UN forum urges AsiaPacific nations to band together to fight cybercrime

Bringing together 120 participants from 19 countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region, the UN International Telecommunications Union (ITU) forum in Hyderabad aims to reinforce collaboration and development of a harmonized approach to protecting people against the growth of criminal activity on the Internet.Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, an ITU Director, noted the progress already made in global collaboration through the signing of an agreement between the agency and the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber Threats (IMPACT) last year.The agreement with IMPACT makes state-of-the-art cyber-security measures and early warning systems available to 30 ITU member States.“These services allow countries to prepare themselves against cyber threats, while at the same time ensuring coordination and cooperation at the national and international levels,” said Mr. Al Basheer. 23 September 2009The importance of bolstering international cooperation to combat the rising tide of cyber-crime across Asia and the Pacific was underlined by participants of a regional United Nations information and communications technology (ICT) gathering that kicked off in India today. read more

Universities that pressure sell unconditional offers are unethical Education Secretary warns

Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Universities that “pressure sell” unconditional offers are “unethical”, the Education Secretary has warned as he urges institutions to stop the practice.Damian Hinds has called for a review of university admissions, arguing that it is unacceptable for students to feel “backed into a corner” when deciding which offer to take up.The number of unconditional offers has risen sharply in recent years, with students now 30 times more likely to receive one than five years ago. Fierce competition between universities to attract students has seen sixth form pupils increasingly offered places regardless of their exam results.Some institutions hand out “incentivised” offers, where they tell students that their offer will be unconditional but only if they accept it as their first choice university.The universities watchdog has warned that applying “psychological pressure” or “creating an impression of urgency” in decision making could be a potential breach of consumer protection law. The Office for Students (OfS) published a report in January that examined the impact of unconditional offers on students’ decision making. It found that applicants who accept an unconditional offer are more likely to miss their predicted A-level grades by two or more grades. “It is simply unacceptable for universities to adopt pressure-selling tactics, which are harming students’ grades in order to fill places,” Mr Hinds said.“‘Conditional unconditional’ offers are damaging the reputation of the institutions involved and our world-leading sector as a whole.” Mr Hinds said he intends to write to 23 institutions – including Birmingham University which is a member of the Russell Group – “urging them to stamp out this unethical practice”. Under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, “aggressive” selling tactics are banned, which includes a seller exerting “undue influence” on a consumer by psychological means.According to the regulations, “undue influence means exploiting a position of power in relation to the consumer so as to apply pressure, even without using or threatening to use physical force, in a way which significantly limits the consumer’s ability to make an informed decision”.Headteachers have been increasingly concerned about the impact that unconditional offers have on student motivation and achievement.They have complained that students who are awarded unconditional offers “take their foot off the gas” because they are no longer concerned about their grades.Nottingham University, Sussex University and St Mary’s University, Twickenham have announced that they will no longer make unconditional offers.John Brewer, Pro Vice Chancellor of St Mary’s University, said in October that he ended unconditional offers in a bid to “maintain standards of entry”.Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the Office for Students (OfS), said: “It is not in students’ interests to push them into decisions that may not be right for them, and admissions practices are clearly not working if they are having a negative impact on students’ choices or outcomes.”A spokesman for Universities UK said there are benefits they are working with Ucas to review guidance on unconditional offers. “It is essential that admissions processes and policies are fair and transparent, underpinned by clear criteria and in the best interest of students,” they said. read more