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NEWSLETTER#scholarAfrica – Helping to consolidate Africa’s open access agenda
University World News introduces a new section – #scholarAfrica – aimed at supporting the communication and consolidation of efforts to advance the open scholarship agenda in ways that will improve African access to knowledge and the global visibility of African research.
In the first article, Michelle Willmers wonders whether in a period of unprecedented demand for open access to knowledge and of unprecedented competition, openness itself is being hegemonised and is becoming a locus for competition?
In a Special Report, Munyaradzi Makoni covers the 10th anniversary conference held in Mozambique last month of the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture – RUFORUM – a consortium of 42 universities in 19 countries. And in Africa Features we unpack a new report from the Cape Higher Education Consortium reviewing initiatives in equity and transformation in three South African universities.
In Commentary, Martin Cohen argues that the internet has killed university libraries and may do the same to academic authors, but Rupert Ward maintains that technology is an inescapable part of modern university life that should be cautiously embraced. James King visits disempowered Syrian academic refugees in Turkey and finds they need urgent international and local support.
In World Blog, Yegor Stadny writes that war in eastern Ukraine has made university admissions difficult – and has highlighted the need to reform old systems of privilege, and in Global Features, Yojana Sharma probes the termination of the partnership between America’s top-rated Johns Hopkins University and Perdana University Graduate School of Medicine in Malaysia.
Karen MacGregor – Africa Editor
Higher education institutions are operating in a period of both unprecedented demand for open access to knowledge and unprecedented competition. The question of how to balance the open agenda with the demands of competing for students, top researchers and citations is a central challenge. What appears to be taking place is that openness itself is being hegemonised by the system and is becoming a locus for competition.
Senegal’s leading university, Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar, was in crisis last week after a student was killed in a violent confrontation with police during protests over non-payment of grants and other grievances linked to government reforms.
The Botswana International University of Science and Technology is now operating at its permanent home in the country’s central district, having moved from temporary premises near the capital Gaborone. It has bold ambitions, and is luring research students from around the world to drive a strong postgraduate and research agenda.
Egypt’s professional unions have warned against an increase in numbers of new students attending the country’s schools of pharmacology and dentistry, saying that graduates of both majors already surpass the market needs.
An East African chapter of HERS – Higher Education Resource Services – has been launched. Based at Makerere University in Uganda, HERS-EA will among other things provide training to prepare more women leaders to steer universities in the region.
Lack of teacher training colleges in Zimbabwe’s southern regions has raised tribal and political tensions as the minority Ndebele group resists the deployment of teachers from President Robert Mugabe’s Shona tribe.
Madagascar’s government has conceded to student demands and sacked the president of the University of Mahajanga, in the northeast of the country, seven months after police clashes with demonstrating students during which a student died.
SOUTH AFRICAKaren MacGregor
A review of equity and transformation initiatives in three South African universities, two decades after the advent of democracy, has highlighted the importance of diversity among staff, institutional cultures and support for emerging researchers. Strategies are needed to tackle the key challenge of increasing the output of quality postgraduates.
SPECIAL REPORT – RUFORUM summit
The 4th Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture – RUFORUM – was held from 19-25 July in the Mozambique capital Maputo. Senior University World News writer Munyaradzi Makoni was there. RUFORUM, a consortium of 42 universities in 19 countries, celebrates the tenth anniversary of its establishment this year.
The managers of Africa’s intra-ACP exchange programmes say that organising a large number of mobile students on the continent is a logistical nightmare. Worse, students complain of lack of research funding. Too many factors were not considered when European-funded mobility schemes were conceptualised for implementation in Africa.
Higher education in agriculture must provide training that allows Africa to feed itself, accommodate women, advise policy-makers, make use of innovative technologies, multiply fully trained researchers and turn research results into practice. This was the central message from the biennial meeting of the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture, RUFORUM.
New directions for harnessing science for agriculture to meet goals in innovation and social transformation have been proposed in a plan to promote efficiency and productivity in agriculture.
An Education for Sustainable Development in Africa initiative with a three-pronged masters programme is helping to build the next generation of researchers and leaders skilled in sustainable development. The project, supported by Japan and involving eight universities in five African countries, has kicked off after years of planning and development.
The return of peace after civil war has provided an opportunity to three universities in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar to rebuild agriculture expertise by establishing three postgraduate training programmes.
African universities should work towards establishing open access policies, to enable their research to be more accessible to the wider scientific community.
A regional platform to train and mentor university graduates could produce highly skilled people who meet the demands of the agriculture industry by 2016. Research to develop the platform, which is being led by Egerton University in Kenya, started in February this year.
Egyptian authorities last week sent the Islamist president of a state-run university into retirement for alleged irregularities.
The government of Côte d’Ivoire has launched a campaign to recruit higher education lecturers with online teaching skills to fill an estimated 2,500 vacant posts. Meanwhile, a new institute of nuclear medicine for cancer treatment is due to open by the end of the year in Abidjan.
NEWS: Our correspondents worldwide report
In a universally unpopular budget last May, Australia’s deeply conservative government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced savage cuts to federal spending on universities, higher fees for students and a revised loans system that would have imposed increased costs on students. But, lacking a majority in the senate, the government has been forced to back down – with the outcome likely to be known when parliament resumes in the coming week.
The end of a government-imposed five-year ban on university tuition fee rises has seen annual fees for some degrees rise by up to 50% this year in China, official sources have reported.
Iran’s Minister for Science, Research and Technology Reza Faraji Dana was impeached last Wednesday after conservative-led factions in Iran’s parliament, known as the Majlis, held a no-confidence vote to dismiss him from his post.
SWEDENJan Petter Myklebust
There is a risk that higher education in Sweden will collapse, warned University Chancellor Harriet Wallberg in a recent article in Dagens Nyheter. “The widening gap between investment in teaching at basic levels and research is creating ever-more distress,” she wrote. Agreement across the political divide was needed that would guarantee increased investment in higher education for at least 20 years.
Economic sanctions imposed on Russia by Western countries after Ukraine’s Maidan revolution do appear to be disrupting Russian students in foreign universities. Most will continue to study in Europe and elsewhere under numerous initiatives, including one known as Global Education that was recently approved by the government.
A leading German higher education official has spoken out against the European Union’s funding priorities for next year. According to Professor Horst Hippler, president of the German Rectors’ Conference, the EU is doing too much for agriculture while neglecting research and innovation.
A dispute with Johns Hopkins University in the United States, ostensibly over “frequent late payments”, has led to a termination of the American institution’s partnership with Perdana University Graduate School of Medicine in Malaysia, both sides have confirmed.
UNITED STATESSteve Kolowich, The Chronicle of Higher Education
If you had to pick a single word to explain how Derek Muller ended up in a Perth hotel room arguing with an empty chair, it probably would be ‘confusion’. About a decade ago, Muller – then a doctoral candidate at the University of Sydney – wanted to figure out how to make science videos that students would learn from, not just watch. So he did some experiments.
This year’s higher education admissions round in Ukraine is more complex than in the past due to the war, but it has put the spotlight on old systems of privilege which need reforming.
The internet has killed university libraries and may do the same to academic authors. In the past academics did have at least the ‘potential’ to spread ideas, but now what students find online is centrally controlled and equivalent to a bookshop where only Penguin books are displayed and the rest are kept in a vast basement.
Syrian academic refugees in Turkey have gone from stable meaningful jobs to powerlessness overnight. They need international support and greater capacity needs to be built at Turkey’s higher education institutions to absorb more Syrians.
UNITED KINGDOMRupert Ward
Technology is an inescapable and ever-evolving part of modern university life. We should cautiously embrace change as this is essential to engaging with students brought up in the internet age.
AUSTRALIAJanice Dudley, The Conversation
Australia’s proposed higher education reforms are the most substantial since the creation of the Unified National System under then Minister John Dawkins in the 1980s. Such significant changes need to be argued, debated and contested. Unfortunately, what fee deregulation offers will only benefit the elite few.
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Universities in the United Kingdom have been put on alert to be ready for a potential outbreak of the Ebola virus when the new term starts in September, writes Richard Garner for The Independent.
Some of America’s most elite universities are deep into defence lobbying, often hiring Washington-based firms to press Congress and the Pentagon to fund their science projects. It’s all about Big Research and Big Money, writes Austin Wright for Politico.
The open access journal eLife has launched a new type of article that will allow authors to report significant additions to their original research, writes Núria Radó-Trilla for Times Higher Education.
An associate professor of political science at the University of Macau, Bill Chou Kwok-ping, believes that his contract was not renewed because of his political activism, raising concerns about academic freedom in the Chinese territory, writes Austin Ramzy for The New York Times.
Online higher education is steadily gaining favour as a credible alternative to the traditional classroom, writes Timothy Zimmer for Forbes.
As human rights in Thailand deteriorate under a military junta, Harvard is collaborating with key supporters of the recent coup to create a permanent Thai Studies programme at the university, writes Ilya Garger for The Harvard Crimson.
From November, it will be even more difficult for Indian students to travel to the United Kingdom for education, writes Kounteya Sinha for TNN. Britain recently announced a fresh crackdown on student visas as further measures of the Immigration Act came into force.
The proportion of students in the United Kingdom passing A-levels dropped for the first time in three decades following the former education secretary's clampdown on exam results, writes Richard Adams for the Guardian. But the results triggered record numbers being accepted to university.
So far, 4,070 students from across the European Union have been accepted to study in Scotland, an increase of 10% compared to the same time last year, writes Andrew Denholm for Herald Scotland.
The Higher Education Advisory and Complaint Portal received a total of 130 complaints just two days after its launch, says Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin, indicating the need to push for reforms in the Education Ministry's selection process into public universities, writes Zakiah Koya for The Malaysian Insider.
Professors of the University of León joined the academic boycott of Israel, which now brings together more than 200,000 Spanish teachers and researchers who demand an end to the occupation of Palestine, reports Prensa Latina.
The Cuban government has authorised universities to hire professors already retired in the same positions they had before retiring, in order to cover a deficit of educators, reports EFE.
Many cash-strapped Italian universities – including Sapienza University of Rome, the University of Parma and the University of Ferrara, to name a few – have switched to Gmail in the past few years. Others, such as the University of Turin, have joined the list this summer. In the past, the news would have passed largely unnoticed, but times have changed, writes Federico Guerrini for ZDNet.
Turkey's most prestigious universities were the target of a pro-government columnist, who wrote that they should be replaced with schools promoting Turkish culture and claimed their students are “willing agents of other cultures”, reports Today’s Zaman.
High school graduates in South Africa and the rest of the continent will soon have an additional university choice as a network of 25 pan-African universities, aimed to rival the likes of Harvard and Yale, is due to come on stream, writes Andiswa Maqutu for BDLive.
More than 4,000 seats in higher education institutions in Oman are vacant for the 2014-15 academic year, according to officials, writes Faizul Haque for the Times of Oman.
The Bar Ilan University student union launched a protest last week against the benefits offered by the university to reservists returning from service in Operation Protective Edge, writes Lidar Grave-Lazi for The Jerusalem Post.
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