WENR, February 2007: Europe

Regional News


European Commission Seeks to Curb Discrimination against Foreign Students in Austria and Belgium

The European Commission [1] has launched legal action against Austria and Belgium over accusation that laws in the two countries restrict the access of foreign students to national institutions of higher education. The Commission is seeking to distinguish whether the legislations in question in Austria and Belgium contradict EU laws mandating equal treatment for all EU students in any member country. The Belgian case concerns foreign student quotas introduced in September 2006 by the Parliament of the French-speaking community of Belgium, which limit the number of foreign students, mainly French, to 30 percent of total enrollments. The Austrian case is somewhat different. That country’s legislation requires that holders of school-leaving certificates from other EU states prove that they have met conditions governing access to higher education in their home country, such as passing entrance exams, before being able to enter an Austrian university. The conditions of access are therefore not the same for an Austrian and a foreign student. The Commission had already taken legal action against Austria, and the European Court of Justice (ECJ) judged, in 2005, that this legislation discriminated students from other EU member states. Following the ECJ’s decision, Austria provisionally amended the relevant legislation, but reintroduced the restrictions in June 2006.

Euractiv [2]
Jan. 25, 2007


International Student Numbers Slump

A report released by the Danish Immigration Service [3] in December laments that Denmark is missing out on hundreds of millions of Krone and an influx of valuable knowledge by failing to attract foreign students. Between 2005 and 2006 the number of students from outside the EU and Nordic countries studying at Danish universities dropped from 6,854 to 4,300. Some Danish academics cited the introduction of tuition fees as a deterrent to prospective international students, but recent research conducted by Cirius [4], the Danish government’s international education arm, suggests otherwise. According to data compiled by Cirius, Denmark need only market itself more effectively on a global scale to attract foreign students. Officials refuted speculation about tuition fees scaring off students citing high satisfaction levels from current students and tuition fees comparable to other European nations.

The Copenhagen Post [5]
Dec. 21, 2007


Second Round of “Elite” Universities Announced

Eight more German universities have been shortlisted as candidates for the designation of “elite” status in the second and final phase of the country’s program to make higher education more competitive. Those universities chosen will be awarded a share of US$2.4 billion in additional federal and state financing over the five years of each of the two phases. The winners will be announced in October. Last October three universities — the University of Karlsruhe [6], the Technical University of Munich [7], and Ludwig Maximilians University  [8]— won the sought-after elite status, which brings an additional $26-million annually. The eight finalists this time are the Rheinisch-Westfälische Institute of Technology [9] at Aachen, the Free University of Berlin [10], Humboldt University [11], Ruhr University Bochum [12], and the Universities of Freiburg [13], Göttingen [14], Heidelberg [15], and Konstanz [16].

Results of the competition are available on the Web site of the German Science Council (http://www.wissenschaftsrat.de/ [17]).

German Academic Exchange Service [18]
Jan 20, 2007


Students Take to the Streets, Faculty Strike to Oppose Commercialization of Universities

Fearful that proposed education reforms might dilute quality standards at public universities, students took to the streets of Athens in January where they clashed with riot police, while in the second week of February the country’s main union of university faculty began a weeklong strike. These two actions are just the latest in a series of demonstrations that have roiled Greek universities since last summer when protests shortened the academic year and forced the cancellation of examinations. Exams set for January and February have now also been delayed. The two groups believe that a proposal to allow private universities to operate fully in Greece will threaten the quality of higher education and divert scarce funds from publicly (under) funded universities. Students are also opposed to measures that would hold them more accountable for completing their studies within a set timeframe. The new law would also require the state to recognize degrees awarded by private universities, which currently it does not. The government believes the changes would give more access to a university education and improve the quality of teaching.

BBC News [19]
Jan. 18, 2007
Associated Press [20]
Feb. 5, 2007

French and German Universities Introduce Joint Program

The Ecole du Louvre Paris [21] and Heidelberg University [15] are teaming up to offer a joint master’s degree in European Art History. Students entering the program will spend their first year studying museology in Paris and continue their second year at Heidelberg focusing on art history. Courses will be taught in both German and French and upon completion students will earn a master’s level credential from each of the two institutions.

DAAD [22]
Dec. 21, 2007


International Student, Faculty Body Growing

The number of academics and students coming to Turkey from abroad has been increasing rapidly in recent years, according to Turkish media. The Anatolia news agency reports that approximately 16,000 foreign students and 1,014 academics were studying or teaching at Turkish institutions of higher education in academic year 2005-06. Almost a quarter of the overseas faculty members were working at Bilkent University [23], while top institutions for foreign students were Anadolu University [24] (1,973), Istanbul University [25] (1,725), Ankara University [26] (1,149), Marmara University [27] (1,149), Middle East Technical University [28] (991) and Gazi University [29] (974).  Data was compiled by the Student Selection and Placement Center [30].

Today’s Zaman [31]
Feb 2, 2007

United Kingdom


Lecturers Protest Privatization of International Student Services

In the last issue [32] of WENR we covered a news item relating to the privatization of on-campus international student services at the University of East Anglia [33] through an agreement with Into University Partnerships [34]. The private company has also been in talks with a number of other universities to discuss the possibility of partnering to help provide services to foreign students, such as language classes and international student management and recruitment. Seemingly, not all are in favor of such outsourcing ventures. In February, lecturers protested the takeover of overseas student provision at Newcastle University [35], as they stepped up their campaign to stop privatization of “key university services” on campuses. The Newcastle protest came as academics also fought to stop the privatization of language centers at Oxford Brookes [36] and East Anglia universities.

The Guardian [37]
Feb. 2, 2007


Fourth University in Edinburgh Established through Upgrade

Queen Margaret University College, which has been awarding degrees for almost a decade, has been granted full university status and is now known as Queen Margaret University [38]. Because of its small size, the college has not been able to take on the university title. Construction of a new modern campus is currently underway on the outskirts of Edinburgh. The award was made after student numbers reached the 4,000 mark, the minimum number for university status in the UK.

BBC News [39]
Jan. 16, 2007

UK Enrollments Down, International Numbers Up

The number of students from Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom enrolling at Scottish universities dropped for the third consecutive year in 2006, according to the UK’s Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) [40]. Officials are concerned that enrollment decreases of around 3.5 percent at universities throughout England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland could represent a long-term backlash against recently introduced tuition fees in the UK. Opposition politicians in Scotland blamed average student debts of US$21,725 for the decline in admissions. On a positive note, UCAS reported the number of international students admitted to universities in Scotland increased 18.6 percent in 2006. Overall, Scottish enrollments from the UK and abroad were down a total of 1.7 percent for the year, due largely to a decline in the number of students arriving from England to study at Scottish institutions.

The Scotsman [41]
Jan. 19, 2007


Standardized Testing all but Scrapped through Junior High

With almost complete autonomy from London in education-related matters, Welsh education authorities have charted a course for their schools that has turned away from the British model, which emphasizes accountability through standardized student assessments. National exams in Wales have been abolished for children up to the age of 14 while a new secondary-school qualification the Welsh Baccalaureate [42] stresses the demonstration of applied learning through out-of-school experiences, in-depth research, and presentations. The British model of high-stakes testing among young learners helped inspire similar policies in the United States. Those opposed to the testing requirements of the No Child Left Behind policy might want to track closely progress at Welsh schools, although those who advocate for testing might argue that without standardized performance reviews, there is no meaningful means of comparison between systems of education and between the Welsh era of testing and today.

Edweek [43]
Dec. 20, 2006