ISSN 1756-297XIssue No: 0034  29 June 2008
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How deep does environmental concern go in Australia's campuses? Find out in this week's Special report section.

Singapore's stormwater is the focus of a three-nation water-quality project. Its spin-offs could be applied to water issues world wide, our correspondent reports.

The worlds' first carbon-neutral faculty of architecture and design? Victoria University of Wellington thinks so. Find out how they did it in this week's Special report section.


The scorched Earth – what are universities doing?

Universities across the globe are tackling the issue of climate change through teaching and research, but are they doing enough on campuses to help prevent the Earth becoming a dustbowl? Our special series of reports this week asks how green are the towers of academe. Photo: Karen MacGregor

SPECIAL REPORT: The greening of universities

Higher education institutions and researchers are making major contributions to advancing knowledge on local, national and global environmental and sustainability issues. But how ‘green’ are universities themselves? The answer depends on where institutions are located.

In North America, the campus sustainability movement is gaining momentum. By April, 526 US institutions representing around 25% of 17 million students had endorsed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which compels them to work towards climate neutrality and step up research and educational efforts to stabilise the earth’s climate. Institutions are walking the green talk: according to the 2008 College Sustainability Report Card, two-thirds of North America’s 200 wealthy institutions have green building policies and a third have endowment investments in renewable energy or similar funds.

In Europe, more than 300 university heads have signed the Conference of European Rectors’ 1994 COPERNICUS University Charter for Sustainable Development, which commits them to implementing principles of environmental protection and sustainable development in teaching and research (though not on campus). A recent Higher Education Funding Council for England review of sustainable development in higher education found a flurry of activity but “more could be done” – and the situation is similar in Australia and New Zealand. The HEFC is also developing a green fund to help universities cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The picture looks less green in developing countries, where environmental and sustainability goals seem far less pressing than challenges such as economic growth, poverty and disease. But universities are becoming aware that these issues are inter-related. In South Africa, massive power cuts earlier this year, caused partly by economic growth, inspired institutions to slash energy consumption and seek alternative solutions – sustainability through necessity. Our correspondents report:

US: Rapid progress in ‘greening’ campuses
Karen MacGregor
North American universities and colleges have made rapid progress in ‘greening’ campuses, according to the College Sustainability Report Card 2008. Half of the 200 institutions with the largest endowments in the US and Canada are cutting carbon emissions, a quarter have pledged to achieve carbon neutrality, more than two-thirds have green building policies and nearly a third have endowment investments in renewable energy or similar funds.
Full report on the University World News site

UK: Going greener slowly
Diane Spencer
There are signs Britain’s higher education sector is taking environmental issues more seriously. In January, Universities UK (UUK) published a report, Greening Spires, which painted a somewhat rosy picture of how institutions are contributing to the green agenda. This month, too, the Higher Education Funding Council for England issued a progress report and consultation paper on sustainable development. Students are also campaigning on the issue through their organisation, People and Planet, which has groups in 61 universities and colleges. But, say observers, there is much more to do.
Full report on the University World News site

NEW ZEALAND: Universities yet to lead on environment
John Gerritsen*
All New Zealand universities are making efforts to address sustainability issues but none has yet committed itself to becoming carbon neutral and the sector is not taking a leadership role in efforts to address environmental issues.
Full report on the University World News site

NEW ZEALAND: First carbon-neutral architecture faculty
John Gerritsen*
On a cold winter day, the head of the world’s first carbon neutral faculty of architecture and design is proving his commitment to energy conservation. An Antarctic blast has brought temperatures outside Victoria University of Wellington down to seven degrees centigrade and there is snow on the mountains near the city – but Professor Gordon Holden has his window open and his heater off.
Full report on the University World News site

GERMANY: Boosting environmental research and action
Michael Gardner
Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research wants to raise funding for projects in the area of biosphere research by around 50% to an annual €30 million (US$47 million) a year. This means that, together with institutional funding, research into the conservation of biological diversity will now be supported with an annual total of roughly €90 million. At present, €9 million a year is provided for the research programme on Biodiversity and Global Change, or BIOLOG. Efforts are also being made by higher education institutions to comply with international environmental standards at campus level.
Full report on the University World News site

SOUTH AFRICA: Power cuts fuel ‘green’ drive
Karen MacGregor
South African universities are fully engaged with sustainable development and environmental issues in teaching and research, but until recently the matter of sustainable campuses was low on the agenda. Then early this year energy demand in this fast-growing developing country outstripped supply and massive power cuts struck. Universities, devastated by the outages, responded quickly with electricity saving measures and plans to shift to renewable energy. The worst of the power crisis is over but universities’ energy reduction plans are steaming ahead – a sustainability drive fuelled as much now by financial probity as by necessity.
Full report on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: Are they in it only for the money?
Geoff Maslen
Cynics among Australia’s academics claim efforts by the nation’s universities to promote their green credentials have more to do with generating income from worried governments than reducing their carbon footprints. But, given the range of university-funded programmes and the preparedness of individuals to push for greater environmental awareness on campus, such cynicism downplays the genuine concern that exists among tertiary staff alarmed by global warming.
Full report on the University World News site

NEWS: Our correspondents worldwide report

CHINA: Emerging world leader in science
Subbiah Arunachalam
China is emerging as the world leader in science. From a mere speck in the atlas of science two decades ago, China today has overtaken Japan, Britain, Germany and France to become second only to the US in the number of scientific research papers produced each year. China also made the third largest investment in research and development last year, after America and Japan.
Full report of this startling story in the Feature section on the University World News site

TURKEY: Student faces jail for questioning Atatürk
Brendan O’Malley
A headscarf-wearing student faces a possible jail sentence of four and a half years for saying she does not like the state’s founding hero, Atatürk. The state prosecutor is to open an investigation regarding comments made on a Kanal 1 television show Teke Tek by Nuray Bezirgan.
Full report on the University World News site

GERMANY: Limited access to higher education
Michael Gardner
Skilled workers without the traditional abitur or higher education admission certificate are having particular difficulties gaining access to higher education in Germany. The country's "Hochschul-Informations-System" (HIS), an independent company providing higher education statistics, has confirmed this in its European Students Report covering 23 European states.
Full report on the University World News site

FRANCE: Evaluation agency completes first year
Jane Marshall
Aeres, France’s new Research and Higher Education Evaluation Agency, assessed 30 universities, 72 doctoral schools and 130 research units during its first few months, according to its just-published first activity report. But the agency is now responsible for inspecting all national higher education and research establishments and is preparing to overhaul its evaluation methods to improve quality.
Full report on the University World News site


SINGAPORE: Three-nation project to improve water
Organisations in three nations are involved in a major international collaboration between Flinders University in South Australia and the National University of Singapore, to improve the quality of the island city-state’s stormwater. The new technology and the research expertise will ultimately be used to tackle the world’s water crisis.
Full report on the University World News site

EUROPE: Budapest selected for new EU innovation body
Budapest has been chosen as the site of the new European Institute of Innovation and Technology, beating four other contenders – Wroclaw in Poland, Sant Cugat del Vallès near Barcelona in Spain, Jena in Germany, and Bratislava-Vienna – for the prize.
Full report on the University World News site

CANADA: Revenues fall behind enrolments
Despite government investments in post-secondary education in recent years, revenues per student in the general operating budgets at Canadian universities are much lower than at American public universities, according to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.
Full report on the University World News site


INDONESIA: Students protest over colleague's death
Jonathan Travis*
Hundreds of university students were involved in a demonstration in Jakarta last week to demand answers over the death of a recently incarcerated colleague. Thousands reportedly gathered outside the parliament building, burning tyres and throwing rocks at police. In addition, around 1,000 protesters toppled the parliament building's fence while an effort to set a police vehicle on fire was foiled by police officers.
For more Academic Freedom reports, go to the University World News site


EUROPE: Shake-up at WMU after management review
Alan Osborn
A new president and new management team are to be installed at the World Maritime University in Malmo, Sweden, from 1 January next year following the recommendations of a wide-ranging and as yet unpublished external strategic review. Neither the WMU nor the International Maritime Organisation, which established the university in 1983, would comment on the reasons for the changes. But the Swedish press has reported complaints about the management style of the president, Dr Karl Laubstein. These were dismissed by the university while Laubstein, who has been a reformist president for more than a dozen years, said that "whenever you make a lot of changes there are always some people who don’t agree with you".
Full report on the University World News site

AUSTRALASIA: Commercialising research from new fund
John Gerritsen*
Four Australian universities and one in New Zealand now have access to a new funding pool for the critical early stages of commerc ialising their research, thanks to A$30 million (US$28.5 million) from an Australian pension fund.
Full report on the University World News site

UK: Universities in groundbreaking health collaboration
Diane Spencer
Britain’s first Centre of Excellence for Public Health Research was launched at Queen’s University Belfast last week with a focus on promoting healthier nutrition and lifestyles. The £5m centre is part of a £20 million (US$40 million) investment programme under the umbrella of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration, a private-public research funding consortium. Its work aims to significantly improve the health of the British population.
Full report on the University World News site


LITHUANIA: Call for worldwide defence of academic freedom
Nick Holdsworth
Academic freedom worldwide must be strengthened through a better defence of core university values and greater solidarity within higher education communities. This was the conclusion from a conference organised by the New York-based Scholars at Risk organisation at the European Humanities University in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.
Full report on the University World News site


CANADA: Universities in a climate of change
Brian Wakelin and Kathy Wardle*
Although we are not experiencing intense hurricanes or brush fires, as a northern country Canada is more sensitive to climate change than its southern neighbours. The 2.5 degrees centigrade increase in Canada’s average temperature over the last 50 years has had major impacts: from diminishing ice caps to shrinking lakes to a forestry industry decimated by pine beetle infestation. According to climate scientist James Hansen, of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, we only have 10 years or approximately 3,000 days before our ability to affect climate change becomes irreversible. In this context, urgent action is critical and everyone must contribute, especially universities, argue architect Brian Wakelin and environmental scientist Kathy Wardle in the latest edition of Academic Matters.
Full article on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: Sustainability bandwagon is unsustainable
Thomas Barlow*
I am not averse to following fashions, writes Thomas Barlow in Australasian Science, and he continues: In the 1970s I had my yo-yos and wore corduroy; in the 1980s I kept time with a Swatch Watch and solved the Rubik’s Cube; in the 1990s I walked around in Camper shoes and read a Michael Crichton novel; and today I own an iPod and have a pair of glasses with no rims. I am no Diogenes. Far be it from me to deride faddist behaviour, being as susceptible to social trends as the next person but I feel compelled to voice misgivings about the current national obsession with ’sustainability’.
Full article on the University World News site


Obituary: Gilbert Hunt – Princeton probability expert
Kitta MacPherson*
Gilbert Hunt, a professor emeritus of mathematics at Princeton University and one of the world’s recognised authorities in the fields of probability theory and analysis, has died at the age of 92.
Full report on the University World News site


SWEDEN: Non-EU students to be charged fees
The government is to introduce fees for all non-EU students in Sweden, according to Liberal Minister of Education Lars Leijonborg, reports Radio Sweden. Sweden is one of the few countries in the world that does not charge fees to foreign students. But now all non-EU students will pay fees by 2010. Costs for one term could be between $5,000 and $13,000.
More on the University World News site

US: University presses start to sell via Kindle
The Subprime Solution: How today’s global financial crisis happened, and what to do about it is a promising title for Princeton University Press, writes Inside Higher Ed. The topic couldn’t be more timely and the author is Robert Shiller, a Yale University economist who has managed with works such as Irrational Exuberance to attract big audiences for complicated topics. Princeton press is planning something new for the release: two weeks before print publication the book will be available as a Kindle e-book. Kindle is’s portable reader that allows for downloading of complete books and its market is attractive to many publishers – including university presses.
More on the University World News site

ISRAEL: Treasury ‘hostile towards universities’
Israel’s former Finance Minister Avraham Shochat, who headed a committee tasked with formulating higher education reforms, has slammed a Treasury decision to recall US$44.7 million given to universities, reports The Knesset’s Finance Committee held an emergency meeting last Wednesday, following the Finance Ministry’s demand that several universities retroactively return funds allocated to them in the last academic year.
More on the University World News site

SOUTH AFRICA: Drop-out rate alarming
The high drop-out rate at universities in South Africa is cause for concern, MPs heard last week, reports Independent Online. Higher Education South Africa chair, Professor Theuns Eloff, told Parliament’s education portfolio committee that the vice-chancellor’s association was “not happy” with the current drop-out rate of up to 35% at some universities.
More on the University World News site

SCOTLAND: Radical changes to funding proposed
Radical changes to the way universities are funded and run have been proposed by a spec ialist group set up by the Scottish Government, reports The Herald. Under the plan, universities would be given more freedom over how they spend public money in return for delivering on ministerial priorities.
More on the University World News site

UK: Working class white boys shun higher education
White working class males are severely under-represented in universities, according to a report by the government that shows the English university sector remains strongly divided along class lines, reports Education Guardian.
More on the University World News site

INDIA: Education department falls back on old hands
To tide over a crisis of talent in higher education, the state education department in Gandhinager has decided to accept retired professors and lecturers on contractual assignments extendable up to the age of 70 years, reports Express India. At present, the retirement age of college teachers is 62. Over 2,000 teaching posts are vacant in the state’s universities and colleges, and the decision will help fill at least half of them soon, according to sources. “We had to devise this interim arrangement as the shortage of teaching staff was adversely affecting quality of education across the state,” said an official.
More on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: Teaching load carried by ‘servants’
Sessional lecturers are the domestic servants of the contemporary campus and carry as much as 80% of the undergraduate teaching load, according to a new study on the rise of the casualised class of academic, reports The Australian Higher Education. “In many ways the lifestyle of the traditional teaching (and) research academic is totally dependent on the contribution of sessional staff, in the way that Victorian middle class lifestyles were dependent on the domestic servant,” according to the University of Wollongong’s Professor Rob Castle, spokesman for the Recognition, Enhancement, Development report.
More on the University World News site

UKRAINE: Businesses finance university improvements
Businesses in Ukraine are investing more money in university classrooms, hoping to better prepare students and prospective recruits for the workplace and repair the country’s ailing universities, reports the Kyiv Post. Problems in the halls of learning range from inadequate instruction to widespread bribe-taking by administrators in exchange for admission, and by professors in exchange for good grades.
More on the University World News site
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