WENR, July/August 2001: Europe

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European Officials Push for Bologna

In a communique issued during a meeting in Prague last May, European education officials from 30 countries reaffirmed their commitment to further the harmonization of Europe’s diverse university systems, in accordance with the Bologna Process. The Bologna Declaration aims to establish a unified system of European higher education by 2010, comprised of compatible but distinct university systems in order to better facilitate the transfer of degrees and academic credits.

In favoring a system of “easily readable and comparable degrees,” the officials called for the adoption of a European credit-transfer system, for the accumulation and transfer of credits, and for the adoption of the Diploma Supplement, which provides detailed information on completed academic work to institutions or employers.

The education officials also stressed their commitment to introduce a system of bachelor’s and master’s degrees, already adopted in many European countries. They added that the harmonization of national systems and the strengthening of quality assurance would enhance the attractiveness of European education around the world.

— Chronicle for Higher Education
June 15, 2001


Tuition Fees to be Introduced

Plans have been finalized to introduce tuition fees for all students in Austria starting this autumn. Austrian and other EU students will pay a common rate of 363 Euros (US$319) per semester. All others will pay double this amount with some exceptions. Exchange students, refugees, students from countries that do not require Austrian students to pay fees, and students from developing Eastern European states will not be expected to pay the fee.

— Times Higher Educational Supplement
March 23, 2001


Inauguration of New Virtual Classroom in Sophia

The Cervantes Institute in Spain recently launched a new Cervantes Virtual Center for the study of Spanish at the University of Sofia. This classroom, equipped with modern computers connected to the Cervantes Institute, will enable students to participate in forums, and to study Spanish through the Internet. The inauguration is part of a project that is expected to establish similar programs at Charles University in Prague, Budapest’s Eovtos Lorand University and English-speaking Caribbean countries.

In addition, the Cervantes Virtual Center in Sophia will offer on-line and experimental video conferencing tutorials, and access to databases and information.

— Spanish Newswire Services
May 12, 2000


New Degrees at ACMT

The American College of Management and Technology (ACMT) in Dubrovnik, conferred its first degrees — bachelor’s degrees in hotel and resort management, and master’s degrees in packaging science– since the end of the shelling on June 2. The school was created through a partnership between the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in the United States and the Polytechnic of Dubrovnik.

The management-focused program adopts an applied approach in contrast to traditional theoretical Croatian programs. Tuition is $4,700 for Croatian students and $6000 for foreign students. Most students are Croatian, including expatriates from Germany, Italy and Austria.

For more information on this institution, please visit their Web site at: www.acmt.hr/html/acmt_overview.html [1].

— ACMT homepage


Education of Immigrants and Refugees

The French Ministry of Education recently announced that efforts were underway to better educate the children of immigrants and refugees currently residing in France. The plan aims to make their schooling more effective and aid their integration into the French school system.

The government wants to provide new arrivals with more information about French culture and society, and the structure of the country’s educational system in particular. It also plans to make training courses leading to professional qualifications more accessible to older students of immigrants and refugees. Various bodies, including a national committee, will be created to oversee and implement these measures.

— French Education Ministry
March 30, 2001

Equal Status for Regional and Foreign Languages

Jack Lang, France’s minister of education, recently declared that regional languages would be given the same status as foreign languages within the country’s curriculum. Under the new program, students can choose to study a regional language instead of a foreign one. Local authorities will be responsible for developing long-term plans for the learning and teaching of their minority languages throughout all levels of education. Minority languages, to be offered for study include Alsatian, Corsican, Catalan, Breton, Créole and Occitan (native to the Languedoc and the most widely spoken minority language in France).

— French Education Ministry
April 25, 2001

The Netherlands

‘Quality Mark’ for Dutch Programs

A bill, recently put before the Dutch legislature, proposes introducing a “quality mark” for higher education programs to ensure that quality standard requirements have been met by the country’s colleges and universities.

The quality mark, to be renewed every five years, will be issued on the basis of ministry-approved guidelines by an accreditation council for universities, and a separate agency for professional education. Accreditation will be required for all institutions that award their own qualifications and ensure students are eligible for state financial support.

— Netherlands Ministry of Education Culture and Science International Newsletter
2001, No. 2


Spain to Scrap Entry Exams

The Spanish government has announced plans to abolish the country’s long-standing national university entrance exams, and to introduce a new test for would-be lecturers, as part of the proposals for the Universities Law. Under the new system, universities will be free to set their own entrance exams or use other means to select candidates, although the methods must comply with “the principles of equality, merit and ability,” according to Education Minister Pilar del Castillo.

As a result, students may have to take exams at several universities to ensure they get a place. The government will continue to limit the number of places in popular majors such as medicine, telecommunications and engineering. The new system is scheduled to replace the much-criticized existing entrance exam by 2004.

Lecturers will have to pass a national exam before applying to universities for a job. New lecturer contracts will be introduced for instructors with at least two years of postdoctoral research or teaching experience, and a trainee lecturer contract for those who hold a doctorate but have less teaching experience. Trainee lecturers will be required to have at least two years of training at two different institutions before they apply for a post.

A national evaluation and accreditation agency will also be set up, although participation will be voluntary and there are no plans to use the results to determine funding. However, top-performing universities will receive money for specific projects based on their quality ranking. These measures, however, only represent a statement of the government’s intentions, and many changes could occur before the law is finally passed in September.

— The Times Higher Education Supplement
April 27, 2001

United Kingdom

Kasparov Sought For Chess Program

Aberdeen University in Scotland will be launching the world’s first doctoral program in chess this year and hopes that former world champion Garry Kasparov will agree to lecture there. This program aims to produce chess grandmasters and develop intelligent computers that act like humans and therefore can learn from their own experience.

According to Professor Peter Vas, computers will be designed using techniques from the study of artificial intelligence. Applicants, numbering more than a dozen so far, are expected to be skilled in computing and mathematics and will probably be required to play a chess grandmaster as part of the entrance procedure. Multinational companies have shown interest in sponsoring the course because success in developing the new software would lead to applications for all kinds of computer games.

— BBC news online
June 5, 2001

Rise in University Applications

Figures suggest that the number of applications to U.K. universities this year could reach record levels. According to the University and Colleges Admission Service, 4,000 more people (a total of 390,626 by May 16, 2001) have applied to full-time undergraduate courses this year, with a notable 11.5 percent increase in nursing to 27,000 applicants. This seems to be linked to the offer of special student subsidies to encourage people to enter the profession.

On the other hand, applications for undergraduate teacher training courses have fallen 12 percent, although the number of postgraduates applying for teaching courses, where grants are available, has increased by about 20 percent, according to the admissions service. Computer science and media studies saw increases of 11.9 percent and 9 percent respectively. Pharmacy, marketing and engineering subjects, except for electronic engineering, underwent sharp declines. In addition, statistics show an 11.5 percent increase in the number of students wanting to take a gap year. Applications from China have almost doubled since last year to nearly 3,000, making China the second largest source of overseas applicants after the Republic of Ireland.

— BBC World News
May 31, 2001

Universities Plan to Combine

London Guildhall University and the University of North London have announced plans to merge into a single institution. The collaboration would increase the total number of students to 25,000, increasing annual revenues to up to £110m (about US$157 million). It would also widen the range of subjects offered and provide a firm financial base for further growth, according to representatives from both universities.

The University of East London has also expressed interest in participating in this venture. The merger proposal, which has already been approved by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, will be finalized sometime this fall.

— BBC World Service
May 16, 2001