03 November 2003

Three financially strapped KwaZulu-Natal tertiary institutions will receive a multimillion rand bail-out by the national department of education. They are the University of Zululand, the University of Durban-Westville and the Durban Institute of Technology. Escalating student debts and the costs of merging institutions have been suggested as reasons that threaten the financial sustainability of these institutions. The national department of education's plan is part of its R1,1-billion national initiative to rescue 15 cash-strapped universities and technikons around the country. The three provincial institutions are central to the department's transformation of the higher education landscape.

According to newspaper reports, threats, telephone tapping and a "tendency to overlook some of the very odd and disturbing things" have apparently made Saths Cooper's reign as the vice-chancellor of the University of Durban-Westville "unbearable and intolerable" for his colleagues.

In Zambia, police fired tear-gas and gunshots last week to disperse University of Zambia (UNZA) students who were protesting against a proposed increment of tuition fees for the next academic year. Students gathered at the Great East Road campus entrance and started disrupting traffic. They were forced to retreat to their rooms after UNZA authorities called in police. The protesting students stated that they would stage a class boycott and march to the Ministry of Education. UNZA Students Union (UNZASU) vice-president Mwaka Nambeye said the students had rejected the proposed increment of fees for the next academic year and disrupted a meeting, which was to discuss the same increment.

In a blow to efforts at reforming religious education in Pakistan, clerics who oversee thousands of Islamic seminaries have refused the government's offer to finance improvements to their institutions. Critics said the madrassas, as the schools are known, teach religious extremism and serve as training grounds for terrorists. The leader of the council that is in charge of the country's religious schools and colleges told reporters that the madrassas had turned down the money because they feared the government would interfere in the Islamic curriculum if they accepted its help.

President George Bush's nominee to become the education department's statistics-gathering chief, faces a likely confirmation battle in the US Senate, partly as a result of his past studies criticizing multiculturalism on campuses and accusing colleges of discriminating against white students.

Researchers who have sought permission to handle deadly biological agents, pathogens and toxins on the federal government's "select agent" list but have yet to receive approval, may continue to work past a November 12 deadline, as long as their paperwork has been filed, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said. Scientists and anyone else who could have come into contact with any of 60 deadly bacteria, viruses or toxins on the list were supposed to register with the FBI in April and subsequently undergo background checks under the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002. Several organisations, including the American Society for Microbiology, the Association of American Universities, the Council on Government Relations, and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, sent letters to both the department of agriculture and the department of health and human services, urging them to allow researchers to continue their work.

Yale University has told employees that it plans to trim as many as 780 jobs to help stave off a $30-million deficit that it expects to face in the next fiscal year. In a letter posted on a Yale website recently, the university's provost outlined how the institution planned to shore up what is now a $1.74-billion annual budget. The job reductions would affect 5% to 10% of the university's 7 800 workers and would occur over the next two years. The cuts would include clerical workers, technical workers, managers and professionals such as accountants and lawyers. Provost Susan Hale said the job cuts could be achieved largely through attrition and retirements.

Concern about campus speech codes resounded on Capitol Hill as panelists, testifying at a US Senate committee hearing on "intellectual diversity" at colleges, argued that overbroad conduct policies are stifling the free-speech rights of students and professors throughout the nation. Senator Judd Gregg, a New Hampshire Republican and the committee's chairman, said that speech codes had chilled debate in higher education.

Sources: Independent Online,, The Chronicle of Higher Education

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