WENR, April 2011: Americas
University Rankings Proliferate Across Lain America
Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru each have at least one national ranking. Some are in their first year, others are more seasoned, and all use different approaches to evaluate their higher-education institutions.
A few, such as in Chile, are produced by news-media companies; others, as in Colombia, were carried out by independent researchers. And some, like Brazil, are not so much rankings as they are government-sanctioned ratings.
Brazil is one of the few countries in the region that has produced an official measure, the National System of Higher Education Evaluation (SINAES). The ranking evaluates student-learning outcomes and reviews institutions annually. The findings are used by the Ministry of Education in accrediting colleges and academic programs. Institutions with unsatisfactory scores three years in a row are forbidden to add academic programs or take on new students. They must commit to raising standards and their subsequent performance is monitored by the ministry, and those that fail to improve after six months are closed down.
The Colombia ranking, published in January by Boletín Científico Sapiens Research, a scientific journal, is more independent. A local researcher, Carlos-Roberto Peña-Barrera, worked out a model and then spent 11 months compiling a ranking from official data and Education Ministry statistics. He used three main criteria: number of graduate students; number of academic journals registered by each institution with Publindex, a Colombian index of top-rated scientific journals; and the number of groups of scientists and researchers carrying out research who are registered with Colciencias, the government’s office of science and technology.
The Chilean government, one of the most open in the region, is publishing more and more statistics on higher education, including programs most likely to lead to jobs, expected salaries on graduation, and space on campus per student. At least two magazines are using that information, sometimes along with their own, subjective criteria, to produce annual rankings.
– The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 28, 2011
Growing Regional Collaboration
A new alliance among Latin American nations is promoting an internationalization of higher education within the region as a counter to U.S. influence, Times Higher Education has reported.
The Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (also known as the Alba alliance) includes Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela. The alliance has been promoting universal, free higher education (sometimes drawing criticism from university leaders). Through the alliance, international student enrollments are said to be rising in Cuba and Venezuela.
– Times Higher Education
April 3, 2011
U.S. and Brazil Agree to Develop Education Exchanges
As part of President Obama’s trip to Brazil in March, the two countries have agreed to strengthen education exchanges. According to a news release issued in March by the U.S. State Department, these exchanges will focus on universities and other research institutions in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.
Among other exchanges, the release describes collaborative efforts between Brazil’s Federal Agency for the Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education and the U.S. Fulbright program, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Education Department’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education. The release, which also mentions exchanges between Brazilian universities and historically black colleges in the United States, does not specify how or by how much the various programs will be strengthened, or over what timeframe.
– US Govt
March 19, 2011
Oil Company Investing Billions in Higher Education
State-controlled oil company Petrobras has invested US$700 million into Brazilian university science and technology programs in the last three years in an effort to meet the human resource needs of extracting Brazil’s offshore oil wealth — estimated at a total of between 50 and 150 billion barrels.
To translate the mineral wealth deep below the sea floor into hard currency, a new elite group of researchers is required to develop the needed technologies to tap these reserves. In addition, an army of engineers is needed to design, build and operate a vast array of machinery from the ocean floor to refineries.
In a country with a poor educational record, producing enough qualified people to carry this out is challenging. Despite progress in recent decades, especially in the production of PhDs, the country’s higher education sector has not been producing enough graduates or researchers to meet the economy’s needs. In response, Petrobras, which is leading the development of the oil reserves, is making a massive investment in higher education sector. Of the R$4.8 billion (US$2.8 billion) the company invested in science and technology between 2007 and 2009, R$1.2 billion (US$700 million) went to Brazilian universities and research institutes.
It has also created a series of 50 networks with partner universities, technical institutes and research institutes across Brazil to help it meet its research and development needs, as well as train engineers. So far 110 universities and higher institutions are participating.
– University World News
March 20, 2011
15 Years of International Enrollment Trends
A recent report from Statistics Canada reveals the extent to which international enrollments have grown in Canada since 1992 and how the characteristics of those students has also changed. The report used data from the Postsecondary Student Information System (PSIS) for international students on either a part-time or full-time basis over the 1992 to 2008 period.
In 1992, international students accounted for about 4 percent of all students enrolled in Canadian universities. By 2008, the share of international students had doubled, reaching 8 percent of all university students in Canada. These changes are the result of an increase in the overall number of international students at Canadian universities from 36,822 in 1992 to 87,798 in 2008. The largest increases have been in New Brunswick, which saw the percentage of international students rise from among the lowest in 1992, at 3 percent to one of the highest in 2008, at 11.4 percent (747 in 1992 to 2,616 in 2008). International students also accounted for a relatively large share of university students in 2008 in British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Manitoba, at 10.6 percent, 9.3 percent and 9.2 percent respectively. In British Columbia, the number of international students rose from 3,858 in 1992 to 16,662 in 2008, while over the same period, the total number of students rose from 66,171 to 156,741.
With regards to the level of study, there has been a decrease in the share of international students enrolled in programs at the doctorate level and an increase in the share enrolled at the bachelor’s level. Overall, 12 percent of international students were enrolled in doctoral programs in 2008, compared to 19 percent in 1992; similarly, the shares enrolled in master’s programs decreased from 23 percent in 1992 to 18 percent in 2008. In contrast, the shares enrolled in bachelor’s level programs rose from 55 percent in 1992 to 67 percent in 2008.
The shift to a growing number of international students enrolling at the bachelor’s level is reflected in changes in their age and gender composition. Most notably, they have become younger.
Asian students have consistently accounted for the largest share of international students, though that share dipped in the late 1990s. In 1992, students from Asia accounted for 49.8 percent of international students. That share fell to 36.5 percent in 1999, and then rose steadily to reach 52.7 percent in 2008. The next largest group consists of students from Europe, with their share being 16.3 percent in 1992, rising to 24.9 percent in 1998, and then falling to 17.9 percent in 2008. In contrast, students originating from countries in Africa have accounted for a declining share of international students, falling from 17.1 percent in 1992 to 11.8 percent in 2008.
Quebec’s share of international students rose from 27.7 percent in 1992 to 37 percent in the 1997 to 1999 period, falling thereafter to 26.1 percent in 2008. The pattern was reversed in Ontario, with Ontario universities accounting for 37 percent of international students in 1992, 27.5 percent in 1998, then rising again in the early 2000s. In 2008, this share was 33.8 percent. Change is clearly evident in British Columbia as well, which saw its share of international students almost double, rising from 10.5 percent in 1992 to 19.0 percent in 2008.
With regards to field of study, business, management and public administration have grown from 14.5 percent of all fields in 1992 to 23.2 percent in 2008. The fields of mathematics, computer and information sciences have seen the biggest decrease in popularity from 10.4 percent in 1992 to 6.9 percent in 2008, while physical and life sciences, and technologies have also seen a significant decrease in enrollments from 11.5 percent of the total to 8.3 percent over the same timeframe.
– Statistics Canada
February 24, 2011
U Calgary Regains Chinese Recognition
China has restored the University of Calgary to the country’s list of accredited universities, a list that many Chinese students rely upon when deciding where to enroll. The university disappeared from the list last year, following a visit to the campus by the Dalai Lama.
The Chinese change of heart followed a visit to China by a delegation from the University of Calgary last October. University president Elizabeth Cannon reportedly brought up the ‘delisting’ during a meeting with Chinese government officials.
– Calgary Herald
April 2, 2011
Plan to Reform Higher Education Receives Mixed Reviews
The Colombian government has floated an ambitious plan to restructure its system of higher education. The plan has received backing from education and political experts, who say the plan can provide a much-needed shakeup in underperforming areas, while also increasing access to higher learning for hundreds of thousands of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
But the plan, which was announced in March with the intention of prompting a national debate before formal legislation is introduced later this year, has been criticized. Some students and professors fear proposed changes will weaken the historically elite, publicly financed universities and lead to a full-scale privatization of the system.
Colombia will spend about 1.01 percent of GDP on higher education this year, a percentage that should rise to between 1.3 and 1.4 by 2014, officials said. The changes are also designed to get more people into the country’s universities by opening the sector to private investment by for-profit companies — which is not now allowed under the current law. Colombia has 283 higher-education institutes, 80 of which are public and the rest of which are private, not for-profit entities. Currently, only 37 percent of Colombians between the ages of 17 and 21 are enrolled in higher education; the restructuring plan seeks to lift that number to 50 percent by 2014.
Broadly speaking, the government has four main goals with the plan: To enhance the quality of higher education; enable more people to attend college; make the system more relevant to the needs of the economy and more competitive abroad; and improve governance and make administrations more open.
– The Chronicle of Higher Education
April 7, 2011
Law School Applications Down Significantly
Applications to U.S. law schools are on schedule to hit lows not seen in a decade, with prospective students increasingly uncertain of job prospects and fearful of tuition debt. According to the Law School Admission Council, the number of law-school applicants this year is down 11.5 percent from a year ago to 66,876 applicants. The figure, which is a count of applications for the fall 2011 class, is the lowest level at this stage of the process since 2001. The Council estimates that the application process is 86 percent complete, based on historical patterns.
Corporate law firms are the long-standing employer of choice for many graduates, have cut back on hiring in recent years, and most firms haven’t raised salaries for starting lawyers. In a 2009 report, the American Bar Association (ABA) expounded on the risks of law school. “The rising cost of a legal education and the realities of the legal job market mean that going to law school may not pay off,” the ABA said in its report, noting that the average law student could expect to graduate with more than $100,000 in school debt.
– Wall Street Journal
March 17, 2011
Tri Valley Just the Tip of the ‘Sham-College’ Iceberg
According to a recent investigation by The Chronicle of Higher Education, the case of Tri-Valley University, which is accused by federal authorities of acting as a student visa mill for those looking to find a way to work in the United States, is only the tip of the iceberg.
Other colleges—most of them unaccredited—exploit what the Chronicle describes as ‘byzantine’ federal regulations, enrolling almost exclusively foreign students and charging them upward of $3,000 for a chance to work legally in the United States. These colleges are especially prevalent in California and Virginia, where regulations are lax. According to the Chronicle, some are employing unconventional practices such as holding classes on only three weekends per semester.
These colleges bring in thousands of foreign students and generate millions of dollars in profits because they have federally mandated power to help students (typically Indian) get visas. These institutions are well known among Indian students looking to work full time, but they apparently have managed to go mostly unnoticed in the United States.
A cursory examination of the Tri-Valley website raises all kinds of red flags for anyone who is even moderately familiar with the practices of diploma mills, yet the outfit was able to gain certification by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to enroll international students. As Tri-Valley officials discovered, loopholes and vague wording in the rules make it relatively easy for an upstart university to get approval.
While it lacked accreditation from a federally recognized accreditor, the university says that it met an alternative measure of quality: Tri-Valley credits were accepted by three other accredited colleges. Federal officials did not find out until more than a year after it approved Tri-Valley in 2009 that two of those three colleges denied ever having had such agreements, the government’s lawsuit says. On a site visit in 2008 when the authorization was given, federal officials found the college, housed in a pedestrian-looking office, had capacity for about 30 students. By the end of last year, the complaint says Tri-Valley had enrolled 1,500 students.
The university was able to absorb such a huge number of students, the complaint alleges, by granting them the right to take virtually all of their coursework online, despite a federal regulation that restricts foreign students from taking more than one online course at a time.
The influx of Indian students to such a new college would have raised concerns among American consular officials in India if they had seen a flood of visa requests from admitted Tri-Valley students. But the university exploited a rule that allows students to gain admission to one college, secure a visa, then transfer to another without ever setting foot on the first campus. The Indian government found that only 100 students had been granted visas directly from U.S. Consulates in India to attend Tri-Valley.
Other colleges cited in The Chronicle article as operating similar types of operations to Tri-valley include the University of Northern Virginia, an unaccredited college in the suburbs of Washington that has called itself the most popular American university for Indian students; Herguan University and International Technological University, both in Silicon Valley; and the University of North America, located on the second floor of a Wachovia bank building in Virginia. The university barely existed just a few months ago, with fewer than two dozen students. Now it may enroll as many as 75 former Tri-Valley students. It has three closet-size classrooms, a small computer lab, and a skeleton staff. The university has not applied for accreditation yet, though officials say they plan to soon. It has, however, already been approved to admit foreign students by the federal government.
– The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 20, 2011
Proposals Released for the Restructure of the MCAT Medical Exam
Many parts of the MCAT wouldn’t change, including the importance of the sections on the biological and physical sciences. But other changes could be significant enough, several experts have said, to change the behavior of undergraduates and the advising that colleges give those seeking to attend medical school. For one, the plan would remove the writing section of the test, which officials said has largely been ignored by medical school admissions committees. However, even with the writing test gone, the changes would result in a significantly longer MCAT — with the 5.5-hour exam expected to grow by 90 minutes.
The plan is currently under review by the Association of American Medical Colleges, which created the panel and which runs the MCAT. At this point, the likely launch for a revamped MCAT is 2015, 25 years after the last round of changes in the test.
March 31, 2011
State University Consortia Work Together to Recruit Abroad
Under the tag line, “Mississippi: Where Learning and Hospitality Meet,” institutions of education in the state are joining forces to promote Mississippi as an academic destination for international students.
Announced in February, StudyMississippi is the latest state or regional group that has formed in a bid to put themselves on the map for foreign students, in the face of stiff competition from better recognized institutions and regions. Nearly half of all states now have such international-education associations.
The models vary, but the groups generally engage in cooperative marketing and student-recruitment ventures, such as sponsoring shared booths at student fairs overseas, joining forces to travel abroad, collaborating on promotional websites, and jointly playing host to visiting delegations of foreign college counselors. They can also provide a forum for exchanging best practices and recruitment strategies.
In Mississippi, 16 of the state’s public and private colleges agreed to pay annual dues of $500 to form StudyMississippi, which has contracted with an experienced online recruiter to design and drive traffic to the site.
The most seasoned models, in Oregon and Washington date back more than a decade, but there has been exponential growth of such associations in recent years, with new groups forming in Maine, Missouri, New Jersey and even New York City, among others. The goal for most institutions is to internationalize their campuses and bring in extra tuition revenue in a time of tight budgets that don’t allow for big overseas recruitment drives.
– The Chronicle of Higher Education
April 3, 2011
International Applications to Graduate School Rise
The survey found that most applicants continue to be attracted to institutions with already high international student enrollment. In terms of source regions, applications from the Middle East and Turkey are rising, though at a slower rate than in years past; and private, non-profit colleges and universities have shown the biggest increases.
Applications in all fields of study rose, with engineering, physical and earth sciences, and “other” fields showing the greatest increases. Business programs saw on average an increase of just 1 percent overall.
After 20 percent growth last year, 18 percent more Chinese students applied to US colleges, while application growth from India picked up from just 1 percent in 2009-10 to 7 percent this year after a 12 percent decline in 2008-09. Growth from the Middle East and Turkey continued on a double-digit trajectory with a 12 percent increase this year compared to 20 and 22 percent in the two previous years.
The next two CGS surveys will tabulate growth or decline in Offers of Admission and in Enrollments respectively. The initial application numbers suggest that enrollments will increase in 2011.
– Council of Graduate Schools
April 12, 2011