ISSN 1756-297XIssue No: 0058  11 January 2009
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Cambridge University has come top again in the latest research assessment exercise carried out by England’s higher education funding council. See the News section.

Teacher education and student fees are likely to be the hot issues in South Africa this year, says Council on Higher Education CEO Dr Cheryl de la Rey.

Bees have surprisingly sophisticated brains, according to Dr Andrew Barron of Macquarie University. See Science Scene.



All universities in Gaza and two in Israel have closed as a result of conflict in the Palestinian territory, which has claimed hundreds of lives in the past two weeks. See the News section. iStock.

NEWS: Our correspondents worldwide report

ISRAEL-PALESTINE: Operation ‘Cast Lead’ shuts universities
Helena Flusfeder
Universities in Israel and Gaza have been caught up in the savage conflict now raging in the Palestinian territory. All five universities in Gaza have been shut down while two were closed in southern Israel. “The academic situation in Gaza is collapsing. People’s main preoccupation is to get food and stay alive. They feel that everywhere in Gaza is not safe,” said one Palestinian professor.
Full report on the University World News site

FRANCE: Universities begin move to autonomy
Jane Marshall
Nearly a quarter of France’s 80-plus universities assumed new powers of autonomy on 1 January under the government’s Universities’ Freedoms and Responsibilities law. The legislation gives the universities control over their budgets, staff recruitment and salaries, and other areas that were previously the responsibility of the state. All universities must adopt the reform by 2012, though academics and students continue to express their opposition.
Full report on the University World News site

RUSSIA: Rector calls for sweeping reforms
Nick Holdsworth
The rector of Moscow’s Higher School of Economics – one of Russia’s top universities – has called for a massive shake up in the country’s system of higher education. Yaroslav Kuzminov says unrestricted growth of university-level institutions in recent years has left Russia’s higher education system a mess with wide disparities in standards of teaching and qualifications.
Full report on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: Upheaval across university sector
Geoff Maslen
A plan to reshape Australia’s higher education system, deregulate universities, vastly increase their enrolments, provide students with vouchers to study at the university of their choice and extend government funding to a bigger group of providers are among 46 wide-ranging recommendations being considered by the federal government.
Full report on the University World News site
See Simon Marginson’s article in HE Research and Commentary

UK: Research activity “world leading”
Diane Spencer
Cambridge University came top of the league again in the latest research assessment exercise carried out by England’s higher education funding council, Hefce. The 2008 results, published just before Christmas, will be the last of their kind as the next process will be undertaken with a different method. After reviewing research conducted by 52,400 staff submitted by 159 universities and colleges, Hefce concluded that 54% of UK research activity came into the top two grades of “world leading” or “internationally excellent”.
Full report on the University World News site

ZIMBABWE: Brain drain project suffers brain drain
Clemence Manyukwe
A Unesco-sponsored initiative to stem the academic brain drain in five African countries faces collapse in Zimbabwe as a result of the flight of lecturers. An end-of-year report by the vice-chancellor’s office at Chinhoyi University of Technology said academic staff trained in grid computing as part of the initiative had left the institution for greener pastures.
Full report on the University World News site

N IGERIA: Renovation suspended at teaching hospitals
Tunde Fatunde
Crucial renovations at 12 academic hospitals in N igeria by two Austrian medical engineering firms, under contracts worth US$291 million, have ground to a halt following an alleged plan by “over-zealous” officials in the Ministry of Health to re-award the contracts to other firms. The companies have gone to court claiming breach of contract. Lecturers and students at medical colleges affiliated with the hospitals are concerned and President Musa Yar 'Adua has been called on to intervene.
Full report on the University World News site

EQYPT: Law tightens government control
Ashraf Khaled
A new civil universities law approved late last year by the Shura Council, the Egyptian parliament’s upper house, is set to tighten the government’s grip on higher education. The law provides for the creation of 17 new non-profit universities and makes the Ministry of Higher Education responsible for appointing half the institutions’ boards of directors. The other half will be left up to the universities’ founders and investors to select.
Full report on the University World News site

ZAMBIA: Government audits two universities
Clemence Manyukwe
Audits are underway at two of Zambia’s largest higher education institutions on the orders of the government, Higher Education Minister Professor Geoffrey Lungangwa told parliament. This followed an attack on the government from parliamentarians over examination paper leakages and political interference at institutions of higher learning.
Full report on the University World News site

TUNISIA: Arab world adult education conference
A three-day conference on adult education and building a knowledge society in the Arab world opened on Monday in Gammarth, Tunisia. Titled “Investing in adult learning: Building knowledge and learning societies in the Arab region”, it is one of five preparatory regional conferences for Unesco’s Sixth International Conference on Adult Education, Confintea VI, to take place in May in Belém, Brazil.
Full report on the University World News site

INDIA-AUSTRALIA: Joint venture research academy
The first joint institution for research and research training in areas of mutual importance to India and Australia has been established between the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, or IITB, and Monash University in Melbourne. The new institution was officially opened at the end of November and is a centre of research excellence in clean energy, water, biotechnology, mineral exploration and computer simulation.
Full report on the University World News site


GLOBAL: Fellowships for threatened scholars
Around the world, scholars have long suffered harassment, torture and persecution as a result of their work. In the worst cases, scholars pay with their lives for their dedication to scholarship and freedom of thought. In 2002, the Institute of International Education launched the Scholar Rescue Fund to provide fellowships for established scholars whose lives and work are threatened in their home countries. Applications for the current round of scholarships must be submitted by 31 January 2009.
Full report on the University World News site

ZIMBABWE: Student nurses take over health care
Clemence Manyukwe
Zimbabwean nursing students are holding the fort at the country’s health clinics as professionals flee the country’s deepening crisis. Nursing students are deployed at medical institutions as interns as part of their studies. But a chronic brain drain, and regular strikes by medical practitioners – those who have not left the country – have seen students taking responsibility for health care before graduating.
Full report on the University World News site

ALGERIA: Strikes paralyse medical studies
Medical students last week returned for the new semester to find their courses in teaching hospitals paralysed by an “unlimited” strike called by unions representing medical academics, reported La Tribune of Algiers. Patients were not so far at risk but it was thought the strike in protest against job status and pay could spread to other hospitals if a settlement was not found.
Full report on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: Mathematician honoured at conference
A mathematician renowned for her ground-breaking theories is enjoying a special 60th birthday ‘party’ at the University of Western Australia. The party, an international conference that started last week and continues until Friday, is being held to honour Professor Cheryl Praeger.
Full report on the University World News site


From NY Goodwin
I refer to the article about Egypt computerising the university curricula. I have just completed a degree that was half-earned through online classes and I strongly agree that professors need more face-to-face communication. Online education also does not give the university a chance to see the quality of the person or not, and online education allows cheating if a person desires to do so. Professors are often given more students than they would have in person and they are not reading all the assignments students turn in.
Full letter on the University World News site


US-AUSTRALIA: Bees dance to the buzz of coke
A study of the effects of low doses of cocaine on foraging honey bees has helped animal behaviour experts better understand the surprisingly sophisticated bee brain, and drawn parallels between how humans and bees respond to the addictive drug.
Full report on the University World News site

US: Why dolphins carry sponges
Researchers from the University of Georgetown in Washington DC became the first to study the relationship between tool use and fitness in wild animals after investigating a subset of Western Australia’s bottlenose dolphin population and their use of marine sponges as foraging tools. Only some dolphins held a sponge on the end of their beaks to dislodge fish hiding in sand on the sea floor.
Full report on the University World News site


SOUTH AFRICA: The politics of higher education
Karen MacGregor
Power changed hands within South Africa’s ruling African National Congress a year ago and now national elections are looming. What the new ruling elite will mean for higher education is uncertain but the hot political issues this year look set to include teacher education and student fees, says Dr Cheryl de la Rey, Chief Executive of the statutory advisory Council on Higher Education.
Full report on the University World News site


AUSTRALIA: Bradley: a short-term political patch-up
Simon Marginson*
Last month saw the release of a report of the Review of Australian Higher Education, immediately dubbed the ‘Bradley Report’ after the chair of the four-person committee of inquiry, former University of South Australia vice-chancellor Professor Denise Bradley. The Bradley committee was established by the Kevin Rudd-led Labor Party government in March 2008 just three months after taking office. It had a broad mandate to address issues in the tertiary education sector and was expected to be the vehicle for implementing the Rudd government’s much discussed ‘education revolution’.
International Higher Education
Full report on the University World News site

INDIA: Effort to join 21st Century higher education
Philip G Altbach and N Jayaram
India’s government will create 12 new central universities, adding to the 18 that currently exist. This is a mammoth undertaking and the equivalent of US$73 million has been allocated from the central government budget to it. Earlier this year India announced it would create 30 ‘world class’ universities, eight new Indian institutes of technology and seven Indian institutes of management in the coming five years. On the recommendation of the National Knowledge Commission, the central government is planning massive investment to upgrade and expand higher education. Other plans include enhancing the salaries of college and university academics – boosting salaries by as much as 70%.
Full report on the University World News site


FRANCE: Duflo: economics can change the world
Jane Marshall
It was on a study trip to Moscow for her masters in history, during the last turbulent days of the Gorbachev regime, that Esther Duflo realised how she could most effectively work against poverty – by becoming an economist. Last Thursday Duflo, now Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, gave her inaugural lecture at the Collège de France in Paris, as the first holder of a new International Chair in Knowledge Against Poverty created by the prestigious French institution.
Full report on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: Economist had big impact on education
Obituary: Peter Karmel 9 May 1922 – 30 December 2008

Professor Peter Karmel, one of Australia’s most influential educationists, died in Canberra on the second to last day of 2008 at the age of 86. His contributions to education and research, and his influence on generations of researchers, scholars and students were profound
Full report on the University World News site

UNI-LATERAL: Off-beat university stories

US-SPAIN: Promoting science via the kitchen
Paul Rigg
Harvard University has teamed with a Spanish cook, Ferran Adriá, considered by many to be the best chef in the world, to promote science. Adriá is known among his disciples as the ‘chemist of the kitchen’ for the extraordinary way he goes about creating new dishes.
Full report on the University World News site

UK: Alzheimer's research hit by lack of brains
A shortage of donated human brains is hampering research into conditions such as Alzheimer’s and autism, reports The Scotsman. Scientists said that studies into the causes of the conditions could be hindered unless more brains were made available for medical research.
More on the University World News site

US: University of California pays 35,000 ex-students
Nearly 35,000 former University of California students received a holiday gift from their alma mater – a check for as much as $12,000 – reports the Contra Costa Times. The university last month paid more than $33 million to former students who participated in a class-action lawsuit over disputed fees.
More on the University World News site

In a report published on 3 August last year regarding a network of children's universities ( EUROPE: New network of children's universities) it was stated that the first International Conference on Children's Universities would be held last month. The date has been changed and it will now occur on 13-14 February in Tübingen . Details can be found at:


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CHINA: Push to ease grim graduate unemployment
China will push a rising tide of university graduates to find work in the countryside and small firms after Premier Wen Jiabao warned last week that they face a “grim” job market as a global slowdown seizes the economy, reports Reuters. Wen laid out broad policies to help graduates who are struggling to find work because falling exports, factory closures and consumer gloom are deterring employers from taking them on.
More on the University World News site

US: ‘Accreditation Lite’ for global recruiting agents
In the realm of international student recruiting, “a lot of agents will just send out blanket e-mails to universities saying, ‘Oh, I would like to be your representative’,” Sabine Klahr, director of international programmes at Boise State University, told Elizabeth Redden of Inside Higher Ed. “We don’t answer those e-mails typically. There are no standards at this point.”
More on the University World News site

US: Most laud Obama’s choice for education post
Education secretary-designate Arne Duncan is drawing praise for his ability to bridge gaps between competing school factions, though his lack of experience in public higher education may require some on-the-job training, analysts say, reports the higher education publication Diverse. President-elect Barrack Obama selected Duncan, chief executive officer of Chicago Public Schools, to take over the US Education Department.
More on the University World News site

ARAB WORLD: Lecturers, students protest Israeli assault
Students and lecturers in countries around the Arab world staged protests last week against Israel’s attack on Gaza in which more than 500 people have been killed, newspapers reported. Thousands of students took to the streets in, among other countries, Iran, Jordan and Pakistan. In Iran, students from various universities demonstrated on campuses, in front of foreign embassies and at the United Nations field office in Teheran, reports UPI
More on the University World News site

DUBAI: Malaysia to boost Muslim progress through HE
For Malaysia's Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, efforts to make Malaysia a regional education hub is more than just about attracting an increasing number of foreign students to its 60 or so public and private universities, reports It is also about assisting developing countries, especially Muslim nations, to progress by equipping their people with relevant skills and knowledge.
More on the University World News site

SOUTH AFRICA: Project to assess new school-leaving exam
Many students who register at universities this year will participate in a pilot project run by Higher Education South Africa, to test the new school curriculum, reports Business Day. While it is commonly agreed that the old curriculum was outdated, universities are a bit wary of the new school-leaving certificate, the National Senior Certificate, because 2008 was the first time it was written at matriculation level and they are not sure of the standard.
More on the University World News site

UK: Universities fail to woo poor students
Top British universities are to step up efforts to ‘socially engineer’ their intake amid evidence that attempts to attract more applicants from poor families have had limited success, reports The Times. Those involved include Durham, which has announced “urgent” action to raise the proportion of students from “lower social classes”.
More on the University World News site

US: Student loans a bright spot amidst economic crisis
Despite a massive federal effort to aid banks and boost the economy, lending has plunged in the last year, writes Robert Tomsho in the Wall Street Journal. Home mortgage volume and bank loans to big companies are down dramatically. But the government’s response is expanding credit in at least one sector: higher education.
More on the University World News site

US: The depressed history job market
This year’s decline in academic jobs in history may be 15% or higher, according to preliminary data presented last weekend at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association, writes Scott Jaschik for Inside Higher Ed. The figures came as no surprise to graduate students there seeking jobs.
More on the University World News site

US: Out-of-state students to boost California revenue
University of California, Los Angeles, sophomore Ying Chen could have stayed at home in New Jersey for college. Instead she travelled cross-country, where she willingly pays about $20,000 a year more for her education than most of her classmates, writes Larry Gordon in the Los Angeles Times. Some university officials think increasing the number of students like Chen would be a smart way for the university system to bring in more revenue at a time when the state budget is tight.
More on the University World News site

IRAN: A snapshot of higher education
The Tehran Times recently cited Iran’s Minister of Science, Research and Technology, Mohammad Mehdi Zahedi, as saying that university students currently comprise 5% of the country’s 70 million population, reports Armenia: Higher Education and Sciences. He said that university students comprise about 3.5 million of Iran’s 70 million population, and this year the student number is expected to reach over 3.6 million – up from 2.2 million in 2005.
More on the University World News site
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