WENR, November 2010: Europe


Higher Education: Affordable and Accessible

When it comes to accessibility and affordability, universities in Norway, the Netherlands and Finland are the best in the world, according to the findings of a new study. The Global Higher Education Rankings 2011: Affordability and Accessibility in Comparative Perspective was published by Canada-based Higher Education Strategy Associates, and ranks the accessibility and affordability of universities in 15 different countries.

Finland is ranked as the most affordable higher education system of the 15 nations, followed by Norway and Germany, while England is ranked 11th and the United States 12th. Finnish higher education is also rated as the most accessible, followed by that of the Netherlands, Norway and the United States.

The report explains that accessibility and affordability are ranked separately because there can be large discrepancies between how countries fare in each. The report also includes some “back of the envelope” calculations on the possible outcomes for England of the recent review of university funding led by Lord Browne of Madingley. It warns that if the cap on tuition fees is lifted without generous maintenance grants, England could sink to the bottom of the affordability table alongside Japan.

The country rankings were derived from a composite of six different measures of affordability and four measures of accessibility. The countries surveyed were Australia, Canada, Denmark, England and Wales, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Latvia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and the United States.

The results : Finland (1st in affordability, 1st in accessibility), Norway (2nd and 3rd), Germany (3rd and 11th), Denmark (4th and not rated), Sweden (5th and 9th), Netherlands (6th and 2nd), France (7th and 10th), Latvia (8th and not ranked), Canada (9th and 7th), New Zealand (10th and 6th), UK-England and Wales (11th and 8th), the United States (12th and 4th), Australia (13th and 5th), Japan (14th and not ranked), Mexico (15th and 14th), Portugal (not ranked and 12th), Estonia (not ranked and 13th).

– Higher Education Strategy Associates
October 2010


Higher Education and Research Spared from the Budget-cutting Axe

While the most recent French budget seeks to cut a minimum of EUR40 billion (US$55.75 billion) from total state spending, for the fourth year running higher education and research have remained a French government priority, spared the deep cuts and job losses experienced in other areas of the 2011 budget. Minister for Higher Education and Research Valérie Pécresse said the budget for her sector was “exceptional in the context of a reduction of the public deficit.”

In 2011, funding for higher education will rise by EUR428 million, or 1.3 percent, to a total of EUR14.9 billion, as reforms such as university autonomy continue to take effect. The share of gross domestic product for research rose from 2.07 percent in 2007 to 2.21 percent in 2009. The allocation for 2011 will increase by 2.7 percent to EUR10.3 billion.

During his presidential election campaign in 2007, President Nicolas Sarkozy promised priority for higher education and research to equip France for the “worldwide battle for intelligence” – and to improve the country’s performance in international rankings. Funding for public school education has not fared nearly as well with schools facing 16,000 teaching and administrative job losses.

University World News
October 17, 2010


Universities Ranked by Alumni Pay

The French government has released a ranking of the nation’s universities that looks at the employment prospects of graduates. The Ministry for Higher Education and Research conducted the ranking using information supplied under the 2007 Universities’ Freedoms and Responsibilities law, which states that employment is a basic goal of higher education, and therefore universities must make publicly available information related to the employment rates of their graduates.

The survey used for the ranking was conducted between December 2009 and July 2010, and asked graduates of second-level programs (masters) from 2007 to provide data on employment, recruitment, company profile (public or private), and whether positions were taken as permanent or short-term contracts.

The results of the survey have been used to rank individual universities, areas of study (law-economics-management; literature-languages-arts; social sciences; sciences, technologies and health) and discipline. Broadly speaking, it found that more than 90 percent of graduates had found work in the 30 months since graduating, with a slight edge for those with degrees in science, technology and health.

The top ranking universities with respect to graduate employment rates were: Orsay Paris-Sud-XI at (94.9 percent), Lyon-I (94.5 percent), Paris-XIII and Rennes (94.3 percent). Propping up the table were La Réunion (77.6 percent) and Perpignan (84.1 percent).

Ministry of Higher Education
October 2010


MIT and German Researchers to Collaborate Under New Agreement

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research have agreed to set up an MIT Germany Seed Fund to initiate international projects and research collaborations between MIT faculty and their counterparts in Germany. The memorandum of understanding, signed in October, states that a fund will be established for an initial period of five years.

MIT’s partnership with Germany has been in existence since 1997, when the MIT-Germany Program was launched. It is the largest of the 10 country programs within the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI). Almost 20 percent of the 500 MIT students placed in professional internships and research positions around the world annually are sent to Germany. The new fund will support new projects and research collaborations in areas such as health, the environment, energy and security.

November 3, 2010


Higher Education Faces Dramatic Reforms

With the Greek state facing unprecedented financial turmoil, an ambitious set of reforms for higher education aimed at reducing state control and funding of the sector were recently introduced by the government.

The proposals, which are open to public dialogue until the end of the year before they are voted on in parliament, take aim not only at the institutions but also at academic staff and students. In addition to reducing state funding and increasing private financing of institutions and programs, the proposals include new institutional assessment measures, merging or closure of unpopular institutions and programs, introduction of student fees, and establishment of non-academic institutional managers who would assume responsibility for the financial management of universities. Rectors would be appointed or selected after international competition and their role would be restricted exclusively to academic matters.

Institutions would also be given complete autonomy from the state, which has been a long-time demand of the academic community, making them responsible for their own finances, including the right to attract and employ foreign academics, which is not currently allowed. The emphasis on private finance follows on the heels of a recent 33 percent cut in the finances of universities. It signals a first step toward bypassing article 16 of the Constitution, which ensures the state nature of education; it is considered by many a first step towards the privatization of higher education.

Not surprisingly, the government proposals have been met with angry opposition from academia and the student population. Two major universities, the Technological University of Athens and the University of Patras, demonstrated their opposition by refusing to participate in a dialogue with the education ministry on the measures. They also refused to participate in the Rectors’ Conference convened during the weekend of 23-24 October in Crete, where Education Secretary Anna Diamandopoulou presented the draft document with the government proposals as the basis for the dialogue.

Despite strong security, large numbers of students went to Crete from all over the country as the meeting was taking place and clashed with police, who used forceful measures to disperse them and made a number of arrests. In late October, university students demonstrated in the city of Rethymnon, while in Athens students occupied several colleges and departments.

University World News
October 24, 2010

Republic of Ireland

Secondary Students to Earn Bonus Points in STEM Section of University Admissions Examination

Irish students performing well in the mathematics section of the high school Leaving Certificate examinations might have better university prospects than students who perform well in the other five fields of the combined examination under a new ‘weighted’ system designed to encourage excellence in STEM subjects.

Ireland’s seven universities have agreed to proposals from the government and business to award bonus points to higher-level mathematics in the secondary schools’ Leaving Certificate examination.

University admission among school leavers is based on the combined results of six subjects in the Leaving Certificate. A student who gets an A1 grade on a higher-level paper is awarded 100 points. Under the newly weighted system, mathematics scores will be worth 125 points for an A1, because of concerns that relatively few have been taking mathematics at the higher level, with most opting for the easier ordinary level.

Business leaders have long complained that the low interest in mathematics at secondary school was leading to fewer students studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs at university, which in turn is hampering Ireland’s prospects of building an innovation-based economy. Universities originally opposed the idea; however, the Irish Universities Association, which represents the heads of the seven universities, finally gave their approval to the new system in October. The new 25-point bonus for higher-level mathematics goes into effect from 2012 on a four-year trial basis. The scheme also means anybody who passes higher level mathematics will get 10 points more than they would if they get an A1 in ordinary level mathematics.

Irish Examiner
October 12, 2010


Building Begins on German-Turkish University

The planning for the new Deutsch-Türkische Universität (DTU) in Istanbul has been underway for a few years, German politicians approved it in April, and the first step in building the physical infrastructure for the engineering-focused institution was taken by the presidents of the two countries, Christian Wulff and Abdullah Gül, in October. The two presidents laid the foundation stone in the Asian part of Istanbul during Wulff’s late-October state visit to Turkey. Construction is slated for completion within three years, while teaching will begin for approximately 5,000 students next year from a temporary campus.

The German federal government will be contributing around EUR12 million (US$16.5 million) to the project over the next four years for the development of curricula and for German teaching staff. The five faculties of engineering sciences, natural sciences, law, humanities, and economics and social sciences are to be supported by a consortium of German universities, and Germany will also be running German language courses. Turkey will be responsible for infrastructure and administration and for covering operating costs. The institution is to be headed by a Turkish vice-chancellor and a German deputy vice-chancellor.

University World News
November 5, 2010

United Kingdom

Universities Face Huge Budget Cuts

The much-anticipated Comprehensive Spending Review, released in October, has outlined the new coalition government’s plans to address the largest budget deficit Britain has faced since World War II, and higher education looks to have fared poorly with the imposition of severe budget cuts.

While nearly all government departments will see their budgets slashed by an average of 19 percent over four years, the news for British universities is particularly bad. Excluding research support, which will remain flat, the amount of money going to higher education will decline by 40 percent over the next four years, from 7.1 billion pounds (US$11.3 billion) to 4.2 billion pounds (about US$6.6 billion). Within the higher-education budget, the government has said it will continue to pay for teaching in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. That has raised concern among some academics that the social sciences and humanities may be at risk.

Because British universities are overwhelmingly reliant on public funding, the government plans to allow universities to raise tuition by almost three times current levels beginning in 2012 to cope with the cuts, as suggested by a government-commissioned panel led by Lord Browne of Madingley. However, the coalition is also imposing a lower “threshold” fee level of £6,000 (US$9,600), above which universities must meet conditions on improving access to students from poorer backgrounds if they wish to charge the absolute limit of £9,000 (US$14,400). The government will introduce measures to continue to make higher education accessible, including a new £150 million (US$237 million) scholarship fund for disadvantaged students and a loan scheme to support full- and part-time students.

The Times Higher Education
November3, 2010

Facing Tuition Fee Hikes, British Students Begin to Look Overseas in Increasing Numbers

Huge budget cuts from the state means universities in the United Kingdom are set to significantly raise tuition fees. This has left university leaders in Europe thinking carefully about recruitment strategies in the United Kingdom.

Dr Jo Rizen, rector of Maastricht University, told University World News: “The outflux of UK students has already started and I expect this to increase significantly over the coming years. As a result Maastricht hopes to attract a large number of UK students.”

Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group of elite universities, said the cuts would make it tough to maintain the high quality of teaching, learning and research her members currently offered.

“It should not be forgotten that our competitor countries are injecting enormous investment into their universities to kick-start growth. Even with this late reprieve [for the research budget], it will remain extremely challenging for leading UK universities to maintain their world-class status and to keep pace with our competitors,” she said.

Maastricht University has already seen a sharp rise in applications from UK students this year and still has undergraduate and postgraduate places available for programs starting in the New Year. Many have been attracted by the availability of places, the fact that Maastricht charges students just £1,500 (US$2,400) to £2,000 (US$3,200) a year for courses that are taught in English, and by the opportunity to study abroad and gain the kind of experience that employers value.

University World News
October 24, 2010

Private Universities May be the Beneficiaries of Public Spending Cuts

The so-called comprehensive spending review, which will dramatically cut teaching budgets for public higher education in the United Kingdom, and a recent tuition fee review that looks likely to lift caps on the fees that universities can charge will, according to the Guardian newspaper, help Britain’s nascent private sector to compete.

Under the tuition fee review, as recommended by the Browne Committee, students in publicly funded universities will pay similar fees to those on privately run programs. Part-time students, who dominate most private provision, will be eligible for the same support packages as full-time students. And public institutions will have to pay close attention to the exact cost of each program and how much they can charge for it, just as private providers do now.

UK universities increasingly use the private sector anyway. More and more use private companies to organize the recruitment of foreign students, provide accommodation and put on specialist courses. Top research universities, such as the London School of Economics and Warwick, already rely on public sector grants for only a small proportion of their income, thanks to increasing involvement in industry consultancy, spin-outs and collaborations.

BPP, an American owned company, which this summer became the first for-profit organization to be granted degree-awarding powers in the UK, has recently been talking to a number of institutions about opportunities for getting better value for money. A handful of these have their own degree-awarding powers and discussions have focused on areas such as shared purchasing.

Another private provider looking to expand in the UK is Kaplan, owned by the Washington Post Company. It offers degrees accredited by the University of Essex, preparatory courses for international students, and has recently started teaching external degrees for the University of London. Kaplan now delivers tertiary programs to 2,000 students with partner institutions. In three years time, it expects this to increase to 5,000 students.

How far and how fast the private sector encroaches on higher education in the UK may depend on the details of the higher education white paper, expected in the spring, which observers say will iron out many of the bureaucratic difficulties faced by private providers, such as problems getting a listing with the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas), and some of the complicated tax arrangements involved in collaborations.

The Guardian
October 26, 2010

Tuition Fees Look Likely in Scotland

Plans announced in late October to introduce tuition fees to help maintain the competitiveness of the university sector have been attacked by critics, who warn that the introduction of a “graduate contribution” will encourage the government to withdraw state support for higher education.

Unions have argued that employers, not students, should pick up the cost of the graduate contribution. Universities Scotland called for Scottish graduates to be forced to contribute to the cost of their education. University leaders claimed that graduate payments were now necessary for the Scottish university sector to remain competitive after Lord Browne of Madingley’s review in England, which has paved the way for a significant increase in tuition fees.

A report by Universities Scotland released in October, claims that “entrepreneurial funding sources” can no longer fill the funding gap expected to emerge in Scotland. The group said that legislation should be drafted immediately after the Scottish government elections in May 2011 to ensure that any changes are implemented before the academic year 2012-13.

Times Higher Education
November 4, 2010

Record Numbers Apply to University as Tuition Fee Increases Loom

An unprecedented 74,234 candidates had completed applications for programs beginning in the fall of 2011, a record for this time of year, reports The Telegraph. As many as 220,000 candidates could be left without places next summer if the 4.2 percent year-on-year rise in applications continues, topping the record 210,000 students who were not placed this year.

Observers said it represented the first indication of an ‘inevitable’ rush to enroll before an expected rise in tuition fees comes into force in 2012. The official figures come after an independent review from Lord Browne of Madingley, the former head of BP, who recommended removing the cap on undergraduate tuition fees and effectively allowing universities to charge up to £14,000 (US$24,000) a year.

In Scotland, pressure on the limited number of places at universities is also increasing with the newly released figures from UCAS, the UK body that administers university applications, showing a 9 percent increase in the number of people who want to go to university in Scotland in 2011.

The Telegraph
October 26, 2010
Herald Scotland
October 26, 2010

New Immigration Minister Promises Crackdown on Sub-Degree Level Foreign Students

The UK home secretary, Theresa May, has said that her government will end the right to permanent residency for the more than 100,000 skilled workers and overseas students who come to Britain each year.

In her first major speech on migration, May also indicated that she intends to significantly reduce the flow of the approximately 160,000 international students who come to the United Kingdom to study on below degree-level courses in further and higher education colleges. Those pursuing below degree-level courses are nearly half the 320,000 students who come to study in the United Kingdom annually. May pointedly reassured Britain’s university sector that students coming to study degree-level programs or for research would not be affected by the new regulations.

The Guardian
November 5, 2010

Posted in Europe, Regional News Summaries