ISSN 1756-297XIssue No: 0091 06 September 2009
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In this week's special feature, our correspondents report on the hazards that face researchers around the world, from death threats and torture to dangerous research subjects.

The subject of this week's UWN Interview is Soumitra Dutta, Professor of Business and Technology and Dean of External Relations at INSEAD business school. He talked to EurActiv about the need to prepare graduates for the workplace.

In the past month, Australia has ticked off a number of astronomy measures that will contribute to its bid to host a mega-science project, the Square Kilometre Array. See this week's Science Scene. Photo ATA.


University World News was the official media partner to the Unesco World Conference on higher education, held in Paris from 5-8 July.


SPECIAL REPORT: Dangerous research

Academics are typically seen as distant and clinical, working safely inside their laboratories and offices. Many, however, tackle dangerous subjects that put them at risk. In this issue, we reveal some courageous academics and the dangers being thrown their way, from the perils of the Congolese countryside to the inhospitable universities of dictatorships, to jobs that involve interviewing murderers and cleaning up after a dangerous eco-activist.

While much research involves little danger, there is potential harm lurking around the university, from Big Pharma threats to religious rage against stem-cell research. Some researchers protect themselves against the dangerous pathogens they have to handle while others sometimes worry about their research being hijacked by terrorists. And, like most workplaces, some simply have to keep a safe distance from that backstabbing colleague.

Here’s to the dangers in our institutions. Let’s all be careful out there.

AFRICA: Up close in the Congo
Karen MacGregor
Researcher Stephanie Wolters and a couple of journalists were driving along a road in the conflict-torn eastern Democratic Republic of Congo last year when they came upon a roadblock. “The block turned out to be a dead Congolese soldier,” Wolters recalled. The rag-tag rebels manning the roadblock were persuaded to let them through but it was a scary moment. Armed rebels, threatening officials, dodgy airlines and corruption are just some of the dangers researchers face in some parts of Africa.
Full report on the University World News site

CANADA: Risky business interviewing criminals
Philip Fine
Eric Beauregard realised he had made a major miscalculation when a heavily built inmate he had invited into a prison office for an interview, had gone from bottled-up silence to full-out yelling. There was no guard, no barrier and no handcuffs, just a dangerous s exual murderer really angry with the then-doctoral student.
Full report on the University World News site

GLOBAL: Researchers in dangerous times
Brendan O’Malley
In Guatemala, a leading anthropologist received death threats while excavating mass graves to look for evidence of war crimes. An academic was imprisoned by the Turkish government on 41 charges, for researching torture cases. A researcher in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was held for eight months without trial and tortured for his research on ethnic conflict. In Chad, government agents threw a grenade at a scholar who had researched and written about a past oppressive regime.
Full report on the University World News site

CANADA: The seismic activity of one eco-activist
Leah Germain
The threat posed to research teams by some environmental activists was starkly illustrated in Canada by a potentially dangerous interference with an investigation involving explosives. A joint Canadian and American research study was nearly derailed when an activist attempted to prevent a major seismic experiment.
Full report on the University World News site



NEWS: Our correspondents worldwide report

US: Stemming the tide of college attrition
Sarah King Head
A key goal of the Obama administration is to produce more American college graduates by 2020. But funding is only one of the many hurdles that must be overcome if the ambitious plan is to be realised.
Full report on the University World News site

SAUDI ARABIA: 25-year higher education plan
Wagdy Sawahel
To promote a knowledge-based economy and move from an oil economy to a worldwide centre for high-technology research, Saudi Arabia has announced a research initiative called ‘Aafaq’ or Horizons. The 25-year plan is intended to improve higher education opportunities for women, boost scientific research and tackle the country’s shortage of scientists in critical fields.
Full report on the University World News site

EU: A new Lisbon phoenix to take wing
David Haworth
Among many things the ambitious Swedish presidency of the European Union hopes to achieve in the next five months is a revival of the so-called ‘Lisbon Process’. Some may recall that this initiative was launched in 2000 to chart the way the EU would become “the world’s most dynamic, knowledge-based economy”.
Full report on the University World News site

NEW ZEALAND: Lower pay rises ahead
John Gerritsen*
New Zealand’s university staff are facing the end of a run of significant pay rises amid concern that the government is taking an unprecedented, and unwelcome, interest in the tertiary education sector’s pay deals.
Full report on the University World News site

GERMANY: Competition to boost teaching quality
Michael Gardner
A competition to improve teaching quality in German higher education has attracted almost 180 proposals from institutions. ‘Bologna – Zukunft der Lehre’, or Bologna: Future of teaching, is funded by the Volkswagen and the Mercator foundations with each providing €5 million.
Full report on the University World News site

SWITZERLAND: Polytechnique tops ERC grants
Jan Petter Myklebust
Even if the final results of the 2009 European Research Council starting grants selection has yet to be published, the EPFL in Lausanne in Switzerland has reported that eight such grants have been awarded to young staff members out of 219 on the ERC shortlisted candidates.
Full report on the University World News site


AUSTRALIA-INDIA: Quality agencies cooperate
Australia’s national quality agency, the Australian Universities Quality Agency has signed a memorandum of cooperation with its Indian counterpart, the National Assessment and Accreditation Council.
Full report on the University World News site

FOR SALE: University World News e-book

Reports from the Frontier: A global view of the key issues confronting higher education

Reports from the Frontier is the first in a planned series of electronic books to be published by University World News. The initial volume comprises eight chapters that range from the impact of the global financial crisis on universities, declining funding, and the Bologna process, to women in higher education, international rankings and e-learning. The 337-page e-book includes an index listing the chapters and article headings, and is available as a special offer to University World News readers. To see the contents page and to order your copy click here.


GLOBAL: Lost? Walking in circles is natural
An international team of researchers has used volunteers, global positioning systems and flat, featureless terrain to gain the first empirical evidence of what until now has been the stuff of television and film drama.
Full report on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: Bid to host mega-science project
Australia has announced a number of astronomy milestones in the past month, all contributing to the nation’s bid to host the Square Kilometre Array – a US$2 billion international venture billed as the biggest science project of the 21st century
Full report on the University World News site

UK: Geoengineering: Last hope against climate change
Geoengineering techniques could be used to mitigate the impact of climate change – but they should be regarded as a last resort, the Royal Society says in a new report.
Full report on the University World News site


Malaysia: Future hub of international education?
Dale Down
Malaysia will play host to an international education conference next month as part of its goal of becoming a regional hub for international higher education by 2010, with 100,000 students studying at its higher education institutions.
Full report on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: World-class regional higher education
Ian Goulter*
In the wake of a prematurely concluded feasibility study to consider integrating two of Australia’s regional universities, Charles Sturt and Southern Cross, I have suggested looking locally and globally to find models for the successful provision of higher education and research in regional areas that will address the sector’s challenges as the education revolution is unfurled.
Full report on the University World News site


FINLAND: Brave new world of higher education
Finnish universities are about to enter a period of radical change. “Brave New World: Higher education reform in Finland”, an article by Timo Aarrevaara, Ian R Dobson and Camilla Elander published in the journal Higher Education Management and Policy, considers the reforms expected of a new Universities Act currently before parliament and a set of institutional mergers.
More on the University World News site


CANADA: Award-winning hypertension researcher dies
Obituary: Jacques André Samuel de Champlain, 13 March 1938 to 15 July 2009
Philip Fine
During the three years he worked with famed US scientist Julius Axelrod ending in the late 1960s, Jacques de Champlain was struck by the appearance most days of a newspaper tucked under the arm of his mentor, who strolled into his lab at 9am. After a day of experiments in cell communication, the Quebec researcher would see that newspaper again under Dr Axelrod's arm at 5 pm, as he’d leave, with no workplace stress seeming to follow him. This was a man, who right after that time, in 1970, would win a Nobel Prize.
Full report on the University World News site


GLOBAL: Preparing graduates for the workplace
Forging closer links between industry and academia can help prepare graduates for the modern workplace, says Soumitra Dutta, Professor of Business and Technology and Dean of External Relations at INSEAD business school, in an interview with EurActiv.
Full report on the University World News site

Next week, the University World News Interview will be with Jamie Merisotis, Chief Executive of the Lumina Foundation for Education. He discusses Lumina's goal of increasing the share of Americans with high-quality degrees from 39% to 60% by 2025, in line with the Obama plan.

UNI-LATERAL: Off-beat university stories

US: Unexpected philosophers
When you think of successful university careers, you might think of presidents, provosts and deans; when you think of the wisdom to be found on campus, you’re likely to think of professors sharing the fruits of their decades of research on chemistry, classics, or quantum mechanics, writes Serena Golden for Inside Higher Ed. You almost certainly won’t think of the folks cleaning the bathrooms, washing the floors, and changing the trash bags. Might you be missing something?
More on the University World News site


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IRAN: Purge of universities feared
As Iran’s universities prepare to start classes this month, there is growing concern within the academic community that the government will purge political and social science departments of professors and curricula deemed “un-Islamic”, according to academics and political analysts inside and outside Iran, reports Michael Slackman for The New York Times.
More on the University World News site

FRANCE: University grants rise by up to 3%
The French government is increasing the size of the grants it gives to almost half a million university students by up to 3% to help them cope with rising costs, reports The Connexion. About 100,000 students from under-privileged backgrounds will be entitled to the 3% rise for this academic year. Another 350,000 students will see their grant grow by 1.5%.
More on the University World News site

US: Rating colleges by contribution to the social good
Washington Monthly magazine came out with its own college rankings last week, naming the nation’s ‘best’ colleges from a very different vantage point from that of US News and World Report, writes Tamar Lewin for The New York Times. The new ratings try to measure which colleges do the most for the social good, by improving social mobility, producing research and promoting service.
More on the University World News site

US: H1N1 creeps onto campuses
A summer of anticipation and worst-case-scenario planning has given way to a new academic year of inevitable illness as the H1N1 flu virus appears at colleges and universities across the nation, writes Jennifer Epstein for Inside Higher Ed. As many institutions ratchet up to full capacity with students, faculty and staff returning for autumn classes, campuses from Kansas to California and just about everywhere in between are beginning to report handfuls to hundreds of cases, mostly among students.
More on the University World News site

US: Experts point to five emerging majors
If you’re not sure that majoring in English is going to pay off in the current economy, The Chronicle of Higher Education offers a few alternatives – what it calls “five emerging areas of study” as cited by academic experts, business analysts and economic forecasters. The new majors are service science, health informatics, computational science, sustainability, and public health, writes Jack Kadden in a New York Times education blog.
More on the University World News site

UAE: Study of humanities neglected in universities
Higher education institutions in the United Arab Emirates say they want to correct an “imbalance” in the types of courses students are being offered and make more humanities subjects available, write Daniel Bardsley and Hassan Hassan in The National. There should be more science and liberal arts courses, officials said, as figures showed that more than 60% of programmes at universities were in business, information technology and engineering.
More on the University World News site

TURKMENISTAN: Reverse student travel ban
Turkmen authorities should immediately revoke a new travel ban imposed on students bound for foreign private universities, Human Rights Watch said last week. Turkmenistan should also end new, burdensome requirements for studying abroad that violate the rights to freedom of movement and to education, said the rights organisation.
More on the University World News site

VIETNAM: Too many students take entrance exams
Educators say that some 500,000 fewer students should take university entrance exams each year, to help universities reduce expenses and save resources, reports VietNamNet. This year nearly 800,000 examinees failed to gain the minimum marks set by the Ministry of Education and Training that are required to enrol at university.
More on the University World News site

SOUTH KOREA: Students stay at university for longer
University students in South Korea are taking longer to finish their degree as opportunities for travel open up, reports The Chosun Ilbo. According to figures from the National Statistical Office, 39.3% of university students have taken a leave of absence and the average time it takes to graduate from a four-year university is 5.3 years.
More on the University World News site

INDIA: Doors opening for Australian universities
Despite diplomatic tensions running high this year after a number of Indian students were assaulted while studying in Australia, the nation's universities may now be invited to set up shop in India, writes Brigid Andersen for News Online. Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been in India and last week met with Minister for Human Resource Development, Shri Kapil Sibal, who touted a plan for Australian universities to open campuses in India.
More on the University World News site

GHANA: Government to support private universities
Ghana’s Minister of Education, Alex Tettey-Enyo, has said the government is committed to assisting private universities in the country in the areas of academic competence and research to promote quality education, reports Peace FM.
More on the University World News site

US: Blueberry virus strikes research centre
The bloom could be off Michigan's $124 million per year blueberry industry after two destructive viruses infected bushes in three locations, reports David N Goodman for The Associated Press. Particularly upsetting to scientists is where one of the outbreaks occurred – Michigan State University's agricultural research station in south-western Michigan. An outbreak of blueberry shock is forcing scientists to destroy plants that represent two decades and millions of dollars of research.
More on the University World News site
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