Josef Dobes, the controversial education minister in the Czech Republic, is stepping down, Radio Prague reported. Dobes said he was leaving to protest budget cuts to his agency. Many students and academics in the country criticized his tenure in office, and particularly his plan to impose tuition at universities.
University tuition fees rose by 2.58 percent in 40 developed countries in 2011 (1.76 percent when accounting for inflation), but student aid increased as well, leading to an overall increase in higher education affordability worldwide, according to a study published today by Higher Education Strategy Associates, a research group. While tuition rose significantly in the United States and South Africa, it fell by more than 5 percent in Pakistan, China, Hong Kong, Russia and Turkey; and while student aid declined in the U.S., due to cutbacks in Pell Grants, it increased significantly in Chile, Colombia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Singapore and South Africa, the group found.
Science leaders in Japan are warning that the country's universities are facing a shortage of young research talent, Nature reported. In the last 30 years, the number of science faculty members at state universities has grown from 50,000 to 63,000, but the number under the age of 35 has dropped from 10,000 to 6,800. Tight budgets have forced universities to limit hiring, leading to concerns about the future of science programs that aren't recruiting enough new professors.
Paul H. Frampton, a physicist who holds an endowed chair at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is in an Argentine jail facing cocaine charges, and he is fighting both those charges and the university's decision to suspend his salary, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported. Frampton said that the cocaine was planted in his luggage, and that he is confident he will be able to show that in court. But he said he needs his salary paid, and is frustrated that it was cut off. Frampton said that Provost Bruce Carney blocked his pay out of professional jealousy. A university spokeswoman declined to say why Frampton's pay was suspended, but university officials have noted that he is not teaching as scheduled. But Frampton said he has continued to work 40-plus hours a week in prison, and has been advising his graduate students from afar (one of his advisees confirmed this).
India is expanding its ties to Russian universities, and helping to create programs at those institutions to study India, The Hindu reported. India has just signed an agreement to create a Center of Indian Studies at Kazan Federal University, the first such India-backed institute in Russia outside of Moscow. Plans are currently under way for either chairs or research centers related to India at universities in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vladivostok and Krasnodar.
Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, is pushing a series of controversial reforms of higher education, The New York Times reported. He has added test-based admissions at the public universities and has issued evaluations that many fear could be used to shut down some private institutions, which he has termed "garage universities."
Enrolling in college in the United States remains a top goal of students at national high schools in major Chinese cities, according to a new poll by Art & Science Group, which advises American colleges on enrollment strategies. The survey found that nearly all (94 percent) of students at these high schools are interested in college in an English-speaking country, and that 78 percent are interested in enrolling in the United States. Asked to rate the quality of colleges in the United States, Britain and Canada, the Chinese students gave the U.S. the best marks for academic quality, teaching critical thinking, the quality of facilities and prestige. Britain was on top in campus beauty and an emphasis on the liberal arts. (The scores were quite close for most categories.) Asked to identify challenges to study in the United States, 45 percent worried that they might not be academically prepared, 37 percent said that they didn't know enough about American colleges and universities, 28 percent said that they were concerned about their English skills, 25 percent worried about being far from home and 21 percent worried about whether their families could afford it.
Many academics in Israel are angry over the selection of a business executive, Amos Shapira, as president of the University of Haifa, Haaretz reported. Supporters of the pick have argued that the university needs a leader who will promote change. But many in Israel believe that presidencies should go to academics. Danny Gutwein, a professor of Jewish history at Haifa, called Shapira's selection a step in "the Finance Ministry's hostile takeover of the universities." He rejected the idea that the business perspective is needed. "The premise that a commercial-business administration will rescue the universities is an addictive bit of propaganda," he said. "Essentially, as a consequence of the budget cuts the Finance Ministry forced on the universities, they have been administered as a 'business' for about two decades. And yet, experience shows that the more the universities adopt business logic, the greater the crisis in which they find themselves."