WENR, March 2007: Europe

Regional News


UNESCO to Build “Portal on Recognized Higher Education Institutions”

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization plans to increase the transparency of cross-border educational provision by building a portal that would provide searchable and easy access to information and online resources regarding foreign education systems, including a “Portal on Recognized Higher Education Institutions.” The project will be piloted with a small number of countries, each of which will be responsible for their own national content. This project is a follow-up to the UNESCO/OECD Guidelines on Quality Provision in Cross-Border Higher Education.

Similar UNESCO resources that we find valuable in our day-to-day work at WES include:

Country Dossiers (IBE):

World Data on Education (IBE):

Higher Education Systems (IAU): http://www.unesco.org/iau/

List of Universities (IAU):

Nov.13, 2006


Tuition or Community Service: Students Choose

Seeking a political compromise on tuition fees, the newly formed coalition government of Austria has decided to give fee-paying students the choice of paying tuition or doing voluntary community service. Fees of 727 euro per year for EU citizens, and double for others, was one of the major stumbling blocks for the Austrian Peoples’ Party (ÖVP) and the Social Democrats (SPÖ) in negotiations preceding the formation of the new government. The education portfolio has also been compromised with the splitting of the current education ministry into a Ministry of Science and Research (Wissenschaft und Forschung), which will be in charge of the higher education sector, and the Ministry for Education, Science and Culture (Bildung, Wissenschaft und Kultur).

ACA Newsletter
January 2007


Universities Mergers on the Horizon

In order to meet the new demands of globalization, a higher-education working group has made proposals to the Finnish Ministry of Education and Science recommending the merger of Helsinki University of Technology, Helsinki School of Economics and the University of Art and Design in Helsinki by 2009. The other two proposals are to merge University of Turku and Turku School of Economics; and the University of Joensuu and University of Kuopio (to create University of Eastern Finland). Among Finnish universities of applied sciences (or polytechnics) there are currently three mergers in progress. There are currently 20 universities and 28 polytechnics operating under the ministry of education in Finland.

Finnish Ministry of Education
Feb. 19, 2007


New Economics School with Lofty Ambitions Launched

European R&D Flat

Expenditure on research and development among European Union nations is significantly lower than in other major economies, according to recent data from the statistical office of the European Union. A Eurostat data report for 2005 shows that the EU area is spending just 1.8 percent of GDP on R&D the same as 2004, and just 1.5 percent higher than 2001. By comparison, the United States spent 2.7 percent of GDP on R&D in 2005, while Japan spent 3.2 percent of GDP. In 2004, the business sector financed 55 percent of the total spending on R&D across the 27 nations of the EU. In Japan, China and the U.S. that figure was 75, 65 and 64 percent respectively.

Jan. 12, 2007

The Paris School of Economics, a new institution that its founders hope will eventually rival top economics schools such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the London School of Economics and Political Science, was inaugurated in February through the collaboration of six existing French universities and research institutions, including the prestigious École Normale Supérieure and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. All six partners are public, but a newly created private foundation will run the Paris school, which has more than 300 master’s and Ph.D. students, and some 200 affiliated professors and researchers. Organizers expect it to eventually have nearly 1,000 students and 350 staff members. All faculty members are affiliated with other institutions, from which they draw their main salaries, but that will not necessarily be the case for future hires.

The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 9, 2007


More States to Introduce Tuition

As German universities and lawmakers push to improve the quality of higher education, more and more states are introducing tuition to top up inadequate government funding. Although unpopular with many students, politicians and faculty members, the drive seems unstoppable, as it has been in other European states that have been forced to revise university funding models. The U.K. introduced undergraduate fees in 1998. Italy and Spain also charge university students. In seven of Germany’s 16 states, university students now have to pay as much as 1,000 euros ($1,300) a year. All the states that have imposed fees are controlled by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its coalition partner, the Free Democratic Union. The state of Hesse, which includes Frankfurt, will start charging students in October. In North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state and one of those that imposed fees last October, first-year enrollment dropped 5.3 percent from a year earlier.

Feb 18, 2007

European Schools Look to Lure Top US Professors

With European schools looking to increase their global competitiveness, more and bolder offers are being made to top US faculty. According to a recent media report, the University of California Berkeley in particular has been under fire from Europe with top schools on the continent making aggressive job offers to an unusually high number of the institution’s professors this year. Switzerland’s two federal universities have taken particularly active roles in hiring UC Berkeley professors. The Zurich-based Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule a well-regarded technical school known as ETH has at least three pending offers to Berkeley faculty members in the engineering and science departments, while the math department has had to fight off several ETH raids in recent years. The recent spate of European offers comes amid an overall spike. At least 17 Berkeley professors have received outside offers during the first two months of this year, a high number for a campus that averages about 42 such offers per year.

Contra Costa Times
Feb 24, 2007

Most International-Friendly Universities Rewarded with Title, Funds

The universities of Bochum, Bonn and Marburg have been named by a consortium of organizations headed by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation as ‘Welcome Centers’ for internationally mobile researchers and funding. The universities have each been awarded 125,000 euro for winning the Welcome Centers Competition, organized in the spring of 2006. Encouraged by the level of enthusiasm and participation, the organizers are hoping to initiate a new round in the near future.

Alexander von Humboldt
January 2007


Controversial Higher Education Reforms Approved by Parliament

After months of public protest on the streets and campuses of Athens, a highly controversial draft law that would overhaul the higher education sector in Greece has been rubber-stamped by the government, and passed by Parliament. The proposed law sets a maximum number of years allowed for the completion of undergraduate degrees (up to twice the duration of a typical degree program). Although this may not seem like cause for mass protest, as many as 94,000 undergraduate students who enrolled at university nearly eight years ago have yet to complete their four- or five-year programs, according to the National Statistical Service. Other provisions in the bill would change the asylum law which bans police from entering university grounds, and greatly increase institutional autonomy and state funding based on four-year strategic development plans. The New Democracy government’s original deadline to table the draft law was June 2006. That became September, then October and finally was postponed until the spring. The delays were mainly due to the mounting opposition. The public university system remains in a state of turmoil, and several hundred university and technical college departments remain under student occupation. With the passage of the Bill through Parliament on March 8, an estimated 20,000 students, teachers and labor unionists rioted in the streets of Athens; scenes that the police department described as the worst unrest the city has seen for years.

Athens News
Feb. 23, 2007
The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 9, 2007

Universities at Forefront of IT Boom in Eastern Europe

Universities in Eastern European countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, with a strong Soviet tradition in the hard and technical sciences, are graduating legions of highly skilled and motivated information-technology professionals who are at the forefront of an IT boom that has attracted top multinational companies to the region. Computer-science graduates have become one of the former Eastern Bloc’s most valuable assets. One area of concern, however, is that corporate demand and increasing collaboration between universities and technology companies will lure potential and existing professors away from academia for greater riches in the private sector. Such a situation could lead to the unfurling of an industry in its infancy, as departments and programs deteriorate or disappear. Salaries in the region are a third to half of those in Western Europe, so the threat of an IT brain drain is also of serious concern.

The Chronicle of Higher education
March 9, 2007

Constitutional Amendment to Recognize Private Universities

In a proposal separate to the parliamentary bill discussed above, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis appeared before a nationally televised session of parliament on February 14 to defend his government’s decision to lift the state monopoly on public higher education. Citing developments connected to the development of the European Higher Education Area, the prime minister defended his government’s plan to revise Article 16 of the Constitution, which currently prohibits the establishment of private universities in Greece, despite mobilization from opponents who believe the changes foreshadow a privatization of higher education and higher costs for students.

Athens News
Feb. 16, 2007

The Netherlands

Report: Dutch Government Should Boost Foreign Enrollments by Easing Work Restrictions

An independent advisory committee to the Dutch government has advised that students from beyond the borders of the European Union be given a year after graduation to seek employment in the Netherlands. In its recent report the Advisory Committee on Alien Affairs states that the current three-month post-graduation period is not long enough, while also pointing out that the salary requirements for a residence permit are too high. Non-EU students currently account for approximately 3.5 percent of the student body in Holland; a figure that needs to increase, especially in the technical sector, according to the report.

Feb. 21, 2007


Students Looking to Asia over English-Speaking Study Destinations

According to recent statistics, the number of Swedish students studying in English-speaking countries is declining while the number choosing destinations in Asia, and China in particular, is increasing.

Australia Education International
Feb. 21, 2007


Pan-European Research Funding Agency Launched

After many years of campaigning and controversy, the European Research Council (ERC) was formally launched in late February. The ERC is the first pan-European funding agency that can award European Commission grants for basic research based solely on peer review. Researchers are hopeful the new council will remove a layer of politicized bureaucracy from the grant process.  The ERC has 7.5 billion euros (US$9.9 billion) to support it through its first seven years. The grants will provide each recipient with between 500,000 and 2 million euros ($660,000 — $2.6 million US) to support their work for up to five years. Around 200 grants are expected to be awarded each year, and the first call for proposals is now open to researchers who gained their doctorates between two and nine years ago. Researchers from outside Europe are eligible to apply so long as they plan to work at a European host organization. It is hoped the initiative will help keep the European Union’s economy globally competitive amid concerns that European research and development continues to lag behind the US and Japan; while countries such as China and India will soon match spending on R&D as a percentage of GDP.

The Scientist
Feb 27, 2007

Plans for German-Turkish University Announced

In 1997, the Turkish and German governments signed an agreement for the establishment of a joint Turkish-German university in Istanbul; however, those plans have since met a number of financial and conceptual roadblocks. Now, the project looks to be back on track and headed for reality after gaining high-level support. In October last year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan publicly gave their support to the idea. Despite the political support the initiative now enjoys, there are still numerous challenges to overcome if the private university is to become a reality. Foremost among these are location, funding and curriculum.

The Turkish Daily News
Feb. 12, 2007

United Kingdom

Rankings most Influential on the Ambitious and Talented

Recent research shows that unofficial newspaper rankings have most influence on university applicants looking to get into the best schools. The study by The Knowledge Partnership, a consultancy, also finds that established reputations will likely override short-term fluctuations in rank when it comes to student enrollment decisions. The report on reputation management draws the conclusion that there is no firm link between a consistent decline in rank and an institution’s share of domestic applications; however, a position in the top 10 of a league table pushes up the quality of applicants. The study also found that it is questionable whether or not rankings have more impact on international students, as is commonly believed. The research is based on the experiences of 13,000 students, of whom almost two-thirds said they looked at rankings before applying. If one could portray the average user of university rankings, according to the findings of the study he would be a younger school-leaving male Asian.

BBC News
March 2, 2007
The Australian
Feb. 28, 2007

Students Spared Full Cost of Visa Fee Hike

International students will be spared visa fee increases designed to raise money to pay for a crackdown on illegal immigrants, the government announced in March. People moving to the UK to live or work will bear most of the additional cost of increased policing of illegal immigration. The cost of work permits will increase from £85 to £200, while the initial charge for student visas will drop from £129 to £99. This will make UK visas competitive with the United States and Australia, said Universities UK, the body which represents university vice chancellors. An Australian student visa currently costs the equivalent of £172 for the visa and £24 for permission to work. Students studying in the US pay about £50 for the visa plus £50 for the student tracking system. University heads have been lobbying the government after a sudden jump in student visa fees in 2005, which has been blamed for a fall in overseas applications.

The Guardian
March 8, 2007


Merger to Create ‘Super-University’

A new university is to be created following the announcement in March of a US$40 million merger between the University of Paisley and Hamilton-based Bell College. The new super-university is scheduled to begin operations as the University of the West of Scotland in August, and it will have approximately 16,600 students studying at four campuses in Ayr, Dumfries, Hamilton and Paisley. The news came only weeks after Glasgow University announced it was to pull out of the Dumfries campus, which it shares with Bell College and the University of Paisley.

The Scotsman
March 7, 2007

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