ISSN 1756-297XIssue No: 0059 18 January 2009
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Northern Lights
The spectacular northern lights are among the attractions that make some parts of the world veritable research hotspots. In this week's Special Report, our correspondents focus on research hotspots ranging from the Arctic Circle to New Zealand.

Institutes of higher education have not escaped the rioting that has rocked Greece recently. Our correspondent reports on the impact.

McGill University graduate Charlotte Rancourt worked with Barbados botanist Ras Ils as part of her course. See the story in this week's special report on the world's research hot spots.


SPECIAL REPORT: Research hot spots

This week, University World News takes a look at the world map with an eye for a different kind of topography. We have identified the seemingly magnetic forces that draw researchers to different areas of the globe. Clusters of academics gather in areas that are rich in the stocks of their trade. Some visit and some settle, making those areas, in turn, rich with researchers.

If you’re in the South Pacific, you just might spot a whale researcher more easily than you would a beluga. Other researchers are roaming across Eastern Europe, trying to better understand the Roma of that region. Greece is at the centre of early understanding of civilisation and the ancient country is still in ruins, in a good way, especially for archaeologists. South Africa has proven to be rich in clear night skies, allowing for its international observatory to draw researchers from many countries with dire light pollution, all now gazing upward in awe.

Our correspondents bring you those stories and, as a bonus, we have a from-the-field report by an inspired undergraduate at a university research station in Barbados, plus we’ve gathered together some links to Northern research that will give you a cool take on the Arctic.

Philip Fine

ARCTIC: Northern lights a research beacon

Philip Fine
Back in the 17th century, Henry Hudson was one of the first to head north because of his fascination with the Arctic. In the early 21st century, the North still holds wonder for researchers from scores of countries. For this special on research hot spots, University World News offers a cross-section of links to the goings-on of Northern researchers: from a comprehensive report card on the North to impressions of some artists hitching a ride on a research vessel. There are also links to a consortium of arctic universities, a floating German laboratory of international researchers, a climate-change research clearinghouse, a site for social scientists interested in the North, and a report on Inuit observations.
Full report on the University World News site

UK: Roma researchers travel Gypsy-like
Diane Spencer
The persecuted, reviled and once forgotten Roma people are increasingly the subject of academic interest and research. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the social group known as the Gypsies has become a respectable academic field, according to Dr Michael Stewart, a social anthropologist from University College London. “When I began studying Roma issues in Hungary in 1982, there were three of us, now there are around 70 researchers with about 50 young people across Europe doing their doctoral theses on Roma research.”
Full report on the University World News site

SOUTH AFRICA: Star-gazing in Sutherland
Karen MacGregor
Sutherland, a tiny town with fewer than 2,000 people in the Karoo semi-desert of northern South Africa, seems an unlikely research hot spot. But the town’s far-flung location in an unpopulated, high-altitude, low rainfall dark area makes it one of the best places on earth to observe the universe. Astronomers from around the world are studying the stars through the Southern African Large Telescope, SALT, the southern hemisphere’s giant optical telescope.
Full report on the University World News site

NEW ZEALAND: Having a whale of a time
John Gerritsen*
Off the east coast of New Zealand's South Island, a massive sperm whale surfaces, turns turtle and slams its tail flukes into the water. Nearby, a boatload of tourists thrills to the sight. Closer to shore, an encounter with dolphins leaves a group of wet-suited humans breathless on two counts – the physical effort of repeated duck-diving to attract the creatures and the thrill of the dolphins' high-jumping acrobatics. It's all part of a southern hemisphere summer in New Zealand and, as well as attracting thousands of tourists from around the world, such sights also attract scientists.
Full report on the University World News site

BARBADOS: Garden brings botany research alive
Charlotte Rancourt*
As far back as I can remember, I have been curious about things like how coconut trees could reproduce in a salty soil or how indigenous people could treat ailments while being kilometres from the nearest hospital. Through my research, I have been trying to link the ancient knowledge of folk medicine used by the Bajans (the indigenous people of Barbados) with the scientific literature on medication derived from the very same plants used in their society.
Full report on the University World News site

GREECE: Digging up dirt and finding more ruins
Makki Marseilles
Greece is a country full of ruins. The story goes that wherever you dig you are more than likely to hit on an ancient site. In Athens, there are currently more than 15 foreign archaeological schools from countries all over the globe conducting archaeological activities and research under licence from the Greek authorities. Greece may be a nightmare for modern developers but for many researchers it provides an unbroken chain back to the beginning of our human existence.
Full report on the University World News site

NEWS: Our correspondents worldwide report

US: Obama raises hopes in higher education
This week’s inauguration of a new American president has created widespread hope on campuses across the nation that Barack Obama will act quickly to tackle the deepening recession. Meantime, colleges and universities have been forced to act to boost their student-aid programmes to help middle-income families caught unexpectedly in the grim economic downturn.
Full report on the University World News site

UK-RUSSIA: Pioneers plan to cross British bridge
Nick Holdsworth
Former managers of an international higher education partnership programme, pioneered by the British Council in Russia before a crisis in diplomatic relations sharply curtailed its activities, want to continue developing wider educational benefits from the scheme.
Full report on the University World News site

GERMANY: Eleventh-hour rescue package
Michael Gardner
Germany’s oldest private university, Witten-Herdecke, has managed to narrowly survive a financial crisis. With new bids from private investors, it now looks as if the institution, situated in the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), will also receive the government subsidy it has to rely on.
Full report on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: Whose interests should universities serve?
Gavin Moodie*
Simon Margionson’s commentary last week, AUSTRALIA: Bradley: a short-term political patch-up, raises the question of whose interests one wants higher education to serve.
Full report on the University World News site

GREECE: Two weeks that shook universities
Makki Marseilles
Greek universities, not for the first time, became the victims of violence and destruction during the two week-long riots last month which devastated Athens as well as other provincial towns and sparked protests and demonstrations.
Full report on the University World News site


RUSSIA: UWN correspondent takes on new role
University World News Moscow correspondent Nick Holdsworth leaps into print in another guise this month with the international release of the memoirs of a Russian war veteran who witnessed the World War II conflict on the Eastern Front – from both sides as a combatant.
Full report on the University World News site

UK: Internships to the rescue
Diane Spencer
Ministers have proposed measures to help the class of 2009 graduates into work as they will face a tough battle ahead for jobs in the economic downturn. Four leading companies including Microsoft and Barclays Bank have signed up to an internship scheme where graduates work at reduced rates for up to three months to gain experience.
Full report on the University World News site

US: Religious-secular divide
The New School in New York City is holding a conference on 5-6 March on the theme: The religious-secular divide: The US Case. This will be the 20th conference in the Social Research series dedicated to enhancing public understanding in an engaging, multi-disciplinary discussion.
Full report on the University World News site


ISRAEL-PALESTINE: Islamic University in Gaza attacked
Jonathan Travis*
The Islamic University in Gaza, an independent Palestinian university established in 1978, has been bombed by Israeli warplanes. The attack took place on 28 December and while the scale of the damage is still not known, reports suggest that a science laboratory was targeted. Fortunately, the university was evacuated before the Israeli assault began and there were no casualties.
More Academic Freedom reports on the University World News site


EUROPE: Universities must fight for ‘stimulus’ cash
Keith Nuthall
Higher education and research institutions will have to fight to secure the additional public spending being made available in Europe this year, as politicians loosen their purse strings to head off an economic depression.
Full report on the University World News site

GLOBAL: Belfast to teach Indians entrepreneurship
Alan Osborn
An expert on entrepreneurship from Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, is to advise business leaders, politicians and academics in West Bengal on how this Indian state can improve its economic performance with the support of higher education. David Gibson, a senior teaching fellow in entrepreneurship in Queen’s management school, addressed a conference in Kolkata last week about creating an “entrepreneurial mindset” and developing ways of incorporating entrepreneurship into the wider curriculum
Full report on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: Textiles could make hybrid cars more reliable
Geoff Maslen
Researchers at Monash University in Melbourne have revolutionised the design of a fuel cell that could make hybrid cars more reliable and cheaper to build. Goretex is the high-tech clothing material worn by mountaineers and polar adventurers but now the Monash scientists have made a fuel cell with it that could cut the world’s output of carbon dioxide from cars.
Full report on the University World News site


GLOBAL: Make Big Pharma provide data: critic
Philip Fine
Revealing conflicts of interest involving university researchers who consult for pharmaceutical companies will do little to make the research more transparent, says a British-based academic. David Healy has called for clinical trial data to be taken out of the hands of the drugs companies and made more accessible.
Full report on the University World News site

GLOBAL: Nuclear engineering fights back
Alan Osborn
For long the Cinderella of the engineering industry, nuclear power appears to be regaining its popularity as a career choice with a surprising increase in university courses, mainly but not exclusively in the US.
Full report on the University World News site


CANADA: Intelligence studies in higher education
Professor Martin Rudner
Intelligence studies as an academic discipline was slow to develop in universities. Perhaps the cause was the secrecy attached to intelligence matters, or the reluctance of academe to engage with clandestine services, or the fear of being subverted by covert organisations, but universities in most countries seemed disinclined to embark on teaching or research programmes relating to the intelligence domain.
Full report on the University World News site
Article from the latest International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence

US: Doing diversity in higher education
In a just-published book titled Doing Diversity in Higher Education: Faculty leaders share challenges and strategies, editor Winnifred R Brown-Glaude, an assistant professor of Africana studies at the College of New Jersey, and contributors uses case studies from universities around the US to examine the role academics play in improving diversity on campuses.
More on the University World News site

UNI-LATERAL: Off-beat university stories

UK: Rabbit run
Diane Spencer
This is a story that will generate shivers of horror, or hoots of laughter, among the inhabitants of rural Australia who are constantly engaged in a war against these little furry creatures. Rabbit owners in Bristol, south-west England, have been invited by Bristol University to help keep their animals healthy by bringing them for a free health check at the UK's first dedicated rabbit-only clinic.
Full report on the University World News site

EU: POPART tackles plastics deterioration
Curators worldwide work hard to preserve and maintain artefacts housed in museums. Although curators expend considerable efforts on paintings, sculpture and fossils, they must also contend with the problem of how best to preserve plastics. Artists have been using synthetic polymers in their work since the mid-20th century; now the EU is supporting a project that aims to improve preservation of these works of art.
Full report on the University World News site

INDIA: World’s youngest lecturer
Aman Rehman cuts a less than commanding figure at Dehra Dun’s College of Interactive arts where he teaches adult students computer-generated animated film, reports The Telegraph. His voice is slight and high-pitched and he is barely taller than the lectern, but then he is only eight years old. His family believe he may be the world’s youngest college lecturer and has applied to Guinness World Records to recognise his achievement.
More on the University World News site

US: Lecturers iffy about bonuses based on student input
The chancellor of the Texas A&M University System wants to give bonuses worth up to $10,000 to some instructors – but so far, many aren’t interested – reports Associated Press. “I’ve never had so much trouble giving away a million dollars,” said Chancellor Mike McKinney, laughing.
More on the University World News site


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US: MIT shrinks size of physics classes
For as long as anyone can remember, introductory physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was taught in a vast windowless amphitheatre known by its number, 26-100, writes Jodi Hilton for the New York Times. Squeezed into the rows of hard, folding wooden seats, as many as 300 freshmen anxiously took notes while the professor covered multiple blackboards with mathematical formulas and explained the principles of Newtonian mechanics and electromagnetism. But now, with physicists across the country pushing for universities to do a better job of teaching science, MIT has made a striking change.
More on the University World News site

US: Princeton, Harvard lead bond sales
Princeton and Harvard are leading US colleges and universities in a new wave of bond sales after market losses cut the value of endowments by a quarter in six months, according to Moody’s Investors Service, reports Bloomberg. Princeton University sold $1 billion of debt last week, its first taxable issue since 1994, while the University of Notre Dame in Indiana raised $150 million.
More on the University World News site

US: IRS considers expanding scrutiny of universities
The Internal Revenue Service is considering expanding its scrutiny of colleges and universities to focus on billions of dollars associated with academic research, federal financing and intellectual property, a senior agency official said last week, writes Lynnley Browning in the New York Times.
More on the University World News site

MALAYSIA: Economic crisis dashes study abroad dreams
Meg Tan, who has always dreamed of studying overseas, has had her hopes dashed by the current economic downturn, writes Elaine Ang in The Star. After completing her Cambridge A-levels at a private university college, she was looking forward to pursuing an accounting and finance degree in Britain. Her parents, however, have decided she must continue her studies locally instead – via a twinning or an external degree programme – to save costs.
More on the University World News site

US: Research growth comes at a steep price, study finds
A study released this month confirms and quantifies what many medical school deans and financial administrators have long understood: basic science research can be an expensive business, reports ScienceDaily. The study, conducted by the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, found that the institution had to add 40 cents to every dollar of external grant support received by newly recruited scientists in order to achieve financial equilibrium. Support required for established scientists is considerably less.
More on the University World News site

US: Colleges cut instruction spending
Most of America’s colleges are gradually paring back their investments in classroom teaching, an analysis of federal data shows, writes Mary Beth Marklein in USA Today. And all colleges have in recent years been spending a greater share of their revenue on expenses other than instruction, including computing centres, student services, administrative salaries and lawn care.
More on the University World News site

SOUTH AFRICA: University hopefuls out in the cold
About 22,000 more South African school leavers achieved university entrance passes in 2008 than in the previous year, but many cannot be absorbed into an over-taxed tertiary education system, reports the Mail & Guardian.
More on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: Elite students exploit entry scheme
Students from exclusive private schools appear to be exploiting a special consideration scheme to gain bonus points for university entry, claiming health disadvantages at much higher rates than their public school counterparts, writes Anna Patty in the Sydney Morning Herald. A former Universities Admissions Centre assessor says the upsurge in claims has been so noticeable that “there appears to be an outbreak of anxiety and depression in some private schools”.
More on the University World News site

UK: Higher education labours under ‘Soviet regime’
It stops short of comparing John Denham to Joseph Stalin, but new research suggests that the UK Universities Secretary presides over a Whitehall regime that has much in common with the old Soviet system, writes John Gill in Times Higher Education. A paper suggests that the ‘new managerialism’ of higher education shares many of the pitfalls and dysfunctions that blighted the Soviet state.
More on the University World News site

US-ISRAEL: Ben-Gurion University launches relief fund
American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev last week launched the BGU-Negev Emergency Fund to address a growing crisis at the university and surrounding Beer-Sheva community due to the escalating Gaza conflict, reports MSNBC. The fund is urgently seeking to raise $10 million.
More on the University World News site

UAE: Universities to test for fluency
To ensure that young Emiratis remain fluent in Arabic, state universities will from September require new students to take a Common Educational Proficiency Assessment examination in the language, reports The National.
More on the University World News site

US: Arne Duncan skirts HE during confirmation hearing
Arne Duncan took a step toward becoming the next US Secretary of Education last Tuesday, but the Chicago public schools chief had little to say about higher education during his Senate confirmation hearing, reports Inside Higher Ed.
More on the University World News site

US: 100 million greenbacks for Stanford energy site
Stanford University will create a $100 million energy research institute that will develop cheaper solar cells, technologies that use electricity more efficiently and ways to prevent the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
More on the University World News site

US: Peace Corps announces Top 25 volunteer-producing schools
The Peace Corps last week announced the top colleges and universities on their annual list of ‘Peace Corps Top Colleges and Universities’ for 2009. The University of Washington, George Washington University and University of Chicago top this year’s list in three size-based rankings for undergraduate institutions, while Boston University was number one among graduate schools.
More on the University World News site
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