15 September 2003
Professor Loyiso Nongxa has been installed as vice-chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand. Nongxa's message was: education builds confidence; confidence builds trust; trust builds tolerance, and tolerance is vital to developing a diverse democratic society. "The biggest challenge facing Wits, South Africa, Africa and humanity," he recently told Wits students, "is grappling with cultural diversity."

Uganda Christian University has started a distance education programme, Theological Education by Extension (TEE), for those who cannot go for residential training. Rev. Canon John Kateeba, the TEE director at the university, recently hosted a conference of TEE practitioners from all over Africa. He said research had shown that in Africa most people couldn't afford the traditional residential college approach to theological training.

Arcadia University in the United States has shipped some of its students overseas, in order to relieve a housing shortage. Arcadia's Center for Education Abroad, in London, will now welcome 76 freshmen and transfer students who, until this summer, were bound for the university's main campus in Glenside. Though Arcadia's international focus is not new, none of its first-semester students had ever studied anywhere but suburban Philadelphia. Administrators had to consider other options, however, when faced with record retention rates and the largest incoming class in university history.

In Mexico, angry students who had been refused admission to a public university blocked a major highway last month, and several disappointed applicants to universities reportedly have committed suicide in recent weeks, reflecting growing frustration over the government's failure to meet the demand for higher education. The rector of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Juan Ramón de la Fuente, warned of a "potentially explosive situation" if the government did not create 800 000 more undergraduate spots.

Mergers by four higher education institutions scheduled for January 2004 are all on track, says Education Minister Kader Asmal. In a briefing to Parliament, Asmal noted that all merging institutions have now made its submissions to him. His final decisions are due to be gazetted by the end of September.

Four young men have been arrested in connection with the gang rape of a matric pupil at a Pretoria University hostel. Three of the men are Pretoria University students. Two, according to news reports, may be the grandsons of a former prominent cabinet minister who served in the government of national unity. According to a university spokesperson, the woman alleged that several hostel residents watched as the men raped her.

Education Minister Kader Asmal has announced the appointment of an independent assessor for the University of Durban-Westville (UDW). Transnet chairperson Dr Bongani Khumalo has been appointed to conduct an investigation into the alleged governance and management problems at UDW.

The Zimbabwean Labour Court has ruled the strike by University of Zimbabwe (UZ) lecturers and non-academic staff unlawful and ordered the strikers back to work. The presiding judge said that UZ authorities could take disciplinary action against any of the striking workers who failed to comply with the court order.

Things will be changing for Iraq's premier university, the University of the Two Rivers, known up to the fall of Baghdad as Saddam University. Previously, students, who were admitted strictly on merit, were given special perquisites, such as free meals, whilst top-notch professors were handpicked and paid double what their peers elsewhere received. Under a new American plan, all universities in Iraq will be treated equally, but many scholars at the University of the Two Rivers worry that, as their budget shrinks, so will the quality of their academic programmes.

A group of university historians and archaeologists in India has criticised a government report on the excavation of a disputed religious site in the northern town of Ayodhya, calling it biased and based on erroneous information. The Allahabad High Court ordered the excavation in an effort to settle the long-running and often bloody controversy over whether Hindus or Muslims may claim the two-acre spot, and in late August, the government's Archaeological Survey of India released a report saying that researchers had found evidence that a Hindu temple - rather than, as some claimed, an Islamic religious building - did indeed lie beneath the ruins of the Babri mosque. One historian has however, called the report a "figment of the imagination", while a noted scholar of medieval Indian history said that flower motifs and glazed pottery that were unearthed are Muslim, not Hindu, in origin.

Shahrnush Parsipur, an Iranian novelist whose nine books - some of which were written in prison - are banned in Iran, will serve as the inaugural International Writers Project Fellow at the US' Brown University this year. Coordinated by Brown's creative-writing programme and its Watson Institute for International Studies and financed by the William H. Donner Foundation, the fellowship offers international writers "who risk danger within their home country for artistic free expression . . . a one-year residency to practice their craft in safety within a supportive environment".

Sources: Independent Online,, The Chronicle for Higher Education

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