PERU: Human rights academic receives death threats

Dr Salomon Lerner Febres, a leading academic and President of the Institute for Democracy and Human Rights at the Catholic University of Peru, has reported receiving death threats, according to Human Rights Watch.

On 5 September, unknown intruders reportedly entered Lerner's property and fatally poisoned his dogs. Two weeks later he received anonymous phone calls, at his house and university office, threatening to do the same to him. The threats are the latest in a series of incidents which have seen Dr Lerner harassed with intimidating phone calls and emails.

In his former role as President of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Lerner gathered evidence against former police and military officials responsible for human rights abuses during the 1980s and 1990s, a turbulent period which saw the country blighted by civil violence.

This evidence helped to secure an increasing number of convictions. He is also vice-president of the commission responsible for creating a Museum of Memory that will commemorate the victims of human rights abuses in Peru.

INDIA: Academics forced to work 40 hour week

Academics in India have been told they must adhere to a mandatory 40-hour working week, including a minimum of five hours a day physical presence on campus, reports the Times of India.

The University Grants Commission which regulates the Indian higher education sector has imposed the new working hours with immediate effect. The new rules state that the workload of a full-time academic should consist of no less than 180 teaching days per academic year, with a minimum six hours a week set aside for the purposes of research.

The UGC has also created legislation that limits the term of office and maximum working age of vice-chancellors at all Indian universities. Previously, individual institutions set their own regulations.

Now, in addition to a uniform and fixed term of five years, vice-chancellors are no longer permitted to remain for a second term at the same university nor are they able to work past the age of 70. If a vice-chancellor wishes to assume a post at another institution, they must also first be subject to a report evaluating their integrity and credibility.

EGYPT: Ban on female students wearing niqab

Al-Azhar University, a respected seat of religious learning in Egypt, is to implement a ban on female students wearing the niqab face veil in female-only classrooms and dormitories, reports AFP.

The university's decision reflects government concern at the growth in popularity of the niqab, which is associated with ultra-conservative schools of Islamic thought from Saudi Arabia. The Egyptian health ministry is also seeking to ban the wearing of it by doctors and nurses.
See story "EGYPT: Controversial ban on niqab in dorms"

TURKEY: Academic freedom conference in Turkey

The Network for Education and Academic Rights (NEAR) and the Scholars at Risk Network (SAR) are partnering with the Istanbul Bilgi University Human Rights Law Research Centre to organise a workshop titled Academic Freedom & University Autonomy in the Balkan, Black Sea & Caspian Regions: Measures & Strategies. The event is to be held at Istanbul Bilgi University, Turkey, on 23-24 October.

NEAR and SAR have been working closely over the past few years to defend the human rights of scholars and their communities around the world. Their structured workshop programme aims to bring together leading scholars, advocates and professionals to rethink issues of university autonomy and academic freedom.

NEAR and SAR have held regional workshops in Jordan, Ethiopia, Russia, Lithuania and Ghana. The workshops consist of structured discussions about university values - including access, accountability-transparency, academic freedom, quality, autonomy, good governance and social responsibility.

The dual aims of the event in Turkey are to better understand the regional dimensions of these issues, while asking participants to inform and shape on-going work to promote these values worldwide.

UK: Visa problems for Pakistani students

The Guardian reports that thousands of Pakistani students could be prevented from taking their places at universities in the UK because of administrative problems at the United Kingdom Border Agency office, responsible for processing their visa applications.

The crisis for the students comes after the agency moved its office last year from Islamabad to Abu Dhabi, 1,400 miles away in the United Arab Emirates, after Taliban attacks in the Pakistani capital led to security concerns. The office has since struggled to clear a backlog of 14,000 visa applications, with students claiming they have been subjected to unacceptable delays and unfair refusals as a result.

Newspapers in Pakistan have criticised the problems, warning the UK risks alienating wealthy, well-educated Pakistani students and damaging its international reputation. The agency claims it has hired 100 extra staff to cope with the backlog and that student applications are being prioritised.

* Daniel Sawney and Jonathan Travis work for the Network for Education and Academic Rights (NEAR)