WENR, May/June 2004: Europe
OECD Database of Recognized Institutions Nears Completion
A database for people to check out particular universities and their accreditation is at an advanced stage. Its creation is a response to the increasing cross-border flow of students. New mobility figures for the top 16 sending countries were disclosed in March at a meeting of Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) education ministers. China was the clear leader with 124,000 students in OECD countries in 2001, followed by Korea (70,523), India (61,179) and Greece (55,074).
National systems have supplied the information for the database. Bogus institutions should not get past the national systems, so they will not appear on the list. The project is a result of two joint initiatives by OECD and UNESCO, although it is unclear on which Web site the database will be posted. The initiative involves the collection of nonbinding international guidelines on quality assurance, accreditation and recognition of qualifications. These are necessary because the increased trade in education has created regulatory gaps that trade agreements will not fill.
— The Times Higher Education Supplement
March 26, 2004
Erasmus Continues to Shine
A European Commission assessment of the Socrates-Erasmus National Agency shows the continued popularity in 2002-03 of the Erasmus program, which helps fund and promote study and teach abroad programs among institutions of higher education in member countries.
The number of Erasmus students increased 7.4 percent over the previous year, to 124,000. Spain remains the favorite destination country, and the countries of Southern Europe continue their steady growth in the number of students they send abroad. Incoming students to newly integrated EU countries have increased 25 percent.
The full report is available HERE
— European Commission news release
March 29, 2004
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Failure to Pass Higher Education Law Threatens Future
The State Parliament has failed again to pass the proposed Higher Education Law. The consequences for failing to reach an agreement means the region’s cash-strapped universities will be denied US$12 million from the World Bank, which required structural changes for the release of the funds. Failure to pass the bill also has consequences for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s (BiH) place in the European Higher Education Area, which it pledged to join at the Bologna Process Summit of Ministers in Berlin in September 2003.
Foreign-degree recognition in BiH remains a lengthy and opaque process, which discourages mobility both in and out of the country among workers, students and lecturers. Observers believe that unless those deputies who are against the new law can put the interests of the people first, they will accelerate the already-serious exodus of motivated and ambitious young people from BiH to countries in Europe and beyond. The diaspora will continue to be discouraged from returning to contribute to reforms because they will be unable to seek recognition of their foreign-earned qualifications.
At present, funding remains a cantonal (there are more than 13 cantons and, hence, ministers of education in the country) responsibility and is administered at the faculty level rather than by central institutional administrators. This has led to duplication and ineffective use of the increasingly limited funds available to university administrators. Measures addressing mobility, recognition, funding and quality assurance are all contained within the Framework Law; however, the increasingly inefficient status quo will remain until cantonal leaders from the various ethnic regions can sacrifice the powers of their entity in favor of the future of the whole.
— BiH Federal News Agency
May 11, 2004
International Students to be Charged Fees
Stating “Denmark should take part in the international market for higher education,” the government announced in April a new strategy for the internationalization of its education sector.
Plans include greater student and teacher mobility, better marketing to attract more foreign students (including e-learning initiatives), more programs in English and the introduction of tuition fees for non-European Union/European Economic Area (EU/EEA) students. Financial support will be available for a portion of students from outside the EU/EEA, but the majority will be charged fees. Denmark’s introduction of fees for overseas students is a first in Scandinavia.
— ACA Newsletter
May 14, 2004
Marketing Grapes a Recent Vintage
Tired of playing second fiddle to the French in all things viticultural, the MIB School of Management in Trieste recently inaugurated its master’s degree in business administration tailored especially for the wine industry. Previously, ambitiously minded managers would have to trek to France’s Ecole de Management in Bordeaux.
MIB’s 15-month wine program costs almost US$20,000 and has sections on marketing, finance, legislation, strategic management, personnel management, business development and tourism. The aim is to help small vineyards obtain economies of scale while still maintaining their local identities. In contrast, the Bordeaux program offers a prestigious MBA in management aimed at large French and U.S. producers. Italian wine producers traditionally have been hampered by their small size and unwillingness to work together, despite the fact that they have enjoyed increasing international acclaim for their vintages.
It is only in the past 20 years that Italian winemakers have taken a market-oriented approach, so the desire to invest in training is still fairly limited. The school enrolled its first class of 20 students in November 2003.
— The Wall Street Journal
April 5, 2004
Alternative Entrance Program a Success
One of the country’s most elite institutions, l’Institut des Sciences Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po) — attended by France’s last two presidents — has broken with tradition and set up an alternative entrance procedure that does not include its daunting written exam.
More than 80 percent of first-year students who take the written exam come from wealthy families, and attending Sciences Po virtually guarantees a bright future. To combat increasingly exclusive enrollment trends, the institution signed agreements in 2001 with 30 lycées from some of the country’s most deprived areas. Under the agreements, students can sign up for the alternative entrance procedure if the school supports them in the process. Instead of taking one of France’s most difficult entrance exams, applicants must prepare a press review on a topic of their choice over six weeks and analyze it in an essay. They must then pass their high school qualification, the baccalaureat, on the first attempt and prepare an oral exam. Once students are admitted, they are assigned a tutor — a rarity in France — who follows their progress.
So far, the program has been a success. None of the 87 recruited students has dropped out and by the second year, the scores achieved by the majority of them match those of their peers. Two-thirds of these students are from working-class families; 80 percent have a parent born outside France, and half have parents from overseas. Other grand écoles are slowly realizing they need to diversify their recruits, but for the time being, France’s top schools remain overwhelmingly white and middle class.
— The Guardian
April 7, 2004
Franco-German Alliance Backs Tri-National Degrees
Franco-German University, an association of universities from France and Germany, is supporting the establishment of tri-national degree programs at 10 French and German universities with a start-up grant. The aim is to develop combined degree programs with so-called “third-country partner universities” in Poland, Russia, Spain, Italy and Switzerland by the end of 2005. Students will be able to earn recognized qualifications from all three universities, when possible, without having to extend the duration of the program. The tri-national degree programs will be in economics, natural sciences and the arts and humanities.
— Deutsche Welle
March 2, 2004
‘Elite’ Universities to Compete for Funds
Federal Education Minister Edelgard Bulmahn and the 16 state ministers for education agreed in April to promote “elite” universities and research facilities. These institutions would then compete for more than 250 million euros (US$308 million) over a five-year period. It is believed that the quality of research in Germany will not improve without increased competition.
Bulmahn initially wanted to support the five best schools among Germany’s 350 universities; the states preferred a model that funds individual departments and institutes. Under a compromise, targeted support for outstanding departments or cooperation programs with external research centers will also be possible, even though only universities as a whole can apply for funding.
The decision follows a government program announced in January whose aim is to restore the international competitiveness of Germany’s underfunded university system. A number of issues is expected to be resolved by the end of June, including the percentage of funding granted by federal and state governments and the number of universities to be selected.
April 2, 2004
New Government Offers Hope to Education
Spanish universities face many changes with the surprise nomination of a new Socialist government. The new government has promised to increase funding and to reverse changes pushed through by the previous administration, whose eight-year tenure was marked by frequent run-ins with university rectors. Aspects of two education laws introduced under the previous government — the LOCE and the LOU, parts of which were scheduled for application this September — have been suspended. These measures included compulsory religious education and the suspension of the standardized university entrance exam (selectividad).
Other crucial changes include replacing the habilitation exam with a system of accreditation for would-be lecturers and giving universities more freedom to choose their academic staff. The new national quality agency, Aneca, which was established in 2002, will also enjoy greater independence. The new government has also placed higher education and research under the same roof again by dismantling the Ministry of Science and Technology. Funding has also been addressed with a pledged increase of 1.5 percent of GNP in four years. Among the new government’s goals are to ensure 40 percent of students get a grant within four years and to introduce student loans for third- and final-year students. The government has also promised to increase spending on research and development 25 percent annually toward a goal of 2 percent of GNP by 2010.
— ACA Newsletter
May 14, 2004
Fees For Internationals Looks Likely
Swedish Minister of Education Thomas Östros recently proposed that the nation’s universities and colleges charge tuition fees to students from countries outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) students. The motion has since been supported by a 185-140 majority within his Social Democrat party and thus is likely to come before Parliament in 2005.
If passed, it would mark a reversal in Swedish higher-education policy. While the vote at the Social Democrat Congress clearly indicates a new direction, it is unlikely that fees would be introduced in the short term for Swedish students and other EEA students — it is currently unconstitutional.
— ACA Newsletter
May 14, 2004
Controversial Bill Shelved
Prime Minister Recep Erdogan indicated in June that his government would halt a controversial bill that he had supported and promoted which would have made it easier for graduates of state-run religious schools known as imam hatips to enter secular universities.
The bill was adopted by Parliament in May, but was soon after vetoed by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, saying it threatened Turkey’s secular education system. The bill had also been strongly opposed by the ardently pro-secular military and university leaders who publicly opposed the bill. Graduates of religious and vocational high schools, which enroll ten percent of students nationwide, are required to achieve higher scores than other students in national university admissions exams in order to enter a state university.
— The Economist
June 10, 2004
The United Kingdom
University of the Arts Inaugurated
The opening ceremony for the University of the Arts London was held May 11, marking the new incarnation of the London Institute. The Privy Council has bestowed university status upon the institute, which for 17 years had been the less-well-known umbrella of its five constituent colleges: Chelsea College of Art and Design, Camberwell College of the Arts, Central St. Martins College of Art and Design, the London College of Fashion and Design and the London College of Communication.
The newly rebranded institution has 18 sites, at which it offers programs from diploma level to doctorate to more than 24,000 students. It attracts students from more than 100 countries.
— The Guardian
April 27, 2004
Cambridge Maps Out Huge Expansion
Cambridge University is drawing up detailed plans for the largest expansion in its 800-year history, with a billion-pound (US$ 1.75 billion) development on the outskirts of the city, including up to three new colleges.
The university says the project is crucial to its plans to increase student numbers by 25 percent to more than 20,000 and double its staff by 2025. The development, which Cambridge argues is essential if it is to maintain its reputation as a world leader at a time of increasing international competition in higher education, is planned for a 142-acre site northwest of the city center.
— The Guardian
May 5, 2004
Soaring Foreign Student Enrollment: Is the U.K. Prepared?
A new British Council report released in April predicts a major surge in the number of overseas students studying in Britain over the next decade. In a separate report, education experts, in collaboration with IDP Australia, warn that the United Kingdom is poorly prepared to meet the needs of the more than 800,000 international students the council expects to flood into the country by 2018.
The British Council study, “Vision 2020: Forecasting International Student Mobility,” concludes that the total number of foreign students could rise to 511,000 by 2020 if Britain maintains its current enrollment
pace. However, student numbers would rise to 870,000 by 2020 if both the country and its universities were promoted more aggressively in fast-growing markets. The number of Chinese students could be as high as 145,000 by then, compared with 43,000 now, making China by far the largest market.
In a separate warning, experts stated that academic institutions, agencies and government departments need to gear up for the influx and take a more professional approach to “internationalizing” higher education in the UK if the country is to maintain its reputation as a high-quality study destination for international students. For its part, the British Council is concerned that British institutions have yet to develop the capacity, either in terms of physical space and facilities or human resources, to cope with the kinds of numbers they have forecast.
Home Secretary Announces ‘Blitz’ on Bogus Schools
After discussions with universities and private colleges on the issue of “bogus students,” Home Secretary David Blunkett is hoping to calm the political controversy over illegal immigration without adversely affecting the international student market currently valued at US$3.3 billion a year. Private colleges are calling on the government to clamp down on bogus operators, whose visa scams are damaging their business and harming their reputation abroad.
Blunkett’s subsequent announcement on April 22 promised a clampdown on illegal immigration and a “blitz” on unethical language schools. Colleges offering language courses will have to seek accreditation, with foreign nationals only receiving student visas to attend schools on the list. The Home Office hopes to have the accreditation and monitoring program up and running before the end of the year. The minister promised to tighten up on both colleges and language students by making sure that students who do get study visas actually turn up for classes and don’t disappear into the economy, as some 5,000 annually are estimated to do.
— The Guardian
April 22, 2004