WENR, Dec. 2005: Americas
University Rankers Ranked; North America Fares Poorly
Researchers from the University of North Carolina concluded in a recent study that popular U.S. and Canadian university ranking guides are of an inferior quality to their European and Australian counterparts.
The study, which appeared in the June issue of Higher Education, considers the rankings of US News and World Report and Canada’s Maclean’s magazine as being inferior to Australia’s Good Universities Guide and the U.K.’s Guardian rankings. The criteria used to rank the rankings were validity, comprehensibility, relevance, and functionality.
Degree Programs Reach Brazil’s Remotest Corners Via Satellite
In 2004, Faculdade de Technologia e Ciencias (FTC) — a 5-year-old, multicampus institution of higher education — was authorized by the Brazilian government to provide distance teaching-licensing courses in nine disciplines to some of the country’s most remote regions. Brazilian law requires that all elementary school teachers hold a three-year teaching degree. This year, the program was launched in 84 municipalities to 20,000 students who, in three years, will become fully eligible to teach at the elementary school level.
Courses are taught via satellite, which provides high-speed Internet access to deliver data and video transmissions to Teaching Units (TU) in several states. In Bahia state, there are 60 TUs receiving live lecture transmissions, many in very remote locations. By 2006, FTC hopes to enroll 60,000 students, with upward of 250 TUs spread throughout Brazil; by 2008, the institution hopes to reach 150,000 students, which would make it one of the largest distance-learning institutions in the Americas. The institution also hopes to broaden its program offerings beyond teaching licenses to public health, information technology and management courses.
Oct. 26, 2005
Laureate Acquires Controlling Share in Brazilian University
Laureate Education Inc., announced in early December the acquisition of a 51 percent interest in Anhembi Morumbi University. The higher-education company, formerly known as Sylvan Learning system, owns a large number of international universities in 15 countries, and its latest venture reflects a growing demand in Brazil for postsecondary opportunities. The country is estimated to have 3.9 million students at the tertiary level, making it one of the largest postsecondary markets in the world. Anhembi Morumbi University has four campuses in Sao Paolo enrolling more than 21,500 students.
— Laureate News Release
Dec. 1, 2005
New Secondary-School Diploma Introduced
At 30 percent, Ontario has one of the highest dropout rates among the nine provinces of Canada. To address this problem, the provincial government is introducing an alternative secondary-school diploma that will recognize a student’s training for a skill or trade, and, it is hoped, will provide an incentive to others to stay in school until the age of 18, instead of 16.
Educators and parents have expressed concern, saying the government should instead be adding a wider range of workplace-preparation courses.
— The Globe and Mail
Oct. 13, 2005
Increased Research Spending Paying Dividends
A government policy initiated in 1999 that has pumped more than US$9.26 billion into university research programs has helped turn what was a brain drain into a brain gain, according to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.
Canadian universities are well on track to meet the policy’s goal of doubling financial support for campus research and tripling income from commercializing discoveries by 2010, according to the report. The universities are working toward doubling the amount of research they do, and as a result, keeping top Canadian talent in the country. The writers of the report, which was released in October, also hope this initiative will result in “bringing Canadians back home and attracting international stars from abroad.”
— Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
Oct. 24, 2005
Annual Rankings Released
For the first time in 10 years, the University of Toronto is not in sole possession of the top position in the medical-doctoral category (one of three) of the Maclean’s magazine university rankings. It is now tied for first with McGill University. The medical-doctoral category includes institutions with a broad range of research and doctoral programs, as well as medical schools. The University of Western Ontario ranks third.
For the second year, the University of Waterloo ranks first in the comprehensive category, comprising universities with a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs that do a fair amount of research and also have professional schools. In the mainly undergraduate category the top rankings are identical to last year, with St. Francis Xavier University first, followed by Mount Allison University and Acadia University.
Maclean’s ranks the universities within each group using a number of weighted categories, including student body, faculty, classes, library facilities, reputation and financial situation. Class size and the number of classes taught by tenured professors, as well as those taught by graduate assistants, figure in the assessment, as does the amount of money a university spends on student services.
Nov. 6, 2005
Universities visit Shanghai in Probe of Application Fraud
Officials from seven Canadian universities traveled to Shanghai in November to perform spot-check interrogations of graduate students who may have submitted fake application materials to enter Canada. Applicants reportedly were interviewed for approximately 30 minutes to verify that information submitted on their application forms was an accurate reflection of their abilities and qualifications in what is thought to be the first time Canadian schools have held such interviews outside of Canada.
Nearly 300 students who were expected to enroll in master’s programs at the seven schools were interviewed. The schools include Simon Fraser University, Dalhousie University and the University of British Columbia. Many schools apparently have complained of discrepancies between some applicants’ high scores on English-proficiency tests and their ability to communicate with professors and classmates.
Graduate students now account for about half of all Chinese students in Canada.
Approximately 12,000 Chinese students apply to Canadian universities annually. In the past, graduate applicants rarely were interviewed. The problem of fraudulent Chinese student-visa applications is not unique to Canada.
— Asian Pacific Post
Nov. 22, 2005
US University Opens as Republic Aims to Develop as ‘Technology Hub’
The Stevens Institute of Technology of the Americas will begin accepting students to its new graduate program in fall 2006, according to an agreement announced in late October between the government of the Dominican Republic and the New Jersey-based engineering school.
The new university will offer both undergraduate and advanced degrees, including doctorates in engineering and various high technology disciplines, and plans have been announced to attract three more overseas institutions of higher education to the country, in its bid to reinvent itself as a center for advanced engineering, business leadership and innovative technology.
— Stevens Institute of Technology news release
Oct. 27, 2005
Trinidad & Tobago
2006 Marks End of Tuition Fees
Prime Minister Patrick Manning announced recently that beginning in 2006, undergraduate tuition fees for all Trinidad and Tobago citizens will be eliminated. The government originally planned to take this step by 2008, but record natural-gas revenues have improved the national budget beyond expectations, allowing for the sooner-than-expected announcement.
Tuition will be free for citizens enrolled in the University of the West Indies, the University of Trinidad and Tobago and the College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of Trinidad & Tobago, as well as other institutions where students are sponsored by the government.
The announcement has met some opposition from private providers; the new policy does not apply to them, and they fear they might lose students as a result.
— The Chronicle of Higher Education
Nov. 18, 2005
United States of America
GAO Report Outlines Strategies to Boost STEM Education
To address concerns of a dramatic decline in the number and quality of Americans working and researching in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in recent years, a federal report was released in October outlining the government programs that are in place to educate and produce technologically skilled graduates.
According to the report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress’ main investigative arm, 13 federal agencies spent a total of US$2.8 billion in 2004 on programs designed, at least in part, to “increase the numbers of students and graduates pursuing STEM degrees and occupations or improve educational programs in STEM fields.” About half of the programs and about two-thirds of the funds went through the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. In addition, from 1995 to 2004, the number of students enrolled in science, technology, and mathematics fields increased 21 percent (compared to an increase of 11 percent in other fields), and the proportion of students enrolled in all STEM disciplines rose to 23 percent from 21 percent.
But those overall statistics mask some problems. Most of the growth in the number of students enrolled in scientific fields occurred among bachelor’s and master’s degree students, while the number of students enrolled in doctoral programs in those fields actually declined to 198,504 from 217,395.
The GAO study also suggests that insufficient evidence is available to gauge the effectiveness of the programs. To encourage greater enrollments in STEM fields, the report recommends:
- Mandating more and better mathematics and science courses in high school.
- Improving the quality of teacher education and preparation in scientific disciplines.
- Offering more outreach to women and minority students during the elementary and secondary years, and to community college students.
- Enhancing the role of the federal government in creating a national agenda for science and technology education.
- Providing more funds for academic research, perhaps along the lines of the National Defense Education Act of 1958.
— Inside Higher Ed
Oct. 14, 2005
New GRE Test Announced
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is undergoing a major change. The new test will be available in October 2006, and new sample questions are available on the Web site of Educational Testing Service, the organization that sets and administers the GRE.
All three of the test’s sections — verbal reasoning, analytical writing and quantitative reasoning — will have different types of questions and new formats. In addition, the GRE will be much longer. Instead of taking 2½ hours, the new version will last at least four hours. The test also will no longer be offered in a computer-adaptive format, in which the difficulty of each question is determined by whether the previous question was answered correctly. Officials believe the new test will better reflect a prospective student’s preparedness to do graduate-level work. The traditional 200-to-800-point scale will be replaced with one ranging from 120 to 179.
— ETS news release
Oct. 20, 2005
Program Launched to Promote Study-Abroad Opportunities for Latinos
Laureate International Universities and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) have launched a US$8million study-abroad scholarship for Latinos and other students wishing to study in Europe and Latin America. The program was designed to help boost the number of Latino students from the United States and Puerto Rico studying abroad. This number is far lower than their peers from other ethnic groups.
The program will allow students from one of HACU’s more than 400 U.S. and Puerto Rican member schools the opportunity to study abroad at one of Laureate’s 15 universities in various countries. Students who are accepted into the HACU-Laureate International Scholarship Program will have the opportunity to spend up to one year at schools in Spain, Mexico, Ecuador, France, Chile, Honduras, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Panama or Peru.
According to projected data from the latest U.S. Census, Latino high school graduates will represent 17 percent of total U.S. secondary graduates by 2012; however, recent data from the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors report shows that just 5 percent of the nearly 191,321 U.S. students who participate in study abroad programs are Latino.
— HACU news release
Oct. 11, 2005
Missouri School, 15 Asian Universities Launch Academy
Washington University in St. Louis announced in October the creation of the McDonnell International Scholars Academy, which will bring in Asian students for an entire program of graduate or professional studies, as well as for a program of activities focused on American culture and politics.
The university will host and provide full scholarships for a group of Asian students each year as part of an effort to develop a network of top scholars, researchers and business and governmental leaders. It is also hoped the program will help build a better understanding of the United States abroad. The McDonnell Academy has been launched in collaboration with 15 universities from China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand.
The program was created with a US$10 million gift from John F. McDonnell, retired chairman of McDonnell Douglas Corp. A number of corporate backers also have committed to support the program.
— Washington University in St. Louis news announcement
Oct. 19, 2005
International Enrollment Decline Slows
The Institute for International Education (IIE), in its annual Open Doors report, reveals that 565,039 students from abroad enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities in 2004-05, a drop of 1.3 percent from 2003-04, a year that witnessed the first decline (-2.4 percent) in enrollments since 1971.
Two more recent, but less comprehensive, surveys of fall 2005 enrollments hint that foreign student numbers are moving upward. The Council of Graduate Schools released results of a preliminary survey of major graduate institutions in November showing that first-time enrollments of foreign students increased this year for the first time since 2001 (see below). And a survey of 980 colleges, universities and professional schools by seven academic organizations found that at 40 percent of responding institutions, new enrollments of foreign students increased this fall. Of the rest, 26 percent reported declines and 34 reported virtually no change, suggesting that the sector as a whole may be turning the corner and rebounding from the post-Sept. 11, 2001, drop in enrollments.
According to the Open Doors findings, India has maintained its place as the largest source country for foreign students, sending 80,466 students (+0.9 percent), followed again by China, which sent 62,523 students (+1.2 percent) and South Korea with 53,358 (+1.7 percent). Two nations with majority Muslim populations — Indonesia and Pakistan — saw large decreases of 12.6 percent and 14 percent, respectively, while Turkey saw an increase of almost 10 percent. Other data of note from the Open Doors report show that the number of U.S. students enrolling in overseas study programs is at a record high — 9 percent higher than last year’s figures.
Regardless of the increase, however, a congressionally appointed committee released a report on the same day as the Open Doors report, calling the progress inadequate. By 2017, at least 1 million Americans should be studying abroad, advises the report from the Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program.
— IIE news release
Nov. 14, 2005
Overseas Graduate Enrollment Numbers Creep Up
The number of international students enrolling in U.S. graduate schools rose 1 percent this year, despite a 5 percent drop in applications, according to the annual report by the Council of Graduate Schools.
While the increase is small, it follows several years of decline, signaling a possible turnaround in the downward trend. The largest increase in first-time enrollment came among students from nations in the Middle East, whose numbers were up 11 percent. Enrollment of Chinese and Indian students increased 3 percent, and South Koreans were up 5 percent. The increase in Chinese enrollment is noteworthy because declines in Chinese student enrollments and applications in 2004 were the largest of any of the countries included in the report. In 2004, applications from Chinese students declined 45 percent.
The number of new international students enrolling in U.S. graduate schools peaked in 2002. And because graduate studies typically last several years, the overall number of international graduate students in the United States is still down 3 percent from last year, despite the increase in new enrollments. The report also reveals the percentage of students who accepted admission dropped, from 43 percent in 2004 to 38 percent this year, meaning that fewer students are opting to come to the United States. This may indicate that some of the best students are opting to study at institutions in countries other than the United States.
— The Council of Graduate School
Oct. 31, 2005
Senate Passes Amendment Aimed at Increasing Foreign Enrollments
The U.S. Senate this fall unanimously approved an amendment to the FY2006 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Bill that requires the development of a national marketing strategy geared toward attracting foreign students to study opportunities in the United States.
The amendment, or “American Competitiveness Through International Openness Now” (ACTION), requires better cooperation and clearly defined responsibilities among the departments of Commerce, Education, Energy, Homeland Security and State in facilitating international student recruitment. Required measures include the streamlining of procedures to facilitate international academic exchanges, the development of international marketing campaigns similar to those initiated by competitor nations (such as the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia), the creation of innovative Web-based resources and more efficient processing of student visas.
— Institute for International Education
Oct. 27, 2005