WENR, May 2012: Europe


European Ministers Set Future Educational Harmonization Priorities

European ministers of education from 47 member states of the European Higher Education Area met in Bucharest at the end of April for the eighth time to discuss progress being made toward harmonizing degree structures and curricula under the Bologna Process, and to discuss policy priorities for the next three years.

Conclusions were set out and agreed to under the Bucharest Communiqué, [1] while student and faculty mobility objectives were adopted under the EHEA Mobility Strategy [2] – Mobility for better learning. The five-page statement covers all central action lines of the Bologna Process from the social dimension in higher education, to quality assurance, employability, funding and governance, research, qualifications frameworks, and international mobility. In the specific field of student mobility, the two statements stress the need for “balanced mobility” between countries.

The two most contentious issues in the communiqué were the specific reference to ministers’ commitment to strengthening “public funding” of higher education and the principle of “automatic recognition.” On funding, a number of countries – led by the UK – insisted that the emphasis should not be placed on public funding, and that the ministers should rather commit to increase funding of higher education in general, be it from public or other sources.

With regards to “automatic recognition,” a clarification was made by the European Commission that this was a long-term goal of the Bologna Process rather than an immediate objective, as had been originally interpreted by many delegates. Ideally – the deputy director of the Directorate General for Education and Culture, Xavier Prats Monné explained, “one day a Bachelor graduate from one EHEA country will automatically be able to work in another EHEA country, without being asked for additional evidence or examinations to prove their qualification.”

An update on national implementation of the Bologna goals was published through The European Higher Education Area 2012: Bologna Process Implementation Repor [3]t. The publication outlines the state of implementation of the Bologna Process in the 47 member countries in 2012 in six main areas: degrees and qualifications, quality assurance, social dimension, effective outcomes and employability, lifelong learning, and mobility. One of the key messages of the report is that, while many of the member countries have met the formal requirements, it remains very challenging to accurately assess the impact of these measures.

ACA [4]
April 2012

Comparing Student Immigration and Workplace Regulations in 5 Host Countries

The United Kingdom and the Netherlands apply stricter selection criteria at point of entry than other countries, and, particularly in the Dutch case, undertake more rigorous monitoring throughout the study period, according to a new report.

These countries, however, offer students comparatively more generous and flexible post-study schemes. This means that, although the selection criteria are restrictive, students can take advantage of relatively generous conditions for staying on if they successfully complete their studies. The regime will soon change in the UK, however, as the government aims to reduce net immigration numbers.

In France and Germany, on the other hand, the nature of the respective legal regimes and higher education sectors means that it is easier for students to gain entry (e.g. much lower tuition fees, no requirement for universities to act as sponsors or to register with the immigration authorities in order to host students). In terms of post-study opportunities, however, students wishing to prolong their stay after graduation are currently faced with stricter limits on working than those in the Netherlands and the UK – although changes are expected to come into effect in Germany.

The report, Staying Intentions of Students in Five EU Countries, by the Migration Policy Group [5] – a European think tank – also offers detailed legislation overviews by county, tuition fee comparisons, study-to-work options, factors influencing students’ choices of study destinations or decision to stay on after graduation, and the challenges faced by international students.

Migration Policy Group [6]
April 2012


International Students Appreciate German Work Environment

According to a recent survey [7], international students in Germany are attracted by a good standard of living, comfortable study and work conditions, and strong university reputations.

The survey was conducted by the GATE-Germany [8] Consortium for the Marketing of International Higher Education, a 52-member university consortium, in collaboration with the German Academic Exchange Service [9] (DAAD) and the German Rectors’ Conference [10] to discover how international students rate Germany as a place to study. The 52 German universities participating in the study were rated particularly well in the categories of applied sciences, research, technological equipment, and high quality faculty. Aside from its academic strengths, Germany is also valued among international students for comparatively low living costs, hospitality and good prospects for long-term employment.

DAAD [11]
April 24, 2012

International Students Enjoy Broader Employment Opportunities Under New Legislation

More than one in 10 of Germany’s two million plus students are foreigners, and that proportion is on the increase. However, most of them return home after graduating. New legislation adopted by the German parliament is aimed at improving employment conditions for students by allowing them to work for 120 days instead of 90 days a year.

Upon graduating, students can now stay in Germany for 18 months instead of the current 12 months to seek skilled posts. No restrictions will be imposed on employment during the period in which they are looking for permanent employment. A permanent resident’s permit will be granted after two years.

Foreign academics will be granted a resident’s permit for up to six months. Academics holding an employment contract and earning a minimum of €44,800 (US$59,000) a year (and with some professions, just €35,000 a year) will receive a Blue Card. With this, they can obtain a permanent resident’s permit after two to three years. And their next of kin will not require approval by the Federal Labour Agency when taking a job.

Finally, the maximum stay for students including preparatory courses has been raised, to 10 years, and the maximum for a doctorate to five years. In 2009, time for a first-degree course plus a doctoral course was restricted to 10 years, which the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has always maintained is too little time even if the prescribed duration of first-degree studies is observed.

University World News [12]
May 6, 2012

Dumbing Down Under Bologna

Many German academics have expressed frustration over the impact of the Bologna Process, under which European signatory countries are seeking to make their degree programs comparable and in tune with appropriate learning outcomes.

An article in Times Higher Education reported on a recent conference in Germany, quoting academics who said that the Bologna emphasis on job-related skills had resulted in less emphasis on encouraging critical thinking skills.

“Employers complain that students are immature, unprepared and not comparable with former graduates,” said Felix Grigat, a representative of the German Association of University Professors and Lecturers. “Students and staff are also complaining about a move away from an academic experience to one concerned with skills.”

Times Higher Education [13]
May 6, 2012


Dutch Students Heading to Cheaper Universities in Belgium

Over the last five years, the number of Dutch students studying in Belgium has increased by 1,000 to 4,600 and is set to rise even further, the Volkskrant reports.

The Dutch Organization for Internationalization of Further Education [14] (Nuffic) expects the number moving to the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium to rise exponentially once the government scraps grants for master’s degree students, according to the newspaper. The cost of studying is much lower in Belgium at €5,780 ($7,600) compared with €1,713 ($2,300) in the Netherlands. Great Britain is also a popular choice, but Nuffic expects the numbers to stabilize with the sharp increase in fees there.

Dutch News [15]
March 27, 2012


Top Italian University to Teach in English Only

Milan’s Politecnico University [16] announced in April that from 2014 its academic programs will be taught exclusively in English. The move will, according to its rector, Giovanni Azzone, “contribute to the growth of the country.” He said the strategy would attract brain power and yield the high-quality personnel that would “respond to the needs of businesses.”

The announcement has ignited serious debate and soul searching among academics and public officials. The higher education minister, Francesco Profumo, told La Stampa newspaper that he hoped other leading institutions would follow Politecnico’s lead. Luca Serianni, a linguist at Rome’s La Sapienza University, said the move was “excessive and not only in the ideological sense.”

Despite having some of the oldest universities in the world in cities such as Bologna, not one Italian college appears among the world’s top 200. Nepotism and in-house recruitment of staff have largely been blamed.

The Independent [17]
April 14, 2012


Academic Programs and Quality Assurance Procedures Perform Poorly

More than 20 percent of 189 study programs evaluated by the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education [18] (HSV) have been graded ‘unsatisfactory,’ while the system of quality assurance itself has been rated unsatisfactory by a panel of European experts.

The agency published its evaluations of programs at bachelor and master levels from 25 institutions, using a scale from ‘very good’ to ‘good’ and ‘not satisfactory,’ in late April. Eight academic fields were evaluated and most were marked either good or very good. But 41 programs were rated not satisfactory. The higher education institutions hosting those programs have been given a year to improve their standards. The government is going to use the evaluation to inform the allocation of funds to universities. Those graded ‘very good’ will receive additional resources while those not satisfying quality criteria will have a year to improve courses. A further 6,000 programs are due to be evaluated by 2014.

Meanwhile, Sweden was found to have failed to meet European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education [19] (ENQA) regulations by an ENQA review panel.

University World News [20]
May 6, 2012

United Kingdom

University College London’s ‘Niche’ Campus Approach to Internationalization

With the number of international branch campuses growing rapidly over the last few years, University College London [21] (UCL) has developed a small, specialized ‘niche’ approach to the overseas campus. At present it has two: UCL Australia [22] in Adelaide (opened 2009), which contains the School of Energy and Resources Australia (SERAus), the International Energy Policy Institute (IEPI) and a sub-department of the Mullard Space Science Laboratory; and UCL Qatar [23] (2011), which is based in Education City [24] in Doha, and whose specialties are archaeology, conservation, cultural heritage and museum studies.

Each UCL overseas campus operates as a department or faculty of UCL and as such is connected to all other departments, divisions and central services in London. Each conforms to a clear and explicit model: (a) it is research-led; (b) it has a strong emphasis on graduate education and training; (c) it has defined areas of study, which are strategically important to the host country as well as to UCL’s own academic strategy; (d) it is committed to equality and diversity in all of its policies and processes; (e) it is committed to upholding freedom of inquiry in its teaching, research and other activities; (f) it has a significant outreach and public engagement activity.

The major advantage of the niche campus, according to Michael Worton, vice-provost of University College London, is that, “by definition, it has a strong and sharp academic focus, in terms of both its disciplines and the nature of the education and training it will offer. UCL’s view is that a niche campus should operate as a catalyst for change in research thinking, and also in terms of the type of pedagogical delivery offered. It should bring some challenges to local providers, but these will be creative challenges, and precisely because of its deliberately small size, it will never threaten local universities in terms of ‘poaching’ students or attracting all research grants.”

Worton also points to the benefits of flexibility in having a small campus, in that it is able to “experiment in its teaching and operational practices much more easily than the home university and, if necessary, it can correct any failings or weaknesses swiftly as well.”

University World News [25]
April 29, 2012

Half of All International Students Apply From In Country

At least half of all international undergraduate applications made to universities in the UK annually come from applicants already in the country, according to a new report.

The report [26] from the Knowledge Partnership [27] uses 2008-2010 data from the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS [28]), and covers all pre-university providers except pathways linked to universities in order to explore the “open market” of international students in the UK.

It suggests that students already studying in the UK – at further education colleges, independent schools or English language schools for example are the main source of international undergraduate recruitment for universities, accounting for 50 percent of the 200,000 applications made each year. With pathway programs included it would be nearer 59 percent of students registering from in country. The report found independent private schools to be the largest source of international students within the UK, providing around two-thirds of UK-based applications in 2010, followed by further education colleges, responsible for one-fifth.

The Knowledge Partnership [26]
May 2012

Keele Becomes First English University to Join U.S. Admissions System

Keele University [29] has become the first English university to join the common application system for university admissions in the United States. Keele will allow U.S. students to apply for places using the same form as other universities in the United States.

St Andrews [30] in Scotland is already part of this U.S. applications process. This latest move to woo students from abroad in the ever-internationalizing higher education arena means that Keele will be part of a standardized application system used by many U.S. universities. It will mean that students in the U.S. can apply to Keele through this system rather than the UCAS admissions system used by universities in the UK.

The lucrative overseas student market has become increasingly financially important to universities. “The university is committed to broadening its international standing,” said Keele spokesperson John McCarthy.

BBC [31]
April 30, 2012

British Students Look Abroad

An increasing number of students from the UK are looking into overseas study options, driven by a combination of the increasingly globalized graduate employment market and rising tuition fees in the UK, reports the Guardian.

Currently, just 1.7 percent of the UK’s total student population is studying overseas, with the U.S. as the top host country. Countries such as Australia, France and Germany, however, are also attracting more than 1,000 UK students each year.

“We have seen a trend where students are still applying to top universities in the UK, but are also looking farther afield. From our students’ point of view, it gives them the best of both worlds. They can apply to UK, European or American universities and have offers,” said Simon Dennis, principal of Hockerill Anglo-European College.

The Guardian further notes that students can even receive a UK degree abroad. For example, 200 students from the University of Nottingham are currently pursuing at least parts of their degree at the university’s overseas campuses in Malaysia and China, and the university plans to provide overseas experience to approximately one quarter of its student body by 2014.

The Guardian [32]
May 1, 2012