WENR, November/December 2002: Europe

Regional News



IBO Redesigns Documents
to Fight Fraud
The International Baccalaureate Organization [1] (IBO) has recently introduced a new series of documents in an effort to combat fraudulent reproduction. Diplomas, certificates and other official documents will all be redesigned to better protect the organization and its authorized schools. A number of the new designs are printed on paper with security features, from small overall designs that are not easy to copy, to silver threads that turn black when photocopied.
More information can be found at the official Web site [1], which also has a listing of member IBO schools, as well as information on its programs.


August 2002

Hong Kong, Paris in Business Alliance

Chinese University of Hong Kong [2] and the HEC School of Management [3] in Paris are jointly offering an MBA program designed to cultivate global business executives.
The agreement reached by the two institutions states that participants may begin the cooperative program at either institution and must fulfill the admission requirements established by each program.
People’s Daily Online [4]
Nov. 15, 2002


Germany Jumps on Business-School Bandwagon
A private German business school was officially founded last month in Berlin. Touted as a future rival to leading European institutions, the European School of Management and Technology will specialize in principles of technology management.
The school aims to attract international students and faculty members, and instruction will be entirely in English. Classes are scheduled to begin in 2003, but the first MBA and master’s in public administration (MPA) students will not start until 2004.
The school will be Germany’s first major business school and has received funding from many big German companies, such as Daimler-Chrysler. So far, it has an endowment of US$91million.


New Grants Aim to Keep Bright Talents in Europe
Research organizations in Europe have approved a new program of research grants aimed at keeping young talents and scholars working on the continent. The European Young Investigations Awards program is expected to provide an average of US$1.5 million, over five years, to winners.
The proposal was adopted at an October 2002 meeting in Athens of publicly funded national research institutions from 18 European countries. The group, known as the European Union Research Organizations Heads of Research Councils [6], will administer the program.
Researchers in all disciplines will be eligible for the awards. To be eligible, researchers must be either under 35 or have between two and five years of postdoctoral experience. They may be from any country worldwide, but winners must use the grant in a member country of the European research group.
In 1999, Europe spent 1.92 percent of its gross domestic product on research and development. During the same period, the United States spent 2.64 percent of its GDP and Japan 3.04 percent.
Peloponnesians Welcome Greece’s 20th University
Greece’s newest university received its first 120 students in September 2002. The University of the Peloponnese will be based in Tripolis, the capital of the central Peloponnesian prefecture Arcadia. It will start out as a school of technology with two departments: computer science and telecommunications science.
The university eventually will have six schools, with three departments each. It is the 20th in Greece and the second in the Peloponnese, after the University of Patras. According to the Department of Education, the five future schools will be distributed among the prefectures of Messinia, Lakonia, Corinthia and Argolida. The exact locations are still to be decided.
GreeceNow [7]
September 2002


North, South Universities to Collaborate
Master-level courses in cross-border studies and in plasma and vacuum technology are to be offered jointly by Queen’s University Belfast [8] and Dublin City University [9].
Ireland Meets the Challenge of Chinese Students
The last five years have seen an explosion in the number of Chinese students who are choosing Ireland as their English-language study destination. The increase from a few hundred Chinese students five years ago to more than 30,000 today has created a headache for Irish university and immigration authorities.
In addition to classroom issues, there are serious visa concerns being raised by “fly-by-night” schools that are issuing, for a fee, attendance certificates to students who have missed class because of work. Attendance certificates are essential for non-European students wishing to renew permits.
Ireland has been the focus of Asian students’ attention due to the marketing, by language schools, of Ireland as a center for quality learning. Couple this with Ireland’s “lax” visa procedures at its embassies and consulates in China, and you have a flood of students arriving from the East. Chinese agents, working for foreign language schools, are encouraging students with limited English to apply because of the small chance of an interview being carried out by the embassy. In contrast, the British Embassy interviews all visa applicants.
Schools are now coming under closer scrutiny, and 10 schools are being investigated. The Advisory Council for English Language Schools [11] (ACLES) operates a non-mandatory licensing scheme and recognizes 104 schools that enroll 80 percent of the 200,000 language students in Ireland.
ACLES, in association with the Departments of Justice and Foreign Affairs, will be stepping up a publicity campaign encouraging students to apply only to recognized schools, while schools themselves will link into more stringent visa renewal procedures and apply stricter attendance records.
Irish Times [12]
July 25, 2002


Erasmus Scholarship to Launch in 2004
Students who wish to undertake postgraduate study in Europe can apply for full funding of their tuition fees and living costs. The new Erasmus World Scholarship program [13], announced by the European Union this year, is due to start in 2004 and will eventually provide funding for up to 2,000 students annually, but initially 4,200 students will be offered scholarships over the first four years.
Erasmus [14]
July 21, 2002
Manchester Merger to Create ‘World Class’ University
The governing bodies of the University of Manchester [15] and the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology [16] (UMIST) have voted in favor of plans to merge. Their proposal is to dissolve existing institutions and create a new university. The University of Manchester voted unanimously in favor of the proposal, while the vote at UMIST was 28-2.
It is hoped the merger will allow the new university to apply for larger research grants and to offer more student places. The merged universities will be able to offer places to almost 30,000 students – more than any other in the United Kingdom.
The new university will be functioning under its new name, as yet undecided, by 2004.
BBC News [17]
Oct. 23, 2002
UK Merger Update
London Guildhall [26] and University of North London [27]
• University of Starthclyde, Glasgow [28] and Jordanhill College
Edinburgh [29] and Moray House [30]
The Guardian [40]
Oct. 22, 2002

A-Level Fiasco Ends with Minister’s Resignation


Joint Masters Project Launched
The new European University Association [41] (EUA) Joint Masters project was launched at the Fondation Universitaire [42] in Brussels on Sept. 20, 2002.
EUA President Eric Froment outlined the purpose of the project: “The Joint Masters project will help our members work together and promote partnership as an alternative to competition in order to improve universities.”
With increasing interest in collaborative teaching and research in the European higher education policy arena, the Joint Masters project aims to establish models for creating and sustaining joint master’s programs in Europe.
“EUA wants to demonstrate, document and disseminate examples of good practices among the EUA member institutions. By working together in networks, we hope to be able to move from good to best practice taking forward the five key themes: recognition, quality assurance, mobility, course integration and student support,” said Lesley Wilson, EUA secretary-general.
This summer’s exam fiasco, which saw the re-marking of tens of thousands of exam papers, ended in the resignation of Minister of Education Estelle Morris.
In mid-September, Morris requested an independent inquiry into allegations that exam boards had lowered A-level grades under pressure from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority [43] (QCA). The authority feared too many top grades in the newly restructured university entrance exams. The resulting report from Mike Tomlinson, chairman of the inquiry, placed the blame for the confusion on the complexity of Curriculum 2000 [44] and the structure of the new AS/A2 awards.
Changes to the system, known as Curriculum 2000, altered the traditional three-course focus of the A-level to allow students to pursue five courses during the first year at the Advanced Subsidiary Level (AS-level) before narrowing their course load to a maximum of three subjects in the second year of the A-level (A2). The new AS-level counts as 50 percent of the total A-level.
As the A2 is intended to be more difficult than the AS-level, the two scores are to balance each other out and maintain the same standard as the old A-level. When it emerged that this year’s A-levels would produce unusually high marks, accusations arose that grade boundaries had been changed at the last minute, thus influencing students’ expected results.
The claims of downgrading eventually proved to be bogus, as only 0.5 percent of the 300,000 re-marked units were upgraded. Despite the apparent justification of the system, basic flaws remain. Attempts to broaden the education base of sixth formers, while maintaining the “gold standard” of three A-levels is considered, by many, as unrealistic and unworkable. This has instigated calls for a complete restructure of the system, or the introduction of a new system based on the baccalaureate program. The baccalaureate would provide the broader-based system favored by the head-teachers associations and both political parties, although many secondary schools have responded with trepidation over implementing a new system after two years of wrestling with the revised A-levels.
Proposal May Scrap Degree Classifications
Traditional degree classifications would be scrapped in favor of U.S.-style average points score and a detailed transcript of achievement under government proposals to be put forward in January 2003.
Academics and administrators who met recently described the present system as an archaic “blunt instrument” and agreed to develop plans for an alternative.
The proposals were leaked from a strategy document on higher education, and according to the Times Higher Education Supplement, sources from the Department for Education and Skills have confirmed that the classification system is under review.
Higher Education Minister Margaret Hodge is said to be concerned that grade inflation is undermining the credibility of the present system.
New U.K. Education Web site Launched
A new Web site was launched in Great Britain this spring to promote the country’s education brand. The new Education UK Web site [47] offers a comprehensive, fully searchable listing of courses available for international students, along with information on visas, fees, accommodations, the UK education system, applications through Universities and Colleges Admissions Services [48] and living in the UK. It is hoped the site will help fulfill government targets of welcoming 50,000 international students to higher education courses by 2005.
Education Travel [49]
August 2002
Bristol Tries Out SAT
Bristol University [50] is looking at the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) to see if it is a more fair benchmark of a student’s ability than A-levels. The university is asking one department in each faculty to test its students, and the scores will be compared with their university marks each year. The university will then look at whether A-level grades or SAT scores were the best predictor of their final degrees.
Daily Telegraph [51]
Oct. 9, 2002
Report Seeks Overhaul of Scottish Education
The Scottish Parliament has announced a large-scale overhaul of further and higher education in a report that establishes a “fundamental right” to lifelong learning opportunities for all Scottish citizens.
The report, published by the Lifelong Learning Committee, makes key recommendations, including plans to combine higher education funding to create one tertiary sector system. Other recommendations include providing financial support to part-time, low-income learners and conducting further research into the potential of “business learning accounts” to encourage workplace training.
The main focuses of the report are to encourage lifelong learning and widen access to traditional and nontraditional forms of tertiary education.
Alex Neil, convener of the committee, said the goal was to address the skills shortage and the unplugged talent. The committee hopes to provide access to the 50 percent of the population that do not go to university.
Ministers were due to debate the report’s findings Nov. 27, 2002.
The Guardian [45]
Oct. 28, 2002
Research Center Launched at Queen’s University
A £9 million (US$14 million) International Research Center for Experimental Physics (IRCEP) has been launched at Queen’s University Belfast [52] by Nobel physics laureate William Phillips of the University of Maryland [53]. The center is funded under the Support Program for University Research initiative through a four-year public-private partnership involving the government and Atlantic Philanthropies [54].
While building work may have just started, the center’s work is already under way, with more than 30 internationally renown physicists from around the globe having been selected as distinguished visiting professors and fellows. These researchers will spend from three months to one year collaborating with staff from the center.
In addition, 10 international students have arrived to study for their doctorates while working on IRCEP projects.
Queen’s University News [52]
Oct. 10, 2002


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