WENR, June 2006: Europe


European Higher Education has Positive International Reputation, Generally Speaking

The findings of a recent survey conducted by the Academic Cooperation Association [1]  (ACA), “Perceptions of European Higher Education in Third Countries [2],” illustrate that Europe’s higher education offerings are perceived positively around the world, although information on study opportunities is sorely lacking.

The study, conducted between November 2004 and December 2005, was commissioned by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Education and Culture [3] to investigate how Europe might best attract the world’s finest students to their universities. The study received survey responses from approximately 20,000 international students, a majority of whom hailed from the target countries of China, India, Mexico, Brazil, Russia and Thailand. Based on the results of the survey, officials at the European Commission are working on developing a “European brand” that will be associated with European higher education as a whole and help with improving the dissemination of information available to international students interested in studying at European institutions.

Some of the key findings of the survey include:

• Europe is perceived as an economic and political union, but is lacking coherence within higher education
• Europe’s institutions of higher education are perceived positively, but are losing ground to universities in
the United States in terms of quality, prestige and innovation
• A significant number of students cited a lack of information available concerning higher education in
Europe and the opportunities available there for international students.

Finfacts [4]
May 19, 2006


Crackdown on Unrecognized International Degrees

The Bulgarian Ministry of Education [5] has pinpointed 22 institutions operating in the country that it says need investigating. Until academic standards can be assessed diplomas from these institutions, which are mainly international branch campuses, will not be recognized by the government. Students have been urged to transfer to accredited Bulgarian institutions.

International institutions that have endeavored to open branches in Bulgaria have often failed to acquire the required documentation and accreditation, but it has not deterred them from opening and offering degree programs, according to Bulgarian government officials.

Sofia Echo [6]
    Apr. 14, 2006


Universities Enjoy Growth in International Enrollments

According to the results of a recent survey by the Ministry of Education [7], the popularity of Denmark as a study destination for international students is on the rise while the number of Danish students choosing to study abroad is decreasing. The number of international students in Denmark grew by 11 percent in 2005 to 10,600.

In related news, the Danish Government in April presented its internationalization vision 2015 for the Danish higher education sector. Some of the main areas of focus for the government will be increasing the use of English as a language of instruction, encouraging participation in international projects, increasing the number of Danes studying abroad, and recruiting talented international students to Denmark.

The Copenhagen Post [8]
May 9, 2006


Munich University Partners with Australian Institutions

The University of Applied Sciences in Munich [9] (MUAS) has struck academic exchange agreements with two separate universities in Australia. Starting this year, MUAS will send interested engineering students to Victoria University [10] in Melbourne for part of their training. The University is also in the midst of organizing a student exchange program with the University of the Sunshine Coast [11] in Maroochydore, Queensland, for students studying business administration, tourism, social studies, design and commercial information management. Another stipulation of the agreement allows for faculty exchange among the universities as well as collaboration on mutual research projects.

DAAD [12]
    Apr. 15, 2006


Two Universities Plan Merge

A special committee appointed by Iceland’s Ministry of Education [13] has recommended the merger of two of the nation’s universities. The committee recommended that the University of Iceland [14] and the Iceland University of Education [15] merge in order that they improve their overall course offerings, create more flexible programs and provide an opportunity to re-evaluate pedagogy for the joint institution. Minister of Education Thorgerdur Gunnarsdottir commented that the merger would give the University of Iceland a better chance at being recognized as one of the top 100 universities in the world, one of the stated goals of the institution’s rector, Kristin Ingolfsdottir.

Iceland Review [16]
    Apr. 12, 2006

The Netherlands

Ministry of Education Guarantees the Rights of Foreign Graduate Students

In light of reports that international students have been encountering numerous obstacles in the Netherlands, the Ministry of Education [17] has enacted a code of conduct to guarantee the rights of graduate students and improve the instruction they receive at the country’s universities.

From April, all information pertaining to courses of study and student status must be provided in English and steps will be taken by university officials to ensure that all professors are proficient in the English language, the common language of study for most international courses. The code of conduct is the direct result of a legal battle over the failure of a foreign student at Fontys Hogeschool [18] in Eindhoven that reached the Supreme Court before finally being settled.

Expatica News [19]
   Apr. 25, 2006


Foreign Student Numbers on the Upswing

Only two years after Poland was admitted to the European Union [20], the country’s education export business is already reaping the rewards of increased student mobility across the European continent. Many students from EU member countries are coming to Poland as exchange students through the Erasmus [21] program to study for one or two semesters. In addition, the number of students from outside the EU enrolling at Polish universities is increasing. These students are often drawn to Poland by the relatively cheap tuition fees and high academic standards in professional disciplines such as medicine or business.

Currently, the total number of foreign students is approximately 8,000 and Warsaw University [22] is drawing the largest number of students. This number is expected to increase in coming years. Students from outside the EU who are enrolling in Polish degree programs can expect to pay tuition fees ranging from US$2,500 to $15,000 depending on the course of studies, with medicine generally being the most expensive.

Radio Polonia [23]
    Apr. 4, 2006


Bogus Credentials Stand Under Swedish Law

Sweden’s National Agency of Higher Education [24] reports that due to a loophole in Swedish law lecturers at the nation’s universities found to have invalid credentials cannot be dismissed by their employers. The flaw in Swedish employment law was exposed recently when a professor at Mid Sweden University [25] was found to have a degree from Clayton University [26], a non-accredited online entity based in the United States.

Although Clayton is not recognized by either U.S. or Swedish authorities as an accredited institution, the aforementioned professor has lectured at Mid Sweden for 11 years under the title “Dr.” Authorities handling the case now forbid the professor in question from using the title “Dr.,” yet he is immune from dismissal by the university under the law.  Swedish officials are hoping soon to adopt a new law similar to that of the state of Oregon in the United States where those who are found to utilize bogus credentials are subject to fines or imprisonment.

The Times Higher Education Supplement [27]
May 19, 2006


Visa Regulations for Chinese Tighten

Universities and cantonal governments are upset over a recent decision by the Swiss federal government to increase the vigilance with which they evaluate the distribution of student visas to Chinese applicants. Reports from immigration authorities that Chinese citizens had entered the country with student visas and either remained illegally without attending university, or migrated to neighboring nations like France or Italy prompted the government to assign the Federal Office for Migration the responsibility of evaluating visa applications from Chinese students in the future.

Traditionally, student visas have been the responsibility of each individual Swiss canton. The federal government’s decision to appropriate this process has drawn criticism from The Geneva Council of State and Geneva’s Department of Institutions, both of whom oppose the government’s action on the grounds of its discriminatory nature. French-speaking cantons are also particularly upset with the new visa controls as they have enjoyed a large export education boom from incoming Chinese students over recent years.

The Times Higher Education Supplement [28]
Apr. 28, 2006

United Kingdom  

Chinese Students Offered Work Experience Incentives to Study in UK

Chinese graduates from British universities are now being offered the opportunity to spend a year working at British businesses through a scheme announced by education ministers from the United Kingdom and China. Under the program, British university careers offices would run orientation sessions for Chinese graduates to help them secure work placements. A number of institutions are reportedly showing early interest in the scheme, including Nottingham University [29] which jointly operates a purpose-built campus in Ningbo China and Liverpool University [30], which is in the process of establishing a campus in China.

Also announced recently was the expansion of a scholarship exchange program that allows Chinese researchers to undertake doctoral programs at British universities. The announcements came at the second annual UK-China education summit in London in April. These new schemes come at a time when some British universities are reporting as much as a 50 percent drop in the number of Chinese students enrolling at their campuses.

The Guardian [31]
April 27, 2006

Blair Launches Initiative to attract 100,000 Foreign Students

Prime Minister Tony Blair announced in April the second phase of his government’s Initiative for International Education [32], which aims to attract 100,000 additional students from abroad by 2011. The first phase of the initiative was launched in 1999 and sought to attract 50,000 students by 2005; an estimated 93,000 came to study in Britain.

The BBC [33]
    April 18, 2006

Two-Year Bachelor Degrees to be Piloted

New “fast-track” degrees are to be piloted at five universities from September as British education officials look at ways of making higher education as affordable as possible in the face of increased tuition fees scheduled to be introduced with the new academic year.

The move faces a wealth of criticism from academics and university administrators. Concerns have been voiced that the new two-year degree will devalue the worth of a degree in the eyes of employers, while also introducing a culture of cramming and a lessoning of opportunities to develop critical and analytical skills. Critics also argue that teachers will be unduly burdened with extra classes in the summer, offering them less chance to conduct research and other scholarly activities.

Government officials believe that the new fast-track degree will do nothing to alter the credibility of a university degree as the requirements will remain exactly the same as for a three-year degree. The key, according to education officials, is the introduction of increased flexibility and access within British higher education, especially to students from lower income families.

The move to reduce the time it takes to earn a bachelor’s degree first announced in 2003 marks a new effort to increase the proportion of young people with higher education qualifications. The government has a target of 50 percent by the end of the decade, but projections suggest it might struggle to meet this. The fast-track courses will be piloted at Staffordshire University [34], Derby University [35], Leeds Metropolitan University [36], University of Northampton [37] and The Medway Partnership in Kent.

BBC [33]
Apr. 19, 2006

College of Law Becomes First Private Higher Education Institution to be Given Degree-Awarding Powers

The College of Law [38] in May became the first non-university to be granted the power to award degrees under government reforms passed into law last year (see August issue of WENR [39]).

The Privy Council, the government body responsible for awarding degree-granting powers, has agreed to allow the school to award undergraduate- and graduate-level degrees without ratification from a third-party university. The college currently teaches a graduate diploma in law a conversion program for those whose first degree is not law, a legal practice course for solicitors, and the bar vocational course for barristers. Students are required to take one of the last two courses to practice professionally in England and Wales. Those who take the graduate diploma program followed by one of the two professional qualifying courses will now be awarded a postgraduate award rather than just a professional qualification. Although the college has no plans to offer undergraduate law degrees, it now has the right to do so if it should so desire.

The Privy Council made its decision based on a full review by the Quality Assessment Agency [40] and a positive recommendation from the Department for Education and Skills [41].

College of Law news release [38]
May 8, 2006

Oxford Tops Guardian University Rankings

In the annual rankings published by The Guardian [42] newspaper and released in early May, the University of Oxford [43] retained the top spot as the United Kingdom’s highest ranked institution of higher education. The rankings are based on teaching quality, staff-student ratios, graduate job prospects, average entry credentials, spending per student and diversity within the student body. The results displayed that while program offerings at Oxford and Cambridge remain firmly on the top of the list, many lesser-known institutions such as Royal Holloway and Bedford New College [44] and Aston University [45] offer first-rate education as well. The top ten English universities according to the Guardian University Guide are as follows:

  1. University of Oxford [43]
  2. University of Cambridge [46]
  3. London School of Economics [47]
  4. University College London [48]
  5. Imperial College [49]
  6. The School of Oriental and African Studies [50]
  7. King’s College London [51]
  8. University of Warwick [52]
  9. University of Bath [53]
  10. Bristol University [54]

The Guardian [42]
May 2, 2006