WENR, June 2009: Europe


Students Express Bologna Concerns

European universities have failed to improve student opportunities – a stated goal of the Bologna Process [1] – and must act now if they are to avoid the entire exercise becoming a “superficial redesign” of higher education, say European students.

The European Students’ Union [2] (ESU) urged education ministers to force universities into action ahead of the 2010 Bologna deadline. In the April ESU report [3] entitled Bologna with Student Eyes 2009, students claim that despite progress on structural reforms, issues such as widening participation and student mobility have been largely neglected, leaving “a hole at the centre of the process”.

Ten years since the process was drawn up, European students still face huge barriers to learning linked to their socio-economic background and home life, the ESU says. Attempts to increase mobility across European institutions have also failed, it suggests.

The ESU noted a number of ‘victories’ contained in the communiqué coming from the recent Leuven Ministerial Conference, for which the ESU report was drafted. Among those perceived ‘victories’:

European Students Union [4]
April 2009

Education Ministers Eye Further Reform Beyond 2010 Deadline

The reforms to European higher education will not be complete by 2010, as originally planned, according to a statement released following a meeting in April of the 46 education ministers from the mainly European countries signatory to the Bologna Process reform movement.

“European higher education also faces the major challenge and the ensuing opportunities of globalisation and accelerated technological developments with new providers, new learners and new types of learning. Student-centered learning and mobility will help students develop the competences they need in a changing labour market and will empower them to become active and responsible citizens,” the ministers said.

The ministers called for greatly increased public investment in higher education, while pledging their full commitment to the objectives of the European Higher Education Area. The ministers also called for a student body that better reflected European diversity, with institutions offering similar quality standards, by ensuring that access is widened and quality assurance mechanisms strengthened by 2020. The post-meeting communiqué [5] also listed lifelong learning, national qualifications frameworks and graduate employability among the issues that those taking part in the Bologna process needed to address, in addition to student-centered learning, research and innovation, internationalization and greater student mobility.

Leuvan Communique [5]
April 30, 2009


Tuition for Manpower

According to a recent announcement from Science Minister Helge Sander, talented foreign students may be offered a free university education in exchange for committing to work in Denmark. Under the plan, students would be offered grants if they agree to contribute to the national workforce for a couple of years.

‘We have to make it more interesting for foreign students to come to Denmark. We would like to introduce labor market scholarships to the most qualified students from China and the US, for example,’ said Sander in an interview with The Copenhagen Post.

In 2007 there were just 4,714 international students enrolled at Danish universities, with social sciences programs being the most popular. This represented a drop of more than 8 percent from the previous year, despite a threefold increase (from 60) in the number of programs being taught in English over the last eight years.

Sander is currently meeting with business organizations to determine the best model for offering labor-market scholarships to international students, before he puts a concrete proposal before parliament. He said he would like to see a combined model with the state and business community working in partnership to finance and select the students.

Copenhagen Post [6]
May 6, 2009


President Ignores Protestors as Academic Year is Lost for Some

Students and academics have been striking for almost four months, and still President Nicolas Sarkozy is refusing to back down from planned reforms to the French system of higher education.

In January, Mr. Sarkozy launched a diatribe against France’s research institutions, labeling them as “infantilizing and paralyzing.” His reforms are aimed at injecting a much greater degree of institutional autonomy, competitive funding and admissions, a move that has academics worried about job security – or jobs for life – and students worried about access to higher studies.

Academics began their strike shortly after in early February, with students joining the fray and being denied courses and placements as universities closed and public demonstrations increased in intensity.

Mr. Sarkozy backed down slightly on employment conditions and plans for job cuts recently, but reforms of teacher training remain a sticking point. The government wants new schoolteachers to hold a master’s degree in education, and it has merged teacher-training colleges into universities. Opponents object to the speed of the reforms, the abolition of a year’s paid teaching practice and the reduction of academic content in teacher training.

May saw France’s strike by lecturers and researchers reach its 15th week, a point at which students’ examinations could be postponed until September, or at which the semester – and year – would be lost. Regardless, President Nicolas Sarkozy rejected the possibility of retreat on the planned reforms.

Negotiations were continuing at the end of May, notably on teacher training and jobs, and many advances had been made. Only a small number of universities continued to be deadlocked, meaning that the vast majority of France’s students had access to classes and instruction. According to the Parisien-Aujourd’hui, about 15 of France’s 83 universities were closed in early May, and disorder reigned in some 20 others which had voted to reopen. The newspaper calculated about 310,000 students remained uncertain about whether their examinations would be postponed, their assessments less rigorous or their year wasted entirely.

Times Higher Education Supplement [7]
May 28, 2009


Notes on Bologna Implementation

The German Rectors’ Conference [8] were generally positive about the reforms that the Bologna Process has brought to German education at the end of April at the bi-annual meeting of Bologna-area education ministers; however, German students have proven less enthusiastic, as witnessed at May Day demonstrations throughout Germany, with some even calling for the scrapping of the new bachelor and master’s degrees altogether.

The Germans have faced some criticism over the last few years for being slow in implementing the Bologna reforms. To date, institutions offer 5,309 bachelor programs and 4,201 master’s programs, representing 76 percent of all programs in Germany. Numbers have risen by 3 percent since the 2008-2009 winter semester, and have been steadily on the increase since 1999.

During their May Day demonstrations, students carried banners demanding the bachelor and masters programs be abandoned altogether. Complaints have often been made that in a top-down approach, institutions have been left to their own devices; and that new programs are oriented far too much on employability and on “vocational training in the university”.

University World News [9]
May 10, 2009

The Netherlands

Dutch Students Travel Abroad in Increasing Numbers with Government-Funded Grants

Dutch students are reportedly studying abroad in increasing numbers, under a program, introduced in 2007, that allows them to take government grants abroad with them. Universities wishing to attract Dutch students to their campuses need to be aware that in order for students to finance courses abroad with government funds, the overseas program must be deemed comparable to a program of study offered in the Netherlands.

Dutch students using government loans and grants to study abroad are subject to the same terms as students using the funds to study in the Netherlands. Thus, the length of time a student studying abroad is eligible for Dutch government grants and loans depends on the duration of the comparable course of study in the Netherlands, not the length of the program overseas.

The organization responsible for administering the program – Nuffic [10] – has prepared lists of pre-approved institutions and study programs for popular study abroad destinations to expedite the authorization process. The lists have been published on IB-Groep’s website [11]. Students who enroll in a program included on the lists will be awarded study finance immediately, without having to wait for a Nuffic assessment of their proposed study program.

A full list of Nuffic’s program-screening criteria are available here [12].

Institute for International Education [12]


Overseas Universities Increase Efforts to Recruit Turkish Students

According to a recent report from Turkey’s Ministry of Education [13], international universities have increased their efforts to recruit Turkish students through the global economic downturn.

The report states that 150 universities from 22 countries are now offering special incentives to enroll Turkish students in a bid to compensate for dropping international enrollments by attracting a fraction of the 1.5 million Turkish students who were not accepted into university in Turkey — only 300,000 out of the approximately 1.8 million students who take the Student Selection Examination (ÖSS) are accepted into a university in Turkey.

The report says over 150 international universities and language schools have contacted the Turkish Ministry of Education’s General Directorate of Study Abroad. The Ministry of Education closely monitors the offers of international universities and informs Turkish students about the opportunities available to them.

According to data provided by Ministry of Education’s General Directorate of Study Abroad, there are currently 44,204 Turkish students studying abroad, while 16,656 international students study in Turkey. The first choice of Turkish students seeking to study abroad is Germany, followed by the United States and the United Kingdom. Approximately 27,000 Turkish students attend German universities, 12,000 attend universities in the United States and 1,600 attend British universities.

Today’s Zaman [14]
May 23, 2009

United Kingdom

Apollo Makes Move on Britain’s First For-Profit Degree Grantor

The owner of the largest for-profit university in the United Sates, Apollo Global, has reportedly made an offer to acquire British for-profit education provider, BPP Professional Education [15], a move that would position it in the legal and business education market in Britain. The British higher-education company in 2007 became the first for-profit organization to offer degrees in Britain. The move is being described as highly significant to the future of UK higher education provision in the private market.

Apollo Global, Inc. is 80.1 percent owned by University of Phoenix [16]’s parent, the Apollo Group Inc [17]. Carlyle, a private-equity firm, owns the rest. Apollo Global’s first purchase, in 2008, was a university in Chile. It later established Meritus University [18] in Canada, which was awarded degree-granting status by the New Brunswick Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour [19] in May 2008. The group has since bought a controlling share in Universidad Latinoamericana [20] in Mexico.

Business Wire [21]
April29, 2009

British Degrees Easiest European Degrees to Earn

A recent report suggests that a UK degree is easier to earn than those on the continent. British students study for fewer hours per week than their European counterparts and may face “lesser requirements,” according to a survey of 70,000 graduates in 11 European countries. Students in the UK spend 30 hours a week in classes and private study – the lowest figure after the Czech Republic, the report found. This compares with the 42 hours a week put in by students in France, and the 39 hours seen in Switzerland.

Students from the UK were also the most likely to report that they had done extra work over and above what was required to pass their degree, says the study by the Centre for Higher Education Research and Information [22] (Cheri) at The Open University [23]. The report was commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Council for England after a survey published in 2007 by the Higher Education Policy Institute [24] suggested that England’s undergraduate degrees were the easiest in Europe.

However, the report acknowledges that when it comes to the amount students learn, “time spent” may not be the crucial factor.

The Times Higher Education Supplement [25]
April 30, 2009

New Diploma Good for University Entry

Four in five university departments in Britain will accept the new 14-19 Diploma for admission to undergraduate programs, the government says. But among more prestigious research universities in the so-called Russell Group [26], the figure is just 40 percent.

Five Diplomas of differing levels were introduced last year in England, and more will follow. The Diplomas are not meant to be of less academic value than A-levels, but the subjects available currently will not all contain content relevant to many programs at more prestigious institutions.

Almost all universities have given statements to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service [27] (UCAS) explaining how they view them. Bristol University [28], part of the Russell Group of 20 research-intensive institutions, says it will accept advanced level Diplomas. But Cambridge University [29] is more hesitant. Its statement to UCAS says: “We will be considering the acceptability of the new Diplomas for our courses on a case-by-case basis.” Oxford University [30] has said the same.

The first five Diplomas (Phase 1) began in September 2008 in the employment sectors of creative and media, information technology, health and social care, construction and the built environment and engineering. They are offered at three levels: foundation – equivalent to lower tier GCSEs, higher – like higher grades in GCSEs (not Scottish Highers), and Advanced – equivalent to A-levels.

More Diploma programs are scheduled for roll out this year and next.

BBC [31]
May 6, 2009

100,000 Additional Foreign Students

By playing with statistical methodologies, the UK has found an extra 100,000 students are studying at its institutions of higher education, in addition to the almost 400,000 thought to be on campus last year.

The new British Council [32] figures for 2007-08 suggest there were 513,570 international students – counted on the basis of those holding a foreign passport – rather than the 389,330 overseas students living at foreign addresses. The discovery suggests UK universities have been even more successful at attracting overseas students than they thought – and more dependent on their fees. By adding nationality to the mix, which universities had to include for the first time in data they submitted in 2007-08, the number of overseas students at UK universities is much closer to the estimated 623,805 at American universities. The Higher Education Statistics Agency [33], which collected the data, had previously focused on domicile, or the country in which students lived when making their applications. The increased figure now also includes people who have lived in the United Kingdom for several years and hold a foreign passport, but give a UK address when applying to university and pay home fees.

Under the new method of counting students, the number of Nigerian students in Britain almost doubled, while the total from Zimbabwe rose by a factor of four. Previously, the top five non-EU countries sending students to the UK in 2007-08 were China (49,090), India (27,905), US (21,985), Nigeria (12,680), and Malaysia (12,435). When students’ nationality is counted, the numbers rise to 55,185 for China, 35,245 for India, 24,020 for the US, and 21,010 for Nigeria, and 13,515 for Pakistan.

The research also shows that postgraduate programs are dominated by overseas students. They make up more than 80 percent of graduates on business and administration courses and more than 70 percent in social studies and biological sciences departments.

“We have believed for some time that we have many more international students in our universities and colleges than were being counted,” said Pat Killingley, the British Council’s director of higher education.

The Times Higher Education Supplement [34]
May 21, 2009

Thousands of Pakistanis Enter UK on Student Visas by Enrolling at Bogus Colleges

Thousands of young Pakistanis exploited Britain’s immigration rules to enroll as students at a network of bogus colleges, according to The Times of London. Many hundreds of those thousands came from a region of Pakistan that is the militant heartland of al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban.

Eight terror suspects arrested in April in Manchester and Liverpool were on the books of one college, Manchester College of Professional Studies. It had three small classrooms and three teachers for the 1,797 students on its books. Another college claimed to have 150 students but secretly enrolled 1,178 and offered places to a further 1,575 overseas applicants, 906 of them in Pakistan.

Those operating the scam charged at least £1,000 (US$1,600) for admission and fake diplomas. They created their own university to issue bogus degrees, also charging £2,500 for false attendance records, and diplomas and degrees that were used to extend the students’ stay in Britain. The Times investigation uncovered close ties between 11 colleges in London, Manchester and Bradford, all formed in the past five years and controlled by three young Pakistani businessmen. Each of the three men entered the country on a student visa.

The fraud has been responsible, in part, for a surge in student arrivals from Pakistan, which the Prime Minister has identified as the birthplace of two thirds of terrorist plots in the UK. Between 2002 and 2007, the number of Pakistani nationals with permission to enter or remain in the UK as students jumped from 7,975 to 26,935.

Tougher rules on the admission of international students, introduced last month by the UK Border Agency, aims to weed out bogus colleges and close the immigration loophole. As a result, the approved list of colleges for sponsoring UK student visas has shrunk by 13,000. There had been about 15,000 public and private educational institutions on the government’s register, but the new list, vetted by the UK Border Agency, now only has 1,500 institutions registered, suggesting that there were and are many “dodgy” colleges operating in the country.

Colleges that want to recruit students from overseas now face a much tougher inspection and accreditation process – and overseas students face greater controls, including the need for a biometric identity card.

The Times [35]
May 21, 2009