WENR, January 2012: Europe


Nordic Countries Rank Poorly Among Chinese Looking to Study Abroad

According to a recent survey of Chinese students, Nordic countries are not at the forefront of their minds when considering an overseas study destination, especially if they are to be charged full tuition fees. But this attitude might change if these students were given scholarships or grants, the survey suggests.

The study of 310 students was undertaken during the summer by the Nordic Center at Fudan University [1] in Shanghai. Most of the respondents were planning to complete their master’s degree abroad, and the majority indicated that they wanted to go to the United States, citing quality reasons.

Students were asked to name their top three destination countries. The eight top scorers were, in order of preference: the US, the UK, Germany, Canada, France, Australia, Japan and Sweden. The survey noted that during 2010, almost one million Chinese students studied abroad, a 24 percent increase from the year before. The goal of the survey was to find the answer to the question: “Will Fudan students still want to study in Nordic universities when they have to start paying tuition fees?”

Students were asked to rate the reasons for their preferences. The most prevalent were university rankings, financial support provided by the university and the level of tuition fees, and Nordic countries were generally considered expensive. Over 90 percent of those answering said they would go to a Nordic university if they were given a scholarship or grant.

The advice of the authors of the report was to charge tuition fees: “Survey results suggest that Nordic universities should probably not build their marketing around free or cheap education.”

University World News [2]
November 20, 2011


Government Retracts Visa-Tightening Measures

The French government in January backed down from plans to impose stricter visa regulations on foreign students, with the county’s higher- education minister acknowledging that, “we messed up.”

In a controversial circular issued in May by Claude Guéant, the interior minister, authorities were told they “should consider ‘with vigor’ requests to move from student visas to work visas and should carry out a ‘deepened control’ before making a decision,” according to the Washington Post.

The new policy resulted in work-visa delays for hundreds of graduates and was cause for protest from foreign students, university groups and the French Business Confederation, including an online petition signed by approximately 30,000 people. Government representatives at a meeting with industry representatives, presented a revised policy requiring the granting of temporary work visas to foreigners with graduate degrees.

Washington Post [3]
January 4, 2012

French Develop Nuclear Institute in China

While France has long exported its nuclear power technology, it has yet to collaborate with China in that arena – until now. In five years, approximately 100 Chinese nuclear engineers will graduate from the Franco-Chinese Institute for Nuclear Energy, located in Guangdong province. Trained by top French professors, these graduates will leave the school fluent in French and with graduate degrees in nuclear engineering.

France is financing about half the cost of the recently opened institution in the hope that its graduates will go on to become top nuclear officials – who will practice high safety standards and collaborate with French nuclear companies.

A consortium of French and Chinese businesses, including France’s state-owned power company Électricité de France SA, French engineering group Areva SA, and China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Co is providing the financing of €24 million over six years ($31 million), while Chinese universities are supplying the buildings that house the program. A review will determine whether the French and Chinese will support the school beyond 2016.

Wall Street Journal [4]
December 29, 2011


German Students Increasingly Mobile

Approximately one third of all German students are spending a study period abroad as part of their university programs, and the introduction of bachelor and masters degrees appears to have changed their study abroad habits.

These are the headline findings of a study commissioned by the German Academic Exchange Service [5] (DAAD) and the Federal Education and Research Ministry [6] (BMBF) to examine how international mobility among German students has developed under the new European structure of academic degrees.

The results of three surveys, one of them carried out among 14,000 students in 2011, were combined by HIS [7], the higher education statistics agency commissioned by DAAD and BMBF, to give a general picture of mobility trends.

In the years between the early 1990s and 2010, the number of students going abroad for part of their studies grew from a fifth of the total student body to around a third. The transition from the old diplom or magister system to bachelor or masters programs appears to have fundamentally changed when students take their study periods abroad, with the shorter Bologna degrees encouraging students to go abroad earlier in their programs.

University World News [8]
November 27, 2011

Foreign Skills and Credential Recognition Vastly Improved

A bill passed by the Bundesrat in November seeks to clarify and expand assessment procedures for vocational and professional qualifications earned outside Germany or outside the European Union. The bill also eliminates German nationality requirements previously coupled with certain professions. Now, for instance, an American doctor who moves to Germany can apply to have his or her qualifications approved by a licensing body to become a practicing doctor. Medical professions have traditionally been reserved exclusively for Germans.

According to the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research [6], 2.9 million people living in Germany earned their highest degree or qualification in another country. However, before passage of this law, many of these highly qualified individuals were unable to use their degrees, certificates or diplomas simply because of an absence of official recognition.

The new Professional Qualifications Assessment Act, which comes into effect March 1, 2012, establishes a standardized system for assessment at the federal level. This is an “important signal with regard to [both] integration … and a skills shortage,” said Federal Minister of Education and Research Annette Schavan and a “milestone for political integration.”

German Embassy to the U.S. [9]
November 10, 2011

U.S. Liberal Arts College Acquires Berlin Campus

Bard College [10] has acquired a small liberal arts institution in Berlin that will function as a satellite campus of the college, which is located in New York State. Ownership of the European College of Liberal Arts [11], including the 15 buildings that make up its campus, has been transferred to Bard from the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation, along with a $12 million grant to support the establishment of a four-year liberal-arts bachelor’s program, according to a news release from Bard.

The Berlin institution, which was founded in 1999 but only recently given preliminary accreditation by German authorities, enrolls 65 students and offers instruction in English. After the merger with Bard, “academic programs will be expanded and graduates will receive a dual degree accredited in Germany and the United States,” a new study-abroad program will be started next year, and “several master of arts degree programs are planned.”

Bard College [12]
November 30, 2011


Government to Fund Study Abroad at Top-Ranked Institutions in Developing Economies

The Norwegian parliament’s committee on education has asked the Ministry of Education [13] to fund more Norwegians to study in Brazil, Russia, India and China from 2012. According to officials, funding will be focused on attendance at “good quality” institutions listed in international rankings.

Specifically, the government will fund grants for study at higher education institutions in BRIC countries on the Academic Ranking of World Universities 400 or the Times Higher Education 500 ranking. Significant numbers of Norwegian students already travel to South Africa, which joined the bloc to create BRICS in 2010.

In 2011, 21,811 Norwegian students studied abroad, compared to 221,123 students studying in Norway, either for a full degree or as exchange students, with comparatively generous support from the Norwegian Government Loan Board.

University World News [14]
December 15, 2011


Despite Governmental Cash Infusion Russian Science has a Long Way to Go in Catching Up

Tens of thousands of scientists have left Russia since the early 1990s. President Dmitri A. Medvedev has made it a top priority to bring them back, offering financial incentives and diverting public funds into big projects, like an effort to transform farmland outside the capital into a research hub on par with Silicon Valley. Despite such moves, only a few Russian researchers have returned from abroad, and some say it will take generations for Russian scientific research to catch up with the standards in the West.

Persistent problems with bureaucracy, corruption, low wages, and poorly equipped labs make conducting research and experiments in Russia a challenge, especially for those with experience in the West. One scientist, Konstantin V. Severinov, who splits his time between Rutgers University [15] in the United States and the Russian Academy of Science [16] has become very vocal about the problems, arguing that while the Kremlin has dedicated hundreds of millions of dollars to strengthen research capabilities and bring back expatriates, the money means little without a broader change in Russian science and higher education, according to a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“There is no future for science unless we run a major reform,” Mr. Severinov says.

Currently researchers in Russia frequently have to deal with run-down laboratories, finding the funds needed to pay PhD students a decent wage, and bureaucratic supply frustrations with everything from equipment to chemicals that can delay by months experiments that typically take a day at well-equipped labs in the West.

Mr. Severinov, who wants to keep students from emigrating, says building a pipeline of young talent is key to reviving Russian higher education—and would be more fruitful than spending money to entice expatriate academics to return. He has been able to raise his students’ state salaries to $600 a month from $50. But increased pay is only part of the solution. Reflecting on his own experience, he says students in Russia need more hands-on research opportunities and engaged instructors to help them.

The Chronicle of Higher Education [17]
November 16, 2011

Russia to Speed the Recognition of Foreign Degrees

Seeking to bring in more overseas research students, Russia is simplifying the degree verification process for foreign graduate students. Currently, it takes more than six months to verify any foreign degree. But starting in 2012, the verification process will no longer be mandatory for applicants who have had their diplomas translated, and who hold a degree from a government-approved institution that meets certain criteria.

The Russian Ministry of Higher Education [18] is currently drawing up a list of approximately 300 universities from wealthy Group of 8 countries and from those that made the top 300 in either the Academic Ranking of the World Universities or the QS World University rankings.

Russia hopes to not only attract more graduate students, but also ease the way for highly qualified foreign specialists, including lecturers and researchers. These reforms follow changes made earlier this year that allow foreign lecturers to teach at Russian universities without special permission. Before March 2011, if a foreigner came into the country with a business or tourist visa, he or she had to leave the country before applying for a work permit.

RT [19]
November 23, 2011

United Kingdom

Applications from India Drop in Wake of Visa Changes

According to Times Higher Education, there is increasing anecdotal evidence suggesting that universities in the United Kingdom are seeing a downturn in demand from Indian students.

Although overall demand is mixed thanks to robust applications from other countries, Times Higher Education reports that a number of institutions are seeing declines of between 20 and 30 percent in applicant numbers from the Indian subcontinent. The fall is thought partly to be due to negative media coverage of UK visa policies, but is also being influenced by the closure of the existing Post-Study Work route in April 2012. Although international graduates will still be able to stay in the UK if they can quickly secure a job paying more than £20,000 (US$32,000), other details of the reform have yet to be finalized.

The post-study work visa, which enables non-EU students to work for two years in the UK after completing their programs, has been popular among self-financing Indian students.

Times Higher Education [20]
November 17, 2011

University Body Quick to Reassure Indian Students After Holiday Killing

Universities UK [21], representing British universities, sought to reassure Indian and other international students in January that the country is “safe and tolerant,” with low levels of violence and street crime, after the killing of Indian student Anuj Bidve in Salford on December 26 in an unprovoked attack.

Professor Eric Thomas, president of Universities UK, said such incidents were rare in the country. “We at Universities UK would want to reassure current and future Indian students and their parents that this kind of incident is thankfully exceptionally rare. Compared to other countries, the UK remains a safe and tolerant country with low levels of violence and street crime,” he said.

Similar reporting of attacks on Indian students in Australia two years ago was blamed as a major factor in the dramatic drop in Indian applications to study in the country. Currently, Indian students make up the second largest international group (after China) at UK universities, numbering 28,500 in the 2009-10 academic year, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency [22].

Press Trust India [23]
January 4, 2012

Universities Lower Tuition Fees to Fill Degree Programs

Figures show that 24 new universities and former polytechnics and one further education college in England have lowered their tuition fees to below £7,500 (US$11,700) a year. However, older universities and elite institutions will still charge the maximum £9,000, according to the Telegraph.

Applications to universities in Britain have fallen 13 percent before the increase in fees next fall. The decision by universities to cut fees came in December, just over a month before the deadline for university applications, means that thousands of students who have already applied may find their costs falling.

In an effort to keep fees low, government ministers announced earlier in 2011 that universities who charged average fees of £7,500 or lower would be able to bid for a share of 20,000 additional student places.

The Telegraph [24]
December 3, 2011

Survey Suggests New Visa Regulations are Deterring International Students

Many international students believe that recent changes to the UK’s visa system mean they are no longer welcome to study in the country, according to a survey by the UK Council for International Student Affairs [25] (UKCISA). The survey found that almost one in five disagreed with the statement that ‘the UK welcomes well qualified international students.’ A further 20 percent neither agreed or disagreed.

‘The fact that nearly four in 10 of those well qualified students who successfully gained places and visas did not endorse the statement that the UK welcomes international students is a very real cause of concern,’ the report concluded.

The poll did find that 70 percent of students applying from overseas found the visa application process quick and efficient, compared to 59 percent who said the same in 2009. But over half reported they had encountered confusion or difficulty due to changes to the visa system.

The abolition of the Post-Study Work scheme was cited as having the single most negative impact on decisions to choose the UK. One student said 15 of his friends had cancelled their confirmed places as a result. UKCISA is calling for the government to review its student visa process, initiate a positive publicity campaign, and reject any suggestion of further controls on students or visas. It also wants an urgent announcement of detailed procedures for the new, more limited, visa routes for working after study.

November 29, 2011

Minister Announces New Privately Funded University

Just two weeks after New York City declared Cornell University [27], in partnership with Technion-Israel Institute of Technology [28] in Haifa, as the winner of $100 million in funding for a state-of-the-art science and technology research facility on 11 acres of land on Roosevelt Island, the United Kingdom announced a similar initiative—a graduate institution that would promote cutting edge research. The one key difference being that there will be no government funding for the project, according to the UK’s Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts.

“We will be looking to private finance and perhaps sponsorship from some of the businesses that are keen to recruit more British graduates,” Willetts said in a speech on Wednesday morning.

The minister invited applications from institutions interested in establishing such a center, and from companies interested in funding it. The site of the new facility is yet to be decided, however, Willetts says he wants a major city in England to offer a site for a technology campus.

The BBC [29]
January 4, 2011