ISSN 1756-297XIssue No: 0065 01 March 2009
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In this week's Feature section, an academic reflects on a month spent teaching in Montpellier, France.

Age is no barrier to success in academia, new Canadian research shows. See the story in our News section.

Bollywood has been introduced to management study in India. See this week's Unilateral.



NEWS: Our correspondents worldwide report

US: Universities break fund-raising records
Karen MacGregor
American universities and colleges raised a record-breaking amount in gifted contributions last year: $31.6 billion. But donations to higher education institutions could decline this year and in 2010, according to a new report from the Council for Aid to Education. Stanford heads the Top 20 list of fund-raising universities, receiving $785 million, followed by Harvard, Columbia and Yale.
Full report on the University World News site

CANADA: Academics just as productive at 70
Philip Fine
The golden years appear to have little effect on the productivity of the active professor, according to a Canadian study that looked at publication frequency and the aging academic. The study, by researchers at the Université du Québec à Montréal and published in December in the journal PLoS ONE, found that professors in the science disciplines aged between 50 and 70 published almost twice as many papers in academic journals as their 30-year-old counterparts. It also found that at an age when other non-academic seniors might be teeing off on a golf course or spending more time with the grandchildren, older university professors are continuing to publish in top journals.
Full report on the University World News site

FINLAND: Icy reception cools protests
Ian Dobson*
Student organisations in other countries could take note of how civilised their counterparts are in Finland. Alarmed at government plans to impose significant reforms on their universities, Finnish students called a national day of protests for Thursday 19 February. But, compared with the French, it was as mild as an afternoon tea party.
Full report on the University World News site

FRANCE: End to academic strikes?
Alan Osborn
The French government is to revise its controversial proposals for changing the status of academics in the nation's universities and has promised that no cuts in the number of teaching and assistants positions will be proposed in the 2010 and 2011 budgets. The government's move raised hopes of an end to the strikes but Paris lecturer John Mullen has told University World News the protests are unlikely to end without further government concessions.
Full story on University World News site with John Mullen's commentary

ALBANIA: Rector arrested while staff resist police
Nick Holdsworth
Staff and students at Albania’s Marubi academy of film and multi-media in Tirana are staging a strike and lock-in after police arrested the school’s rector, a professor and three students during violent protests sparked by a property dispute.
Full report on the University World News site


GERMANY: Industry calls for higher education reforms
Michael Gardner
Germany’s two leading industrial federations have jointly issued four demands to promote “modern and competitive higher education institutions”. They stress that there has to be a steady increase in the number of academics over the coming years for the country to maintain a successful position in the world economy.
Full report on the University World News site

UK: China donates 200,000 e-books
The library at Cambridge University now has one of the world’s largest collections of Chinese monographs following the gift of 200,000 electronic books by Premier Wen Jiabao. The donation almost doubles the number of electronic books in the library and is one of the largest single gifts in its 650-year history.
Full report on the University World News site

NEW ZEALAND: Tertiary education cuts feared
John Gerritsen
New Zealand’s tertiary education funding agency, the Tertiary Education Commission, is facing cuts amid fears that the country’s new conservative government also wants savings from its wider tertiary allocations.
Full report on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: Graduates face serious job shortages
Geoff Maslen
As the economic downturn begins increasingly to affect Australian industry and business, university graduates are preparing for a far more difficult time finding jobs than any generation in more than 20 years.
Full report on the University World News site

EUROPE: Erasmus shapes higher education
The European Union's Erasmus programme to boost mobility and cooperation in higher education across the continent has been a driving force in shaping the landscape of higher education, a new report states. The report says the programme has contributed to improving, opening up and modernising higher education institutions and education policies.
Full report on the University World News site


EUROPE: Scientists warn of nanotechnology threat
Keith Nuthall
European scientists are starting to identify tangible health concerns associated with the use of nanoparticles in consumer products. Academic health experts within the European Union’s scientific committee on emerging and newly identified health risks have raised some serious problems in a new detailed paper.
Full report on the University World News site

CANADA: Alliance to create virtual worlds
Keith Nuthall
A major IT company has teamed up with a Canadian open university to establish a research centre that will create bespoke three- dimensional virtual learning environments.
Full report on the University World News site

EUROPE: Targeted smart medicine capsules
Monica Dobie
A European Union-funded research project called SonoDrugs is developing tiny, image-guided medicine capsules conveying doses through blood vessels to the centre of an infection or disease, after which the drugs are activated by ultrasound pulses.
Full report on the University World News site


UK: Lord Dearing dies
Obituary: Ronald Earnest Dearing: 27 July 1930 – 19 February 2009
Diane Spencer
Ron Dearing, who has died at the age of 78, was among the great and good of the education world. In 1996, at the behest of John Major, the Conservative prime minister, he headed the national committee of inquiry into the future of higher education which resulted in the most radical review of universities since the Robbins report of 1963. The 1,700-page report included among its 93 recommendations one to introduce tuition fees for all students. This was enthusiastically taken up by the incoming Labour government. Against his advice, the new Education Secretary David Blunkett scrapped student grants and introduced means-tested fees.
Full report on the University World News site


IRAQ: Higher education’s uncertain future
Kate Robertson
Despite the assassination and attempted assassination of a number of candidates in the run-up to local elections in Iraq last January, for the main the event passed off without the feared descent into violence and bloodshed. In fact, the elections delivered a number of secular candidates into the political arena and left a tentative note of optimism in the air, even among those who watch from recent exile, constantly assessing the risks of return. Although this is by no means the ‘normalisation’ of Iraq that some wish to have you believe, nevertheless in this continuing fragile environment there is a burgeoning sense of possibility. What does this mean for Iraq’s higher education sector? How best to support the renaissance of this once much vaunted ‘beacon’ in the region?
Full report on the University World News site

CANADA: Teaching abroad: a month in France
Chi Carmody*
At the beginning of May 2000, I found myself teaching at Université Montpellier 1 in the south of France, a few kilometres from the Mediterranean. It was at the end of a busy first year of teaching law in Canada, and I was excited by the prospect of going to Europe. Montpellier had beckoned invitingly through the preceding winter. It is the home of an ancient university, founded in the 1200s. I had visions of Roman ruins and Gothic battlements, strong coffee and croissants, great wine and tremendous sunshine – and on the whole I wasn’t disappointed.
Full report on the University World News site


CANADA: Recession's impact on post-secondary education
Governments could assist universities to survive the recession – and perhaps be in a position to thrive once the recovery arrives – by helping to pay for salary restructuring, not letting enrolment formulas constrain institutions from meeting shifting demand, allowing tuition to increase while protecting effective student aid programmes, and funding brains not buildings. This is according to a new report from Canada’s Educational Policy Institute, On the Brink: How the recession of 2009 will affect post-secondary education, which looks at “profound effects the recession will have on both revenues and expenditures in the post-school sector”.
More on the University World News site

UNI-LATERAL: Off-beat university stories

INDIA: Teaching film to glamorise an MBA
PL Joshi*
The MBA programme at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmadabad, known as IIMA, is gaining glamour by introducing an elective course titled “Introduction to Contemporary Film Industry” and 86 students have already enrolled. It is claimed the course will become very popular and may be referred to as “innovation and creativity” in management programmes.
Full report on the University World News site


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CANADA: Substantial boost in foreign students planned
With an eye on foreign students as a “source of revenue”, Canada will substantially increase the number it brings in this year, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced last week, reports the Toronto Star. He would not elaborate on how many more students would be lured to Canada but said they would have the chance to understand the labour market and the language and put themselves on a “much faster pathway” to immigration.
More on the University World News site

UK: New visa rules could damage higher education
The government is in danger of damaging British higher education by introducing new visa rules and raising charges without consulting the sector, vice-chancellors have warned, writes Anthea Lipsett in The Guardian. Vice-chancellors fear that an unexpected rise in fees to apply for a student visa will potentially put off overseas students in an increasingly competitive recruitment market. They are also concerned about the timetable for implementing changes and that the IT system being set up by government to register international students will be burdensome.
More on the University World News site

UK: Documents reveal risk of failure at universities
Government officials were monitoring 13 universities and colleges deemed ‘at risk’ of failure as recently as 2004, The Guardian has learned. Classified documents, released under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal a catalogue of concerns about governance and financing, including universities struggling to recruit students or reduce drop-out rates and others which had become too dependent on overseas students for funding, Polly Curtis reports.
More on the University World News site

IRELAND: Fewer opting for science at university
The number of university students opting for courses in the key areas of combined maths, science and computing declined by 13% last year, according to new figures from the Higher Education Authority, reports The Irish Times. The figures are likely to spark fresh concern about the relatively small number of students opting for such courses.
More on the University World News site

UK: Research disaster as satellite fails
It was meant to answer some of the biggest questions about the true scale of global warming. But Nasa’s $270 million climate change satellite failed to get into orbit last week – sending years of work by University of Leicester space scientists down the drain – reports the Leicester Mercury. A rocket malfunction sent the Orbiting Carbon Observation satellite crashing out of the sky. It is thought to have plummeted into the sea near Antarctica.
More on the University World News site

US: College for all
US President Barack Obama issued a powerful challenge to his own administration and to individual citizens last week, calling on every American to commit to attending at least one year of college so that the country can reclaim its mantle as the best educated nation in the world, reports Doug Lederman in Inside Higher Ed. “[W]e will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world,” the president said in his first speech to a joint session of Congress.
More on the University World News site

US: Research body warns universities on stimulus money
The acting director of the National Institutes of Health begged university administrators last week to avoid even applying for stimulus money unless universities planned to hire people almost immediately, reports The New York Times. “It would be the height of embarrassment,” Dr Raynard S Kington said, “if we give these grants and find out that institutions are not spending them to hire people and make purchases and advance the science the way they’re designed to do.” Not a problem, the administrators said, in interviews. After working under flat federal research financing for years, scientists are ecstatic.
More on the University World News site

US: In tough times, the humanities must justify their worth
One idea that elite universities like Yale, sprawling public systems like Wisconsin and smaller private colleges like Lewis and Clark have shared for generations is that a traditional liberal arts education is, by definition, not intended to prepare students for a specific vocation, writes Patricia Cohen in The New York Times. Rather, the critical thinking, civic and historical knowledge and ethical reasoning that the humanities develop have a different purpose: they are prerequisites for personal growth and participation in a free democracy, regardless of career choice. But in this new era of lengthening unemployment lines and shrinking university endowments, questions about the importance of the humanities in a complex and technologically demanding world have taken on new urgency.
More on the University World News site

CHINA: University to subsidise search for jobs
A university in Shanghai is offering a total of 100,000 yuan (US$14,624) in travel subsidies to students who go to find work in other cities, reports China View. Graduates with Shanghai Ocean University can receive 100 yuan to 500 yuan if they are granted an interview by an employer from outside Shanghai. The university will also grant a subsidy of 10,000 yuan to each student or team starting a company that hires more than three of its recent graduates.
More on the University World News site

SOUTH AFRICA: Crisis brings boom for ethics courses
Business schools in South Africa, and the world over, are being asked for help in putting ethics in its rightful place, writes Sue Blaine in Business Day. “In the last couple of weeks there has been an explosion in corporate governance workshops, and that includes ethics,” says Anton Roodt, visiting professor at the University of the Witwatersrand Business School.
More on the University World News site

UK: University challenge genius receives taunts
Being hailed as the brainiest woman on British television has its down sides, Gail Trimble revealed, after steering her team to victory in last week’s final of BBC2’s University Challenge, reports The Times. The 26-year-old Latin scholar said that she had had to develop a thick skin to cope with the sneering comments about her appearance posted on blogs, and the less than flattering invitation to pose for a ‘tasteful’ photo-shoot for a lads' magazine.
More on the University World News site
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