Sunday, May 31, 2009

Australian universities continue to prioritise student safety

Australia’s universities today condemned the recent attacks on Indian students in Melbourne and re-stated their commitment to ensuring that staff and students of all backgrounds continue to enjoy a safe environment.

Universities Australia Chief Executive, Dr Glenn Withers expressed sincere regret at the reports of attacks on Indian students studying in Australia.

“All universities do seek to create a safe on-campus environment for everyone through measures including 24-hour security, escorting and shuttle buses, CCTV cameras, well-lit precincts and incident reporting. Off campus there is extensive liaison with Australian authorities,” Dr Withers said today.

A meeting of Deputy Vice-Chancellors (International) from Australian universities will be hosted by Universities Australia in Canberra next Thursday, to continue to discuss issues of international student welfare including concerns over student safety.

These university leaders will also be meeting with Ambassadors from several countries, including the Indian High Commissioner Her Excellency Mrs Sujatha Singh, to discuss existing and future initiatives to assure the safety of international students.

Lead Vice-Chancellor on international issues for Universities Australia, Professor Daryl Le Grew from the University of Tasmania will also attend the meeting, and said today that “we condemn such incidents unequivocally and take them very, very seriously. Student welfare is of paramount concern to Australian universities”.

“Universities are determined to ensure that international students remain safe while in Australia, working closely with police, governments, councils, and student organisations to deal with these events if they arise, and to help ensure they do not occur and we are encouraged to see a swift and strong response by police, with offenders identified and charges laid,” Professor Le Grew said.

Dr Withers also said “injury to even one student is totally unacceptable, and a strong and constructive response to any attack, however motivated, is essential. We know through surveys of the many, many thousands of enrolled and graduating students that the overwhelming experience of international students is positive, and this should be the outcome for every student”.

Universities Australia also supports the Government’s proposed roundtable with international students to discuss their study experience, including welfare and safety, along with the vital Student Services and Amenities Bill before the Federal Parliament.

“The capacity of universities to provide the right support for all students will be strengthened by the Government’s actions,” Dr Withers said.

Source: Universities Australia Media Release

From University World News - India: Call for common higher education systems in Commonwealth

India will press for a common course structure and higher education system among Commonwealth countries when the education ministers of the member states will meet in Kuala Lumpur next month.

India has been advocating having a mechanism under which the 53 member countries, Including Britain, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, will treat as equivalent the degrees awarded by different universities from these nations, a step aimed at facilitating movement of students.

“We will raise the matter of equivalence of certificates among the Commonwealth countries. We will demand evolving a framework to achieve it,” a senior HRD Ministry official told the news agency.

Read the complete news item by clicking the weblink

From University World News - Australia: New quality and standards watchdog

As part of its 2009 budget statements, the Australian government announced its intention to create a Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency. This was the result of a recommendation from a review of higher education to create a single national regulatory body.

Currently, external quality assurance for the nation's 39 universities and some other higher education institutions is handled by the Australian Universities Quality Agency. Responsibility for the other 150 non-university institutions (known as non self-accrediting institutions or NSAIs) is shared among the state, territory and federal governments, depending on the location of the institution.

While this fragmentation allows different states to adopt different policies for their respective sectors, it is problematic in other ways. With requirements varying between states, there is an incentive for a new institution to seek the least onerous rules; institutions operating in several states have multiple sets of requirements, possibly duplicative or conflicting; and as more of these institutions operate abroad, it is difficult for students and authorities in other countries to know which the relevant agency is.

Read the article by David Woodhouse who is Executive Director of the Australian University Quality Agency which is to be subsumed by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency. Click the following weblink to read the article

From University World News - Australia: International education's contribution

International education has made a significant contribution to Australia. It has grown to become our third largest source of overseas earnings, generating $15.5 billion in 2008 and supporting more than 125,000 jobs. In 2008, nearly 500,000 students came to Australia and it is the lead sector in terms of export earnings in Victoria and the second largest in New South Wales.

But international students do much more than contribute to our economy and create jobs. They build on Australia's long multicultural history that has created a friendly, tolerant and secular country. International students enrich our society. They help to provide a diverse and rich education experience for Australians. This diversity enables our education institutions to offer a much wider range of courses and campus facilities.

Read the edited version of speech by Julia Gillard, Australia's Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister by clicking the following weblink

From University World News - US: The business of higher education

In recent years, colleges and universities have encountered increasing pressure to operate like businesses. As the logic goes, businesses must survive in a cutthroat climate of unfettered competition and, thus, their organisations need to be leaner, more efficient and more responsive to the needs of their customers than not-for-profit organisations, such as colleges and universities.

In the unforgiving crucible of free market competition, only the fittest businesses (for example, those that deliver the highest quality products at fair market value), will survive. Of course, the seemingly endless government bail-outs following the 2008 financial crash cast a dubious light on the above claims, nevertheless, the notion that higher education should embrace a more business-like organizational philosophy remains deeply entrenched.

Read the complete articel by Timothy McGettigan by clicking the weblink

Friday, May 29, 2009

Blueprint to create low carbon jobs in the Hunter

The impact of climate change policy on jobs in the Hunter will be scoped as part of a new project designed to deliver a low carbon employment strategy for the region. The University of Newcastle will join with the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and the Nature Conservation Council of NSW to identify opportunities to create jobs as the Hunter region moves to low carbon industries. NSW Premier Nathan Rees yesterday announced $250,000 funding for the Blueprint for a Low Carbon Future for the Hunter Valley Project.

The research component of the project will be led by Professors Mark Bray and John Burgess from the University of Newcastle’s Faculty of Business and Law. Professor Bray said the NSW Government funding was a valuable investment in the Hunter and would provide a critical blueprint for the region’s future prosperity. The Hunter is renowned for its coal, electricity and energy intensive manufacturing industries. As the country moves to low carbon industries, it is vital to understand the capacity for these existing high carbon industries to make the transition and the opportunities for new industries. While there may initially be job losses as adjustments are made, there is also great opportunity for new jobs to emerge in the Hunter as the region develops a competitive sustainable low carbon manufacturing sector. The Hunter’s inventory of natural wind, solar and geothermal resources, its engineering, scientific and innovation capacity, and its skills base provide an excellent foundation for such investment in employment in the region.

Professor Bray said the Blueprint for a Low Carbon Future for the Hunter Valley Project would also identify priorities for action. “By working with industry groups, local businesses and community organisations we will be able to identify public and private investment opportunities to maximise the region’s share in green jobs,” Professor Bray said. The project will draw on the expertise of researchers across the University, including those in the Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment.
Source: The University of Newcastle Media Release

Friday, May 22, 2009

$5 million partnership to power EnergyAustralia's Smart Grid

EnergyAustralia will announce a $5 million partnership with the University of Newcastle today to lead smart grid development in Australia and train the next generation of power engineers. The five-year partnership will create a Centre of Excellence at the University of Newcastle for research and development of intelligent electricity networks. An international search will be conducted to fill the position of EnergyAustralia Centre of Excellence Chair, to be based at the University.

EnergyAustralia Managing Director George Maltabarow said smart grids were the biggest change to the electricity network in 100 years. "This means power engineers need broader skills than ever before - they need both IT and engineering skills. Part of building a smart grid involves training a new generation of engineers to operate it. This partnership means University researchers and students will help transform traditional electricity networks by developing and testing technologies. This will also prepare students to work as engineers on the smart grid in the future. The intelligent network will change the electricity industry in much the same way that mobile phones have re-shaped the telecommunications industry."

University of Newcastle Pro Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, Professor John Carter, said the research collaboration was an opportunity for the two organisations to build the skills and technologies needed to meet future energy needs. "Research and skills-orientated collaboration with leading industry partners, such as EnergyAustralia, are a hallmark of the University of Newcastle. The University has a growing profile in the energy sphere and this collaboration will continue to link our world leading electrical engineers with industry," Professor Carter said.

"This exciting collaboration will see the market and infrastructure skills of EnergyAustralia coupled with the research and development capability of the University's Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment."
Mr Maltabarow said the electricity industry worldwide was working on overlaying smart solutions across existing networks. This includes sensors, telecommunications technology and information systems to radically change traditional electricity networks. "These technologies will improve reliability and response times to outages, drive productivity gains and allow more renewable energy sources to be connected to the grid," he said.

"Smart grid technologies also hold the key to lowering our carbon footprint by delivering energy saving options in the home that will turn the national Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme into reality."
EnergyAustralia's $170 million smart grid program began in 2006. "Our smart grid program is among the most advanced in the electricity industry worldwide, and we are pleased to create these university think-tanks to push further into this new world. As an organisation with a strong commitment to development across the Hunter, we are pleased that this new Centre of Excellence will capitalise on the University of Newcastle's expertise and bring the region into the international energy spotlight."

EnergyAustralia will establish a second Centre of Excellence at the University of Sydney with a further $5 million investment. Both research centres will also be supported by communications and IT giants, including multi-nationals Alcatel-Lucent, IBM and General Electric.
Source: The University of Newcastle Media Release

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

India gets 10th coalition government in 20 years

When Manmohan Singh assumes office as Prime Minister for the second consecutive term likely this week, India will have its 10th successive coalition government in 20 years.The seeds of coalition governance was sown for the first time in 1989 in a country where until then a single party rule of Congress dominated the political landscape at the Centre since Independence except during the Janata experiment between 1977 and 1979. Read the complete article at India gets 10th coalition govt in 20 yrs.

Source: NDTV

A million downloads: Free Stanford course on creating iPhone apps takes off at a furious pace

Free videos of Stanford's wildly popular course on creating applications for the iPhone and iPod touch have now been downloaded a remarkable million times from Stanford's site on iTunes U in the iTunes Store. And all of the million downloads have come in just seven weeks, since the course began on April 1. The way the downloads have taken off like a rocket makes the iPhone Application Programming videos the fastest to reach the 1 million milestone in the history of iTunes U, which hosts offerings from hundreds of colleges and universities around the world.
A million downloads: Free Stanford course on creating iPhone apps takes off at a furious pace

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Circuit Breaker System of Indian Stock Market

On May 18, 2009, trading on India's Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and the National Stock Exchange (NSE) was halted for the full day as the markets hit the 20 per cent circuit breaker after they reopened at 11:55 am. The Sensex zoomed 2,110 points to 14,284 while the Nifty touched 4,323, up 651 points. This is for the first time that trading was halted for the full day on the BSE and NSE and also the biggest ever single-day gains. The markets hit the upper circuit within minutes after opening and then trade had to be halted for two hours till 11:55 am. When trading resumed, it hit the circuit breaker again.

The obvious reason for the stock market rally was the near-decisive mandate for the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in the recently concluded parliamentary elections. With the Left parties not part of the almost clear mandate for UPA, the bull run reflected the jubilation for a stable government that would take more steps to restore the India growth story again.

The extraordinary single day rise in Sensex also brought the system of "circuit breaker" to the fore. Friends and relatives started asking what is a circuit breaker and how the system works.

The system of circuit breakers was introduced by the Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI) through a circular on June 28, 2001. These circuit breakers apply if either the Sensex or Nifty move up or down by 10 per cent, 15 per cent and 20 per cent during the day. The circuit breakers bring about a coordinated halt in trading in all equity and derivative markets nationwide with the intention to cool down the market. The movement of 10 per cent and more is considered exceptional as SEBI's analysis of the movements of BSE Sensex in over 16 years between January 1984 and May 2001 showed that the Sensex moved by 10 per cent either way only five times.

The BSE implements on a quarterly basis the index based market wide circuit breaker system, which is applicable at three stages of the index movement either way at 10 per cent, 15 per cent and 20 per cent. This circuit breaker brings about a coordinated trading halt in all equity and equity derivative markets nationwide. The market wide circuit breakers would be triggered by movement of either Sensex or the NSE S&P CNX Nifty whichever is breached earlier. In case of a 10% movement of either of these indices, there would be a 1-hour market halt if the movement takes place before 1:00 p.m. In case the movement takes place at or after 1:00 p.m. but before 2:30 p.m., there will be a trading halt for 1½ hour. In case the movement takes place at or after 2:30 p.m. there will be no trading halt at the 10% level and the market will continue trading. In case of a 15% movement of either index, there will be a 2-hour market halt if the movement takes place before 1:00 p.m. If the 15% trigger is reached on or after 1:00 p.m. but before 2:00 p.m., there will be a 1 hour halt. If the 15% trigger is reached on or after 2:00 p.m. the trading will halt for the remainder of the day. In case of a 20% movement of the index, the trading will be halted for the remainder of the day.

The percentages are calculated on the closing index value of the quarter. These percentages are translated into absolute points of index variations (rounded off to the nearest 25 points in case of Sensex). At the end of each quarter, these absolute points of index variations are revised and made applicable for the next quarter. On March 31, 2009, the last trading day of the quarter, Sensex closed at 9708.50 points. The absolute points of Sensex variation (over the previous day's closing Sensex) which would trigger market wide circuit breaker for any day in the quarter between April 1, 2009 and June 30, 2009 would be as follows: (+/-) 10% means 975 equivalent points; (+/-) 15% means 1450 equivalent points; and (+/-) 20% means 1950 equivalent points.

There have been very few instances of markets coming to halt on triggering of circuit breakers ever since the system was introduced in June 2001, according to data available with the exchanges. The first time the trading was stopped because of circuit breakers was on May 17, 2004 when trading had to be halted twice in the day. Subsequently, trading was halted on circuit breakers on May 22, 2006, October 17, 2007 and January 22, 2008. On all these occasions, the circuit breakers were applied on the downward movement of the indices unlike on May 18, 2009, when the circuit breaker was applied on the upward movement of the Sensex and Nifty.
Source: Press Trust of India & NDTV

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Indian American students earn top honours

Three Indian-origin high school students in the US have won top honours in the prestigious Young Epidemiology Scholars Competition, including the first prize of $50,000.......three Indian Americans were among 60 high school students selected from more than 560 entrants nationwide to present their projects recently to a panel of epidemiologists where nearly $500,000 in scholarships were awarded. Read the complete story by clicking the web link
Source: Press Trust of India & NDTV

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Federal Budget boosts future of The University of Newcastle

The 2009 Federal Budget has delivered $35 million for the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) Building, which will bring together University of Newcastle and Hunter New England Health researchers in a world class health research facility. The HMRI Building based at Rankin Park will house 450 researchers working at the cutting-edge of health and medical research delivering benefits for the Hunter and nationally. Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Kevin McConkey, said the Government’s significant commitment to bring higher education to the forefront of the future of Australia should be applauded.

The Government’s student-centred higher education initiatives for 2009 are to be commended. The increased funding for scholarships and income support are particularly important to help address the significant financial pressure our students face. Extending student income support to Masters by coursework programs reflects the genuine need for the workforce to continue to engage in study to improve productivity.
The Government’s commitment to improved indexation for universities will help ensure that quality will be maintained as more students participate in higher education.

Greater emphasis on access and equity to higher education are central to the future of the nation, and the Australian Government’s initiatives to assist the access and retention of low socio-economic students will raise the sector’s performance in this area. The University of Newcastle is one of the largest providers in the country of access to higher education for people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Further assistance to support our efforts is welcome.

This is a strong budget for research and innovation in higher education. There are clear incentives for industry and universities to work together on major research activities. In particular, the Clean Energy Initiative is an initiative the University is well placed to take advantage of. The Government’s emphasis on improving teaching and learning quality in universities will contribute to greater learning for students, and as a result, deliver significant benefits for local students.

The Budget initiatives will transform the higher education sector over the next four years. The University of Newcastle is in a strong position to maximise the opportunities that will become available.
Source: The University of Newcastle Media Release - May 12, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

From University World News - US: No job if you only have an online degree

American universities are rejecting job applications from academics with online degrees - even if the institutions offer those degrees themselves. Good enough for luring in student tuition, it seems, but not good enough for hiring as faculty.....Today, with previously legitimate universities offering online courses and degrees, it is becoming difficult to separate the diploma mills from the bona fide programmes. That is why the value of the online degree is being questioned by more and more employers. Read the full report by John Richard Schrock by clicking the web link

From University World News - Special Report: Problems remain for Bologna

Despite last month’s apparently successful meeting of the 46 education ministers involved in implementing the Bologna process, serious issues have still to be resolved. The ministers acknowledged this in a statement released after the meeting, noting that full implementation of the objectives at the European, national and institutional level would require increased momentum and commitment beyond 2010.Among students, who are most profoundly affected by the reforms, considerable unease continues as demonstrations across Europe have shown. Read the following in-depth reports by University World News correspondents by clicking the web link

EUROPE: Bologna a success but state support needed
Progress in Europe's Bologna Process on improving coordination between higher education systems is facing fresh challenges as the reforms it sponsors throw up new differences in courses that need to be examined. A report from the EU education network Eurydice says that a close focus on individual country implementation of Bologna policies is required.
GERMANY: Different credits for Bologna
The Bologna process was given a positive appraisal by government officials and the German Rectors' Conference at last month's meeting of higher education ministers in Belgium. Students appear to be less enthusiastic about the reforms and, at May Day demonstrations throughout Germany, some even called for scrapping the new bachelor and masters degrees altogether.
EUROPE: Bologna ignores us: students
The Bologna process appears to be falling seriously behind in putting its ideas into practice, Europe's students say. They claim the process is in grave danger of being revealed as a "superficial redesign of higher education structures in Europe rather than a transformation of the whole academic and learning paradigm".
EU: Student manifesto presented to parliament
The European Students' Union has presented a manifesto for the European parliamentary elections to be held next month. The manifesto says the next parliamentary term from 2009 to 2014 provides the opportunity for parliament to go further in exercising its legislative rights and its non-legislative powers in relation to higher education "so as to put us fully on track to achieve a high-quality, equitable European Higher Education Area by 2020".

Genes 'influence decision-making'

It's not just instinct but your genes which really matter when it comes to decision-making, a new study has revealed. Researchers at University College London have found that genes affect the decisions people make and the decisions are actually influenced by the positive or negative framing of the options on offer, the 'Journal of Neuroscience' reported. In fact according to them, decision-making is actually affected by variation in the serotonin transporter gene, which also influences the response of the amygdala, an area of the brain involved in processing emotions.

"We know that people from across a variety of cultures are susceptible to biases when making decisions, and that even with training these biases are hard to overcome. "This implies that hard-wired genetic influences might play an important role in determining how susceptible different individuals are to the framing effect," Dr Jonathan Roiser, who led the study, said.

In the study, the researchers investigated two common variants of this gene, the "short" and "long" versions. They selected 30 healthy volunteers carrying either a pair of short variants or a pair of long variants. Participants in the study performed a task involving deciding whether or not to gamble with 50 pounds. They had to make the same decision twice -- first through the "gain frame" and then the "loss frame".
Source: Press Trust of India & NDTV

Indian IT companies to suffer some more

The March quarter results of information technology companies were eagerly awaited. Demand for Indian IT services was bound to suffer as some large US banks failed and the financial sector faced a near collapse in the previous quarter. This was followed by a new government coming to power in the United States and regulatory restrictions, in the form of outsourcing curbs, were anticipated. But the extent of damage to the Indian IT industry wasn't clear and the Q4FY09 results were expected to bring some much-needed clarity. View the slideshow at by clicking the web link

India slips in global consumer confidence survey

The economic slowdown has taken its toll on consumer confidence. India has fallen from the top to third in the latest round of the Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence Survey and now ranks behind Indonesia and Denmark. It is the largest bi-annual study of its kind and is carried out on more than 25,000 Internet users in 50 countries. The survey appears in Monday's issue of The Strategist. Read the story by Byravee Iyer on by clicking the web link

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