ISSN 1756-297XIssue No: 0063 15 February 2009
HE Events Diary

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Higher Education Marketing

Australia's tragic bushfires made headlines around the world in the past week. We report on how the nation's higher education community was affected by the blazes.

Academic freedom is no protection when you offend this guy – the King of Thailand. This week we cover the case of an academic who has had to flee the country for allegedly insulting the king.

French higher education remains in turmoil, despite a push for mediation in the dispute between academics and the government. See the story in our News section.



NEWS: Our correspondents worldwide report

AUSTRALIA: Academics die in bushfire infernos
Geoff Maslen
At least six academics are believed to have been killed among the 300 Australians now thought to have died in the disastrous bushfires that raged across Victoria on Saturday a week ago. Other university staff saw their homes and all their possessions destroyed in minutes during the worst natural disaster Australia has experienced. Rural campuses of Monash and La Trobe universities were threatened by fires in eastern and northern Victoria but they and two other Melbourne universities have now made beds on their campuses available to emergency workers and homeless survivors.
Full report on the University World News site

US: Hiring temporary academics on the rise
John Richard Schrock*
Universities across America are resorting to hiring freezes in the face of budget reductions. But a dangerous attitude is developing among higher education officials nationwide who see this as an opportunity to change the way universities permanently operate by hiring more temporary faculty to teach a course and then leave.
Full report on the University World News site

FRANCE: Strikes spread despite mediator
Jane Marshall
Strikes and protests in French universities and laboratories continued to spread last week, despite the appointment of a mediator by Valérie Pécresse, Minister of Higher Education and Research, in an attempt to find a solution to the conflict over a proposed change in academics’ job status and other reforms. Nine university presidents have joined the protesters in demanding withdrawal of the contentious decree.
Full report on the University World News site

UK: Universities respond to climate challenge
Diane Spencer
British universities are showing a high level of commitment to the sustainable development agenda, says a new report by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. In an update to its 2008 action plan, the council found widespread agreement that the sector had an invaluable contribution to make.
Full report on the University World News site

DENMARK: Students to pay for income tax cuts
Ard Jongsma
Danish higher education is in uproar after a panel of experts reviewing tax reforms suggested the maximum duration of state study grants should be reduced from six to four years. The experts argue that students on longer academic studies later in life will be among those benefiting most from their proposed tax cuts. Opponents fear that progress in social emancipation will be set back years, if not decades.
Full report on the University World News site

EUROPE: Students call for a global ombudsman
Student rights are being violated in institutions around the world and representatives of student organisations have called on Unesco to establish a global ombudsman’s office to tackle breaches of their rights. At a meeting in Paris last month, representatives from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and North America discussed issues they will present to the Unesco World Conference on Higher Education to be held in July.
Full report on the University World News site

UK: Cold climate for graduates
Diane Spencer
British students are facing an almost unprecedented squeeze on jobs when they graduate this summer, the Association of Graduate Recruiters has warned. In its latest bi-annual survey published last Wednesday, the association finds that vacancies are expected to decrease by 5.4%, banks expect a 28% cut in the number of jobs, and salaries will be frozen for the first time in recent history.
Full report on the University World News site

INDONESIA: More research papers needed
David Jardine
The Indonesian Institute of Sciences has issued a siren call to the country’s universities to produce more scientific and technological research papers. Indonesia currently lags well behind neighbours Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines in this regard.
Full report on the University World News site


GERMANY: Bologna process gets nod of approval
Michael Gardner
A senior Education Ministry official has taken a positive view of the impact the Bologna process has had on Germany’s higher education system. Speaking at a symposium in Berlin in the run-up to the Bologna Conference of Ministers in April, Parliamentary State Secretary Andreas Storm told government, higher education officials and students that Bologna had contributed to what he referred to as a successful modernisation of German higher education.
Full report on the University World News site


THAILAND: Professor charged with insulting King flees
Jonathan Travis*
Giles Ji Ungpakorn, a professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, fled to Britain last week after being charged with insulting the King under Thailand’s draconian lèse majesté laws. Ungpakorn faced three to 15 years in prison for insulting the king in paragraphs in his book, A Coup for the Rich. Lèse majesté laws are intended to punish “whoever defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir to the throne or the regent”.
More academic freedom reports on the University World News site


US: Push for higher education stimulus
Keith Nuthall
Members of the US congress have been pressed by higher education lobbyists to include the maximum amount of funding possible for American scientific and research agencies from President Barak Obama’s economic stimulus package.
Full report on the University World News site

ITALY: Diplomas subject to national qualifications
Alan Osborn
Each of the 27 member states of the European Union (EU) has the right to set the minimum level of qualification necessary to guarantee the quality of professional services within their territories, the European Court of Justice has ruled.
Full report on the University World News site

BELGIUM: Dog study may unveil genetic secrets
Monica Dobie
Universities examining pedigree dogs may provide some answers to the mystery of genetic illnesses in people through a new European Union-funded project called LUPA. It will try to pinpoint such disorders in pure-bred canines. The work could prove to be valuable as humans share many of the same diseases.
Full report on the University World News site


CANADA: Bon vivant lived for language and opera
Obituary: Floyd St Clair, 9 November 1930 - 4 January 2009
Lisa Fitterman*
If Professor Floyd St Clair ever had set rules for living, they would have been these: be fully engaged in life and as passionate in anger as you are in love, and never let the sun go down on your wrath, no matter how mad you are.
Full report on the University World News site


GERMANY: Another system of ranking universities
Uwe Brandenburg*
Talking about rankings usually means talking about league tables. Values are calculated based on weighted indicators which are then turned into a figure, added and formed into an overall value, often with the index of 100 for the best institution counting down. Moreover, in many cases entire universities are compared and the scope of indicators is somewhat limited. We at the Centre for Higher Education Development are highly sceptical about this approach.
Full report on the University World News site

INDIA: Science and technology vs the humanities
Shreesh Chaudhary*
In the past 50 years, science and technology universities in India have acquired global recognition whereas humanities and social sciences institutions are still struggling for national acceptance, in spite of a living tradition of education in these fields.
Full report on the University World News site


US: National census of chief academic officers
The first comprehensive survey of American chief academic officers – campus administrators who are well placed to take up chief executive positions at universities and colleges – has found that nearly two-thirds very satisfied with their positions yet the average length of time spent in the job is quite short, on average 4.7 years (compared with 8.7 years among presidents), and half find insufficient funds a major frustration. The CAO Census: A national profile of chief academic officers, produced by the American Council on Education, includes information from more than 1,700 individuals at colleges and universities nationwide.
More on the University World News site

UNI-LATERAL: Off-beat university stories

INDIA: The $20 laptop that didn’t cost $20 and wasn’t a laptop
The Financial Times published a report by James Lamont on 1 February claiming the country was planning to produce a laptop computer for the knockdown price of US$20, having come up with the Tata Nano, the world’s cheapest car, at about $2,000. University World News listed the story in its Round-Up section last week. Unfortunately for our readers – and a world longing for such a device – the story was wrong: there is no such laptop.
Full report on the University World News site


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US: Who gets what: billions to colleges and students
The stimulus plan emerging in Washington could offer an unprecedented, multi-billion dollar boost in financial help for college students trying to pursue a degree while they ride out the recession, writes Justin Pope for Associated Press. It could also hand out billions to states to kick-start idle campus construction projects and help prevent tuition increases at a time when families can least afford them. But cuts of $40 billion for state and local governments in the Senate version were a big disappointment for college leaders.
More on the University World News site

US: One step forward, two steps back
Public colleges and universities are just beginning to recover from the 2001 recession, and that progress is likely to be undone in the coming fiscal year, according to a new report, writes Jack Stripling for Inside Higher Ed. The report, issued by the State Higher Education Executive Officers, indicates that per-student state appropriations were on the rise from 2006 to 2008, following four consecutive years of decline. Even with these gains, however, state-supported colleges are receiving less in constant dollars per student than they were in 2001 – a peak year in data that stretch back to 1983.
More on the University World News site

UK: Delayed fees debate threatens universities
Universities are facing bankruptcy because the government has delayed a debate about whether to raise tuition fees, the most senior civil servant for science and research has said, writes Polly Curtis in The Guardian. In stark comments, Adrian Smith, the government's director-general for science and research, said that politicians had “kicked into touch” a promised review of university funding, leaving universities “going bankrupt”.
More on the University World News site

TAIWAN: Ministry freezes fees as economy struggles
Taiwan’s Ministry of Education has announced a freeze on fees for students this year in an effort to counter the impact of the economic crisis, reports Taiwan News. According to the formula used to calculate fees, an increase of between 1.8% and 2.7% would have been on the cards for the academic year starting next September. But the ministry reached agreement on a fee freeze during talks with three college associations.
More on the University World News site

US: Professors sceptical about online instruction
Online courses may be gaining a foothold in higher education, but substantial scepticism over their effectiveness remains, according to results of two recent surveys, writes David Shieh for the Chronicle of Higher Education. The surveys, conducted by the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, also found “widespread concern” that budget cuts would hamper distance-learning programmes.
More on the University World News site

UK: Governors and academics are ‘out of touch’
Concerns that some university governing bodies are out of touch with the academic leadership of their institutions have been raised by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, writes Melanie Newman for Times Higher Education. A survey for the foundation found that although the majority of senior university managers reported that relationships between the governors and the academic board were constructive, a significant minority reported less constructive relationships.
More on the University World News site

GLOBAL: Darwin’s 200th birthday celebrated
Charles Darwin would no doubt be surprised to learn that, 127 years after his death, people around the world would be celebrating his 200th birthday last Thursday, writes Dan Vergano in USA Today. The official celebration website – – lists 281 events in 31 nations, including more than 170 in the US. Events range from “Evolutionpalooza!” at the San Francisco Main Branch Public Library to an all-day reading of Darwin's On the Origin of Species (its 150th anniversary year) at Lawrence University in Appleton.
More on the University World News site

INDIA: Idea of permanent HE commission revived
The government is considering the creation of a permanent higher education commission as an apex authority to anchor the increasingly large private role in the sector as well as government colleges, reports the Business Standard. The proposal is being pushed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, which is known to be in favour of retaining education in state control.
More on the University World News site

INDIA: Wanted: 1,500 universities; apply here
The academic prize-winners still have their names etched in gold on wooden boards surrounding the main hall at the Bishop Cotton School in Shimla. In decades long past, the sons of India’s British rulers attended the hill-station school. Their names quickly peter out after 1947 to be replaced by Indian primus inter pares, writes James Lamont in the Financial Times. The private school, faithful to its 19th-century British public school model, equips scholars to compete in one of the world's fastest growing economies. But where students go on to has changed markedly over the past 60 years. Headmaster Roy Robinson says, increasingly, school leavers seek university places in Singapore, Australia and the US as they prepare themselves to meet the demands of a new age.
More on the University World News site

SOUTH AFRICA: Postgraduates popular as cashcows
In their race to lure more postgraduate students, some South African universities are stopping just short of offering students a free semester to Jamaica where they can sip cocktails and finish up their research thesis, write Primarashini Gower and Monako Dibetle in the Mail & Guardian. Postgraduate students are cash cows because they bring with them high government subsidies, more than for undergraduates.
More on the University World News site

CANADA: HE report highlights gaps in knowledge
As governments look to higher education to fuel economic growth and foster innovation, a new report finds there are large gaps in knowledge about how people are using the system and what is working, writes Elizabeth Church in the Globe and Mail. The report, released last week by an independent research group funded by the Ontario government, paints a picture of a province with a high demand for post-secondary education, but little evidence of how individuals make decisions about their education or the system’s failures and successes.
More on the University World News site
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