WENR, October 2006: Americas
Mercosur Strives to Promote Innovation in Technical Education
This past May Mercosur– a customs union between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru – inked an agreement to cooperate in promoting science and technology at institutions of higher education and also to link their research with private companies in the region.
Discussing the possibility of cooperation in technological research and development, South American officials agreed that technological cooperation between Mercosur countries and a mutual commitment to advance innovation are seen as a vital means of increasing regional economic integration in Latin America. Recently, leaders in both Chile and Uruguay have touted the importance of innovation to their constituents as a way to boost the economy, but only Brazil has taken the initiative to pass legislation that calls for major investment in fields which are consistently underdeveloped in Latin America such as biotechnology, information technology and nanotechnology.
In light of this, Mercosur officials discussed how to better share knowledge between research institutions in member countries and private companies, bemoaning the fact that most knowledge produced by the region is rarely utilized by industry to benefit society. Brazil offers the best example for Mercosur countries to follow in increasing the flow of knowledge between higher education and industry. A law approved last year calls for tax incentives for universities and private companies that engage in partnerships, universities that increase research output, and private companies that promote innovation from within. This model for transforming university knowledge into a benefit for society and industry will serve as the model by which the Mercosur countries pursue improved innovation.
Brazil, Angola Begin Cooperative Work in Graduate Health Education
The Brazilian Federal Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education is financing a partnership between the ministries of health in Brazil and Angola to cooperate on a program that will educate public health professionals from the African nation. Under the new program, developed by Angola’s health ministry, Brazilian professors will travel to Agostinho Neto University in Luanda to facilitate a six-month master’s in public health for Angolan students. After this portion of the course is completed, the African students will travel to Brazil and complete their thesis at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), part of Brazil’s Ministry of Health.
This is the first Brazilian education outreach program that will offer education for foreign students in their home country. Angolan students will be able to study and solve problems on their native soil, a benefit of the program that is two-fold for the Angolan government, for whom the students must sign a commitment to return to their native county upon completing their studies in South America. Brazilian officials are considering expanding into other Portuguese-speaking nations with similar programs.
— The Chronicle of Higher Education
Sep. 8, 2006
Online Educator Allies with US University for Management Program
A Brazilian provider of online education and a US university have allied to provide Brazilian businesspeople an online management program. The Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV), a nonprofit institution of higher education and the largest provider of online education in Brazil, and UC Irvine Extension, the continuing education arm of the University of California- Irvine (UCI), have collaborated on an MBA program that integrates course content developed by the respective institutions and that has been translated for online dissemination in Brazil. Brazilian academics worked cooperatively with professors from UCI to develop a project management curriculum customized for a Brazilian audience. Officials working on the project considered specific differences in language, culture, and local business practices while creating a program that upholds the academic rigor of the original UCI coursework.
UC Irvine Extension is actively pursuing relationships with institutions worldwide that might be interested in undertaking the process of customizing UCI curriculum for their benefit.
— Business Wire
Oct. 9, 2006
Study Abroad Numbers Hit Record High
Thanks to a strong Brazilian currency the number of students traveling overseas to study has hit record highs this year, according to recent reports from a number of study abroad agencies. Central de Intercambio, an agency with 53 offices across the country, reports that in the first semester of this year they experienced a 40 percent increase in the number of students (16,000) they sent overseas on exchange programs, working holidays and internships compared with the same period in 2005. At the Student Travel Bureau (STB), the increase has been 30 percent over recent years. Canada and the European countries are the prime countries of choice, closely followed by Australia and New Zealand.
— New Zealand Export Intelligence
Sept. 29, 2006
Community Colleges Opened in Rural Areas
In a bid to increase overall student enrollment in higher education the Colombian government is planning to open publicly run community colleges in rural areas. Currently, only 25 percent of Colombia’s college-age youth (18 – 23) are enrolled in higher education — a phenomenon attributed to the fact that some 60 percent of all institutions are located in just five main cities. This year the Ministry of Education will open 20 Regional Centers of Higher Education (Ceros) opening up 8,500 more places for students.
Over the past three years, Colombia has invested US$4million to build 82 new Ceros and improve technology infrastructure at existing community colleges. Colombia’s Ceros typically offer three-year degrees that allow students to work while they study for a credential that reflects the needs of local industry. The goal of the ministry is to enroll 50 percent of all college-age Colombians by 2019.
— The Times Higher Education Supplement
Aug. 18, 2006
Latin American Universities Trail in Global Rankings
The release of two global university rankings this month by the London Times Higher Education Supplement and the Shanghai Jiao Tong University did not signify good news for universities in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The two sets of rankings, arguably the most authoritative among rankings of the world’s best universities, collectively included only four universities from the region. The Times Higher Education Supplement’s “World’s top 200 universities 2006” included only one university from Latin America, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) ranked number 74. While this signifies an improvement for UNAM from 95th place last year, the only other Latin American university to place among the classification’s top 200 last year, Brazil’s University of Sao Paolo, failed to place in 2006. The Shanghai Jiao Tong University Academic Ranking of World Universities 2006 ranks the top 100 universities in the world and then places the institutions ranked numbers 101-200 into two blocks of 50 universities. The University of Sao Paolo placed in the 102-150 category, while Argentina’s University of Buenos Aires and UNAM ranked in between numbers 151-200.
One reason for the absence of Latin American universities within world university rankings is the emphasis that each ranking’s criteria place on citations in internationally respected publications and the opinion of peer academics. A lack of research coming from Latin American universities hurts the international recognition of the region’s universities. Part of the problem also seems to stem from how money is spent rather than how much is allocated to higher education. China, whose per capita income is $1,943 annually, placed 10 times more universities among the London Times’ top 200 than Mexico with a per capita income of $7,593.Other explanations offered by experts on Latin America’s poor higher education rankings included a lack of institutional accountability and institutional evaluation, and the existence of large, state-funded universities which stifle competition between institutions.
— The Miami Herald
Cuba and Pakistan Discuss Research Cooperation
Officials from Cuba and Pakistan met in August to discuss the possibility of establishing a joint biotechnology research center in Pakistan. Under the stewardship of Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission (HEC) with technical support from Cuban experts in the field, the proposed research center would cater to researchers from the 57 member countries of the Organization of Islamic Conference Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (Comstech). Cuban and Pakistani officials also discussed exchanges of scientists and joint research between existing universities, such as the National Institute of Biology and Engineering in Pakistan and an appropriate Cuban institution. At the meeting, Cuban Ambassador to Pakistan Gustavo Machin Gomez also announced 1,000 scholarships for Pakistani students to pursue medical education at Cuban universities.
Sep. 1, 2006
University of Texas Considers Mexico Location
The University of Texas (UT) Center for Global Business Innovation is considering Monterrey, Mexico as a possible site to house its new facility. UT has signed a letter of intent to look into establishing the center in Monterrey with the aid of the local government, the Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon, and the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education. The Center for Global Business Innovation would be operated by UT’s IC2 Institute, a university organization with the stated goal of aiding the development of capitalism in communities and nations to improve the quality of life through economic growth. Monterrey is considered a favorable location because of its high-tech economy and its significance as one of Mexico’s “poles of development”
The University of Texas has strengthened its ties with Latina America over recent years through similar partnerships. UT currently offers a joint MBA degree program with Monterrey Tech and a joint doctorate degree with the University of Nuevo Leon.
— The Daily Texan
Oct. 12, 2006
United States of America
International Graduate Admissions Increase
A report from the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) has found that in 2006 12 percent more international students were offered places to US graduate programs than in 2005. The report also found that a majority of graduate school deans had confidence in a corresponding increase in the overall quality of the overseas applicants. The biggest growth in admissions to CGS member institutions came from the countries of China (20%) and India (28%) while the number of students seeking graduate admissions from the Middle East dropped two percent. In terms of courses of study, the fields of engineering and business experienced spikes of 26 and 12 percent, respectively.
Many graduate schools attribute the jump in the number of foreign applicants at their institution to specific outreach strategies that have been implemented to attract international students in what has become an extremely competitive global market in recent years. U.S. institutions of higher education are forging new agreements with international universities or organizations, embarking on recruiting trips, and hiring specialist staff trained in international admissions practices.
In addition, the report found that overall applications from foreign students for fall 2006 rose 12 percent over last year. This increase snaps a two-year, 32 percent cumulative decline in applications across all broad fields of study.
— Council of Graduate Schools press release
Aug. 9, 2006
Defense Department Decides Against Increasing Restrictions on Foreign Scientists
The United States Defense Department agreed to revise a proposal published last year that would have imposed significant new controls on foreign researchers working with sensitive technology at American universities.
After receiving multiple complaints from U.S. universities and research advocates on the limitations to be imposed by the proposed regulations, the defense agency consented to allow foreign scientists currently working on their contracts to continue under the guidelines of the U.S. Commerce and State Department’s national security policy regarding weapons and technology. According to university officials, the restrictions proposed by the Defense Department last year would impede important research and create unnecessary complications in the management of academic laboratories.
The decision by the Defense Department to revise its original proposal comes on the heels of the Commerce Department’s decision to withdraw a similarly harsh proposal related to restrictions on foreign scientists working with sensitive technology. University officials at institutions that employ foreign-born researchers acted quickly to criticize the strict proposals of both government agencies and cited the fact that their foreign employees had already passed thorough security checks before obtaining U.S. work visas.
—The Chronicle of Higher Education
Aug. 15, 2006
Scholarship Program to Bring 15,000 Saudis to Study in the U.S.
Under a new educational exchange program negotiated by the Bush administration and Saudi King Abdullah 15,000 Saudi students will be coming to the United States next year to study at many of the nation’s institutions of higher education. Officials from both sides of the diplomatic table hope that the agreement will be beneficial for their nation’s future. The United States sees the exchange as a way to build relationships with future leaders from a region where it has traditionally volatile ties, and the Saudis believe the program will help quell national unrest about the nation’s future by offering its brightest students the opportunity for an American higher education.
Public universities in the United States see the agreement as a potential boon for international recruitment and an opportunity to attract foreign students whose tuition dollars are guaranteed by the Saudi government. Saudi Embassy spokesman Nail Al-Jubeir said 90 percent of the 10,229 Saudi students the U.S. State Department has registered for the fall semester will also get scholarships. By January, the program will expand to 15,000 students. By that time, Saudi Arabia will be sending more foreign students to the United States than Mexico or Turkey. Institutions like Kansas State University, who will host 150 Saudi students this fall, are cultivating relationships with Saudi Arabian officials and preparing their campuses to be culturally sensitive to events like the Muslim religious celebration of Ramadan.
In the past, many Saudi families had sent their children to the United States for university education, but following the events of September 11, 2001 the number of visas offered to Saudi students was reduced and harsher security measures made obtaining one very difficult.
— The International Herald Tribune
Sep. 9, 2006
National Media Outlet and Online Educator Offer MBA
The weekly newsmagazine Newsweek and online education provider Kaplan Inc. are teaming up to offer an online business degree — the Kaplan University/Newsweek Masters in Business Administration. The Washington Post Company that owns both Newsweek and Kaplan hopes that the new degree program will help improve slumping circulation at Newsweek and at the same time help differentiate Kaplan among an increasingly crowded field of online education providers. Newsweek will provide course material for Kaplan in the form of current news, video presentations, chat rooms and interviews on related business topics. Kaplan currently accounts for 40 percent of the Post company’s operating revenue.
— The New York Times
Sep. 25, 2006
SAT Alternatives a Hot Topic at National Conference of Admissions Counselors
With a growing number of selective schools across the country dropping the SAT requirement from their admission procedures, organizers at the annual meeting of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) in October decided to put on a session to discuss alternatives to the standardized test.
A number of admissions deans at the session, whose schools had made the change, said that although troublesome the experience had laregly been positive and provided them an opportunity to retool their whole admissions culture, allowing them to think of ways to attract more and more-diverse students and also as a way to engage faculty members in the process. Other admissions professionals noted that the SAT is not a very reliable predictor of academic success at the tertiray level, with minimal differences in the graduating GPAs of those students who had scored well on the SAT and those who had not.
One of the more common and successful alternatives to the SAT, according to those who had made the switch, is the use of junior and senior high school portfolios, comprising graded work with teacher comments visible. Studies by admissions departments from a number of colleges have found that students who choose this admissions path are more motivated and organized than those who choose to rely on their SAT scores. Many schools maintain a hybrid system, offering students the option to use their SAT scores, a portfolio or both in their application. Admissions officers at the session also noted that by reviewing graded coursework they were given an insight into standards at various high schools in their catchment area.
— Inside Higher Ed
Oct. 6, 2006
U.S. Students Lured in Increasing Numbers to British Universities
According to figures released by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) — Britain’s centralized university admissions service — 2,201 students from the United States applied to full-time undergraduate programs at British universities last year, four times more than in 1996. Of that number 45 percent (950) were accepted.
Students are attracted to British universities for a number of different reasons. First and foremost is the allure of living abroad, closely followed by lower tuition fees. Another important factor that students consider is admission requirements, which are generally a little more generous at Britain’s top universities. Those wishing to study at the University of St. Andrew’s, Scotland’s no 1-ranked university, would generally require an SAT score of at least 1300, whereas Ivy League schools typically require a 1,500. The London School of Economics, on the other hand, favors Advanced Placement (AP) results over SAT scores, requiring four AP passes with scores of 4 or 5. Students wishing to apply to British universities are generally required to do so through UCAS and not to individual universities as in the United States.
— Business Week
Sept. 26, 2006
U.S. Universities Again Dominate List of World’s Best; British Universities Make up Ground
Although England’s top two universities found their way into second and third place on a ranking of the world’s best universities, they again trailed Harvard in first place.
Cambridge and Oxford placed second and third respectively in the latest world rankings published in October by The Times Higher Education Supplement. Both British universities have moved up in the rankings for 2006, with Cambridge knocking the Massachusetts Institute of Technology off the No 2 position and Oxford advancing from fourth position to third. MIT is tied for fourth place with another U.S. university, Yale. Seven U.S. universities made the top ten with Imperial College London in ninth the only other non-U.S. institution to crack the top ten.
The rankings were based on a survey of 3,703 academics worldwide, who were asked to identify up to 30 universities best for research within their own field of expertise. This ensures that the rankings are topical and liable to change from year to year if institutions do not maintain research standards. The table also includes data from 736 graduate employers from around the world, as well as the ratio of faculty to student numbers and a university’s success in attracting foreign students and internationally renowned academics.
— The Times
Oct. 5, 2006