WENR, July/August 2010: Europe
New University Act Frees Institutions from Government Control
University World News reports that a new universities act has transformed institutions from branches of the government into independent legal entities, allowing them to more freely raise revenues from private donations and bequests.
Donations of EUR850-250 000 (US$1,000-300,000) are now tax-deductible for individuals as well as foundations and companies, a radical change in the context of the Finnish welfare state. Universities have an extra incentive to maximize their donation pool this year: the government has offered 250 percent of the sums donated as a mechanism to kick-start universities’ private fund-raising. The offer ends in December.
– University World News
July 4, 2010
University Reforms Transforming the Sector
Under a series of reform measures being instituted by the right-leaning government of Nicolas Sarkozy, the French higher education sector looks to be on course for the most profound restructuring in generations, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Central to the reforms is a measure to grant financial and administrative autonomy to the nation’s 83 universities, essentially severing the stranglehold that the central government has had over university affairs. In addition, universities will have much greater latitude over the conduct of scientific research, which has traditionally taken place at non-university research groups such as the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM). Universities will now be at the center of the new system, and will be encouraged to develop excellence and research clusters among themselves and the traditional research centers.
The government of President Nicolas Sarkozy has also pledged billions of euros in new financing for higher education and, through a program called Opération Campus, will provide major financing for the creation of 10 regional supercampuses intended to serve as centers of excellence that will eventually rival American institutions like Harvard and MIT. Anecdotally, much of the reform agenda is being driven by the mediocrity of French universities as gauged by global rankings of universities.
Traditionally, French universities have been ruled by egalitarianism, with institutions largely indistinguishable from one another in terms of mission and institutional profile. They have had little say over admission, which is open to all students who pass the qualifying baccalauréat exam. The lack of differentiation is reflected in the common French linguistic convention of speaking of “the University,” as though there were a single institution for all of France, rather than of individual universities.
Under the new system, university presidents have much more say over finances and personnel matters, including setting pay and awarding performance-based bonuses. As of the start of this year, 51 universities had become autonomous, and all are scheduled to achieve that status by the beginning of 2012. Financing still comes largely from the government, but that, too, is changing. As part of its goal of fostering a competitive, results-oriented outlook, the government has tied its allocations of public money more closely to institutional performance. It is also encouraging universities to pursue external sources of income.
Partnerships and mergers are also being encouraged between universities, and also with the more elite schools know as grandes écoles, as part of the creation of “clusters of research and higher education.” The idea behind the partnerships is to boost research capacity and access to labs and doctoral schools.
– The Chronicle of Higher Education
June 6, 2010
Illinois University to Offer Degree Program with French University
Northern Illinois University (NIU) has signed a cooperation agreement with the University of Bordeaux to offer a dual 12-month master’s degree in business administration. Students will graduate with a degree from NIU, plus one in international management from the University of Bordeaux, southwest of Paris.
For three weeks in November, and again in March, the class will travel to Bordeaux to study under French professors and meet with executives in that country. About 25 students are expected to enroll, including about six from France.
– Chicago Tribune
June 24, 2010
Diversifying Enrollments at France’s Elite Schools
The French government is concerned about a lack of ethnic diversity at its elite universities, or grand écoles, where the student body is overwhelmingly white. It has therefore been pushing the grandes écoles in recent years to increase the ratio of students on scholarships to 30 percent, according to a recent report in The New York Times. That would be more than three times the current percentage at the most selective schools.
While the initiative has many supporters, it also has its detractors. The move is being opposed by those who fear that the scholarships would detract from the meritocracy of an examination system that decides who gets in (virtually assuring top jobs for life) and who does not, in a country that theoretically espouses the ideal of a meritocracy blind to race, religion and ethnicity. The counter argument to the meritocracy debate, of course, is that it is only those from already advantaged backgrounds that can afford the kind of schooling that prepares students for the entrance tests, known as the concours, which results in a self-perpetuating elite of the wealthy and white.
But the schools fear that the government will undermine excellence in the name of social engineering and say the process has to begin further down the educational ladder. The state, they say, should seek out poor students with potential and help them to enter preparatory schools. Despite the misgivings, in February the Conférence des Grandes Écoles, under considerable pressure, signed on to a “Charter of Equal Opportunity” with the government committing the schools to try to reach the 30 percent goal before 2012 or risk losing some financing.
– New York Times
June 30, 2010
A New University Entrance Exam
Spain has introduced a new entrance examination for admission to public universities. The Prueba de Acceso a la Universidad replaces the former Selectividad. It only concerns students who wish to enter university and includes a compulsory general phase and a specific voluntary phase. Instead of six exams under the previous system, there will be four under the new examination.
More information (in Spanish) from the Ministry of Education: www.educacion.es/pau.html
Apollo Group Earns University Status in UK
British officials have decided to let BPP, a for-profit institution affiliated with the Apollo Group, the parent company of the University of Phoenix, call itself a “university college,” a closely controlled and significant term in Britain.
David Willetts, the universities minister, said on the day of the announcement that the move showed that the coalition government was “committed” to creating a more diverse sector to help improve teaching, learning and access. The new status will also see the British branch, which has focused on business programs, move into many other academic areas.
BPP, which became part of the international education giant Apollo Group last year, is the first private institution to be awarded the title since the University College at Buckingham – now the University of Buckingham – was created in 1976.
– Times Higher Education
July 26, 2010
Tuition Fee Increases for Overseas Students Causes Market-based Concern
The average tuition fees paid by non-EU international undergraduate students for classroom-based subjects will top £10,000 ($15,600) at British universities for the first time next year, a fact that has caused industry officials to warn that the country could be at risk of pricing itself out of the market for international students.
New figures for 2010-11 show that universities will be charging international undergraduates an average of £10,463 a year in classroom-based subjects, up 5.6 percent on 2009-10, and £11,435 for overseas undergraduates in laboratory-based subjects, an increase of 6.1 percent. At the graduate level, overseas students on one-year taught master’s programs can expect to pay an average of £10,938 in classroom-based subjects (up 5.2 percent) and £12,487 in lab-based subjects (up 6.1 percent). The data comes from the annual survey of institutions by Mike Reddin, a former London School of Economics professor.
The new figures have been cause for renewed warnings that universities must be careful not to price themselves out of the market, with interviewees in many major publications stressing that there will be a tipping point where higher fees will begin to act as a deterrent in today’s increasingly competitive international education market.
Imperial College London had the highest tuition costs for undergraduates in lab-based classes (£20,750), with fees for international students similar to those charged by Ivy League schools in the United States. For 2010-11, the Russell Group of large research-intensive universities will charge average fees of £12,162 for overseas undergraduates in classroom-based subjects and £14,987 in lab-based subjects. Averages for the 1994 Group of smaller research-intensive universities are £10,678 and £13,012: for the Million+ group of post-1992 universities, they are £9,059 and £9,489.
– Daily Telegraph
July 29, 2010
Extending Research Ties with India
On a weeklong visit to India in late July/early August, British prime minister, David Cameron met with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh, and the two agreed to extend a research agreement that has been a major driving force behind UK-India higher-education collaborations over the past five years.
Mr. Cameron, who was in India with a delegation of trade and education leaders, announced the extension of the UK-India Education and Research Initiative, a program that has already helped create close to 600 new partnerships between British and Indian institutions of education since it was inaugurated in 2006. The program receives funding from the governments of both countries as well as from businesses. With the extension of the program, additional support will be sought from corporations.
According to a statement from the British Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the program’s extension will help India realize its plan to develop 14 world-class innovation universities, through supportive partnerships with leading British institutions. It said a variety of universities have expressed interest in forming such partnerships, including Imperial College London; Open and Newcastle Universities; and the Universities of Birmingham, Cambridge, Essex, Exeter, and Oxford.
The British delegation to India was the largest since the end of the colonial era, and it included top ministers, in addition to leaders in British higher education. One of them, Steve Smith, president of Universities UK, the vice chancellors’ representative group, said in a statement that Britain is more engaged in the Indian education sector than any other country. And while much of that activity is focused on student recruitment, Mr. Smith emphasized that the countries’ ties are “about boosting the university systems and economic competitiveness of both countries.”
Mr. Smith said that he would be returning to India in November with a delegation of university vice chancellors “in order to discuss further the means of increasing the level of university partnership activity between our two countries.”
– Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
July 29, 2010
Scots Universities Seek out Overseas Opportunities
Scottish universities have been increasing their overseas presence in a series of bold moves in recent months. In the Persian Gulf emirate of Dubai, work began recently on Heriot-Watt’s £35 million (US$55 million) campus, while the Edinburgh-based Heriot Watt’s west-coast rival, Glasgow Caledonian, has opened a campus in London to help it to attract international graduate students, and, also this year, a nursing college in Bangladesh. Edinburgh’s Napier University has opened a biofuel research center in Hong Kong within the last few months and, last year, an office in the Indian city of Hyderabad to coordinate the efforts of its recruitment agents to send students to Edinburgh and to explore the possibility of opening a campus there in partnership with local institutions.
Science and technology specialist Heriot-Watt University already awards almost half of all Scottish degrees granted to students abroad – most delivered through partner institutions. It is now trebling its student numbers in the Middle East, from 1,500 to 4,500 next year – while facing a tight cap on numbers at home.
The new Dubai campus will include student accommodation with a food court and banking facilities, a multi-purpose auditorium for 800 people, engineering laboratories, ICT labs with video-conferencing facilities and state-of-the-art fashion and design studios.
Glasgow Caledonian University’s new London campus makes it the first Scottish university with operations in England. GCU London will offer a range of the university’s specialist graduate programs – in finance, risk management and fashion – predominantly to international students, starting this September. The university also operates the Caledonian College of Engineering in Oman, which has almost 3,000 students. GCU’s Grameen Caledonian Nursing College in Bangladesh – a country that currently trains more doctors than nurses – accepted its first 40 students this year. The criteria for entry are that students should be female, aged 20-22, should have achieved well in science at school, and are the daughters of Grameen micro-financing Bank borrowers.
– The Guardian
August 2, 2010