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South African University Won't Charge Hitler-Praising Student

The University of the Witwatersrand, one of South Africa's top universities, announced Tuesday that it will not bring charges against Mcebo Dlamini, a former student leader who in April wrote on his Facebook page that he loved Hitler. The remark was followed by interviews in which Dlamini defended his admiration for the Nazi dictator, saying that he was a "leader" who "uplifted the spirit" of Germans and improved the country's economy. Jewish groups in South Africa called for the university to punish Dlamini, who lost his student government position the previous year for unrelated reasons. South Africa's Constitution exempts hate speech from the normal protections of free speech -- and many in the country said that praising Hitler was hate speech.

The university took a different view on the legal issue, while also criticizing the praise for Hitler. "On the basis of existing case evidence, the legal office found that Mr. Dlamini's utterances did not breach the exceptions to the Constitution regarding freedom of speech. There are grounds for him to be charged for failing to meet his fiduciary requirements as [student government] president. However, given the fact that he has already been removed from this capacity, the university does not deem it appropriate to charge him in this regard," said a statement from the university. "Obviously, the university still holds the view that Mr. Dlamini's remarks were abhorrent and not in standing with the values of this institution. The university remains embarrassed that one of its own could have made such comments. However, given its commitment to freedom of speech as espoused in the Constitution, the university is committed to providing a space for the free exchange of ideas, whether or not it agrees with those ideas."

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A look at how European nations create incentives for universities to promote good teaching

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The incentives for universities vary by country.

New data show countries gaining and losing in European research competition

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Scientists based in Britain win more grants than those of other countries. But Belgium, Germany, Israel and Switzerland have some boasting rights as well.

American College of Greece Faces Country's Turmoil

The American College of Greece, which offers an American-style and American-accredited education for 2,500 students in Athens, is allowing students to enroll without making a down payment that would normally be required, in light of the closure of banks and Greece's economic crisis. The vote Sunday by Greek citizens against a bailout plan that would have imposed new austerity measures may add to the economic chaos. About 84 percent of students are Greek nationals, so the lack of access to their funds and family funds is significant. Thimios Zaharopoulos, provost of the college, said via email that the continued closure of banks could create problems for the college and all parts of Greek society. The college's endowment, he said, is in the United States and so should not be directly affected by the crisis.

Zaharopoulos was optimistic about the long term. "ACG has been around for 140 years and has survived multiple disasters. It will survive this one as well," he said.

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Argentine University Criticized for Sex Performance

The social sciences department at the University of Buenos Aires is being criticized for hosting a live sex performance with actors, the Associated Press reported. The event was promoted as a "post-porn" work of performance art. Rector Alberto Barbieri said that the university is investigating. He said he was particularly concerned about the event taking place in a public space where minors could attend.

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Webster Pays $95,464 for U.S. Aid Violations at U.K. Programs

Webster University was found to owe the U.S. government $95,464 for federal aid violations involving its programs in the United Kingdom administered in partnership with Regent’s University London. An examination of the agreement between Webster and Regent’s led Education Department auditors to conclude that Regent’s, not Webster, was the entity that was primarily responsible for the delivery of the programs, and that Webster had therefore “permitted an ineligible institution [Regent’s] to improperly receive Title IV [Higher Education Act] program funds and provide a program to Title IV recipients.”

Webster, a private university based in St. Louis, was found to owe $87,869 in improperly disbursed Pell Grants, plus another $1,024 in interest and an additional $6,571 to account for projected defaults on direct loans that were awarded to students in the ineligible programs.

A Department of Education spokesman said that Webster had paid the full amount and had not appealed. “Webster has met all commitments to the Department of Education,” Webster said in a statement. Webster, which has campuses in seven countries, including a campus in Thailand that has a host of problems, is ending its partnership with Regent’s.

“As the [department's] report clearly concludes, this issue was exclusive to degree-seeking students enrolled full-time in programs offered at Regent’s University campus,” the university's statement said. “Webster looks forward to identifying new campus partners in the U.K. that will allow us to continue our presence there.”

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Report on Performance-Based Funding in Europe

A report from the European University Association released on Wednesday analyzes the impacts of performance-based funding systems in which universities are rewarded for producing certain outputs included in funding formulas or meeting targets agreed upon in performance contracts. The report finds that performance-based university funding can increase transparency and accountability in public spending and can support the strategic positioning of universities. But it also finds that "its effects are hard to control and are highly dependent on other factors such as the regulatory framework of a specific higher education system, the funding system and the share of funding allocated on the basis of performance as well as the institutional profile, income structure and internal management and governance." The report also warns of unintended adverse effects of performance funding tied to teaching or research-related outputs, such as the risk of professors "slicing" their research into multiple papers to boost their publication numbers. 

 

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Survey finds academics in Ireland believe their working conditions have deteriorated

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Irish academics believe that their working conditions have deteriorated, study finds.

Mudslinging by Top Chinese Universities

Two top Chinese universities -- Peking University and Tsinghua University -- have been taking to social media, each accusing the other of unfair tactics in attracting top students, The Wall Street Journal reported. Each accused the other of using money to lure students with top test scores to attend. The Education Ministry responded by calling on colleges to maintain an orderly admissions process and not to use large scholarships to “maliciously carry off students.”

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Officials at U.S. universities in China tell Congress they have protected academic freedom

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At congressional hearing, officials at American institutions operating in China say that academic freedom is preserved.

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