Creditors offer six-month reprieve to Greece; Four in 10 say university not value for money; Texting away intelligence

1 Creditors offer six-month reprieve for Greece (Ian Traynor & John Hooper in The Guardian) Greece’s international creditors are aiming to strike a deal to stop Athens defaulting on its debt and possibly tumbling out of the euro by extending its bailout by six months and supplying up to €18bn in rescue funds.

The negotiators representing Greece’s lenders are also proposing to pledge debt relief for the austerity-battered country – but officials stressed that a breakthrough hinged on a positive response from the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras.

A crisis meeting was convened in an attempt to ease Greece’s debt crisis before a critical €1.6bn payment to the International Monetary Fund falls due next Tuesday. Greece’s creditors were still waiting for Tsipras and his Syriza party to formally submit revised fiscal targets, pensions cuts and tax increases in an attempt to secure the six-month lifeline, concessions that the country’s leader has resisted since he came to power five months ago.

Reuters reported on Sunday that €1bn worth of withdrawal orders had been lodged with Greek banks over the weekend – on top of the €4bn that left the country’s banking system last week. With time running out, the only way an IMF default could now be avoided is for the ECB to raise the ceiling on the short-term debt Athens is allowed to sell, officials said.

The six-month rescue extension being mooted would see Greece qualify for €7.2bn in bailout funds still to be disbursed as well as €10.9bn already lent to the country but earmarked for recapitalisation of its weakened banks. The latter sum could be quickly transferred to the government to facilitate debt repayments.

2 Four in 10 say university not value for money (BBC) Four in 10 of the first students to pay higher fees do not believe their courses have been good value for money, a survey suggests. Just over half say their university course has been good value and about 8% are undecided.

Universities UK said the last national student survey found 86% of students were satisfied with their course. The survey focused on undergraduates in their final year of degree courses in 2015. These students were the first to pay higher fees of up to £9,000 per year, after the price of university tuition trebled in 2012.

Many commentators predicted there would be a fall in student numbers but this did not happen. Two-thirds of those studying science, technology, maths and engineering – subjects that require a lot of practical teaching and staff time – said their courses had been good value. And 44% of humanities and social science students, which tend to receive less direct teaching time, said they felt their courses represented good value.

One in eight students said they would still go to university if they had to make the decision again, but would study a different course – according to the survey. Just 3% said they would not go at all. Some 58% felt their courses had left them at least somewhat prepared for the future.

3 Texting away intelligence (Khaleej Times) The Utah Valley University in the US, in all its foolish wisdom, has created text-only lanes on its steps for students who love to look their gadgets in the eye – the kind who do not wish to make any eye contact with fellow Homo sapiens.

Bright green lanes on the way to the wellness centre separate the texters from the walkers and runners. Before we wade, or walk into this debate, here’s a question: why create a new lane for people who do not wish to look straight, forget about looking others in the eye?

The report said the university doesn’t want to discourage smartphone use by 30,000 of its students; it wants to get them laughing. In the same breath, it said the new lane is to ‘engage’ students. Seats of learning should think of other saner ways to engage students — like encouraging them to look where they are going and facing the realities of life. That’s engagement even in the age of WhatsApp and social media.

The university is not the first to introduce texting lanes, Antwerp in Belgium and the Chinese city of Chongqing have chosen such blind alleys in the past with limited success. But nothing beats the Utah university’s attempt at improved stairway mobility for texters. What will we think of coming up with next? An exclusive lane for text-loving motorists on highways?


About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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