WENR, September 2011: Europe

Using Social Media to Increase International Enrollments

The global explosion in access to the internet has had a transformative effect on the way internationally mobile students – currently 3.5 million strong – educate themselves about study opportunities abroad, according to a four-year global research project [1] by the British Council’s Education Intelligence Unit [2].

According to research manager Elizabeth Shepherd, “the evidence shows institutions that want to attract the best quality students must make information accessible in the easiest possible way and that means going the extra mile online.”

The report, Online Marketing to a Global student Audience [3], states that, “there is no question that the online presentation of information on a branded website with added interactive features that often include multi-language translations, video content and downloadable documents, instantly accessible and at minimal cost, is the first point of call in a student’s decision-making process.”

However Ms Shepherd states that many universities in major destination markets still look at their online presence, especially social-media, as add-ons, to complete after day jobs are done. “But social media is now a day job,” she says.

As to institutions that are getting it right she nominates the University of Auckland [4], for “a great online presence, mainly targeting China. They use a lot of rich media content with YouTube videos, blogs and chat functions and provide translations.”

The British Council report looked at 17,000 responses of students in 13 countries, deemed to be either “major players,” like China or India, or “new markets,” like Bangladesh and Nepal. It found that universities’ websites are the single most important source of information for students. But the report warns that as access increases, country-specific strategies shaped by local consumption patterns will become ever more essential in attracting prospective student interest. This means universities, for example, must invest in multi-lingual websites with country-specific information.

For social networking Facebook is the top choice in all markets, except China where the free instant messaging service QQ Tencent (QQ  to users) has 636 million accounts. The report warns against underestimating the importance of social media in China because Facebook is not dominant. China has “one of the most complex and developed social media landscapes in the world with a totally unique online culture that takes specialised understanding,” the report argues. And South Korea, which Facebook is targeting for growth, already has well-developed domestic social media sites.

But online resources have not replaced personal contact in the final decision phase. While web sites start the process, in the end, the report concludes, prospective students take advice face to face from people they trust and university staff or agents they can ask questions of face to face. The report concludes that buying a university course online is a leap of faith prospective students will not make.

The Australian [5]
August 12, 2011


Growth in Academic Mobility Into and Out of Germany

According to a recent survey by the German Academic Exchange Service [6] (DAAD) and the statistics agency HIS, Germany is sending more students abroad to study than other Western European countries while the number of international students in Germany is also on the increase.

In 2008, more than 100,000 Germans were studying abroad, a total greater than any other Western European nation. According to researchers at the HIS-Institut für Hochschulforschung [7], which specializes in higher education statistics, popular destinations for German masters students are universities in the United Kingdom in particular, but also Austria, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

As a study destination, Germany is also improving. In the 2010 academic year, 181,000 international students enrolled at a German institution of higher education, representing nearly 10 percent of the German student body. The biggest source countries were China, Russia, Poland and Bulgaria.

University World News [8]
August 7, 2011

A Positive Academic Reputation Among International Students

According to recent polling done by the university consortium GATE-Germany [9], a joint initiative of the German Academic Exchange Service [10] (DAAD) and the German Rectors’ Conference [11], the national education system enjoys a reputation as being world class, with relatively low tuition fees, while the country is perceived as offering a high level of personal safety.

These were the findings of two recent surveys commissioned by the Gate-Germany consortium. The International Student Barometer [12] is the largest annual survey on student mobility worldwide. In 2010, almost 160,000 international students were polled, including approximately 17,000 international students at 46 German universities. The 2010 exercise was the second annual survey; a third is to be launched this fall.

The Student Barometer results have been supplemented by a second survey, the Student Pulse [13], which polled 14,000 students and graduates who are either not yet studying at a German university or have opted for a different country to study in. Asked about their views of Germany, 94 percent rated the reputation of German academic degrees as good to very good. Germany ranks fifth in popularity behind the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, and Canada as a potential country of study.

DAAD News release [14]
August 16, 2011

Wooing Back German Talent

At the University of California at San Francisco [15] in September about 300 German postdoctoral students at top North American universities were gathered by the German government’s top research organizations. The postdocs are among the most promising of the 5,000-plus German scholars with doctorates currently working in the United States.

Among those travelling to California to woo them back home, and to get ideas on how to make German universities better, were 10 university presidents, members of the German parliament, senior government and foundation officials, and representatives of 40-plus academic institutions. Their message was that German higher education is in the midst of a reformation, and that now is the time for young talent to push for more change.

Currently, about 85 percent of German postdocs who work in the United States come home, although only about 50 percent of those who earn their Ph.D.s in the United States do so. Educators organize this gathering every year — known as GAIN [16] (for German Academic International Network) — to push those numbers higher, and to prevent any erosion of talent. However, most German postdocs in the United States say they were encouraged to look abroad for positions, and to focus on the United States.

“I tell my students that doing a postdoc in Germany would doom their academic careers,” said Jürgen Rühe, vice rector of the University of Freiburg [17]. “It is impossible to get a top university career without an international postdoc. People would look at it as a big minus.”

Science today depends on international networks, said Rühe, a polymer scientist who has taught at the Georgia Institute of Technology [18] and the University of California at Santa Barbara [19]. The postdoc is where those ties can be created. But even as Germany pushes its young talent to cross the Atlantic, it wants round-trip tickets. Germany backs this desire up with money — with special grants being offered for those researchers who are “re-engaging” with Germany, enough money to outfit laboratories and hire assistants.

Inside Higher Ed [20]
September 7, 2011


New Bill Seeks to Reform Higher Education

The Greek Parliament in August passed a broad and controversial bill designed to reform Greece’s university sector, viewed by many as the most dysfunctional and underperforming in Europe. University rectors and students have come out strongly against key provisions of the bill, protesting in Athens as legislators debated, and then occupying more than 80 schools and departments across the country in September.

All of Greece’s 24 universities and 16 technical institutes are public, and various attempts at transforming the country’s higher-education system over the years have run into strong opposition. Anything seen as a step toward privatization in the higher-education sector has been especially controversial, even when, as is now the case, the government insists it has no intention of opening the door to privatization.

The bill aims at enhancing university autonomy and creating stronger, more accountable institutions that will be more competitive internationally. The effort comes at a time when the country is under international pressure to curb public spending and reduce its huge deficit, so many of the efforts are related to improving efficiency in how and what programs are delivered.

The changes also include a measure that will for the first time link university financing to performance. Greece’s national quality-assurance agency will take over many of the functions that the ministry has overseen directly, and will be given new responsibilities, including allocating financing.

Studies will follow a three-cycle Bologna system: three years for undergraduates; a single year for graduate degrees and two years for a PhD. Students will earn credit points (60 for each year) and will be able to transfer them to other departments and institutions. There will be compulsory foreign language programs and fees for graduate studies, foreign students and special programs. Students will be required to complete their studies in the minimum required period plus four additional semesters (two extra years). Students who can prove they are working more than 20 hours a week – as most of them do – will be allowed double this additional time. If they do not complete their studies within this period, or do not register for two continuous exams, they will be struck off the register and lose their student status.

The Chronicle of Higher Education [21]
August 24, 2011

The Netherlands

International Mobility Trends

The Netherlands Organisation for International Cooperation in Higher Education [22] (Nuffic) published in August its annual dataset on international mobility in higher education: Mapping Mobility 2011 [23].

The report reveals a striking difference between inbound and outbound mobility. The total number of international students in the Netherlands according to Nuffic is currently 81,700; however, there are just 42,500 Dutch students abroad, just 3 percent of the total student body.

The top three source countries of foreign students in the Netherlands are Germany, China and Belgium.

Nuffic [23]
August 17, 2011

United Kingdom

Government Wants More Specialist Universities

More than a dozen small-scale institutions – often specializing in particular fields such as media, the arts, education or agriculture – could win the right to full university status as soon as next year, according to reports in the British media.

Currently, colleges of higher education must attract at least 4,000 full-time students – at least 3,000 of whom must take degree courses – before becoming eligible for university status. The government is proposing to drop that threshold to just 1,000.

If passed, the plan would likely herald the biggest expansion of universities since more than 60 former polytechnics and higher education colleges were awarded the title by the Conservative Party in the early 1990s. The reforms come as part of wider proposals to create more competition and diversity in English higher education. It follows the publication of alternative plans to grant full degree-awarding powers to private colleges and give students greater access to subsidized grants and loans to take part-time programs.

In all, it is believed the title could be extended to around 14 institutions. Those eligible for the change already have degree awarding powers and carry out Government-funded research.

The Telegraph [24]
August 4, 2011

Enrollment Declines Expected at Half of English Universities

More than half of English universities are predicting enrollment declines, based largely on the significant increases in tuition this year, according to data from the Higher Education Funding Council for England [25]. Total enrollment is expected to decline by 2 percent.

The report shows 56 universities expect to be teaching fewer undergraduates once tuition fees rise to up to £9,000 per year in fall 2012, while universities across the board expect the number of students from outside the UK and the EU to rise between 3 percent and 6 percent.

The Guardian [26]
August 4, 2011

Cambridge Again Ranked Best in the World by QS

The University of Cambridge [27] has again been ranked as the best university in the world by QS World University Rankings, [28] an influential player in the increasingly crowded market of international university rankings.

Cambridge was again followed by Harvard University [29] in the ranking and a host of other American institutions, which took more than 50 of the top 200 spots. There were a total of four British institutions in the top 10, but QS’s head of research told the BBC that it was “inevitable” that their future performance would suffer in the face of “financial pressures,” including “cuts to teaching and research budgets.”

In 18th place, ETH Zurich [30] remains the leading university in continental Europe, ahead of the École Normal Supérieur [31] (33rd), the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne [32] (35th) and l’Institut des Sciences et Technologies Paris [33] (36th). Australian universities again performed strongly, with all G8 universities [34] in the top 100. The Australian National University [35] (26th) ranked highest, with Melbourne [36] (31st) closing the gap from 18 places to five, while Sydney [37] is placed 38th.

Top universities in Asia are also highly placed with Hong Kong University [38] (22nd) ahead of Tokyo [39] (25th), the National University of Singapore [40] (28th) and Kyoto [41] (32th). In China, Tsinghua [42] (47th) has joined Peking [43] (46) in the top 50.

The rankings include for the first time this year comparative data on tuition rates at universities.

QS [44]
September 2011