10 November 2003

Student governance at the troubled University of Durban-Westville is in turmoil, with student leaders bickering over holding fresh elections. The university slapped restraining orders on several students for alleged misconduct. There are now fears that the fight could be intensified to attract the attention of national education minister Kader Asmal, who was expected to visit the institution last week. Armed with a report by an independent assessor, Asmal was to discuss concerns with the UDW council over management and governance at an off-campus meeting.

The South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative (SAAVI) last week started the vaccinations for the first human clinical trial of an HIV vaccine in South Africa. This is a phase one clinical trial of the AlphaVax replicon Vector (ArV) clade C candidate HIV-1 vaccine to assess the safety and immune system responses induced by this new vaccine technology. This is one of the two vaccines that were approved earlier this year by the Medicines Control Council. Researchers at the University of North Carolina and the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases developed the ArV vaccine technology. The trail involves volunteers from the United States and South Africa. The first 12 US volunteers received their vaccinations in July.

The community and individual Development Agency (CIDA) City Campus has postponed student enrolments for 2004 to 2005 with the intention of growing the institution. CIDA, a three-year-old South African institution in Johannesburg has about 1 600 registered students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds studying towards four-year university-level business degrees. Students pay fees of less than R4 000 a year, making education at the campus substantially cheaper than at the country's formal higher education institutions. It covers 40 subjects based on specialised areas in commerce and technology such as accounting, information technology and marketing, with a focus on creativity and self-confidence.

Last week a heavily armed gang invaded the University of Nairobi and robbed 31 students. Students said the 20-strong gang struck at 03h00 and broke into the wooden Soweto hostels, where they stole electronic goods, money, mobile phones and other valuables. They were armed with axes, machetes and clubs. Two students were slightly injured in the robbery. Riot police later repulsed angry students at the College of Agriculture and Veterinary Sciences, Kabete, who had gone on a revenge mission at the nearby Ndumbo-ini residential area. The students arrested two suspects and beat them. Students complained that they were unsafe because the hostels were located in an isolated area, about a kilometre from the campus offices.

One day before he was to assume presidency of Boston University in the United States, Daniel Goldin agreed to give up the post in exchange for a reported $1.8-million (R12.4 million) parting gift, ending an embarrassing public fight between the university's trustees and the man they had selected to lead the institution. The university would not disclose the details of the deal, though the amount of Goldin's buyout has been widely reported.

After plummeting for six years, the number of applicants to American medical schools climbed 3.4 % this year, and for the first time, women represented more than half the applicant pool, the Association of American Medical Colleges reported. Nearly 35 000 people applied to medical schools for the 2003/4 academic year. President of the medical college association, Dr Jordan Cohen, said that medical school applications might have lagged behind because of the time it takes students to complete premedical courses.

The South Korean police have arrested a naturalised German scholar born in South Korea on charges of spying for North Korea. In a ruling issued last month, the Seoul District Court found sufficient grounds to charge Song Du Yul with violating the anti-Communist provisions of South Korea's national-security law. Prosecutors accused Song of visiting North Korea 20 times from 1973 to 2003, receiving subsidies from North Korea amounting to $150 000 (about R1-million), acting as an agent for North Korea in Europe, and serving as a member of the North Korean Workers' Party Politburo, a top policy-making body. Song could face the death penalty if he is convicted.

Sources: Independent Online, AllAfrica, The Chronicle of Higher Education, South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative

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