WENR, April 2010: Europe

Students Berate European Commission for Setting Graduation Targets too Low

The European Commission has set a goal of graduating 40 percent of college-age people from higher education by 2020. Students have described that as “a problem rather than an ambition.”

Ligia Deca, president of the European Students’ Union (ESU) said: “Setting benchmarks is good. But if the bar is set as low as this, Europe will not be able to call itself a real knowledge economy by 2020. Having less than 50 percent higher education graduates among the young generation is a problem rather than an ambition.”

Although the ESU supports a proposal for an increase in research and development investment, it has argued that this rise should be matched with funding for higher education.

ESU news release [1]
March 2010


Universities in Sarajevo Source Students from Turkey as City Looks to Establish as Regional Education Hub

More than 1,000 students from Turkey have enrolled at universities in Bosnia, in part because women there can wear headscarves that are banned by law in Turkey at public institutions of higher education, and because there are three international universities in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, two of which are Turkish-funded. One student said: “If the situation in Turkey changed, we would not come to study here…. Bosnian people are more tolerant than Turkish people.”

In related news, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in April officially opened a new campus of the International University of Sarajevo [2] (IUS) on the outskirts of the Bosnian capital. Erdogan heads an Islamist-rooted government and his wife wears a headscarf. However, Turkey remains a secular state and women are forbidden to wear headscarves at university there. Students interviewed by Reuters also suggested that proximity, similar cultural and religious values and affordability all contributed to the appeal of Sarajevo as a study destination.

The IUS is the largest of the three universities that are building what might become the largest complex of private colleges in the region. The other Turkish-funded college is the International Burch University [3] (IBU). The third university is the Sarajevo School of Science and Technology [4], accredited by Britain’s Buckingham University [5] .

The total investment, estimated roughly at more than 100 million euros ($135 million) once it is completed, would turn Sarajevo into a regional university center and create new revenues for the city, officials say.

Reuters [6]
April 6, 2010


Germany Tops Education Import/Export Rankings

According to a ranking of nations, based on the promotion of international higher education, Germany has the most international education system in the world, outranking both the UK and the US. The study is part of a research project, conducted for the British Council [7] by the Economist Intelligence Unit, to create “the first detailed measure of the international higher education activities of countries across the world”.

The British Council’s Index for International Education, which was unveiled in late March at the organization’s “Going Global” conference in London, looks at national policies, student mobility and international collaboration. The first of those three subjects is covered by the report’s National Policy Index, which ranks 11 countries. Germany tops the table, followed in order by Australia, the UK, China, Malaysia, the US, Japan, Russia and Nigeria, with Brazil and India in equal 10th position. The study says that the top three countries have the “most open environments, supported by well-defined and ambitious internationalisation strategies”.

“However, what sets Germany apart is its fairly even focus on both importing and exporting elements. While it targets 20 percent growth in the number of inbound students, it also has the most comprehensive outbound-support programs of any country in this study,” it says.

The National Policy Index draws on reports from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education. The three categories judged were quality assurance; openness (including internationalization strategy and visa policies) and degree recognition; and access and equity (including the size of scholarships and whether policies are in place to ensure that marginalised domestic students are not displaced by their overseas peers).

Times Higher Education [8]
March 25, 2010


Financial Meltdown Hits Education Sector

The Greek economy is teetering on the brink, although the education sector has so far escaped the worst effects, reports University World News. That is not to say that it hasn’t been impacted, however. Higher education institutions have been called on to cut their operating expenses by 10 percent while lecturers and staff, who are civil servants, face severe pay cuts in an industry that absorbs just under 3 percent of GNP, the lowest in the European Union.

Education in Greece is the responsibility of the state and all teachers are civil servants. They face a reduction in their basic salary and a further cut, or the total abolition, of a series of supplements they were to receive as a result of government policies to drastically reduce the civil service.

The Federation of University Teachers’ Associations disagrees with measures that affect lower incomes and in particular the reduction in operating expenses of the institutions and the attack on lecturer incomes. The federation’s executive council said in a statement that the income of lecturers had remained unchanged for more than six years. Yet other civil servants, such as judges, doctors and military officers, received substantial increases, in many cases 99 percent of the basic salary.

Lecturer incomes are made up by as much as 50 percent by supplements for professional activities favoured by successive governments rather than increases in the basic salary. With their abolition, the majority of university teachers will have their incomes reduced on average between EUR200 and EUR500 a month. The federation has not ruled out industrial action if assurances are not given on the restoration of lost income.

University World News [9]
March 21, 2010

Top Court Clears the Way for Recognition of Degrees from Private Colleges

Graduates of private colleges operating in Greece will be allowed to apply for public-sector jobs and join professional associations, following a ruling last week by the country’s highest administrative court.

Currently, Greek law does not allow the establishment of private higher-education institutions, but dozens of foreign-owned colleges operate in the country, awarding degrees accredited abroad. Graduates of those institutions have to seek work in the private sector as they are barred by law from public-sector employment in Greece, although degrees earned from foreign institutions located abroad are fully recognized.

The new ruling is expected to be applied retroactively to recent graduates, and it conforms with a European Union directive requiring member states to grant full recognition to degrees and qualifications from other European Union countries. However, the new rules will still not allow graduates of foreign colleges to pursue postgraduate studies at Greek state universities.

Kathimerini [10]
April 10, 2010


Education System Overhaul Proposed

The government of Latvia has proposed a huge reform of the national system of higher education with the closure of some of the country’s universities and research institutes and a merging of others.

Compared to neighboring Baltic states, Latvia has a huge number of higher education institutions, for which enough adequately qualified staff cannot be found. Among 6,000 academics in the university system, only 40 percent have degrees that comply with European standards. Lack of public funding, which dropped by 48 percent last year, is one of the main reasons for the current crisis and has already resulted in a low assessment of Latvian diplomas within the European Union.

The government’s plans have already provoked sharp criticism from the presidents of some of the largest universities and their students.

University World News [11]
March 21, 2010


New Universities in the Works

Seven new state universities are to be established in the cities of İstanbul, Ankara, İzmir, Bursa, Konya, Kayseri and Erzurum once the relevant legislation is approved, Deputy Prime M inister Cemil Çiçek announced in March. Çiçek said the legislation commissioning the universities is awaiting ministers’ signatures. There are currently 141 universities in the country, 60 of which were established in the last four years.

The new universities are to include Medeniyet University in İstanbul, Yıldırım Beyazıt University in Ankara, Turgut Reis University in İzmir and Orhan Gazi University in Bursa as well as universities in Konya, Kayseri and Erzurum that will operate under the names of those provinces.

Zaman [12]
March 17, 2010

United Kingdom

Universities Face Major Budget Cuts with a Silver Lining

More than three-quarters of universities in England are to have their budgets cut by this September – some by nearly 14 percent, triggering warnings of larger class sizes, further job cuts and a deterioration in the quality of programs. However, the sector was handed a financial lifeline a week after the budget cuts were announced when universities learned that the chancellor of the exchequer announced $403 million in new “one-off” government support to help them pay for 20,000 additional student places. The chancellor, Alistair Darling, also announced a new $52-million “university enterprise capital fund” to support innovation and spinoff companies.

Universities have not witnessed cuts on this scale since 1997, the government agency in charge of distributing public money to them – the Higher Education Funding Council for England [13] (Hefce) – said in March. In total, Hefce will distribute £7.36bn (US$11 billion) in state funds to 130 universities and colleges for their teaching, research and building projects, a 3.6 percent real-term drop on the sum awarded for this academic year.

Research activity is being promoted in part by concentrating $2.4 billion in dedicated support at fewer institutions. According to The Guardian [14], “just 10 universities will be given 49 percent of all research money,” with the Universities of Cambridge [15] and Oxford [16] receiving 15 percent of the total.

The biggest cut overall was a $116 million reduction in the teaching budget, followed by a withdrawal of $61 million from the budget for maintenance and upkeep of historic buildings. The cuts come ahead of an independent review on whether students should pay higher tuition fees. The review, led by the former BP chief executive, Lord Browne, is due after the general election and could see fees rise from £3,225 a year to more than £5,000. However, it is likely that universities would only be allowed to charge higher fees if they could provide financial support to students who could not afford the fees.

The cuts also come as record numbers are applying for university. Seven students are expected to compete for each place awarded this summer. The Conservatives have estimated that 275,000 students will miss out on a place. UCAS applications have grown by 23 percent – or 106,389 – so far this year, but the number of places has been reduced by 6,000.

The Guardian [14]
March 18, 2010

Private Provision in the UK: Plenty of Room for Growth

While Britain still has relatively few private institutions of higher education, especially at the university level, there has been significant growth in the sector in recent years, and according to a new report [17] published in March by Universities UK [18], an association of vice chancellors, that growth offers both potential threats as well as opportunities for the predominantly public sector.

The only private institution in Britain that has been awarded the title of university is the University of Buckingham [5], a nonprofit institution where tuition for foreign undergraduates, who compose a majority of the enrollment, is $43,000 (US$60,000) a year. Four other private providers have been granted degree-awarding power, the first of which was BPP Ltd. [19], which was taken over last year by the Apollo Group [20], the American parent company of the University of Phoenix [21] , a for-profit giant. (The other three private providers are nonprofit.)

The report, “The Growth of Private and For-Profit Higher-Education Providers in the UK,” states that private higher education accounts for 30 percent of global enrollment and has become widespread in Poland and other Central and Eastern European countries, yet publicly subsidized higher education remains the norm for most of Europe.

Apollo’s acquisition of Britain’s only for-profit provider with the power to award British degrees “has sent a signal to its large American counterparts that the UK market is worth watching,” the report notes. Apollo and other for-profit education companies have weathered the recession better than many other sectors, the report says, and “student numbers and profitability are growing.”

The report argues that because the British government is reviewing the domestic undergraduate-tuition cap of $4,500 at British universities, “it is a reasonable assumption that, were the fees cap to be lifted after 2010, more of the large American educational corporations would be interested in the UK as a market, although it is relatively small by comparison with the United States, China, or India, for example.”

Universities UK [17]
March 18, 2010

Government Official Says Visa Delays are Deterring Foreign Graduate Students from Coming to UK

Britain’s new points-based visa system [22] is designed to expedite the visa process for legitimate students, but a top official at the ministry in charge of universities has warned in a recent report that the system in fact prevents talented foreign graduate students from studying in the country.

Adrian Smith, [23] director of research at Britain’s Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills [24], says in the report that British institutions of higher education are reporting processing delays that have “prevented legitimate, high-caliber postgraduates from taking up places.” This is a serious issue for the British education-export industry as 25 percent of all students at British higher-education institutions are graduate students, and for most universities, “postgraduate provision is a major part of their business,” the report says.

The system, introduced last year, applies to all people outside the EU coming to live in the UK, many of whom are students. Successful applicants must earn a certain number of points, based on attributes such as qualifications and income. Many universities have claimed that the framework has so far been slow and unwieldy. Consequently, applications that took days under the previous rules instead took up to three months. Universities also said some applications were rejected for minor discrepancies – in one case because the nationality was entered as “Nigeria” rather than “Nigerian”.

Financial Times [25]
April3, 2010

New Government Scholarship for the Best of the Best

The government has established a £2.5 million (US$3.75) scholarship fund to attract the world’s best research students to the United Kingdom. A total of 100 graduate research students will receive Newton scholarships worth up to £25,000 each, which will be administered by Britain’s research councils.

Announcing the initiative at the end of March, Lord Mandelson, the First Secretary, said it was aimed at meeting the needs of British industry. “Our high-tech and research-intensive industries are in particular need of a highly skilled workforce to ensure that they can grow and compete globally,” he said. In a statement, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills [24] adds that the Newton scholars will “work closely with industry, business and policymakers in critical areas of the UK economy”.

Times Higher Education [26]
April 1, 2010

Nigerians Overtake Americans as Third-largest Source of International Students

Britain’s Higher Education Statistics Agency [27] released new figures in March that show that students from China and India accounted for nearly one third of all non-EU domicile students at UK institutions of higher education in 2008/09, with a more than 30 percent increase in enrollments from India. China remains the number one source of overseas students at 47,035 – up 3.7 percent on the year before.

The newly released Students in Higher Education Institutions 2008/09 publication shows that there were 2,396,050 students in higher education in the UK in 2008/09. Of these 2,027,085 (84.6 percent) were UK domicile students, 117,660 (4.9 percent) were from other EU member countries and 251,310 (10.5 percent) were from non-EU countries. Overall, enrollments from outside the European Union were up 9.4 percent.

The table below shows the rate of increase of students by domicile. The number of students from non-EU countries increased at a faster rate since 2007/08 than numbers of UK domicile students.

Students at UK HE institutions by domicile 2007/08 and 2008/09
Domicile 2007/08 2008/09 % change
UK 1,964,310 2,027,085 3.2%
Other EU 112,150 117,660 4.9%
Non-EU 229,640 251,310 9.4%
Total 230,6105 239,6050 3.9%

Source: HESA Students in Higher Education Institutions 2007/08, 2008/09
The table below shows the growth in numbers of students from the top ten non-EU countries of domicile from 2007/08 to 2008/09, with Nigeria overtaking the United States as the third largest source of international students. Arrivals from Saudi Arabia showed the most dramatic rise, up 47.2 percent. However, this was from a relatively low base.

Top ten non-EU countries of domicile in 2008/09 for HE students in UK Higher Education Institutions
Country of domicile 2007/08 2008/09 % change
China 45,355 47,035 3.7%
India 25,905 34,065 31.5%
Nigeria 11,785 14,380 22.0%
United States 13,905 14,345 3.2%
Malaysia 11,730 12,695 8.3%
Pakistan 9,305 9,610 3.3%
Hong Kong 9,700 9,600 -1.0%
Canada 5,005 5,350 6.9%
Taiwan 5,615 5,235 -6.8%
Saudi Arabia 3,535 5,205 47.2%
Total non-EU domicile 229,640 251,310 9.4%

Source: HESA Students in Higher Education Institutions 2007/08, 2008/09
The number of students from other EU countries also continued to rise between 2007/08 and 2008/09. The table below shows the growth in numbers of students from the top ten other EU countries of domicile in 2008/09.

Top ten other EU countries of domicile in 2008/09 for HE students in UK Higher Education Institutions
Country of domicile 2007/08 2008/09 % change
Ireland 15,260 15,360 0.6%
Germany 13,625 14,130 3.7%
France 12,685 13,090 3.2%
Greece 12,625 12,035 -4.7%
Cyprus 9,640 10,370 7.6%
Poland 8,570 9,145 6.7%
Italy 5,605 6,035 7.7%
Spain 5,740 5,690 -0.9%
Netherlands 3,025 3,200 5.9%
Sweden 3,195 3,185 -0.3%
Total other EU domicile 112,150 117,660 4.9%

Source: HESA Students in Higher Education Institutions 2007/08, 2008/09
Almost half of all non-UK domicile students in 2008/09 were studying for graduate qualifications.

Students by domicile, level of study and mode of study 2008/09
Postgraduate Undergraduate
Domicile Full-time Part-time Full-time Part-time All students
UK 119285 234145 1114860 558790 2027085
Non-UK 148715 34670 157170 28415 368970
Total 268000 268815 1272030 587205 2396050

Source: HESA Students in Higher Education Institutions 2008/09

Higher Education Statistics Agency [28]
March 25, 2010