Bolsonaro’s presidency could be devastating for higher education in Brazil.

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4 November 2018 Issue 527 Register to receive our free e-newspaper by email each week Advanced Search


Jair Bolsonaro’s presidency could be devastating for higher education in Brazil

Academic Freedom is again under the spotlight in this week’s edition. Marion Lloyd warns about the serious threats posed to higher education and academic freedom in Brazil by the election of the new far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro. And Yojana Sharma writes that a change of presidency at China’s flagship Peking University is being seen by academics as a new tightening of control over dissenting thought among scholars.

   In Commentary, Diana Oblinger says we need to rethink, redesign and reset our expectations for learning throughout our lives as artificial intelligence and other technologies will offer an opportunity to create new ways of learning. Eric Fredua-Kwarteng and Samuel Kwaku Ofosu suggest issues that Ghana’s National Accreditation Board could focus on to increase its relevance as an external quality agent for higher education, rather than focusing on relatively trivial issues such as honorary titles. And Hakan Ergin acknowledges that the Turkish authorities have made an effort to hire Syrian academics at Turkish universities but says it is not enough and urges Turkey to adopt a long-term strategy to harness Syrian brain power.

   In our World Blog, Fiona Hunter, Elspeth Jones and Hans de Wit explain why giving responsibility back to academics and administrators in the internationalisation process is essential for the future of internationalisation.

   In our series on Transformative Leadership, Brendan O’Malley interviews Mastercard Foundation Scholar Ubah Ali, who is fighting to end the hazardous cultural practice of female genital mutilation in her homeland, Somaliland.

   In Features, Alex Abutu reports on claims by the head of Nigeria’s Tertiary Education Trust Fund that the funding agency has left behind its corruption-plagued past, while academics complain that it is still strengthening universities abroad instead of locally. And Shadi Khan Saif reports that a new group of educators stood as candidates in the parliamentary elections in Afghanistan, and the millions of voters who defied grim security risks to take part are now awaiting the election results.

Brendan O’Malley – Managing Editor

NEWS – Our correspondents worldwide report


Scholars hide military links from Western universities

Yojana Sharma

China’s military has been expanding research collaboration with foreign universities, with 2,500 military scientists and engineers sponsored to study abroad in the past decade, a new report reveals. But many scholars hide their military links from Western universities, which raises potential security concerns.


Minister should explain why research grants are refused

Geoff Maslen

Revelations that a former federal education minister had rejected a decision by the Australian Research Council to allocate grants for 11 humanities projects have forced his successor to retreat – slightly. He said the reasons for rejection should be explained.


Investigator backs tuition fees for foreign students

Jan Petter Myklebust

The government investigator into internationalisation of Swedish higher education, in her full report, proposes measures to ease international recruitment by reducing red tape but backs keeping full tuition fees for international students while increasing scholarship funding to attract top talent.


US and UK gain as China, Japan, France slip in ranking

The United States and United Kingdom remain at the top of the US News and World Report’s 2019 Best Global Universities ranking, announced on 30 October, but China, Japan and particularly France lost ground. But in the subject rankings China performed well.


Anti-corruption drive – What about the universities?

Gilbert Nakweya

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta’s war on corruption has seen the arrest and prosecution of high-profile civil servants from current and past regimes, but have universities been overlooked in his campaign? Some academics and stakeholders think so.


Rising drop-out rate leads to call to scrap reforms

Jan Petter Myklebust

The drop-out rate at Danish universities increased by 20% between 2014 and 2017, partly due to the ‘progress reform’, which aims to cut delays in time taken to achieving a degree, and due to the time limit set on students’ options to take more than one degree.


Mixed response to minister’s call for more study abroad

Jan Petter Myklebust

Norway's Minister of Research and Higher Education Iselin Nybø is calling for a cultural change on student mobility to significantly increase the numbers studying abroad and has asked for stakeholder proposals and ideas. But some observers say institutions and students have good reasons to limit student exchanges.


Guidelines to boosting indigenous research unveiled

Geoff Maslen

Although completion rates remain low, Aboriginal Australians are enrolling in universities and graduating in greater numbers than ever before. New guidelines launched on Friday are aimed at assisting indigenous graduates who want to pursue research degrees and research careers.


UC Berkeley announces major focus on data science

The University of California, Berkeley is to form a new Division of Data Science and Information to prepare thousands of students and researchers to “bring data science to bear in the classroom, laboratory and workplace”, in response to the “profound and growing impact of data” in the digital world.


Academics and students wary of political crisis outcome

Dinesh De Alwis

Following a surprise decision by Sri Lanka’s president to suspend parliament and sack the prime minister in favour of former rival Mahinda Rajapaksa, university teachers are worried about erosion of constitutional rule and students have reasons to fear a period of increased suppression.


Gay association launches scholarships for LGBTI students

Tonderayi Mukeredzi

Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, the association of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, has announced a scholarship programme for gay students pursuing studies at state universities.



Learning in the flow of life with help from AI

Diana Oblinger

Artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics offer an opportunity to create new ways of learning. We can rethink, redesign and reset our expectations for learning throughout our lives, whether that means a change in the curriculum or a move to targeted micro-learning.


Accreditation needs critical thinking and innovation

Eric Fredua-Kwarteng and Samuel Kwaku Ofosu

The accreditation process should be firmly focused on improving higher education and not on relatively trivial issues such as honorary titles. It is a feature of public institutions in Africa that they often continue operating with the same ineffective models. Innovation is needed.


Turkey needs to do more to help Syrian academics

Hakan Ergin

The Turkish authorities have made an effort to hire Syrian academics at Turkish universities. But the number taken remains a tiny share of the thousands of Syrian academics applying for work. A long-term strategy on how to harness Syrian brain power is needed.



The staff who are overlooked in internationalisation

Fiona Hunter, Elspeth Jones and Hans de Wit

Academics and administrators are often sidelined in the internationalisation process, as core functions are dealt with by leadership and international officers, but when they are included and given the skills they need, the result is less resistance and a more active contribution.



A victim of FGM now fighting to end the practice

Brendan O’Malley

Ubah Ali was six when she was circumcised in a country where 98% of girls are victims of the female genital mutilation (FGM) procedure that brings considerable pain and health risks. Empowered by higher education and transformative leadership thinking, she is working for change in her homeland, Somaliland.



Bolsonaro poses a serious threat to higher education

Marion Lloyd

The election of Brazil’s new far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has already seen the beginning of a witch-hunt against academics. Further attacks on higher education, including budget cuts, curriculum changes and the abolition of affirmative action policies, are likely to be next.


Beijing signals tighter control over dissenting scholars

Yojana Sharma

A change of president at China’s top university in Beijing is being seen by academics as signalling a tightening of control over dissenting thought among scholars and stronger oversight by the Communist Party of top universities in their role as influencers of young people.



TETFund is failing local universities – Academics

Alex Abutu

The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), which disburses the education tax to public universities, claims to have left behind its corruption-plagued past when guidelines for scholarships for studying abroad were routinely flouted. But academics say it is still strengthening universities abroad instead of locally.


Educators emerge as parliamentary candidates in election

Shadi Khan Saif

In the midst of the usual seasoned politicians, powerful warlords and commanding religious figures, a new group of educators, many from the emerging private education sector, stood as candidates in the parliamentary elections, appealing to the youth vote, and are now awaiting the results.


The Sixth Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) Biennial Conference, also known as the African Higher Education Week, took place in Nairobi, Kenya, from 22-26 October under the theme “Aligning African universities to accelerate attainment of Africa’s Agenda 2063”. The conference brought together stakeholders in higher education and agriculture from across the continent.


AU’s development goals hampered by skills shortages

Gilbert Nakweya

Key targets for the first 10 years of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 are being jeopardised by a lack of critical technical skills, and a new skills development agenda led by business and academia is urgently needed, the recent Sixth African Higher Education Week and Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture Biennial Conference heard.


Women scholars urged to seize global opportunities

Maina Waruru

African women scholars have been urged to be less cautious and take advantage of international opportunities open to them in respect of scholarships, fellowships, grants, leadership positions and career advancement.


Calls for greater role for universities in policy-making

Gilbert Nakweya

Are African universities being taken seriously enough as knowledge-producing institutions capable of developing research-based policies aimed at addressing the continent’s development challenges?



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Cornell cuts ties with Chinese school after crackdown

Faculty members at Cornell University in New York said that they were cutting ties with Renmin University in Beijing, a leading Chinese tertiary institution, after reports that it was harassing and intimidating students campaigning for workers’ rights, writes Javier C Hernández for The New York Times.


Brazil high court against police action in universities

Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled last week that military police should not intervene on public university campuses, after they launched campus operations against students who oppose far-right president elect Jair Bolsonaro, reports Agence France Press.


Universities say defence plans would stifle freedoms

Labor, Australia’s leading universities and the tertiary education union have warned that a proposal to dramatically expand defence’s control over university research would stifle academic freedom and damage the sector’s competitiveness, writes Christopher Knaus for The Guardian Australia.


African women access university using smartphones

The world’s battle to provide education for all continues and now technology companies are joining the fray, helping thousands of young women in underdeveloped countries achieve what had, until recently, been deemed almost impossible: the chance to attend university, writes Bianca Barratt for Forbes.


UK universities struggle to deal with trans rights row

Professor Rosa Freedman of the University of Reading says she has been treated like a “pariah” by some academics, students and trans activists as a result of being one of a number of feminist academics expressing concerns about proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act that would make it easier for trans people to have their preferred gender legally recognised, writes Anna Fazackerley for The Guardian.


French students accused of ranking levels of Jewishness

University students in France listed and ranked Jewish classmates according to their level of affiliation as part of a string of jokes online and on campus featuring anti-Semitic hate speech, an alleged victim of this behaviour said, reports the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.


At least three UK universities on ‘verge of bankruptcy’

Three English universities are on the verge of bankruptcy, research has found. Other educational institutions are also struggling, surviving only by resorting to short-term loans, it has been claimed, writes David Harding for Yahoo! News.


More than half of university teaching staff on contract

More than half the people teaching at Nova Scotia universities are working under contract rather than in a position that might lead to a permanent, secure academic post, according to a recent study, writes Jean Laroche for CBC News.


Universities attracting foreign students for survival

The decreasing population due to the lowest-ever birthrate in South Korea has already caused multiple social problems and the low number of students at universities is a prominent issue. It has naturally led many universities to turn their eye towards a new business – attracting students from outside the country, writes Kim Jae-heun for The Korea Times.


Rajasthan University left with only 15 professors

Research at Rajasthan University has taken a back seat as the university now has only 15 professors, which is directly affecting the admission of students for PhDs. As a result, students have no option but to turn to private universities and spend large sums of money to pursue a PhD, reports The Times of India.


North Korean, Russian universities agree exchanges

One of North Korea’s most prominent universities, the Kim Chaek University of Technology, signed a memorandum of cooperation last Thursday in areas including science and engineering with the Russian Far Eastern Federal University, based in Vladivostok, writes Colin Zwirko for NK News.


Professors criticise government over campus drug dealing

Professors at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki have co-authored a document to protest against rampant drug dealing inside the premises of the institution. It calls on authorities to take immediate measures to remove drug traffickers operating freely on the campus, reports

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