WENR, April 2011: Europe

Czech Republic

International Enrollments Quadruple

According to the Institute for Information in Education [1], the international student body at Czech universities has grown fourfold in as many years to nearly 38,000.

Approximately one-third of international students are studying economics, 17 percent in technical fields, 15 percent are undertaking medical training and approximately 15 percent are studying in the humanities.

The Czech Republic has a total of 400,000 students in 26 public, 45 private and two state-run universities and 182 colleges.

Czech News Agency [2]
April 1, 2011

Enrollments in the Private Higher Education Sector Boom

The number of students at private colleges and universities in the Czech Republic has increased by a factor of almost 30 in the past 10 years, the Czech Statistical Office and the Institute for Information in Education said in remarks picked up by the Czech news agency CTK.

In 2000 some 2,000 students attended private institutions, representing a mere 1 percent of the tertiary body. Last year there were more than 57,000 students attending one of 44 private colleges and universities, accounting for 14 percent of all enrollments. There are currently 28 state and public colleges and universities.

The Education Ministry [3] has been saying for a while that the number of private schools is too high and that it will no longer support the establishment of new ones. Czechs study primarily economics, humanities and hospitality management at private colleges and universities.

Daily Monitor [4]
April 6, 2011


System Overview

The Danish Agency for International Education [5], the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Education [6] have produced a brochure [7] on the latest developments in the Danish Education System. It includes information in English about the entire system from pre-school to adult education and continuing training. Among other things, the brochure describes grading scales, guidance options, financing and quality assessment measures.

Danish Agency for International Cooperation [8]
February 2011


Fewer Institutions of Higher Education

According to Statistics Finland’s Register of Providers of Education and Register of Educational Institutions [9], there were 793 active providers of education and 4,023 educational institutions in which 1.96 million students pursued studies at the end of 2010. The number of all educational institutions has fallen by one sixth in five years.

Statistics Finland [10]
February 17, 2011


Government Announces Excellence Projects

The first 100 projects selected for funding under the government’s ‘Labex’ (Laboratories of Excellence) program have been announced. These, together with a preliminary shortlist of seven university federations for ‘Idex’ (Initiatives of Excellence) status, are part of a plan to create internationally competitive centers of higher education and research.

The 100 Labex projects were chosen from 241 applications by an international selection committee. There are 26 projects in the field of arts and human sciences, 23 in biology and health, 17 in environment and the universe, 15 in digital science, 10 in energy and nine in nanotechnologies. Parisian institutions of higher education and research federations Sorbonne Universités, Paris Sciences et Lettres, Paris Cité, Hésam, Saclay and Paris-Est account for more than half the Labex projects.

The Idex committee has so far shortlisted seven campuses which together account for the lion’s share of the Labex projects; Paris Science et Lettres Etoile and Sorbonne Universités in Paris, and the Universities of Strasbourg, Lyon, Grenoble, Bordeaux and Toulouse.

University World News [11]
April 3, 2011


Legislation Passed to Better Recognize Foreign Degrees

The German Cabinet has adopted a bill to recognize degrees earned abroad. The draft legislation is now set to go to parliament and will greatly ease the recognition of certifications earned abroad, potentially benefiting some 300,000 immigrants.

“The law is an overdue sign that we respect the qualifications of others,” said Federal Minister for Education and Research Annette Schavan in a press conference in Berlin in March. “We are offering immigrants the chance to practice their learned professions, and thus to guarantee the livelihood for themselves and their families. Better integration in the labor market will make an important contribution to integration as a whole.”

The Recognition Act is an indication by the government of a critical skills shortage in Germany which is beginning to show in certain sectors. “We’re in an international competition for the best brains,” explains Schavan, “therefore we must make the best use of the potential of all those that live here.”

Many specially trained and highly educated immigrants in Germany are currently underemployed in low-wage jobs. For this group, the new law could have a profound effect if enacted. The law would allow for a legal claim to assessment for around 350 non-regulated professions, those occupations requiring formalized training by the Vocational Training Act. The nationality of the applicant will no longer play a role in the evaluation of degrees. Regulated professionals, such as physicians, would be evaluated according to their professional qualifications only under the new legislation. Currently, they have to be from Germany or the European Union.

Young Germany [12]
March 23, 2011


Education Law Amended

An amendment to Poland’s higher education Act was signed by Poland’s President Bronisław Komorowski in March, bringing in initiatives designed to better integrate schools and universities and the labor market. A new system of granting academic titles was also introduced.

President Komorowski said that he believes the amendment will increase the independence and competitiveness of Poland’s institutions of higher education. New structures are to be introduced based on the European Qualifications Framework, which will make Polish diplomas comparable to those obtained elsewhere in Europe.

Also under the new regulations, top academic departments (both at public and private schools) can apply for status as leading research centers (Krajowy Naukowy Ośrodek Wiodący, KNOW). Extra funding will be tied to the designation in the form of grants, employee incentives and increased research scholarships. KNOWs will also have priority in applying for research grants.

The law comes into force in October.

Prezydent.pl [13]
April 5, 2011

An Appetite for Private Higher Education

Poland has the highest private-sector enrollment in Europe, despite coming from a pre-fall of communism starting point of just one private university, run by the Catholic church. Now more than a third of Poland’s students are educated outside the state system.

An estimated 300 private universities educate about 630,000 students a year. Unlike their fellow students at public universities, they have to pay fees, though both kinds of students are eligible for state-backed loans. However private institutions do not receive any direct government funding.

Other ex-communist bloc countries have also seen surges in private higher education, but unlike those of its neighbors, some of Poland’s private universities have serious academic aspirations. Mainly, private institutions focus on vocational subjects such as economics, management and computer science. But they also have PhD students conducting original research.

Private universities argue that they are quicker to respond to changes in the employment market than the bigger, more bureaucratic public universities. Tischner European University [14] (TEU), which educates 1,100 students in Krakow, has brought in a Chinese language module as part of its English language and literature course.

As a dip in the Polish birthrate shrinks the number of potential students, competition between the private and state sectors is expected to get sharper. The rivalry between the sectors may increase if Poland’s private universities prove successful in an attempt to win subsidies from the state. They are also lobbying for the introduction of tuition fees in the public sector, in a bid to “level the playing field,” according to an academic familiar with the sector.

The Guardian [15]
April 6, 2011


EUA to Help Implement Provisions of Reform Bill

The European University Association [16] (EUA) will work with the Romanian Ministry of Education [17] and the country’s universities to support the implementation of a major new higher education reform bill that came into effect in February.

The new law is aimed at diversifying the higher education system by grouping all universities (public and private) into three major categories: research-intensive, teaching- and research-oriented, and mainly teaching institutions. The law requires the reforms and particularly the classification exercise to be supported by an external body, a role the EUA will take on.

An EUA expert group will provide advice on the methodology for this differentiation exercise, on the development of relevant indicators, and on the evaluation of the documentation received from universities.

EUA News Release [18]
March 25, 2011


Law Education Set for Reform

To become a lawyer in Spain, students go to university, take a law degree and, upon graduation, become members of the local bar association. The system is much more straightforward than in most European countries.

But the Spanish system is set to change. Under new legislation, proposed but awaiting Royal Decree, students will be required to spend two years in further training after completing their degrees. This training could be at a law firm or an academic institution. And trainee lawyers will not be able to earn a salary while undertaking the training, but could be granted a law firm scholarship.

The change in regulation is due partly to the EU’s Bologna Process, which is designed to streamline qualifications in all member states. Spanish lawyers are reported to be overwhelmingly in favor of the proposals as new lawyers will be considerably more experienced when they start out.

As the proposals have not yet been signed into law, the exact way in which the new system will work is still uncertain. Although 2011 graduates will qualify as usual, 2012 graduates will have to begin the two years’ training. Firms are waiting for the fine details of the new legislation to be hammered out, with several working with universities to start preparing new training programs. This will continue once the Royal Decree has been granted and the proposals become a reality.

The Lawyer [19]
March 21, 2011

United Kingdom

Government Announces New Regulations for Student Immigration

The number of foreign students and their dependants coming to Britain could be cut by around 100,000 a year under plans unveiled by the Government in March. Home Secretary Theresa May said the “radical” clampdown would close fake colleges and block entry for those who cannot speak good English. There will also be tougher restrictions on non-EU students staying in the country after their programs finish.

The minister told Parliament that while the coalition wanted to attract the “brightest and best” to the UK, the visa system became “broken” under Labour. “This package will stop the bogus students, studying meaningless courses at fake colleges,” she said.

She said she expected the measures would reduce the number of student visas issued by 70,000-80,000 annually – a 25 percent reduction overall. In addition, officials indicated the number of dependants coming to the UK was likely to go down by around 20,000.

Under the reforms, the minimum proficiency in English for degree-level students is rising from B1 to B2 – roughly equivalent to AS-level. The standard will be assessed with secure English language tests for most institutions, although universities will be permitted to make their own assessments. For programs below degree level, individuals will now need to have reached B1 proficiency.

Mrs. May said the changes would ensure that study, rather than work, was the “main purpose” of those granted visas. Work rights while studying would be reduced significantly under the proposals.

The Home Secretary also set out tighter restrictions on how long students could stay in the UK, before and after the end of their programs, limiting the overall time that can be spent on a student visa to three years at lower levels and five years at higher levels. The Government has stopped short of scrapping the Post Study Work scheme, in an apparent concession to those who argued the UK should be looking to retain skilled individuals. However, to qualify, graduates will have to have skilled graduate-level job offers from an employer who is licensed by the Border Agency.

Currently students on programs of six months or more can bring dependants with them. But Mrs. May said: “We will remove this right for all but postgraduate students at universities and Government-sponsored students.”

All educational establishments sponsoring foreign students must have joined the Highly Trusted Sponsor scheme [20] by April next year, and be vetted by an inspectorate such as Ofsted [21] or the Quality Assurance Agency [22].

The Independent [23]
March 22, 2011

Half of All Universities to Charge Maximum Tuition Fees

According to research by the BBC, far more English university students than originally expected will be paying the maximum tuition fee of £9,000 ($14,600) a year. Half of the 54 universities that took part in the BBC survey said they would charge £9,000 for all programs, with about two-thirds stating they would charge the top rate for some or all programs.

Ministers say it is “early days” and they expect the average fee to be “significantly lower.” However, the average fee of those universities taking part in the survey was about £8,500. Originally, ministers had said they wanted the top fee to be charged only in “exceptional circumstances.” More than 50 of England’s 134 universities took part in the survey. Of the 10 prestigious Russell Group [24] universities that took part, nine said they would charge £9,000 for all programs.

Changes mean that from fall 2012, universities in England will be able to raise tuition fees from the present level of £3,290 a year to between £6,000 and £9,000, if they meet certain conditions. Students will pay the fees once they graduate and are earning at least £21,000, and there will be support for those from poorer homes.

The fees should all be made public by late June or mid-July. They will be published by the Office for Fair Access [25] (Offa), together with the extra scholarships and fee waivers they plan to offer poorer students. The BBC News website has published a list [26] of the universities that have declared their fees so far.

BBC [27]
April 8, 2011