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20 May 2018 Issue 220 Register to receive our free e-newspaper by email each week Advanced Search

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Dealing with the scourge of sexual violence and harassment in universities

   In this week’s edition, there are two contributions which raise the pressing problem of gender-based violence, sexual harassment and gender inequality on African university campuses. In Africa Analysis, Ayenachew A Woldegiyorgis takes the prevalence of sexual violence towards women on Ethiopian university campuses as a starting point for a discussion on gender inequality in the country’s universities, while in Africa Features Tunde Fatunde reports on how a recent sex-for-marks scandal at a Nigerian university highlights not only the prevalence of the scourge, but the collective complicity of society and its institutions which serves to drive it.

   As an antidote to rather grim subject matter, a news report by Munyaradzi Makoni about a fellowship programme run by the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences Next Einstein Initiative aimed specifically at women scientists, provides evidence that female empowerment is happening in some quarters of academia.

   In other news from around the continent, we report on the recent launch of the first African Research Universities Alliance centre of excellence which is to be based at the University of Cape Town in South Africa; Kudzai Mashininga reports from Zimbabwe on a new government-driven plan to create university towns or cities around higher education institutions; and Maina Waruru reports on a recent announcement of the fellows and projects for the 2018 Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program.

   In World Blog, Nita Temmerman questions whether single, high-stakes exams effectively measure genuine student learning and suggests other methods of assessment that provide students with constructive feedback to help them improve.

Sharon Dell – Africa Editor



ARUA launches first centre of excellence

The African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) has launched the first of 13 ‘centres of excellence’ – with this centre focused on inequality – at an event held at the University of Cape Town’s School of Economics in South Africa last week.


Vision of ‘university towns’ starts to take shape

Kudzai Mashininga

Zimbabwe is forging ahead with plans to establish university towns in areas where the development of three state universities with technological hubs is set to commence, following a national budgetary allocation for construction amounting to US$21 million.


Diaspora fellows head back to Africa for joint research

Maina Waruru

The Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program has selected 43 African universities in Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda to host 55 African-born scholars to build partnerships between home and host universities and address priority needs in host universities and countries.


AIMS announces female climate change science fellows

Munyaradzi Makoni

A programme under the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences Next Einstein Initiative (AIMS NEI), aimed specifically at increased female participation to contribute to a more sustainable societal response to climate change, has announced its first climate change science fellows.


New project takes the fight against extremism to students

Wagdy Sawahel

A UNESCO campaign launched recently in the North African countries of Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan aims to empower youth in the fight against extremism and strengthen the capacities of universities and other educational institutions to contribute to national prevention efforts.


Report highlights global trend towards HE cost sharing

Christabel Ligami

As enrolment in higher learning institutions has been growing steadily driven by improved student progression rates and higher numbers of part-time students, governments around the world, including those in Africa, are finding ways to shift the cost burden, according to a recent UNESCO report.


Roadmap to address poor quality at universities

Wagdy Sawahel

Egypt’s National Authority for Quality Assurance and Accreditation of Education has adopted a range of measures to tackle the poor quality of university education in the country.



Fighting the scourge of sexual violence on campus

Ayenachew A Woldegiyorgis

With sexual violence and gender bias rife in higher education in Ethiopia, both top-down and bottom-up approaches to addressing the problem are needed. Universities should consider investing in student support services on campus and creating a gender-neutral environment where everyone feels safe to study.


Managing the rise of university global health partnerships

Obafemi Ogunleye

The opportunity to partner with a well-endowed institution will always be attractive from the perspective of a less-endowed institution, but as new partners seek to enter the African health market through higher education, institutions that are already working in these communities should set the ground rules.


Research universities – The need for a realistic roadmap

Wondwosen Tamrat

While the need and desire for research universities in Ethiopia has been clearly expressed for some time, their achievement is being hindered by the absence of a realistic roadmap.



No easy solutions to university sex-for-marks phenomenon

Tunde Fatunde

A recent sex-for-marks scandal involving a senior academic and a postgraduate student has highlighted not only the prevalence of the problem, but the difficulty in addressing it in Nigerian universities.



Partnership to boost Guinea’s higher education system

A higher education framework agreement aimed at helping Guinea to adapt and improve its higher education systems along Senegalese lines is to be signed by the two countries.


Medical studies reform to meet societal needs

Algeria is reforming the first-year programme of medical studies to achieve a “quality education”, with greater coordination between the health and research ministries, Tahar Hadjar, the minister for higher education and scientific research, has announced.

NEWS – Our correspondents worldwide report


Academic freedom faces ‘grave threat’ from parliament

Yojana Sharma

The way one expert witness invited to a Singaporean parliamentary committee hearing on ‘fake news’ was treated has caused consternation around the world. Academics have protested that using parliamentary privilege to try to undermine academic integrity will have a chilling effect on others in Singapore.


Research infrastructure allocated record AU$1.9 billion

Geoff Maslen

In one of the largest outlays ever made for Australian research, the federal government has committed AU$1.9 billion (US$1.4 billion) towards research infrastructure to secure the future of the nation’s research efforts – enough to provide 40,000 researchers with state-of-the-art equipment crucial to breakthroughs.


China’s research funding is extended to Hong Kong

Yojana Sharma

After years of waiting, Hong Kong scientists are at last to gain access to research funding from China, previously restricted to academics on the Chinese mainland, according to guidelines released last week by the ministries of science and technology and of finance in Beijing.


Universities shocked as government freezes funding

John Gerritsen

The new Labour-led government in New Zealand has shocked universities by freezing their funding in its first Budget, in an apparent trade-off for the hundreds-of-millions of dollars committed to waiving students' fees for their first year of tertiary study, a policy rushed into place late last year.


University to pay out US$500m to sexual abuse victims

Brendan O’Malley

Attorneys representing 332 survivors of abuse by former Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar in lawsuits against Michigan State University and attorneys for the university have announced a global settlement in principle worth US$500 million dollars to victims of his sexual abuse.


Female students occupy universities over sexual abuse

María Elena Hurtado

Thousands of female students are occupying facilities at Chilean universities up and down the country, demanding non-sexist education and an end to sexual harassment and abuse. Meanwhile, in one university nearly one in six students say they have experienced sexual violence on university premises.


Beijing bans promotion of university exam top scorers

Amber Ziye Wang

China has officially banned state media from promoting top scorers in the upcoming National Higher Education Entrance Examination, or Gaokao, only weeks before more than nine million students take part nationwide. Previously the publicity has drawn attention to education disparities in the country.



Teacher development is neglected in internationalisation

Ly Tran and Truc Le

It is often left to individual teachers to negotiate the professional demands placed on them by international students. That means they usually learn the skills they need in an ad hoc manner and get little recognition for them. This needs to change.


The road to sustainable world-class universities

R Ponnusamy

If India is to achieve its dream of having world-class institutions generating competitive new ideas and innovations, it needs to recognise that it takes more than funds and requires a strong focus on institutional autonomy and internationalisation.


When university tuition fees go up, diversity goes down

Drew Allen and Gregory C Wolniak

A study of tuition fee hikes at public colleges and universities over 14 years shows that for every US$1,000 increase in tuition fees at four-year non-selective public universities, diversity among full-time students decreased by 4.5%. It concludes that as tuition fees go up, diversity goes down.



Are high-stakes exams useful to the learning process?

Nita Temmerman

There are many different types of assessment methods, each appropriate for assessing different types of learning outcomes. They should all provide students with constructive feedback about their progress and help them improve. There is little evidence that high-stakes exams fulfil such a role.



University pays US$300,000 to settle ‘gagging’ complaint

Brendan O’Malley

Washington State University has agreed to pay a leading researcher US$300,000 to resolve a complaint about infringement of academic freedom by university administrators who were accused of threatening him with disciplinary action, impeding his research and imposing a gagging order.



Will Macron clarify his university networks vision?

Jan Petter Myklebust

Some European universities are already answering French President Emmanuel Macron’s call for 20 European university networks. But some stakeholders are warning of ambiguities in his vision and the European Students’ Union warns that it could create yet another form of ‘elitism’.


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French studies suspended in Turkey amid Koran row

Turkey earlier this month suspended the opening of any new French studies departments at its universities, an education official said, amid a growing row with France over a call there for some passages to be removed from the Koran, write Gulsen Solaker and Tuvan Gumrukcu for Reuters.


Country produces most science and tech graduates

India leads the world in the number of students getting bachelor degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM subjects, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, reports IANS.


Dutch universities aim to limit overseas intake

Dutch universities are aiming to reduce the number of students that come to their university, especially students coming from abroad to study, writes Emma Brown for Dutch Review.


Sydney students get no satisfaction at major universities

Sydney’s major universities are languishing at the bottom of the pile for student satisfaction, with smaller private universities maintaining a healthy lead over their larger public rivals, writes Michael Koziol for The Sydney Morning Herald.


Sexual assault support varies at universities in BC

One year after a bill came into effect requiring universities in British Columbia (BC) to have sexual assault policies, the support available at different universities varies widely and students are urging the province to fill a funding gap, reports The Canadian Press.


Scottish universities failing to attract poor students

Universities do not get enough qualified applicants from Scotland’s poorest communities to meet tough access targets, according to a new report which shows that only 15% of applications in 2017 came from the poorest postcodes, writes Andrew Denholm for The Herald Scotland.


University staff call for more autonomy from politicians

Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Association of Academic and Administrative Staff has asked that public universities be allowed to self-manage, including to review the pay packages for academics, and to be free from laws that restrict freedom of discussion, writes Yimie Yong for The Star Online.


Agreement with Elsevier cancelled over open access

A consortium of Swedish universities and research institutions will not renew its current contract with Elsevier that expires at the end of June, Times Higher Education reported on 16 May, writes Ashley Yeager for The Scientist. The move comes not long after academic institutions in other countries have let publishers’ subscriptions lapse when fee negotiations came to an impasse.


Data raises racial diversity, student debt questions

The proportion of the United States college-going population comprising non-traditional students – at least by some common indicators – has dropped off in recent years as the economy has continued to improve. And among those pursuing graduate education, the share of black students accumulating significant student debt levels has shot up sharply, outpacing other student groups, writes Andrew Kreighbaum for Inside Higher Ed.


Ten new universities built in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Higher Education Department in Pakistan has successfully constructed 10 additional universities, including two female universities, during its five-year tenure, according to a performance report issued by the department last week, reports the Pakistan Observer.


Students turn their backs on ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees

Students are increasingly becoming selective in their choice of degrees and where they want to study, according to data from the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service, writes Wachira Kigotho for Standard Media.


Women throng universities to learn driving rules, skills

Saudi women have started to learn the skills of motor driving in various universities across the Kingdom, as several universities have obtained licences from traffic police to operate driving schools for women, writes Irfan Mohammed for Saudi Gazette.

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