CROATIA: Conference boycott urged over 'plagiarist' chair

A group of academics is calling on participants to boycott a forthcoming conference in Croatia after it emerged that the chair has a proven history of scientific misconduct, the Times Higher Education has reported.

The group wrote to all 44 of the non-Croatian speakers due to take part in the fifth annual meeting of the International Academy of Perinatal Medicine. They urged the speakers not to attend the event on the grounds that the chairman, Asim Kurjak, a retired professor of obstetrics from Zagreb University Medical School, has a history of plagiarism and duplicating publications.

The case of Kurjak first arose in September 2006 in a comment article that revealed he had copied information, including data and text from a Norwegian student's PhD thesis which he published as a book chapter. In May 2007 the Croatian government Committee for Ethics in Science and Higher Education found him guilty of scientific misconduct, resulting in the cancellation of support for one of his research projects.

IRAN: Universities punish students who disputed vote

Iranian universities have begun disciplining and suspending students who took part in street protests after the disputed presidential election in June. Reports have indicated that a presidential panel has been tasked with investigating curricula at universities and this seems to have prompted the disciplinary actions.

According to the New York Times, the panel started working after recent calls to purge universities of professors and curriculums deemed "un-Islamic". For weeks, the authorities have voiced concern about the possibility of renewed protests as students return for the fall semester, which begins on 23 September.

The new disciplinary actions have taken place at universities in Tehran, Tabriz and Shiraz, where the Intelligence Ministry forwarded the names of politically active students to the university authorities. Some have been suspended for up to two years, while others have been barred from dormitories or subjected to disciplinary proceedings.

SOUTH KOREA: Busan National University fires 70 lecturers

Busan National University in South Korea has used the Irregular Worker Protection Law to sack 70 contract lecturers who have been teaching at the university for over two years. The now jobless lecturers are protesting loudly that they have been let go unjustly. According to The Hankyoreh, Busan National University's announcement stated that 70 contract lecturers who lack doctorates would not have their contracts renewed.

The university said that if they were to allow the lecturers to continue working, the school would have to grant them permanent contracts in accordance with the Irregular Worker Protection Law. This would reduce the opportunities for doctorate holders to lecture and lead to a decrease in the university's quality of education. The firing of contract lecturers using the Irregular Worker Protection Law is also taking place in private universities. In August, Korea University fired 88 contract lecturers who had worked for more than four semesters, lacked doctorates, and were under the age of 55.

UK: Professor forced to resign over marking fraud

A university professor, who claimed she was the victim of a smear campaign for being outspoken, has been forced to resign from her post after she forged the signatures of junior colleagues on students' examination papers. The Times has reported that Annmarie Surprenant, Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Manchester, was found guilty of gross misconduct for failing to read and mark adequately about 80 undergraduate life science final exam papers.

Instead of passing the essays on to a second marker to check her assessments, she was accused of making it appear that she had done so by forging colleagues' signatures. She has denied the allegations and has previously hinted at a dirty tricks campaign in the senior common room of the university's biology department.

* Jonathan Travis is programme officer for the Network for Education and Academic Rights (NEAR).