Most countries are only paying lip service to addressing inequity in HE.

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2 December 2018 Issue 531 Register to receive our free e-newspaper by email each week Advanced Search


Most countries are only paying lip service to addressing inequity in HE

   In our series on Transformative Leadership, published in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, Nic Mitchell unpacks a barometer report that says while six countries are exemplary in tackling inequality in access and achievement in higher education, two thirds of 71 countries surveyed are failing to spell out clear strategies or sufficiently fund them. Former vice-chancellor of South Africa’s University of Johannesburg Ihron Rensburg says Africa’s potential contribution to leading the world will become evident when undergraduate studies and community service are decolonised and contextualised and students are challenged and enabled to make poverty and inequality history.

   In Commentary, Paul Zeleza says African research universities have to find ways to attract more funding from business, philanthropic foundations and governments and to develop a culture of alumni giving back. And Guillaume Levrier highlights the controversy over recent claims that China has produced the world’s first gene-edited babies, which is evidence of a technological race in controversial new scientific practices.

   In our World Blog this week, Patrick Blessinger, Enakshi Sengupta and Taisir Subhi Yamin write that one type of renewable resource that is needed for continued human progress and a sustainable future is the resource of lifelong learning.

   In Academic Freedom, Yojana Sharma reports on a call from academics and human rights advocates for New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to intervene in the case of a professor who has faced months of alleged harassment for her work that is critical of China’s influence abroad.

   Finally, in Features, Sharon Dell reports on a heated debate in the media sparked by an investigation into allegations of racial tension at the open distance education institution, the University of South Africa.

Brendan O’Malley – Managing Editor

NEWS – Our correspondents worldwide report


Scientists condemn ‘high-risk’ gene editing breakthrough

Yojana Sharma

In an apparent backlash against uncontrolled and unethical human embryo research in China, more than 120 Chinese scientists have signed a letter condemning the use of gene editing technology on humans, which reportedly led to two babies born this year using the technologies.


Amnesty issues warning in wake of student killings

Wagdy Sawahel

Calls for police-free university campuses in the wake of the killing by police of two students from the University of Kinshasa have coincided with a warning by Amnesty international about a “hostile political environment” ahead of election campaigning in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


Universities demand change to free tuition policy

María Elena Hurtado

Universities facing financial constraints and a shortfall in income linked to the free tuition policy for low-income students are demanding a fast track bill to amend it. A group of 27 universities says its members’ income will fall by US$65 billion next year.


Government sets the stage for higher tuition fees

Gilbert Nganga

The Kenyan government has ruled out any future increase in funding to universities. In a blow to a sector reeling from a financial crisis, university administrators have said the most practical response will be to raise tuition fees.


Proposal to levy employers instead of charging students

Brendan O’Malley

Instead of students borrowing money to pay for tuition, businesses should pay a levy for each graduate they employ, according to the outline of a radical new approach to funding higher education, published by the Higher Education Policy Institute in the United Kingdom.


Labor accuses government of ‘waging war on science’

Geoff Maslen

The Labor opposition has opened a new front line in the battle for next year’s election, accusing the government of ‘waging a war on science’ and pledging to make research and development a key to Australia's future should it win office.


Action plan to increase ‘pay-off’ from Horizon 2020

Jan Petter Myklebust

The Danish ministry of higher education and science has launched a national action plan to secure increased Danish participation in the European Union research programme Horizon 2020 and the 2021-27 Horizon Europe programme and a higher share of coordinator roles in consortia.



Bridging the research university budget gap

Paul Zeleza

Spending per student on tertiary education has fallen in 37 countries this century, 16 of them in Africa. Research universities in Africa have to find ways to attract more funding from business, philanthropic foundations and governments and to develop a culture of alumni giving back.


Engaging partners is a key role for HE in sustainability

Josep M Vilalta, Alicia Betts, Victoria Gómez and Marta Cayetano

A group of higher education experts met recently to discuss how to make the Sustainable Development Goals reality and the need to help universities make the transition from ivory towers to partners for change by engaging other social actors.


The role of HE in a politically disrupted world

Andrée Sursock

To promote free and open inquiry, ethics and research integrity and the relevance of higher education to its communities and to the world at large requires a rethink about how universities engage with society.


A world leader in gene-edited babies, but at what cost?

Guillaume Levrier

Recent reports that China has produced the first gene-edited babies have provoked a lot of discussion and are evidence of the new technological race in controversial scientific practices.



Higher education for a sustainable future

Patrick Blessinger, Enakshi Sengupta and Taisir Subhi Yamin

For a sustainable future we need to promote renewable resources. The one type of renewable resource that is also needed for continued human progress is the resource of lifelong learning. It is vital to our continuing ability to harvest human intelligence, creativity and ingenuity.



Most countries failing to tackle unequal access to HE

Nic Mitchell

Although six countries stand out for their policy commitment to providing equal opportunities of access and success in higher education, worldwide only one in three of more than 70 countries surveyed have defined specific participation targets for any equity group, new global research shows.


More to widening access to HE than just financial aid

Nic Mitchell

Widening access to and participation in higher education is not enough to tackle social exclusion; psychological support for disadvantaged students struggling with the problems they face at university is just as important, the first World Access to Higher Education Day conference heard.


Digital programme gives Syrian refugees access to HE

Nic Mitchell

Higher education has for years been overlooked by aid programmes. But universities in the United Kingdom, Jordan and Lebanon are partnering in a UK aid scheme helping Syrian refugees access good quality short courses that will open a pathway into formal academic qualifications.


How Africa can provide the leadership the world needs

Ihron Rensburg

Our attempts to transform the colonial narrative have not been ambitious enough to change structures and cultures. Underpinned by a philosophy of ubuntu, Global Africa can provide a new form of leadership for the world based on inclusion, cooperation and interdependence.



PM urged to speak out against harassment of China expert

Yojana Sharma

Academics and human rights advocates in New Zealand have urged Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to protect the academic freedom of a professor who has faced months of alleged harassment – including a burgled office – ostensibly for her work critical of China’s influence abroad.


UAE bows to pressure, jailed UK researcher freed

Brendan O'Malley

Matthew Hedges, the United Kingdom PhD researcher sentenced to life for ‘spying’ in the United Arab Emirates, has been pardoned and has returned to the UK. However, at the announcement of his release, officials showed a video they claimed was evidence that he had confessed, which he denies.



Report on university racial tension sparks furious debate

Sharon Dell

A report from the South African Human Rights Commission investigation into allegations of racial tension, unfair discrimination and harassment at the University of South Africa has produced heated media debate on whether equity policies overlook merit and about the ‘delegitimisation of black pain’.



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Professor fights ban amid debate on academic freedom

A professor who has taken a stand against the publication of research in ‘predatory’ journals that aren’t peer reviewed says he has been suspended from the campus of the university where he works in the Interior of British Columbia, writes Camille Bains for The Canadian Press.


India eases rules on foreign recruitment at universities

India’s University Grants Commission has confirmed that all doctoral degree holders from the top 500 foreign universities will be eligible for direct recruitment as an assistant professor in Indian universities, reports The Indian Wire.


Fake qualifications a major concern, says minister

Misrepresentation of qualifications is a major concern in South Africa in the public and private sectors, according to Higher Education and Training Minister Naledi Pandor, writes Bekezela Phakathi for Business Day.


Tuition fee cut will send universities into crisis – VCs

A cut to tuition fees will send universities into a crisis which could see science courses cut and leave museums at risk of closure, Britain’s leading vice-chancellors have warned, writes Camilla Turner for The Telegraph.


DeVos warns of crisis over ballooning student debt

United States Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says ballooning student debt has caused a crisis in higher education and that the traditional path to college might not be the best choice for everyone, writes Collin Binkley for Associated Press.


Vice-chancellors want VAT on universities scrapped

The Ugandan government should exempt universities and other institutions of learning from paying some taxes to enable them to deliver on their mandate better, university leaders have said, writes Ritah Kemigisa for the Daily Monitor.


UK universities to probe degree awards policies

Universities are to hold a sector-wide inquiry into the increasing number of first-class and upper second-class degrees awarded, following a report that warns of potential damage to the integrity of United Kingdom higher education, writes Richard Adams for The Guardian.


Chinese universities perform well in tech rankings

Chinese universities have again performed well in global rankings for computer science and engineering technology, according to a league table released last Thursday, reports Xinhua.


Bridging the talent gap in cybersecurity is a must

Malaysia’s Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching has urged information technology staff to be given skills training to insulate themselves and their organisations from the growing threat of cyberattacks, writes Rozana Sani for New Straits Times.


Labor vows to tackle sexual harassment at universities

Labor is threatening to withhold funding from universities that fail to take serious action against sexual harassment and abuse, if it wins the next federal election, reports SBS News.


Hong Kong and Beijing universities partner to drive AI

The University of Hong Kong and Beijing’s Tsinghua University have announced a strategic partnership to drive artificial intelligence discoveries and adoption in an effort to position both cities as global leaders in tech innovation, reports the Innovation Enterprise.


Canadian universities now growing marijuana on campus

Eight academic institutions across Canada have obtained licences from Health Canada to cultivate cannabis for scientific purposes, allowing them to study the drug that was legalised for recreational use in October, writes Liam Casey for The Canadian Press.

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