The University of KwaZulu-Natal has set off a debate about academic freedom and free expression in South Africa with a last-minute decision to cancel a planned lecture by an official of the Israeli embassy, The Independent Online reported. Some academics at the university had called for the lecture to be canceled to object to Israel's treatment of Palestinians. The deputy-vice chancellor, Joseph Ayee, sent an e-mail in which he said: "I have reconsidered the sensitivities that the visit of the Israeli deputy ambassador have generated. Given the negative publicity that the visit will give UKZN, I hereby cancel the visit and the lecture." A spokeswoman for the Israeli embassy told the newspaper that "anti-Israeli elements have embarked on a campaign [of] intellectual terror which rejects everything that the academia believes in: meaning dialogue, discussions, research, understanding and freedom of speech."
New State Department guidance could complicate some activities at Confucius Institutes, which operate on many American college and university campuses. The guidance says that the J-1 visa program, through which many scholars from China come to the institutes, does not permit any teaching in elementary and secondary schools (which some scholars have done). Further, the guidance says that Chinese language courses taught at the institutes must be part of colleges' foreign language offerings or separately accredited. Some of the institutes may not meet those criteria. Many colleges have welcomed the institutes for the infusion of Chinese programming they bring to campuses, while others worry about ties to the Chinese government and an emphasis on non-controversial topics.
Groups representing English-language training programs for international students are objecting to a new federal interpretation requiring separate accreditation both for free-standing programs and those affiliated with colleges and universities that have their own accreditation. The Department of Homeland Security is interpreting a new law to require both types of institutions to have their own accreditation. But a joint statement from the American Association of Intensive English Programs and University and College Intensive English Programs asks for clarification to specify that programs that are part of an accredited college or university should not need separate accreditation. Accreditors review such programs, the statement says, and other federal laws recognize this accreditation.
A public university in Italy transitions to English-only instruction. Meanwhile, some Israelis worry that institutions there have moved too far in that direction. Can universities be both “international” and “national"?
The parents of two Chinese students at the University of Southern California who were shot and killed while in a parked car near the campus have sued the university, charging it misled them about safety issues, The Los Angeles Times reported. The suit says that the university incorrectly claims on its website that it is "ranked among the safest of U.S. universities and colleges, with one of the most comprehensive, proactive campus and community safety programs in the nation." After the two were murdered last month, the university continued to provide "clearly misleading" information on safety, the suit says. A lawyer for the university said that the institution is "deeply saddened by this tragic event, which was a random violent act not representative of the safety of USC or the neighborhoods around campus. While we have deep sympathy for the victims' families, this lawsuit is baseless and we will move to have it dismissed."
Cuba's universities have cut enrollment by nearly 26 percent, The Miami Herald reported. The cuts are largely motivated by the country's need to cut spending. The programs seeing the largest cuts are in the social sciences.
Officials at the University of Oxford's Brasenose College have become alarmed over students wearing pajamas to breakfast in the dining hall, BBC reported. As a result, a memo was sent to all students stating that "this practice evinces a failure to distinguish between public and private spaces in college." The memo added: "I trust that this slovenly practice will cease forthwith." Martha Mackenzie, president of Oxford University Students' Union, said that students wear pajamas to breakfast because "for students, the colleges become their homes over the three years that they're there, so that's why you can begin to see a more informal approach as they become more relaxed."
The Russian government is planning to launch a new program in which it will pay for 2,000 students a year to start degree programs in science, business and the social sciences abroad, but the students must pledge to return to Russia after graduation, Nature reported. The students can pick their university abroad, but it must be one of those ranked by Times Higher Education.
The election of François Hollande as France's president also marks a breakthrough in French higher education, Le Monde reported. Hollande is the first alumnus of HEC (a business-focused university) to become president, and he's the first French president to have attended a business school. (More typical educational backgrounds have been at the nation's elite military or civil service-oriented institutions.) Le Monde noted that "the HEC phenomenon" is evident in a range of powerful people in French society who are its graduates. They include business leaders, as is to be expected, but also Pascal Lamy, director general of the World Trade Organization; Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former managing director of the International Monetary Fund; Rémy Pflimlin, president of France Télévisions; and Louis Dreyfus, chairman of the executive board of Le Monde Group. The rise of these HEC-educated officials represents "profound change in the French elites."