WENR, September 2009: Europe

2 Million Students Study Abroad Through Erasmus

By mid-2009, the European Union’s Erasmus program for mobility and cooperation in higher education had allowed two million students to study outside of their country of residence, the European Commission said in July.

The data on Erasmus mobility of students and staff for the academic year 2007/2008 showed that some 1.847 million students had benefited from a study period under the Erasmus program since it was established in 1987. In 2007/2008, 162,695 Erasmus students studied abroad. The European Commission said, based on these figures, it could be assumed that, by mid-2009, the program had benefited 2 million students.

Europa News
July 30, 2009

Trans-Atlantic Mobility Program Proving Popular

A report by the American Council on Education found that the number of U.S. institutions offering overseas opportunities rose from 65 percent in 2001 to 91 percent in 2006, with Europe proving by far the most popular destination. This popularity has been encouraged over the last three years by the European Union – United States Atlantis Program, which has proven very successful in establishing joint and dual degree programs.

Atlantis is currently funding up to 18 international projects and is considering approximately 75 funding requests for 2009-10, while many other universities have launched programs with other funding sources.

In a rare collaborative funding venture between the EU and a U.S. government department, both sides have allocated about $4.5 million each in grants. American participants pay their school fees at home, and Washington awards travel stipends of about $5,000 a semester to U.S. citizens or permanent residents. European students who come to the U.S. get similar grants from the EU. The program is currently funded through the end of 2013 and seeks to support a total of 200 projects.

August 12, 2009


International Students Wanting to Stay in Country After Graduation Face Many Hurdles

International students are not assimilating into the Danish workforce because there are too many obstacles in their way, a Forum for Business Education (FBE) report states.

The report, compiled for the Employment Ministry, shows that 73 percent of foreign students leave Denmark within two years of completing their education, despite expressing a desire to stay. More than a third of those who do remain are unable to find work. In 2008, there were 14,470 international students in Denmark, more than three times as many as 10 years ago.

Students cited the lack of employment, the high costs for non-EU students and the difficulty in adapting to the Danish language and culture as the primary reasons for leaving the country after their studies.

FBE chief executive Stina Vrang Elias said a national strategy was needed to help international students learn Danish and find jobs.

Copenhagen Post
August 26, 2009


Business Schools Announce Merger

ESC Lille and CERAM have announced a merger that will create the largest business schools in France. Once joined, the new school will have 5,600 students and 138 permanent professors, enough to make it the country’s biggest according to officials. The merger will bring a full range of management programs, including undergraduate, specialized masters, MBA, PhD and executive education programs.

Closer cooperation between business schools is being encouraged by the French government, which would like to see its business school competing internationally. The new institution is looking to use its increased size and offerings to expand aggressively abroad. It is planning to open an American campus in 2010, the location of which is still to be decided. However, like CERAM—which is based in the Sophia Antipolis technology park, close to Nice—it is likely to be in a technology park and away from the major cities. It then expects to roll out further international campuses in subsequent years.

Perhaps the strangest aspect of the unexpected merger is the geography. The two schools are located on opposite ends of the country: CERAM in the southeast; Lille in the north. It will continue to run a campus in each location.

In related news, ESC Rouen and Reims launched a joint campus in Paris, which itself may evolve into a fully-fledged merger. Expect such unions to be a sign of things to come. François Bonvalet, Reims’ dean, says that in France mid-sized schools will soon find themselves caught between two poles: large international schools and small, often locally-focused niche players. The choice will be to merge and become big enough to compete, or to downsize.

The Economist
Jul 24th 2009

Professors Remain Steadfast in their Opposition to Reforms

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the anger that led to crippling campus protests across France this spring has remained in evidence through the summer, as opponents of the government’s higher-education plans ready themselves for further oppositional activities in September.

Professors and students have been reacting to the government of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plans that will give the country’s 83 universities, which educate the vast majority of France’s 2.2 million students, more control over their own finances, infrastructure, and personnel matters.

Universities will begin evaluating their researchers based in part on their teaching, and administrators will have greater say over how researchers allocate their time between teaching and research. The government also wants to offer pay incentives to improve the quality of teaching and research.

In Sarkozy’s first round of reforms in 2007 universities were granted greater powers of self-governance, and university presidents were freed from many of the more rigid constraints of public-sector employment, such as limits on salaries, and allowed greater administrative control over their institutions.

Students were soon out in opposition claiming that greater financial self-determination was simply a prelude to the imposition of tuition and an American-style “commercialization” of higher education. Regardless, the government forged ahead and 18 universities became autonomous at the beginning of 2009, and 33 more are scheduled to make the transition in January 2010. By 2012, plans call for all universities to be officially autonomous.

This year the focus of the reforms, and the cause for major unrest, turned to the role of faculty members. In the past, the amount of time professors allocated between research and teaching was determined by a central-government body. Now a new law allows university presidents to make that decision, which has caused opponents to fear that institutions will limit academics research time and force them to take on heavier teaching loads. This was the catalyst for four months of strikes and protest.

What will happen this fall remains to be seen. Even with the perspective of a few months’ respite, the opposition does not seem to have warmed to the government’s plans and is preparing for the next showdown.

The Chronicle of Higher Education
July 27, 2009


100 Professors Under Investigation for Fraud

According to the Associated Press, authorities in Germany are investigating approximately 100 professors involved in an alleged bribery scheme to help students obtain doctoral degrees. Hundreds of Ph.D. students may have been involved, although it is unclear whether they knew about the bribes. Authorities say that the students were paying money to a company that promised to help them with their doctorates, and that this company in turn paid the professors. Many of the professors were people hired to teach selected classes, not full-time faculty members. The investigation stems from the conviction last year of a law professor at Leibniz University, in Hannover.

Associated Press
August 22, 2009

New Global Centers of Excellence Established to Promote International Research Collaboration

Germany’s Federal Foreign Office recently launched an initiative designed to help German universities tap into global research networks. The Research and Academic Relations Initiative is designed to increase the visibility of German universities and research institutions abroad, in a bid to bring young scholars, research contracts and prestigious prizes to German universities.

The Initiative’s main elements include the new German Houses of Science and Innovation (DWIH) that are intended to showcase Germany as a center of research. In five cities on four continents, they seek to demonstrate the competence and innovative strength of German universities, research institutions and businesses. Worldwide German research cooperation is also represented by four centers of excellence that are promoting interchange with German higher education as part of the initiative. These centers are being established in Russia, Columbia, Chile and Thailand with a goal of developing joint study programs, seminars, and exchanges of students and faculty with partner institutions.

Deutschland Magazine
August 17, 2009


Government Sets Regulations for the Private Sector

The Ministry of Education has published a set of regulations governing the issuance of licenses for private universities. These regulations appear to be favorable to private providers in a country that has long resisted the entry of such providers into its educational space, and contrary to tough measures announced by the government last October.

The 38 colleges that have applied for a license had until August 31 to ready themselves for an assessment that would lead to the issuing of a license. Only 30 percent of teaching personnel are required to have a doctorate under the new regulations, while the ministry relinquished the right to set tough measures and specifications regarding building infrastructure and essential equipment. Under the remaining new regulations, an area as little as 300 square meters is thought to be adequate to establish a private college. Essentials such as elevators, heating, library, multimedia rooms and sporting facilities (all expressly required in the earlier specifications) have been deleted.

A financial guarantee for the operating license remains at EUR500,000 (US$700,000). However, specifications regarding fire safety and security have been reduced to minimal standards. In addition, private colleges will be allowed to operate without having to establish fully equipped laboratories provided they can secure access for their students to outside contractually available ones.

University World News
July 19, 2009

Republic of Ireland

Increasing Numbers Leaving Ireland to Study Abroad, Promoting Fears of ‘Brain Drain’

New figures showing a sharp jump in the number of students going to college abroad has prompted The Independent newspaper to write of an impending ‘brain drain’ as Ireland continues to suffer through a steep economic downturn, which is making it difficult for overseas Irish graduates to return home for work.

A new EU education report has revealed a large increase in the numbers of Irish undergraduates and graduates studying elsewhere in Europe. The proportion of Irish students abroad almost doubled to 13.8 percent between 2002 and 2006 – way above the EU average of 2.6 percent. The comparable figure for the UK is 0.7 percent, according to the 2009 Eurydice Key Education Data report, a snapshot of education trends in 31 European countries in 2006-07. The report suggests that almost 18,000 Irish students were studying for primary degrees or graduate qualifications elsewhere in Europe in 2006. There are also about 5,000 Irish students in the US.

The Independent
July 16, 2009

Ireland First to Link National Qualifications Framework to Bologna

Ireland is the first Bologna signatory to publicly indicate how its national qualifications levels relate to the European Qualifications Framework of Lifelong Learning (EQF) though the recently released “Referencing Report”.

The Irish referencing report, which explains a clear and demonstrable link between its qualifications framework and the EQF is available at: http://www.nqai.ie/interdev_eqf.html

The EQF, as a common European reference framework, links together qualifications obtained in participating countries and acts as a translation device to make qualifications more readable and comparable for all. The eight reference levels of the EQF are described in learning outcomes – what the learner knows, understands and is able to do by the end of a learning process.

European Commission new release
July 1, 2009


100,000 Diplomas Annulled

Romania’s Education Minister has decreed that the graduation diplomas of 100,000 students are illegal. All the ‘illegal’ degrees were issued by the country’s largest private university, Spiru Haret, and have come into question since a scandal over college credentials hit the headlines this summer.

The diplomas will be annulled by the Ministry, which appointed its regulatory arm to check into the faculties at Spiru Haret. Education Minister Ecaterina Andronescu said in July that the decision affects 44 education centers across Romania and nine abroad. Students affected by the decision have the option of sitting a graduation examination at a state-run university to earn a recognized diploma.

A scandal over the university’s unaccredited education specializations broke recently when the Minister decided to lift its authorization after several irregularities regarding curricula papers had been exposed. The university last filed for an official license five years ago, for five of its distance learning departments.

July 15, 2009


Iranians Banned from Nuclear-related Programs

Iranian nationals have been banned from Swedish university programs with ties to nuclear and missile technologies following a warning from the country’s Säpo security service. So far, two Swedish institutions – The Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm and Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg – have decided to turn away applicants from Iran.

The restrictions also affect students from North Korea, but according to Säpo there are only a handful of North Koreans studying in Sweden. The measure comes as part of a 2007 European Union regulation connected to a 2006 United Nations resolution authorizing sanctions on Iran.

The Local
July 21, 2009

United Kingdom

Government Creates 10,000 Extra University Places to Meet Demand

The British government in July announced an emergency 10,000 extra places at universities this fall to meet unexpectedly high demand, but it refused to fully fund the expansion. While students taking up the additional 10,000 places will receive their grants and loans and pay tuition fees, the universities will get no extra money directly from the government to cover teaching costs.

Universities UK, which represents vice-chancellors, has previously said it would refuse to take extra students if they are not properly funded as it would be the first de facto funding cut they have faced in nearly a decade. The announcement will also dismay some prospective students after the government said the extra places would only be in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The Guardian
July 20, 2009

INTO Posts Losses

Accounts filed by INTO University Partnerships, a private provider of pre-degree courses to international students, show that four of its university partnerships recorded losses last year.

The firm’s partnerships with the universities of East Anglia, Exeter, Newcastle and Glasgow Caledonian were running at a loss as of July 2008, according to accounts filed at Companies House. As a whole, INTO University Partnerships made a loss of £1,173,239. However, according to Stephen Healy, INTO’s director of strategy and development, the company’s performance was “ahead of plan”.

“We do not for a moment dispute that INTO made losses in its second year. In light of the fact that we are a young privately funded start-up, the loss is to be expected,” he said.

“We are on course to finish our third financial year in the black.”

Between August last year and this July, more than 4,300 international students entered INTO programs, he added.

“That is up from 2,600 in 2007-08 and from more than 400 in 2006-07, when we had one partner. More crucially, given the global environment and challenges with the new visa system, our confirmations and forecasts for this September are going to be up by a minimum of 35 percent from last September.”

The Times Higher Education Supplement
July 30, 2009

U.S. For-Profit Education Company Completes BPP Takeover

Apollo Global, the owner of the largest profit-making university in the United States (University of Phoenix) has closed on the purchase of BPP Holdings, the United Kingdom’s largest private higher education provider. The deal cost Apollo Group £368 million (US$600 million).

The move will likely spur the creation of a wave of new private colleges and universities in the UK, as Apollo has confirmed that it intends to use the acquisition to expand into Europe. The announcement came as David Willetts, the Shadow Universities Minister, made it clear that a Conservative Government would encourage increased competition from private players in the UK higher education sector. A general election has to occur no later than next year, and the Conservatives are currently polling very strongly.

The Times Higher Education Supplement
August 4, 2009

Posted in Archive