20% of eligible candidates access to higher education by 2020, according to former executive secretary of the National Universities Commission, Professor Peter Okebukola, reports This Day. Currently the country’s higher education participation rate is only 8% of the eligible population.
More on the University World News site

SOUTH AFRICA: Wits starts first writer residency
Residence programmes are the best breeding grounds for good literature around the world – and the first South African university-based writers’ residency programme has just been established, reports The Weekender. Pumla Gqola, associate professor of literary, cultural and media studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, and her colleague Thembinkosi Goniwe are spearheading the Wits Humanities Writers Residency.
More on the University World News site

PAKISTAN: Commission discouraging regional languages
The Higher Education Commission, or HEC, has been accused of deliberately discouraging regional and international languages by not accepting research journals presented in Punjabi or even Persian, reports the Daily Times. Experts believe this trend could threaten the survival of the excluded languages and the cultures associated with them.
More on the University World News site
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