WENR, Jan./Feb. 2002: Europe

Regional News

France to Make Postgraduate Diplomas more Practically Oriented
France’s National Council for Higher Education and Research [1] (CNESER) has adopted two reform measures aimed at complying with the Bologna Declaration. One of the new decrees will introduce a postgraduate Mastaire, while the second is geared toward implementing a credit system aimed at facilitating student mobility.
In addition, France is taking steps to “professionalize” postgraduate diplomas in the human and social sciences. At a recent conference in Paris, participants debated how postgraduate degrees in those fields should be practically oriented and not lead to careers in teaching and research. They drew three main conclusions:
1) These professionally oriented postgraduate degrees must be compatible with similar European qualifications.
2) They must focus on practical knowledge such as languages and information technology.
3) Continuing education opportunities should be set up for working professionals who wish to pursue advanced qualifications, such as a doctoral degree.
Times Higher Education Supplement [2]


Dec. 21, 2001

Terrorist Dragnet Draws Controversy
German police are sifting through university databases, including enrollment listings, to root out suspected terrorists. The investigation was initiated when it was discovered that some of the terrorists responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States had studied at German universities. However, some university heads are worried that the police dragnet will inadvertently focus overwhelmingly on Arabs, and that the scope of the investigation is too wide to yield results.
In North-Rhine Westphalia, for example, colleges have been asked to submit information on every male student enrolled during the past five years. One of the schools in the region, Ruhr-University [3], will have to turn over data on 85,000 students.
The Chronicle of Higher Education [4]
Nov. 30, 2001
Prestigious University May Go Public
Bocconi University [5], a 100-year-old business school, is considering going public on the Milan stock exchange. Advocates of the plan say that it would raise capital needed to modernize and expand the university.
However, the university’s president is not keen on the idea of one of Italy’s most prestigious institutions of higher education losing some of its autonomy. If Bocconi does go through with the plan, it will be the first Italian university to become a public company.
The Chronicle of Higher Education [4]
Jan. 11, 2002
New Doctoral Program Launched in Venice
The University of Venice [6] has been named coordinator of a new European doctoral program in the social history of Europe and the Mediterranean. This program allows current doctoral students access to training offered by a network of six universities in different European countries. It provides candidates who need to pursue their research in another European country with access to training, tailor-made supervision and facilities at a host institution.
Preference will be given to candidates applying for a fellowship for eight months, but applications can be made for periods from three to 12 months. Financial support for the whole exchange period is provided by the European Union’s Marie Curie Fellowship Programme [7].
Successful candidates will receive Euro 1,200 ($US1,042) per month and reimbursement of travel costs, and will be expected to commence their fellowships no later than Sept. 1.
— Correspondence from the University of Venice
Jan. 22, 2001
Government Hopes to Boost Foreign Enrollment
By encouraging colleges and universities to attract international students, the government hopes to establish the Netherlands as a “knowledge country.” A few years ago, Dutch universities attracted tuition-paying international students. Today, however, most foreigners studying in the Netherlands are either exchange students or receive Dutch grants.
The Ministry of Education and Science [8] and the Ministry of Trade and Industry do not want to attract international students to earn money via tuition fees, but rather to strengthen relationships with the home countries of the students for business purposes. In many ways, the Netherlands is following Germany’s example in the 1950s and 1960s, when that country granted large numbers of scholarships to Indonesian students. Today, Germany and Indonesia enjoy a profitable trade relationship.
Educational institutions, such as TU Delft [9], are eager to comply with the government’s policy because they will receive funding for each student they accept. In addition, international students are needed to fill the gap left by the declining number of Dutch students studying science.
Redactie Delta [10]
December 2001
Private Education Enjoys Resurgence
Private education at all levels, from preschools to universities, was re-established in 1990. Accredited institutions have administrative autonomy, although the curriculums of these schools must be approved by the Ministry of National Education [11].
Romania currently has two types of private higher education. The first category includes higher education institutions that have been legally approved by the government based on the recommendations of the National Council for Academic Assessment and Accreditation [12]. The second type is limited to institutions that provide higher education but have not been legally authorized to operate.
State-approved institutions of higher education are legally authorized to enroll students, hire professors and research staff and conduct teaching activities. Graduates from these schools may take the licenta examination.
For more information on higher education in Romania go here [13].
— Ministry of Education
Jan. 7, 2002
New Reforms Reign in University Faculties
As Slovakia approaches European Union membership, its government has been taking steps to bring the country’s education system in line with the Bologna Process. A new bill was recently passed to only grant tenure after three consecutive five-year appointments. It also ends the legal independence of academic faculties, bringing them under the control of their respective universities.
In 1990, reforms were introduced aimed at decentralizing the country’s university system, which had been under the tight control of the Communist Party. Laws introduced after the collapse of communism sought to foster academic freedom by freeing faculties from direct university control, making them independent bodies. Each faculty had the power to hire and fire lecturers and to control courses.
While the reforms of 12 years ago were necessary to liberate universities from the iron grip of state centralization, academic professionals say they divided faculty and management and prevented the universities from developing as a whole. Supporters of the bill say that ending the legal independence of faculties is a vital first step toward embracing the Bologna Process.
Education unions and university deans do not support the new reforms, even though they participated in drafting the bill. Many feel the bill is only a temporary solution and does nothing to facilitate the development of universities.
Times Higher Education Supplement [2]
Dec. 21, 2001
First Degrees to Merge into Single Qualification
Spanish universities are currently taking steps to conform to the Bologna Declaration [14]. When the reforms are in place, first degrees will take three to four years to complete; graduate degrees will require an additional one to two years.
At present, Spain has three kinds of first degree: a first-cycle, three-year diploma; a second-cycle licentiate or professional title requiring four to six years, including the first cycle; and a separate second-cycle degree that does not include the first-cycle diploma and takes one to three years. Under the Bologna plan, these qualifications will soon be merged into a single degree.
Doctoral degrees, which take a minimum of two years to complete, are currently state-regulated, but master’s degrees are not clearly defined.
Many schools are making progress toward Bologna. Valencia Technical University [15] and Deusto University [16] are conducting pilot programs to test the Diploma Supplement [17], which carries information about the holders’ academic credentials.
Times Higher Education Supplement [2]
Nov. 2, 2002
Education Reform Bill Stirs Debate
A new education reform bill, called the Ley Orgánica de Universidades (LOU), is generating controversy throughout Spain. In December an estimated 100, 000 people, including university rectors, took to the streets to protest the law.
Critics maintain the bill, which seeks to modernize the country’s system of higher education and make the hiring of professors more competitive, is being rammed through Parliament without proper consultation. One of their concerns is that the overhaul of the system will favor private universities at the expense of public ones. In addition, they claim the LOU does not make any provisions for funding the system, which enrolls three times the number of students now than it did in 1976. Other concerns focus on changes in the way governing councils and rectors are elected, and the way professors are evaluated.
National college entrance exams have been abolished, and universities are now free to set their own admissions requirements. Student groups claim this threatens equal access to higher education, diminishes transparency in the selection process and could lead to a substantial cut in government grants.
Despite almost unanimous opposition from political parties, industrial unions, student associations and the national rectors organization, the government has refused to withdraw the proposed law. The Minister of Education said the overhaul of the current university system is necessary to improve the quality of education throughout Spain.
El Pais [18]
Dec. 21, 2001
U.K. May See Boom in Foreign Enrollments
Harsher immigration procedures imposed in the United States could lead to a windfall of international students for the United Kingdom. Even before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the British Council [19] reported a huge increase in the number of student applications from Pakistan and other Islamic countries over the last few years.
But the British Council also warned that this opportunity would be lost if the United Kingdom implemented harsher visa restrictions of its own, or if U.S. students become too fearful of studying overseas. Universities UK [20], an organization representing vice chancellors, stressed the importance of maintaining the free flow of international students, and hoped the government would not rush into any rash decisions.
However, the Home Office assured education professionals that there were no plans to enforce stricter student visa requirements because they feel current processing procedures at overseas consular services are sufficiently effective.
A larger threat to Britain would be if Americans stopped going overseas to study. In 1998-99, for example, almost 22 percent of all U.S, students traveling abroad for higher education came to the United Kingdom. Universities, therefore, are worried about the potential loss of 28,000 Americans paying full tuition fees.
Guardian Unlimited [21]
Sept. 21, 2001


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