29 April 2003
Academics at the Universities of Natal (UND) and Durban-Westville (UDW) have committed themselves to breaking down the institutional barriers that exist between the two institutions by formulating a "progressive" access policy that would enable them to accommodate poor but deserving students. The University of Natal has been criticised for its perceived stringent entrance requirements while the UDW has been hailed for allowing students with lower examination marks a chance to access higher education. The access workshop, held at UDW recently, was described as the first step towards the drafting of a "progressive" access policy that would open doors of learning to those who cannot enter higher education through the normal route. The workshop also incorporated the need to have effective bridging course programmes that would equip students for their degree programme at the new university.

Students from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya demanded the removal of their Vice-Chancellor. The students accused the VC, Prof Nick Wanjohi, of failure to resolve problems at the campus. They claimed that since he was appointed the VC last month, replacing Prof Ratemo Michieka, he had never addressed them. They stormed the administration block, forced workers to close all the offices and lecture halls and then poured water in the building. The students' organisation chairman, Mr Tom Apina, and the secretary-general, Mr Richard Kebaso, accused the VC of tribalism and politicising the institution's management. The leaders charged that Prof Wanjohi's appointment was political and said they doubted his capability to head the university. Efforts by the deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Prof Henry Thairu, to convince the students to resume classes failed.

A proposal by the U.S. Department of Education would drastically restructure the Educational Resources Information Centre, known as ERIC, by eliminating its 16 clearinghouses and many of their user services, and by altering the content of the centre's database. Some education researchers said the proposed changes would hurt the centre, which is the world's largest and most frequently used collection of education-related literature and data. A draft of the proposal calls for "greater speed, efficiency, and cost effectiveness" by consolidating the clearinghouses into a single database run by one contractor. The clearinghouses, which each focus on specific areas like community colleges or rural education, would become "content areas."

The department will receive public comments on the draft until May 9, when the proposal will be revised. The draft calls for a new contractor to operate the consolidated database by October.

The 22 American universities that are seeking to raise at least $1-billion collected a total of $212.4-million in gifts and pledges during the last month for which they had data available. This month, the Texas A&M University System officially announced a campaign to raise $1-billion by 2006. The money will be used to increase the endowment, with emphasis on supporting endowed professorships and scholarships. The campaign is already more than halfway toward its goal.

Genentech Inc. has sued Columbia University to keep the institution from asserting patent infringement against the company or from charging that the company owes the university royalty payments. In a lawsuit filed in federal court in California, the biotechnology company asserts that a patent issued to Columbia in September covers the same genetic-engineering invention as one that has already produced hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties for the institution, or that it is "merely an obvious variant" of the earlier patent, which has expired.

In either case, Genentech contends that the September patent should not have been issued. It is asking the court to declare the patent invalid and unenforceable. The company is also asking the court to declare that Columbia has no right to royalties under the new patent.

Sources:, Independent Online, Chronicle of Higher Education

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