WENR, April 2007: Europe



Government Defends ‘Unlawful’ Foreign Student Quotas

A complaint from the European Commission that universities in French-speaking Belgium discriminate against foreign students was formally rejected by the Belgian Government in March. Furthermore, the Government has moved to strengthen the objectionable system. For the 2006-07 academic year, the French community government imposed a 30% cap on the number of foreign students enrolling on some undergraduate courses, including veterinary medicine and physiotherapy. Recently, as many as 80% of the places on these courses and others linked to medicine were filled by French students who failed to find places at home. The Belgian Government argues that this puts undue strain on universities and colleges and undermines its domestic goals in educating medical professionals. In January, the Commission complained that the system discriminated against European Union nationals not residing in Belgium and said the Government had not justified the quota.-The Times Higher Education Supplement
March 23, 2007

Baltic Research Spending Skyrockets

The Baltic states have the European Union’s fastest growing rates of research spending, according to the latest figures from Eurostat. Annual real-terms growth rates in research spending between 2001 and 2005 ranged from 18 percent in Latvia and 17 percent in Estonia to 11 percent in Lithuania. Among richer, long-established EU members, Ireland performed best, with an increase of 8.5 percent to €2 billion over four years to 2005, while Spain’s research and development spending rose 8.4 percent to €10 billion. EU research spending is still less than its major competitors. The newly expanded 27-member union spent some €200 billion in 2005, which was about 1.84 percent of gross domestic product. But in 2004, research and development expenditure was 2.68 percent of GDP in the US and 3.18 percent in Japan.

– The Times Higher Education Supplement
April 6, 2007

French-Speaking Catholic Universities Look to Merge

The four Catholic universities in French-speaking Belgium will open formal merger talks in September. The aim is to unite the smaller institutions in Brussels, Namur and Mons under the banner of the larger, more prestigious Catholic University of Louvain. The changes are expected to take place over three years and to be completed by 2015 at the latest. The move is planned in part to increase the international competitiveness and profile of the four institutions. The Catholic group is one of three “academies” into which Belgium’s nine Francophone universities were organized in 2004. These are intended to foster closer collaboration, and merger discussions have taken place in all three, although those in the Catholic group are the first to bear fruit.

– The Times Higher Education Supplement
March 30, 2007


Top US, French Schools Strike Historic Agreement

The University of Chicago will become the first American university to offer courses taught by members of the College de France, one of the world’s elite scholarly institutions. This fall, for the first time in its nearly 500-year history, the College de France will send its faculty to lecture in the United States as part of the College de France Visiting Chair Program. Founded by King Francois I in 1530, the College de France is widely regarded as the pinnacle of a French academic career. Under the new agreement initiated by the University’s France-Chicago Center, at least two scholars from the Paris-based College de France will come to Hyde Park each year to present a course or a series of lectures. As part of its internationalization effort, the College de France has in recent years established relationships with universities in Europe, Brazil, Canada and Singapore, but until now did not have an American partnership.

-AScribe Newswire
March 30, 2007

225 New Vocationally Oriented Bachelor Degrees Introduced

Following the recent release of recommendations in a government report, French Minister of Education Gilles de Robien announced that 225 new Licences Professionnelles will be available from September of this year. The three-year Licence Professionnelle was introduced in 2000 as part of a package of higher education reforms designed to make higher education more accessible to school leavers.

-Le Figaro
Jan 11, 2007

New EU Science Visa Faces Opposition

Germany has adopted an EU policy to fast-track visas for foreign students, but the United Kingdom has said it will opt out. Germany has become the fourth European country to implement a European Union directive designed to make it easier for non-European scientists to get work visas for the EU. Germany joins Austria, Slovenia and Slovakia as signatories to the directive. Germany spends more on research and development (R&D) than any other European country — more than 56 billion euros (US$75 billion) in 2005 — making it by far the most significant country yet to enact the directive. The EU directive was passed in 2005 and needs to be translated into national law by EU member countries by October this year. However, there have been suggestions that some member states will miss the October deadline.

Among other European powerhouses for research and development, France, whose annual R&D expenditure is second to Germany’s, is in the process of transposing the directive into law. But in third-ranked Britain, a spokesperson for the Home Office told The Scientist that the country “did not opt into the directive” and “would not be implementing it.” Britain does not take part in EU-wide legal immigration policies, she said. “We do not consider they are compatible with us maintaining our own borders.”

Researchers who are granted permits under the new rules will be on an equal footing with EU nationals in terms of social security, working conditions, and freedom to move within the EU to carry out their research project.

– The Scientist
April 4, 2007


New Bologna Degree Proving Popular

A survey carried out in 2006 shows that German students are very satisfied with their new Bologna degrees and are very optimistic about the future. Of the 400 students surveyed, 50% plan to go into the workforce directly after earning their bachelor’s degree, and a majority plan to pursue a master’s degree sometime in the future.

What students like about the new bachelor’s degree:


Despite the positive feedback, less than half of all university programs in Germany have been converted to the new Bologna structure.

– Der Spiegel
Feb. 11, 2007


Students Interrupt Protests to Sit Exams

Students and academics began filing back to class in March to prepare for final exams after months of protest against a controversial new higher education reform law, which they say they will refuse to enforce. According to the Hellenic Federation of University Teachers’ Association, the fight against the new law, which parliament passed earlier this month, is far from over. The association, which is leading the opposition against the law, warned on March 19 that its members will continue to lobby the government from inside the universities and colleges. “We will try to revoke the legislation in practice,” it said. Students and professors have vowed to refuse to abide by the new 33-page law, which sets a maximum number of years (up to twice the duration of their degree program) allowed for the completion of undergraduate degrees. Thousands of students, meanwhile, are at risk of repeating this academic year. To make up for lost time, most schools have reportedly forgone Easter break (April 2-9) and scheduled winter and summer exams together in June or at the end of August.

– Athens News
March 23, 2007


New Quality Assurance Body to Raise International Profile of Italian Institutions

The Government approved in April the bylaws of a national assessment agency for universities and research, which it hopes will play a central role in raising the international standing of Italy’s academic institutions. The National Agency for the Assessment of the University System and of Research will unite the functions of two existing bodies that separately evaluate higher education and research institutions. It will also, for the first time, link university funding to these evaluations. The new body will set standards for the accreditation of new and existing universities, research institutes, and degree programs. In addition, the agency will determine criteria for the financing of publicly funded institutions and research programs on the basis of its quality assessments.

– The Chronicle of Higher Education
April 6, 2007


Private Providers Face Dire Straits

A third of Poland’s 300 private higher education institutions face the possibility of bankruptcy over the next few years if young Poles continue to study abroad in numbers similar to current rates, according to recent reports. The Bydgosc School of Management and Finance closed recently because of a shortage of students. Other schools are dropping programs as part of cost-cutting measures. State universities are also suffering, the Dziennik newspaper has reported. Although the average Pole’s spending power is about four times lower than that of the average West European, the higher relative cost of study has not deterred young Poles. At least 17,000 Poles are known to have begun programs in Britain, France and Germany this year. According to Dziennik, these students could have sustained at least ten private institutions in Poland.

– The Times Higher Education Supplement
March 30, 2007


Albanian Students Forced to Leave Country for Higher Studies

Young Albanians living in the Presevo Valley region of southern Serbia have very few options within Serbia when it comes to tertiary studies, as there are no Albanian-language universities. Therefore, the vast majority try to get into colleges in Albania, Kosovo or Macedonia, despite exorbitant tuition fees and intense competition for places. To make it easier for students from South Serbia, the local authorities have set up a commission to collect and process all the applications and forward them to respective universities outside Serbia-proper. Traditionally, students from the valley have been allocated a fixed number of places at universities in Albania, the Kosovar capital Pristina and the town of Tetevo in western Macedonia. With increased competition, these quotas have been removed.

Approximately 350 students from the Presevo Valley were studying in Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia in the academic year 2006-07, the commission said. For those who can’t get into universities outside Serbia, or don’t have the means, one option is to enroll in local Serbian-language colleges. But language difficulties and ethnic discrimination often make this a difficult proposition. Overall, the number of ethnic Albanians studying in Serbian colleges has dwindled since 2001. To alleviate the problem, local authorities in 2001 launched an initiative to open an Albanian-language faculty in the Presevo Valley. With an agreement in December between Serbia’s education minister, Slobodan Vuksanovic, and local political figures to open a teacher training college in Bujanovac this October, the initiative will soon come to fruition.

– Balkan Insight
March 8, 2007

Police Crack Down on Examination Fraud and Degree Peddling

Since February 20, Serbian police officers have arrested over 20 people in connection with an exam-selling ring at the University of Kragujevac law school. As many as 600 students are alleged to have paid up to US$1,000 to pass a single oral examination, and up to $20,000 to receive a law degree from the public university, located in Serbia’s fourth-largest city. Those arrested include the law school’s dean, administrative employees, and 13 professors — a third of the school’s faculty. The scandal acquired an international dimension in March when the Greek government said it would no longer recognize the school’s degrees. The scandal has prompted Minister of Education, Slobodan Vuksanovic, to call for legislation that would change the examination process in Serbia. Examinations would be administered in writing “whenever possible,” and panels of at least two professors would be required to evaluate any oral examinations, which would be recorded on videotape. Mr. Vuksanovic said that he expects parliament to turn the proposal into law by April.

– The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 16, 2007


New Law Provides Greater Institutional Autonomy, Defines New Four-Year Degree

Spanish universities will enjoy a greater degree of autonomy through an amendment to the Organic Law of Universities, which was approved in late March by the country’s legislature. The modification changes faculty hiring procedures and is designed to discourage nepotism and in-house favoritism in the selection process. Enacted in 2001, the Organic Law of Universities required candidates for tenured positions to pass nationally administered, competitive examinations in their fields. Those examinations will now be replaced by a system in which universities can grant permanent teaching jobs to anyone accredited by national commissions composed of university professors. Accreditation will be based on an evaluation of a candidate’s resume, and there will be no limit on the number of accredited candidates. By contrast, the previous system qualified only enough candidates to fill the available number of permanent positions.

Other provisions in the new law include the establishment of a uniform four-year format for undergraduate degrees in most fields, replacing a variety of formats that range in length from three to five years. The new undergraduate degrees, part of a system that will also include master and doctoral programs, is designed to bring Spain into conformity with the Bologna process. The reform is the third university reform since Spain returned to democracy in 1978.

– The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 30, 2007

United Kingdom

Latest International Enrollment Figures Show Continued Strong Growth from India, Weakness from China

The number of Indian students enrolling at British universities has risen for the second year running, in contrast to a slowdown in numbers from China, according to new figures released in March by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). Nineteen thousand Indian students came to the UK in 2005/06, making India the second largest source of international students after China. While the number of students coming from China dropped by 3.7%, there were still 50,700 students from China enrolled in UK higher education institutions in 2005-06. Numbers from Hong Kong declined by more than 12% to just under 9,500 for that academic year and Greece was overtaken by India to become the third largest source of overseas students after enrollments from the Balkan nation dropped by more than 10%. Overall, the number of overseas and EU students rose by 3.7% to 330,000. Warwick University has the highest number of foreign students followed by Manchester University.

– HESA News Release
March 26, 2007

Points System in University Admissions to be Overhauled

Complaints about the International Baccalaureate and vocational qualifications have been cause for review of the points system that is used to determine the values of all sixth-form (higher secondary) qualifications for the purposes of university admissions. With the introduction of specialized diplomas, the A* grade at A level and the rival PreU qualification next year, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service has concluded that the system of weighting final qualifications is no longer fit for the purpose of university admissions. By 2010, the grades of school leavers are expected to be measured according to a new tariff, which will judge a student’s “knowledge, attitudes and skills” and intends to compare A levels more fairly with group awards such as the International Baccalaureate.

– The Times of London
April 2, 2007

New Diploma Qualification in 2008

In what is being described by the BBC as the “biggest shake-up of England’s exam system for a generation,” the government has named the consortia of schools and colleges that will be responsible for introducing the new vocationally oriented Diploma qualification. The Diplomas are designed to mix academic and vocational qualifications, alongside GCSEs and A-levels, in a bid to diversify learning options for secondary school students, while responding to the needs of the workplace. The first Diplomas will be offered in construction, engineering, health, IT and media. The 145 groups of schools, colleges and training providers announced cover 97 local authority areas in England and will have Diplomas ready for 2008. A further 197 consortia have been given provisional approval to deliver the new qualifications in September 2009.

Young people studying for the Diplomas will have to pass qualifications in mathematics and English, in addition to completing significant amounts of work-experience. There will be three levels of Diploma: level 1 is equivalent to four or five GCSE passes and level 2 is equivalent to five or six GCSE passes at grade A* to C. The government says level 3 is equivalent to three A-levels and will be accepted by universities and colleges, as well as allowing students to go directly into work if appropriate.

– The BBC
March 28, 2007

Continued Success in Attracting International Students not to be taken for Granted

The UK’s continued success in attracting students from overseas (see above) prompted warnings in late March from two leading higher education opinion formers. Drummond Bone, president of Universities UK, told The Times Higher Education Supplement, “our competitors are increasingly marketing themselves more aggressively, so it is vital that the UK remains among the foremost destinations for international students.” Britain’s reputation for quality education is key to attracting overseas students, but Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, warned that this could be undermined unless there was more investment.” Class sizes are high, and staff are being forced to provide even more for less,” she said.

Thomas Sastry, a researcher at the Higher Education Policy Institute, said “the overall rise at 2 per cent is modest compared to the dramatic increases seen in the early years of the century. Universities are best advised to budget on the basis of very cautious assumptions about the strength of international recruitment even if they are privately hopeful of a strong performance.” Universities are employing a variety of methods to boost overseas recruitment. By way of example, the University of Hertfordshire opened a South-East Asia office in Kuala Lumpur last December. Bradford University, which earns 17.75% of its income from overseas students, said marketing had resulted in a 79% increase in enrollments from Pakistan and a 107% rise from India in 2006.

– The Times Higher Education Supplement
March 30, 2007

Government Announces Scheme to Keep International Graduates in Country

Britain will allow international students to stay in country and work for one year after completing their studies under a scheme to be launched in May, it was officially announced in March. Under the scheme, international students who have obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher level qualification in any subject from a recognized British higher education institution will be able to remain and work in the nation for a further 12 months. The scheme will replace the Science and Engineering Graduates Scheme, which was established in 2004 and only encouraged those who had graduated in certain scientific disciplines to stay in Britain to work.

– The Herald
March 28, 2007


University Celebrates 150 Year History of Links with China

A ceremony is to be held in the Far East to celebrate 150 years of collaboration between Edinburgh University and China. A delegation from the Scottish capital flew out to the State Guest House in Beijing in March. The highlight of the event was the award of an honorary degree to Edinburgh University alumnus Professor Zhong Nan-Shan, who identified the Sars virus. It is also 152 years since Huang Kuan graduated in medicine from Edinburgh University, making him the first Chinese graduate of any European institution.

– The Scotsman
March 13, 2007

Funds Allotted to Keep International Students in Country

The Scottish Government is planning to spend US$780,000 on projects to encourage international students to stay in Scotland. A majority of the funds will be spent helping institutions support activities for foreign students during the course of their programs. A scholarship scheme for a one-year master’s degree is also to be extended to include students from the U.S.

Approximately 4,300 international graduates have chosen to remain in Scotland at the end of their studies through the Fresh Talent initiative, a program which was launched to encourage recent graduates and skilled professionals to live and work in Scotland. Under the scheme, international students are eligible to remain in Scotland for two years after graduation.

– The BBC
March 23, 2007