WENR, Apr. 2006: Europe


Swiss, Dutch, and German Institutions Cooperate

Delft University of Technology in Holland, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich [1], and RWTH Aachen University in Germany have forged an agreement to offer a joint two-year master’s program in geophysical sciences. The three institutions have negotiated a common set of examinations and curriculum that will span three five-month sessions to be completed on each campus. The program practicum, to be completed after the initial coursework, may be completed at the university of the student’s preference. Under current European Union [2] education law the joint program is unable to offer certification from all three universities, but the participants are confident that a new EU higher education law will create that option in the future.

Nuffic News Release [3]
Mar. 31, 2006

Record Numbers of Students Utilizing Erasmus Exchange Program

More and more students are taking advantage of the European Union [2]’s Erasmus [4] university exchange program. The program, which promotes student and faculty exchange across 28 European countries, recorded a 6.3 percent growth in the amount of students who participated during the 2004-2005 school year. The program registered 144,037 students and 20,877 professors who spent somewhere between 3 and 12 months studying or teaching abroad.

Erasmus grew most strikingly within the EU’s new member countries. Student exchange numbers from new member nations in Central and Eastern Europe grew exponentially, 36 percent for students and 77 percent for teachers. The most popular destinations for students were Spain followed by France, while teachers preferred Germany, France, and Italy in that order.

EurActiv [5]
Mar. 17, 2006

European Nations Court Chinese Students

Poland, Italy, and Ireland are initiating diplomatic efforts to court more Chinese students to attend their country’s institutions of higher education and in effect secure future economic ties with the giant Asian economy.

A delegation of Polish higher education representatives consisting of university heads and professors recently held a workshop in China on the advantages of studying at Polish universities. Current numbers of Chinese students in Poland are low, around 200 of an estimated 9,000 foreign students, but Polish officials have signed an agreement with the Chinese Ministry of Education [6] that will allow for an exchange of 35 university students each year to help promote Poland’s educational offerings.

The Irish government is attempting to double the number of Chinese students it attracts to Irish shores over the next few years from 3,000 to 6,000. The Ministries of Education for each nation are currently in negotiations over the universal recognition of the other’s university degrees. Ireland also held an exhibition recently of 21 Irish universities in China to attract potential students.

In February, Italy held a forum on education cooperation in Milan with Chinese Education Minister Zhou Ji. At the forum, Italy’s Politecnico de Milano [7], Politecnico di Torino [8], Bocconi University [9] and Luiss University [10] signed cooperative agreements with China’s Fudan University [11] and Tongji University [12]. The Chinese minister said that the educational cooperation would contribute to the full development of future strategic partnership between the two countries.

People’s Daily Online [13]
Feb. 21, 2006
Unison [14]
Feb. 23, 2006

Agreement Reached on European Quality Assurance Initiative

The European Council of Ministers [15], after years of debate with the European Commission [16] and European Parliament [17], has agreed to create and sponsor a European register of quality assurance agencies in education. Based on a recommendation introduced at the Berlin 2003 Conference of the Bologna Process, the Council will develop quality assurance at the European level. Under the new system, EU member states would be able to choose a quality assurance agency to evaluate a particular institution from a list of European Higher Education Area (EHEA) approved organizations.

ACA Newsletter [18]
February 2006


Austria and Belgium Restrict Number of EU Students in Certain Programs

Universities in Austria and the Walloon region of Belgium have declared a cap on the number of European Union [2] students eligible to enroll in the two countries’ medical programs. The percentage of Germans filling placements within Austria’s institutions of medical education is up by nearly half, while a large number of French students, fleeing the difficult admissions process of their own country, are dominating admissions to neighboring Belgium’s university medical programs.

In response, Wallonia has restricted the percentage of foreign medical enrollments to a third of total enrollments and Austria a quarter. It is still uncertain whether or not the European Union Court of Justice will uphold the quotas imposed by the two nations. According to EU law, nationals of member countries may not be discriminated against due to their nationality (see Oct. issue of WENR [19]).

EUobserver [20]
Feb. 14, 2006

Austria Invests in “Elite” University

Austria, like its counterparts Germany, India, and China among others, has joined the current international trend to create an “elite” or “world-class” university that will serve as the masthead for research and excellence within its higher education system. The proposed new university, dubbed the “Institute of Technology Austria” for the time being, is slated to be a postgraduate level institution with a focus on interdisciplinary research in the natural sciences and technology. The institute will cost Austria an estimated US$640 million over the next ten years and plans to admit its first students in the fall of 2007. The temporary location of the new project is scheduled for Gugging, but controversy over that decision has brought the selection into question.

ACA [18]
Feb. 2006


New Research Center at the University of Helsinki

The Ministry of Education [21] and the University of Helsinki [22] are in the process of developing a research center for molecular medicine, genetics, and epidemiology. The new center will be comprised of two bodies, the Finnish Genome Center and the Molecular Medicine Research Center, both housed at the University of Helsinki. The Ministry of Education first proposed the idea of creating the top-level research centers last autumn with the goal of enhancing the work of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory [23] and other research centers in the Nordic countries. The Turku Center for Biotechnology [24] will contribute to the development of the project as well.

Ministry of Education Press Release [25]
Mar. 10, 2006


Two Universities Sponsor New Economics and Management Institute

French universities HEC Paris [26] and Ecole Polytechnique [27] have combined to create the Institut d’Economie et Finance-Paris (Insefi). The new institute is designed to serve as an elite finance and management school that will also develop higher education and research in the fields of economics and finance.

The new program, to be conducted in English, will start with 40 students this autumn in their first year general master’s program. The second year of study will be a specialized course organized with partner schools such as ParisTech [28]. The new institute plans to accommodate more students as its reputation grows, as well as cater to around 50 doctoral students.

Financial Times [29]
Feb. 8, 2006

Chinese Language on the Rise in French Schools

In a move that reflects the impact China’s rapid economic growth is having on education the world over, France recently named the country’s first general inspector to oversee the learning and teaching of the Chinese language in the nation’s schools.

France’s Education Minister Gilles de Robien cited the growth of foreign firms in China and close Sino-French economic cooperation as reasons for the increasing importance of quality Chinese language training in the French education system. According to the French Ministry of Education [30], there are currently 12,000 students learning Chinese and that number is growing by 20 to 30 percent each year. Chinese is currently taught in 195 French middle schools and 12 elementary schools.

People’s Daily Online [13]
Mar. 3, 2006


Education Minister Making Plans to Ensure Quality Higher Education

Despite mixed reactions from the academic community, Greek Education Minister Marietta Yannakou has announced plans to develop a government body that will assess the quality of education offered in Greece’s institutions of higher education. Greece is currently the only country in Europe without a quality assurance authority.

The new law for university assessment will be implemented as soon as the government agrees on the criteria by which universities should be evaluated. According to Yannakou, legislators have relied heavily on the European Network of Quality Assurance in Higher Education [31] (ENQA) throughout the process of designing a national system of quality assurance. The Tertiary Education Quality Assurance Authority will carry out evaluations on all Greek public universities as well as require internal self-evaluations by each institution. Degrees awarded by private universities in Greece are currently not recognized, but the government plans to reconsider this stance once the universities are evaluated by the new federal quality assurance organization.

Athens News [32]
Feb. 10, 2006


Belarusian University Reopens in Vilnius

Two years after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko closed the Minsk campus of the European Humanities University [33] (see Sept/Oct 2004 issue of WENR [34]), the Lithuanian government has reopened the university in Vilnius in an attempt to help support the institution’s estranged students. After conducting an assessment of the university’s programs and facilities, Lithuanian education authorities announced in February that they have approved the establishment and accreditation of EHU as a Lithuanian institution of higher learning, giving it the right to legally operate in Vilnius as Lithuania’s 22nd university until conditions provide for its return to Belarus. The Lithuanian Education Ministry has also requested that the university adapt its curriculum and teaching programs to meet European standards.

Of the 1,000 or so students currently enrolled at the university, the majority are Belarusians studying from their home country via correspondence, although some students have taken up residence in Lithuania, and yet others commute to Vilnius which is a two-hour drive from the Belarusian border. The Vilnius government received support from the French Foreign Ministry [35] as well as U.S.- and German-based foundations in opening the new campus. The institution’s current incarnation supports an undergraduate study program with diverse course offerings in the humanities as well as a number of graduate programs. With the exception of programs in Belarusian language, the language of instruction at EHU is Russian.

The Baltic Times [36]
Feb. 22, 2006
Radio Free Europe [37]
Mar. 10, 2006

The Netherlands

Ministry of Education Expands Foreign Offices

Nuffic [38], the Netherlands organization for international cooperation in higher education, has been ordered by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science [39] to develop more Netherlands Education Support Offices [40] around the world. The Netherlands has stepped up efforts to recruit international students in recent years and Nuffic has in turn created support offices in countries with a potential growth in the number of students interested in studying abroad. The centers serve to forge ties with local higher education institutions, promote study program franchising, and provide local students with information about the prospect of studying at Dutch universities

There are currently Netherlands Education Support Offices in China, Taiwan, and Indonesia, with offices slated to open over the next two years in Vietnam, Mexico, Russia, Brazil, India, Thailand, and Malaysia. Around 40,000 foreign students travel to the Netherlands each year to receive their education.

Nuffic News Release [3]
Mar. 13, 2006

New Studies Show Dutch Want to Leave for Doctoral Studies

A recent study conducted on the prospects of Dutch doctoral students concluded that half of all candidates in the Netherlands would rather travel abroad for their postgraduate studies. Conducted on behalf of two organizations representing PhD and other graduate students (Promovendi Netwerk Nederland [41] and Landelijke Postdoc Platform), the new study found that students consider the prospects for education at Dutch universities bleak, and almost half of all young academics would contemplate pursuing a university position abroad if positions at local institutions were not available.

President of Promovendi Netwerk Nederland, Derek Jan Fikkers, cited a lack of opportunity for career advancement in Dutch higher education as the biggest obstacle facing Dutch academics today. While most Dutch academics polled responded that they would prefer to stay in country for their careers, a majority felt they were qualified for a career at a foreign university.

Nuffic News Release [3]
Mar. 13, 2006

The United Kingdom

Universities Forge Agreement on Transnational Education

Britain’s University of Manchester [42] and Open University [43] have joined forces in a venture to offer a combined online degree to overseas students. The move comes in response to increasing demand for higher education in developing markets such as China, where traditional bricks and mortar institutions are unable to open at a rate that corresponds to the number of students seeking their services.

Despite the well-publicized failings of past worldwide online education projects such as New York University’s [44] NYUOnline, Columbia University’s [45] Fathom Project and Britain’s UKeU project, Manchester and Open University are moving forward with the conviction that higher education is on the brink of an industrial revolution. University of Manchester Vice-Chancellor Alan Gilbert is confident that in the midst of this revolution, problems of student support and online education pedagogy will have to be solved and that only the strong will survive the competition for students the world over. With India and China developing their own higher education systems at a dizzying pace and the number of foreign students enrolling in Western universities declining, the two British universities hope to be in the best position to provide education for the international students left in the wake of this education sea change.

The Guardian [46]
Feb. 28, 2006

Boom in Number of Chinese Students Comes to an End

The boom that Britain has experienced over recent years in the number of Chinese applicants to its universities has peaked and is now experiencing a period of steady decline. Universities UK [47], an organization that represents British higher education, chalks up the phenomenon to tougher visa requirements as well as increased competition from rival countries. The British Council [48] disagrees, citing the large-scale expansion of the quality and quantity of Chinese institutions of higher education as the catalyst for the current downturn in attention from China. Changxin Wu, president of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association [49] in the UK, said high costs of living, tough visa requirements, and a general opinion that they weren’t getting their money’s worth in British higher education had dissuaded potential Chinese students.

So far this year, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service [50] has reported a 13.6 percent drop in the number of applications received from China, while last year saw the number plunge a total of 35 percent in comparison with 2004 statistics. On the positive side for university recruiters, the number of graduate students applying to Britain’s institutions has remained steady, but as China’s own higher education system has improved, its potential students have become more discerning about their choices for undergraduate study. At the start of the boom in education export to China, students were under the impression that a degree from any British institution was prestigious, but as China’s institutions have become more competitive for their own citizens, potential students have become very selective about their college choice. China’s massive growth and investment into higher education coupled with their emergence as an education exporter themselves to neighboring markets such as India, Taiwan and Japan is also concern for British universities.

Whatever the causes and effects of the sharp drop in interest from Chinese students may be, many share the sentiments of Birmingham University [51]’s chancellor who summed up the situation simply by saying, “The Chinese bubble has now burst.”

Financial Times
Feb. 25, 2006