How do US college students spend their valuable financial aid once tuition, housing and books are covered? Recent survey findings suggest perhaps hundreds of thousands of students pour that extra money into trendy yet risky cryptocurrencies, offering an odd counter-narrative to that of the vulnerable undergraduate, at risk of hunger or homelessness. A survey of 1,000 college students conducted by Student Loan Report found that about one in five students with loans reported using student aid to buy Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, presumably in the hope that recent eye-popping increases in value could help pay off their debt. More than 21 per cent said they’d used student loan money “to invest in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin”. Recent federal statistics show that about two-thirds of the US’s 16 million college students have relied on loans to pay for college in recent years. Even if just one in 10 invested in cryptocurrencies, that would total more than one million amateur investors. – Greg Toppo, Inside Higher Ed. Read more

Union members have voted by a two-to-one margin to accept a deal aimed at ending UK higher education’s pension dispute, triggering the suspension of industrial action that bought huge disruption to campuses. The University and College Union said 64 per cent of members had voted to accept a deal offered by Universities UK on the future of the Universities Superannuation Scheme. Thirty-six per cent of voting members voted against the offer, on a turnout of 63.5 per cent. The agreement follows 14 days of strikes at 65 universities and represents a victory for Sally Hunt, the UCU general secretary, who had urged acceptance a “yes” vote in the face of vociferous opposition from some union branches. The deal will also come as a relief to the UUK leadership, which was under increasing pressure to end a dispute which many viewed as having poisoned relations on campuses and had been forced to drop its original proposal to end the element of the USS that guaranteed members a set level of income in retirement. A further 14 days of strikes, timed to hit universities’ examination and assessment periods, have now been called off. – Chris Havergal, Times Higher. Read more

China’s higher education and research system hamstrings researchers with bureaucratic requirements, rewards quantity over quality and stifles the creativity and critical thinking necessary to achieve innovative breakthroughs, a comprehensive study of the country’s research environment has found. “Despite China’s improvements in overall research output, there remain numerous challenges within its research environment that could prevent China from becoming the global leader in science and technology that it wants to become,” says the research paper ‘China’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Research Environment: A snapshot’.  China “still has a long way to go” to become a science and technology superpower, says Xueying Han, a co-author of the paper. China’s research and development spending was officially put at US$279 billion last year, a rise of 11 per cent on the previous year. – Yojana Sharma, University World News. Read more

The US-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies – the only think tank in Washington devoted to Korean Peninsula issues – will close next month after a dispute over funding and academic independence with the government in Seoul. The South Korean government, which has backed the institute since its inception in 2006 to promote the study of Korean issues, said it will cut off funding in May. Robert Gallucci, chairman of the institute, said the move was a direct result of the managers’ refusal to follow instructions from the South Korean government to fire the institute’s director and assistant director. “It’s utterly inappropriate for a foreign government, and an ally by the way, to threaten an American academic institution this way,” said Gallucci. “It’s just incredibly and wildly inappropriate.” – Anna Fifield, The Washington Post. Read more

Turkey’s international cultural and language body, the Yunus Emre Enstitüsü, has recorded progress in its latest forays into sub-Saharan Africa, where in 2017 it established new learning centres in Ethiopia and South Africa. Ethiopian universities report an enrolment of 900 students in 2018, just months after teaching of Turkish language commenced in three universities in the country. The universities, including Addis Ababa, Mekelle and Wollo, started admitting students into Turkish language classes in January, a year after the Turkish language and cultural institute opened a hub in the country. Students are learning Turkish, alongside programs in law, social sciences, accounting and engineering, with the hope of winning scholarships for graduate studies in Turkey, or with the hope of getting employment in Turkish companies that are increasingly investing in Africa. It is part of efforts to promote Turkish “cultural heritage to the world, through Turkish language by way of academic cooperation,” according to the YEE website. – Maina Waruru, The PIE News. Read more


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