WENR, October 2011: Europe

Power of Social Media in Recruiting Overestimated

Only 4 percent of international students use social media to select a foreign university, according to a worldwide survey of undergraduates by research firm i-Graduate [1].

The poll of 150,000 international students suggested that the importance of communicating via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube was overestimated by universities. The i-Graduate survey, which polled students at about 1,200 global higher education institutions this year, also found only 6 percent of students were persuaded to choose their institution by information from staff at university fairs.

The research found that 45 percent of students said recommendations by friends were the most important factor when choosing, followed by the institution’s website (41 percent).

Thirty-two percent of respondents said parents were an important factor, 22 percent said they were swayed by the prospectus, 17 percent by meeting current students, 16 percent by teachers’ guidance and ranking placements and 11 percent by a visit to the institution. The survey also found that 88.6 percent of students felt meeting staff was of key importance when arriving at a foreign university, while 74.2 percent said the official welcome was important.

The Times Higher Education Supplement [2]
September 17, 2011

Recruitment Struggles in Europe

The 23rd annual conference of the European Association for International Education [3] drew record numbers, with nearly 4,200 participants. A particularly hot topic of conversation, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education was the recruitment of international students and the best ways to help them get jobs after graduation.

Countries across Europe have been modifying laws and regulations governing tuition, employment, and immigration. A growing number of European Union nations now charge international students from outside the political and economic union higher tuition rates than domestic students.

According to some of the attendees quoted by The Chronicle, universities in Europe need to work on branding themselves in the new competitive market for students, while also focusing on customer service through the recruitment process, and being more creative with marketing materials and videos. Jenny Rohdin, of Gothenburg University [4], in Sweden, provided a telling example of the need for a good recruiting strategy. This fall, Swedish universities began charging tuition to international students.

“When we asked [current] students why they came, their first answer was: because it was free. So we had quite a bit of work to do,” she said.

Employability was a topic of frequent conversation, with poor economic conditions leading many universities to see career preparation as part of their responsibility. One interesting point on that front is the English-language factor, with a number of universities discussing the problem of international students being unable to find work because they cannot speak the local language effectively. That particular challenge has grown as more institutions are offering degree programs in English.

The Chronicle of Higher Education [5]
September 15, 2011

European Universities Should Look to Developing Nations for Inspiration

Universities in Europe have been advised by education specialist at the World Bank to take inspiration from successful university practices in developing countries rather than copying British and US models.

Alberto Rodriguez, lead education specialist for the bank, made the remarks in a debate at the European Association for International Education’s annual conference, this year held in Copenhagen, on how Europe can keep pace with the growing university systems of China, Brazil and the Middle East.

Dr Rodriguez said that many universities are now dealing with a new landscape of diminished resources and suggested that they could learn useful lessons from Latin America, Southeast Asia and even the Caribbean, where some institutions have flourished despite low levels of state investment.

Times Higher Education [6]
September 22, 2011

Negotiating Better Ranking Results

Le Monde has reported that a delegation from the China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University [7], which publishes the annual Academic Ranking of World Universities [8], visited a number of French universities, including Aix-Marseille University [9] and the University of Bordeaux [10] in July.

The aim of the visit was to assess whether these universities should be ranked as a single academic institution and not as individual ones.  Le Monde reports that such a decision would improve significantly the ranking of several French universities.

Le Monde [11]
July 30, 2011


Top Tier French Schools Win Elite Funding

Plans to create an elite tier of French universities were moved forward in October with the award of excellence funding to the first winners of a new elite universities initiative worth 7.7 billion euros (more than $10 billion).

The Initiatives d’Excellence [12] (Idex) scheme is part of a broader and large-scale reform of French higher education designed to establish five to seven “world-class” universities capable of competing internationally for the best students and academics. The top institutions would be known as the “Sorbonne League,” with non-selective universities, highly selective grandes écoles and France’s independent research organizations being required to work together for the first time in exchange for investment.

Three of these academic “clusters” – the University of Bordeaux [10] (which comprises eight institutions), the University of Strasbourg [13] (a merger of three Strasbourg universities, various grandes écoles and specialized institutions) and the University of Paris Sciences et Lettres [14] (integrating 13 institutions) – were selected in late June for a state endowment of 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) each. A second call for Idex members is under way and three or four more groupings will be selected for endowments, while partial mergers of other universities and grandes écoles will create 15 to 20 more comprehensive universities.

Inside Higher Ed [15]
October 7, 2011

French Immigration Rules for Foreign Students Under the Microscope

This fall, non-European Union students were subjected to stricter work-visa regulations, making it much tougher for them to work after graduation in France.

A memo from late May and issued by the ministries of Interior and Labor called on the local authorities and immigration offices to apply existing regulations “rigorously” to limit legal immigration, making it much more difficult for a non-EU foreigner to change from a student visa to a working visa after graduation, and limiting their stay in the country after graduation to six months. International students wishing to study in France must also prove increased financial resources before they can obtain a residence permit.

“Priority should be given to the professional insertion of job seekers already present on our territory, both of French and foreign nationalities, residing legally in France,” the memo read.

Academic, student and university groups have largely come out against the orders, saying that the regulations decrease the international competitiveness of French universities in terms of being able to attract the quantity and quality of students that they would like to see, and by extension the innovative post-graduation benefits to the economy.

At a meeting of government officials and university representatives in October, the higher education minister, Laurent Wauquiez, pledged to “correct” the strict implementation orders for students and said that the government and universities would start talks to address the issue of graduates who wish to stay in France to work.

Lenient legislation and a stated intention to attract international students increased the number of foreigners in the French higher education system in recent years. Their numbers rose to 218,364 from 137,505 in the past decade, according to ministry figures.

At the same time, the government under President Nicolas Sarkozy has been trying to curb immigration. In April, Interior Minister Claude Guéant announced that he wanted to reduce all legal immigration to the country by 20,000 to 180,000. While the quotas were not directed at students, academics said they were the first affected.

New York Times [16]
October 13, 2011


Danish Universities Promote Themselves to Chinese Students with New Pairing Website

Denmark in September launched a website aimed at pairing up talented Chinese students and professionals with Danish universities and businesses. The Sino-Danish Network [17] aims to become a platform for Danish companies to recruit from a pool of future Chinese graduates from Danish universities, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The website’s partners include leading Danish companies which will provide the network with open vacancies for Chinese students and professionals, while also providing prospective students with Sino-Danish alumni to talk to, and connecting Chinese professionals with those from Denmark or Danish companies.

The network is the first initiative of a Top Talent Program run by the Shanghai-based Innovation Center Denmark [18], a Danish diplomatic mission in China aimed at attracting Chinese talent to study at Danish universities or pursue a career with Danish companies. The initiative will be followed by a campaign at several Chinese universities to promote Danish study programs and universities in October, and a Career Caravan event with Danish universities and companies in 2012.

Xinhua [19]
September 28, 2011


Universities Pledge to Stay Tuition Free to All

As Sweden introduces tuition fees of up to US$21,000 for non-European Union students this year, Norway is now one of the few European states to continue offering free education for all, once a cornerstone of European higher education.

While its Nordic neighbors Sweden and Denmark continue to provide free tuition for domestic and EU students, Norway stands alone in offering free higher education to students regardless of citizenship. Last year, that offer was taken up by almost 16,500 non-EU students – up 27 percent from 12,997 in 2007-08. They included nearly 2,000 Russians, 699 Chinese students and 376 Iranian nationals.

Times Higher Education [20]
October 13, 2011


Buying ‘Five-Star’ Ratings

Two Irish universities have said that the tens of thousands of euro they paid to receive top international ratings from a private research firm was worthwhile for the potential to attract more overseas students, according to an article in the Irish Examiner.

University College Cork [21] and the University of Limerick [22] were the only two Irish colleges to undergo the QS Stars [23] evaluation, a new international benchmarking tool by the same firm that undertakes one of the world’s most popular university rankings.

Cork paid almost 22,000 euro (US$30,200) for its evaluation, which includes 7,035 euro audit fee and three annual license fees of 4,893 euro. It was awarded five-star status, which it can use for marketing purposes for the next three years. About 3,000 international students from more than 100 countries earn the college a reported 19 million euro a year. UCC vice-president for external affairs Trevor Holmes said there are plans to raise the proportion of international students from 13 percent — one of the highest of any Irish college — to 20 percent.

According to the Irish Examiner, the 22,000 euro fee paid by UCC is the normal charge paid by most institutions taking part in the QS Stars program, which is in its first year of operation.

Irish Examiner [24]
September 18, 2011


Bologna Compliance Will Have to Wait

University leaders in Spain are warning that government funding cuts and inflexible policies are likely to hamper Spain’s attempts to implement the Bologna Treaty, which seeks to set common academic standards and encourage greater student and staff mobility across Europe.

Academics feel they are being forced to implement the Bologna process ‘Spanish style,’ due to spending cuts and lack of funding for research, while others cite the enforcement of degree durations and cultural differences as added factors. The implementation of the Bologna process is now in its second year for the majority of Spanish qualifications, and it should be providing students with a more personalized service that includes more professors and smaller class sizes. However, with an estimated fall of around 300 million euro in Spanish university budgets this year, the cuts are often having the opposite effect.

A survey of 12 vice-chancellors, undertaken by the national Spanish newspaper El Pais, for example, confirmed the view that all superfluous expenditure had already been cut, and that the quality of teaching is now going to be affected. Specifically, many master’s programs are being shed, the posts of associate lecturers are not being renewed and universities are spending more time searching for alternative funding sources. On the other hand, because of the high level of youth unemployment in Spain, more young people are seeking to continue their studies.

University World News [25]
September 25, 2011


Government Introduces Scholarships to Lure back Foreign Students

In response to a dramatic drop in foreign students, following the introduction of tuition fees, the Swedish government has increased funding for scholarships [26].

The Swedish Tuition Fee Waiver has been introduced for talented international students, enabling them to have part or all of their fees waived. And the Swedish Institute Study Scholarship [27] was created for nationals of 12 countries with which Sweden has development cooperation programs.

Both programs have now been significantly increased in the government’s budget for 2012. The waiver scheme doubles from SEK30 million (US$4.4 million) to SEK60 million, while the scholarship scheme has been opened to students from all developing countries, with funding raised from SEK30 million to SEK50 million.

The government is hoping that the two new programs will help reverse an 80 percent decline in international students from 8,000 in 2009-10, the last year of comparable figures, to 1,400 this year.

University World News [28]
September 29, 2011-10-07

United Kingdom

Reputation of British Higher Education Among International Students Remains Intact

A new survey suggests that the United Kingdom’s higher education system has retained a strong reputation overseas despite the bad press and criticism the sector has received following the much-publicized increase in tuition fees this year.

UNITE, a developer and manager of student accommodation in the UK, surveyed their international student customers about their perceptions of studying in the UK and asked how they make decisions relating to studying at UK institutions.

The strong reputation of British degrees was seen as the major reason that international students chose the UK over other countries for study. One of the major reasons cited by graduate students for choosing the UK is that the shorter program lengths offered by many institutions represent significantly better value for money, compared to their home country. Enrolling at British universities was also seen as less complex compared to those in the USA and Canada.

One of the key findings from the report, reflected by almost all of the customers surveyed, is that the biggest problem when initially coming to study in the UK is the lack of support and information provided on helping them move and setting up basic requirements, such as bank accounts, on arrival.

Relocate Magazine [29]
September 12, 2011

Attracting International Students with Pathways to University Education

An increasing number of universities are linking with private education companies to offer study and language preparation programs.

A recent example can be found on the campus of Brighton University [30] on England’s south coast. The university’s International College [31], a joint venture with US private education provider Kaplan [32], will offer students from outside the UK that need it English language instruction and study skills training before they begin degree-level studies. Students who successfully complete their International College program will be guaranteed entry to the program of their choice.

Brighton is one of a growing number of higher education institutions linking up with private providers to establish “academic pathway” programs that aim to not just improve the skills of international students but create new opportunities to promote their programs in an increasingly competitive global student market, reports The Guardian. The number of international companies such as Kaplan offering pathway programs to universities in English-speaking countries has been rising steadily since 2005 and there are now at least 36 such partnerships in the United Kingdom, 13 in the United States and 11 in Australia, among other countries. While their offerings are similar their business models can range from joint ventures to stand-alone operations.

The Guardian [33]
September 13, 2011

New Visa Rules Cause Closure of US Branch Campus

Less than six months after the British government announced tighter regulations on student visas, a US university with a campus in the UK said in August that it would not be opening its UK operations as a result.

Schiller International University [34], which is based in Florida and has four other international campuses (in the UK, Germany, Madrid and Paris), closed its London campus before the start of the fall semester. According to university officials, 80 to 85 percent of its students were from non-European Union countries – thereby requiring them to obtain visas to study in Britain.

“The decision to close our London campus was directly related to the new UK immigration rules,” said William Moore, executive vice president of the university.

Gina Hobson, chief executive of the British Accreditation Council [35], an independent accreditation body for independent colleges, said the changes would likely affect more institutions in the future. In 2010, a total of 334,815 student visas were issued by the British government, but the British Home Office has predicted that these new measures will result in around 67,000 fewer per year.

New York Times [36]
August 28, 2011

University of Wales to Stop Validating External Degrees and to Change Name

After announcing in early October that it would stop validating degrees awarded by other institutions, both in Britain and overseas, the University of Wales [37] two weeks later announced that it would cease to exist as an entity following its merger with two other Welsh institutions. In a “significant change” from previous plans, the council said, the new institution will not be known as the University of Wales, and instead will be created under the charter of University of Wales Trinity Saint David [38], one of the two other merging institutions.

The university has given its degree awarding powers to a huge number of academic partners across the world, with half of the 40,000 students studying for University of Wales degrees doing so at overseas institutions. This situation has called into question the level to which quality standards have been vetted at partner institutions in recent months, and by extension the worth of a University of Wales degree.

Recently, the BBC aired secretly filmed footage [39] of students being shown how to cheat to get degrees validated by the University of Wales. Staff members at Rayat London College, [40] which awards degrees from the Welsh university, are seen giving students advice on how to cheat on exams and deceive British immigration officials, and the alleged scam is now being investigated by the national border agency, according to the BBC. Other problems at institutions in Asia offering University of Wales validated degrees have also received media attention in recent months.

According to the announcement, which was made by the university’s new vice chancellor on his first day in office, the move comes as part of a new academic strategy for the university, which is in the process of merging with two other Welsh institutions: Swansea Metropolitan University [41] and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David [38]. The changes will take effect at the beginning of the 2012-13 academic year.

Per the announcement, the “University of Wales is to launch a new academic strategy, which will see the institution only award degrees to students on courses designed and fully controlled by the University.

University of Wales [42]
October 3, 2011

Overseas Universities See Recruiting Opportunities in Britain

At USA College Day [43], an early October event in London organized by the US-UK Fulbright Commission [44] there were approximately 130 American universities represented and looking to enroll some of the 4,000 British students in attendance – almost twice as many as last year. A week later the Student World Fair [45], a new college exhibition, also in London, saw universities from around the world attending in hopes of attracting some of the estimated 1,000 British students passing through. The fair’s largest contingent was Canadian, with 15 institutions, followed by the Dutch with 12.

The two exhibitions and the thousands of students in attendance suggest unprecedented recruiting opportunities for overseas institutions, a situation that has been created by recent events in Britain. Undergraduate tuition rates at many universities in England are set to nearly triple beginning next year, to as much as £9,000 (nearly $14,000), and some 150,000 applicants fail each year to secure a university spot through the national admissions service.

While the tuition fees might be the catalyst, an understanding among students that international experience is a benefit in today’s globalized economy is another major factor pushing British students overseas.

There is growing evidence that the number of British students pursing degrees abroad, which has only been around 2 percent of the total, is set to increase significantly. According to the US-UK Fulbright Commission, the number of British students who took SAT or ACT examinations, which are required to apply to many American universities, increased by 30 percent this academic year over the previous year. The attraction of European countries like the Netherlands, with relatively low tuition, or Denmark and Sweden, where universities still charge no tuition to students from the European Union, are also clear for British students.

The Chronicle of Higher Education [46]
October 9, 2011