WENR, June 2008: Europe


EU Launches Centralized Student Recruitment Website

The European Commission’s Directorate-General has commissioned and launched a centralized website for the promotion of study opportunities at institutions of higher education across 32 European countries.

The ‘Study in Europe [1]’ website seeks to educate internationally mobile students about the range of courses on offer at European higher education institutions; the admission procedures; the costs involved; the availability of scholarships; the services provided; and the higher education environment in Europe.

Study in Europe website [1]
May 2008

Europe as a Model for Quality Assurance

In a new study published by the European Commission, European support for quality assurance in higher education in countries supported through its Tempus program [2] has been put under the spotlight, using seven detailed case studies from Morocco, Egypt, Croatia, Russia, Bosnia and Kazakhstan. The case studies highlight the program’s achievements while also illustrating the specific problems these countries face in implementing quality assurance mechanisms.

Under the Bologna reforms [3], one of the primary focuses of European higher education over the last decade has been on developing effective quality assurance procedures. Now, many universities in countries engaging in EU partner programs such as Tempus are consulting European partners as sources of expertise, inspiration and good practice. In early May, the EU Directorate General for Education and Culture [4] convened a conference in Cairo [5] on quality assurance in higher education. Some 250 participants from Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Central Asia discussed the topic and commented on the draft of the Tempus study.

Among other findings, the study, Bringing out the best in education, finds that the evolution of quality assurance is at an early stage in many of the 27 Tempus partner countries. The concept of quality enhancement and the involvement of key stakeholders, such as students and employers, tends to be limited and, in the case of employers, is relatively rare. Additionally, while laws may have been adopted, this is not always a guarantee anything has happened. Or, if quality assurance mechanisms have been adopted and are active, in many countries, there is a lack of publicly available, transparent information about the quality assurance process and its outcomes.

The review concludes that in many countries there is a need to speed up the development of genuinely independent accreditation, easily accessible quality assurance agencies and the associated provision of public information on procedures and codes of practice. In the interest of transparency, national and institutional performance indicators should also be published. Finally, the review stresses that although European models for quality assurance can be used as a powerful source of guidance and inspiration, they must never simply be copied in a foreign context. Quality assurance practices, the review states, must be organic to the education system they serve. Assistance must help develop the capacities to design, not just copy and implement quality enhancement and assurance mechanisms, in order to be effective.

European Commission [6]
May 8, 2008


Danes fear Death of Native Tongue at Universities

According to the findings of a new report from an ad-hoc language committee, the Danish language could disappear from the nation’s universities if current trends continue. The Danish Language Council has recommended that legislation governing universities be changed “to ensure the Danish language doesn’t disappear completely from higher education”.

Universities in Denmark and other northern European nations have been increasingly offering programs taught in English over the last couple of decades in a bid to boost the international employability of their graduates, develop international research networks, and more recently to boost their international recruitment efforts.

The council’s report, published in early April, warns that the English-language trend presents a threat to the longevity of the Danish language, especially among the more educated sections of society. In addition, the council worries that the findings of university research is not transmuting to broader local society as they are invariably published in English.

University World News [7]
April 20, 2008


Universities Set to Merge

Finland’s 20 universities and 26 polytechnics are getting set for a round of mergers that will reduce the overall number of institutions operating in the country. The first mergers will occur in the regions outside Helsinki, the capital. The universities of Joensuu [8] (approximately 8,000 students) and Kuopio [9] (6,000) will merge to form East Finland University; the University of Jyväskylä [10], the University of Tampere [11] and the Tampere University of Technology [12] will become the Central Finland University (with more than 41,000 students); and the University of Turku [13] and the Turku School of Economics and Business Administration [14] are also set to merge.

In the Helsinki region, a number of arrangements have been agreed upon. The Swedish-language business university, Svenska Handelshögskolan [15], will in future “cooperate more closely” with the University of Helsinki [16]. Closer cooperation is also expected between the three creative arts universities. Perhaps the most important initiative is a plan to create a ‘world class university’ through the merger of the Helsinki University of Technology [17] (HUT), the Helsinki School of Economics and Business Administration [18] and the University of Art and Design [19]. The new institution would have approximately 21,000 students.

Finland’s polytechnics have already taken action by renaming themselves, in English, as ‘universities of applied science.’ Polytechnics began to describe themselves in English as universities of applied sciences two years ago (although this expression does not appear on the Ministry of Education’s website). They continue to be known as ‘polytechnics’ or ammattikorkeakoulut in Swedish.

Ten of Finland’s universities are currently multi-faculty institutions although only one of these is in Helsinki, three are universities of technology (one in Helsinki), three are schools of economics and business administration (two in Helsinki), and four are creative arts academies (all in Helsinki). All Finnish universities are state-run and financed primarily from the national higher education budget. Current enrollments stand at 176,000 in the university sector and 130,000 at the polytechnics.

University World News [20]
April 20, 2008


Universities Offered Incentives to Increase Autonomy

The Minister of Higher Education, Valérie Pécresse, has promised windfall payments of up to 250,000 euros to French institutions of higher education willing to take on more autonomy and become “more European.” Announced in April, the new program will make awards to universities that reach specific goals of budgetary and personnel autonomy by January 2009. The ministry hopes that between 10 and 20 universities will have achieved this status by next January.

With regards to increasing the European nature of French universities, the ministry and the Conference of University Presidents [21] (CPU) is proposing to establish a “charter of university mobility” to increase the mobility of students among European university students, professors and researchers. They propose to do so by establishing methods of recognition between competencies and diplomas, as well as common international recruitment procedures and admissions requirements. The CPU has also suggested the establishment of a European model of university rankings, which would offer “a credible alternative to both media rankings and the Shanghai global rankings [22].”

Le Monde [23]
April 10, 2008


Third Most Popular Study Abroad Destination . For Now

Germany is currently the third most popular study destination for internationally mobile students, after the United States and the United Kingdom, according to a new survey [24] by the German Student Welfare Service, or DSW; however, the total number of enrollments has failed to increase in recent years, and almost half of all foreign students fail to complete their programs.

The other main finding of the survey, Internationalization of Higher Education: Foreign Students in Germany, German Students Abroad, is that German students are themselves becoming more mobile. Between 2000 and 2005, the numbers of German students going abroad rose from 52,220 to 75,800. German government officials say they would like to increase this number to more than 100,000 in the next few years.

The number of foreign students coming to Germany has risen from 100,033 in 1997 to 189,450 in 2005. However, the 2005 number has barely moved since 2003, while research funded by the German Academic Exchange Service [25] shows that only half of those enrolled at German institutions of higher education actually go on to complete their degree programs. According to experts, foreign students find it difficult to integrate into German academic life. “German students aren’t hostile to foreigners – but they don’t feel the need to approach foreigners and offer help,” said researcher Ulrich Heublein. At universities, students are given a great deal of independence and relatively minimal supervision. This is often a challenge for foreign students who are used to structured curricula.

The DSW figures are based on a survey conducted in the summer semester of 2006.

Federal Ministry of Education and Research [24]
April 2008
AEP [26]
April 30, 2008

CHE’s Rankings Released for 2008

The Centre for Higher Education Development [27] (CHE) recently published its latest ranking results [28] in collaboration with Die Zeit , a national newspaper, and the German Academic Exchange Service [25] (DAAD). The ranking consortium does not rank by institution, a ranking norm, rather by degree program. Up to 34 criteria are considered for each program. Each year, one-third of all disciplines are analyzed; this year, the 2008/9 rankings focus on media, law, political science, sociology, social work, economics and business computer science from over 2,500 programs and 7,500 courses at 250 colleges and universities. More than 200,000 students and 14,000 professors were interviewed to gather the results.

Results are available from ranking.zeit.de/che9/CHE_en [29]. Alternatively, the rankings can be searched by institution, subject or city through the DAAD website: www.daad.de/deutschland/hochschulen/hochschulranking/06543.en.html [30]

Die Zeit [31]
May 2008


Overseas Students Abusing System

Hungarian student visas are reportedly being used by citizens from Asia as a means of entering Europe legally and then disappearing. According to a recent newspaper report, these ‘students’ apply to short-term language programs in order to receive student visas, only to skip out on the courses and head to other European countries shortly after arriving in Hungary.

In the most recent case, 21 of 87 Chinese citizens who applied to a three-month English language course at Pécs University [32] last November, using the same recruitment agency in China, slipped through the cracks. The university reports to have enrolled hundreds of Chinese students in the last ten years, yet to have only graduated 50. In 2004, all but two of 98 Indian and Bangladeshi students enrolled at the same university disappeared shortly after beginning their studies in the southwestern city.

Reportedly, the university proceeds carefully now when reviewing applications from such students, and rarely accepts Indians and Bangladeshis. Furthermore, the university said Chinese students are now only accepted if a Chinese state university provides a legitimate reference; however, they did not indicate if the students who recently disappeared had this recommendation.

Népszabadság [33]
May 6, 2008

United Kingdom

Canadians and other Developed Nations Cut from Student Scholarship Scheme

Canadian supporters of the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission [34] for graduate students say the British government’s recent decision to bar applicants from developed countries like Canada is “short-sighted” and “a slap in the face,” according a recent article in the Globe and Mail, a Toronto-based newspaper.

Now in its 50th year, the scholarship program remains open to students from developing countries, particularly those seen as most closely aligned with Britain’s foreign-policy interests, such as China and India.

The changes, which were opposed [35] by Britain’s university association, are expected to save the British government nearly $20 million a year. Current Canadian recipients of the scholarships will be allowed to finish their degree programs. About 30 Canadians each year have received the scholarships — some 1,500 in all since 1960.

The Globe and Mail [36]
May 7, 2008

Saudi Arabia to Fund 2 Islamic Centers at Top Universities

The universities of Cambridge [37] and Edinburgh [38] will be receiving new research centers for Islamic studies with funding from the Kingdom Foundation. A US$31 million endowment will be shared equally by the two universities. The new centers will carry out both research and public engagement designed to enhance understanding between the Muslim world and the West.

The Cambridge-based Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic Studies will enable the development of a ‘constructive and critical awareness of the role of Islam in wider Society,’ initially through research programs on Islam in the United Kingdom and Europe, and Islam in the media. The Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre for the Study of Islam in the Modern World, based at Edinburgh, aims to improve public knowledge and awareness of Islamic civilization and of Muslims in Britain. It will do so partly through educational outreach to policy-makers, students and the public.

Independent [39]
May 8, 2008

Universities as International Student Ghettos

While American students have an affinity for the royal and the ancient at St. Andrews [40], Chinese students are drawn to Manchester [41] and Loughborough [42], and the French and Spanish, well they enroll at the North East Wales Institute [43]. These are the findings of research into 2006/07 data [44] from the Higher Education Statistics Agency [45] published in the Guardian newspaper. Considering the popularity of golf in the United States, St. Andrews is an understandably popular destination for American students; however, other groups of international students often cluster together at particular – unexpected – universities.

Almost 10 percent of all Spanish students in the UK go to the North East Wales Institute, which has just 7,300 students. Robert Gordon University [46] in Aberdeen, Scotland, with a student body of 13,000, enrolls 510 Nigerian students, while Nottingham University [47] enrolls 9,640 students, 465 of whom are from Hong Kong.

Seeking answers, the Guardian found that Manchester’s brand and its football teams have played a big part in making the university attractive to Chinese students. For other universities, foreign student loyalty is derived from the links universities have forged with other institutions abroad. One of the main reasons Sheffield Hallam University [48] is the hotspot for Malaysian students is its nine-year partnership with the Tunku Abdul Rahman College [49] in Kuala Lumpur. The college’s students come to Hallam for 14 weeks over the summer and top up their credits to gain a degree. The North East Wales Institute’s links with Universidad de Zaragoza [50], Universitat de Cataluña [51]and Universidad de Salamanca [52] have helped bring in Spaniards. Robert Gordon attracts Nigerians because it is “the oil capital of Europe”, says Tahir Raji, an MBA student at Robert Gordon who is from Adamawa in Nigeria.

The universities with the largest numbers of international students in 2006/07:

  1. Manchester University 8345
  2. Nottingham University 7710
  3. Warwick University 7435
  4. Oxford University 6555
  5. City University 6380
  6. Cambridge University 6340
  7. University College London 6135
  8. London School of Economics 5980
  9. Westminster University 5735
  10. Birmingham University 5505

The Guardian [53]
May 20, 2008


Grading System to get Face Lift in Exam-System Reform

The Scottish Ministry of Education [54] announced in April a major shake-up of the nation’s exam system. Standard Grades are to be axed, along with Intermediate Exams, and will be replaced by a new qualification.

Children will be given a broad, general education without any exams for the first three years of secondary school, making their choice of subjects at the end of S3 (secondary 3) instead of S2. All students will have to take and pass new literacy and numeracy awards in S4. Highers will be retained and pupils will be able to start studying for them earlier.

According to the ministry, the proposed changes, which will be put out to consultation in the summer, would give Scotland “next generation” qualifications that fit in with the new curriculum due to be introduced next year. The replacement for the Standard Grade and Intermediate Qualifications would combine the best features of the two, the ministry said. The consultation on the proposals is expected to run from June to October. And the changes are proposed to be introduced from 2012-13 onwards.

The Scotsman [55]
April 24, 2008