WENR, June 2013: Europe


Big Changes in Student Mobility Needed, Says LERU

Europe’s top research universities are pushing for more structured forms of student mobility, to build on the achievements of the Erasmus exchange program, which they say is reaching its limits. Newer forms of ‘networked’ and ‘embedded’ student mobility are needed.

These forms of student mobility will be costly and will possibly require difficult decisions and commitments from institutions, governments and the European Commission, says the League of European Research Universities [1] (LERU), which represents the top 21 research-intensive universities in Europe. But such schemes are “an important step towards the modernization of Europe’s higher education institutions,” says a new LERU advice paper [2], International Curricula and Student Mobility.

Three basic mobility models are identified in the paper: Exchange mobility, where students themselves choose to have an experience abroad for a short or longer period of time – the Erasmus model; networked mobility and curricula, where a university joins a network with several partners and sends its students for a certain period of time to one or more partner institutions; embedded mobility and curricula, where a limited number of partners form a consortium in which students ‘rotate’ and pursue parts of their education in two or more partner institutions.

University World News [3]
May 2, 2013


Island Politics Causing Major Problems for International Students

Cyprus is a popular destination for international students, especially those from Africa looking for top-quality, affordable education. However, internal politics on the divided island has been leading to shattered dreams and intense confusion.

Universities in secessionist north Cyprus, a region not recognized by the international community except Turkey, have been promoting themselves heavily in Africa. Institutions such as Cyprus International University [4] and East Mediterranean University [5] are not accredited by south (Greek) Cyprus, which is recognized by the United Nations. This poses a major dilemma for students, who are uncertain about whether they will be able to enter the job market with qualifications from universities in north Cyprus.

In Kenya in particular, Cyprus International University (CIU) has been aggressively advertising in the local press in a bid to attract students. Last year, Kenya’s Commission for University Education [6] warned that CIU was an unaccredited university, but this seems not to have deterred education-hungry Kenyans from flocking to north Cyprus.

The move has forced the south Cyprus (Nicosia) embassy in Nairobi to warn students and parents against enrolling at the institution, cautioning that the university is unaccredited. The Cyprus high commission in Nairobi listed the University of Cyprus, Open University of Cyprus and Cyprus University of Technology as among the accredited institutions at which international students could enroll.

University World News [7]
April 13, 2013


Internationalization Being Taken Seriously By Finnish Universities

An international evaluation team established by the Finnish Higher Education Evaluation Council [8] has published a report on international degree programs in the country, finding that internationalization has been taken as a serious objective by all Finnish institutions of higher education.

According to the report, Finnish managers of international degree programs are very satisfied with the quality of their teachers and students, and according to the evaluation team, the approachability of teachers is one of the strengths of Finnish programs.

One of the main problems discussed during the site visits was the difficulty that international students have in gaining access to the Finnish labor market, with the Finnish language being the main obstacle. In addition, students said that Finnish institutions of higher education did not provide enough follow-up help for job seekers after their graduation.

The evaluation team made several recommendations including: better communication with alumni, increased cooperation between teachers and support staff, rewarding teachers for advancing their language skills and improving multicultural competencies.

Ministry of Education and Culture [9]
March 26, 2013


Immigration and Workplace Reforms Aimed at Attracting More Foreign Doctoral Students

One of the first acts of the socialist-led government when it came to power a year ago was to repeal the so-called Guéant circular of May 2011, which forced many non-European foreign graduates who had studied in France and then found high-level jobs in French firms to leave the country.

Now the government is going further, introducing a series of badly needed reforms to attract the brightest foreign students, especially from countries such as China and South Korea, to study in France, and encourage them to stay on to work and contribute to the country’s international competitiveness.

The reforms will incorporate measures to improve foreign students’ conditions and ease transition into the French job market. These include: construction programs for student housing; two- to three-year student visas, depending on the kind of degree concerned, to avoid the hassle of renewals; one-stop shops for simplified administrative and academic processes; and relaxed labor laws to allow highly educated foreign graduates easier access to employment in France.

Currently, there are about 70,000 Ph.D. students studying in France, of whom 41 percent are international. Many of them traditionally stay after they have finished their studies – 24 percent of the 6.4 million Ph.D. (or equivalent) graduates living in France are foreign. A quarter of foreign Ph.D. students are from North Africa and 19 percent from the European Union. Other nationalities well represented are Chinese, Brazilians, Mexicans and Russians. But students from major scientific countries such as the U.S., Japan and South Korea are rarely found in French laboratories.

University World News [10]
May 18, 2013

Legislation Aimed at Allowing More Instruction in English Lights Fires

A bill in France’s parliament that would allow French universities to increase the number of courses taught in English is running into fierce opposition. Lawmakers have denounced the bill as a signal of France’s “waning influence,” a “humiliation to French speakers,” and a “suicidal project,” with criticism coming even from members of the party of the higher-education minister, Geneviève Fioraso, a Socialist, who introduced the measure.

The bill is being promoted as a way to raise the country’s profile in international higher education. It would allow some university-level classes to be taught in English if they were part of an accord with a foreign institution, or if they had financial backing from the European Union.

Those in favor suggest more English-language instruction would allow French universities to compete better for the world’s brightest students, many of whom come from the English-speaking world, or otherwise want to study and learn in English. In science, according to commentary [11] in Le Monde from a number of distinguished French academic leaders and scientists, English is already the lingua franca that scientists use to communicate and the language of choice for most scientific conferences and publications. Allowing more English-language instruction would make France more attractive to foreign students and scholars, they argue, thus promoting the country’s position in the world.

The Chronicle of Higher Education [12]
May 16, 2013

France Signs Pacts with China to Increase Mobility and Research

France and China recently signed 11 agreements aimed at strengthening higher education and research partnerships as well as student mobility between the two countries.

China is currently the second-largest source of international students for French universities (after Morocco), with more than 30,000 currently studying there. With 8,000 French students in China, the new partnerships aim to increase student mobility between the two countries to 80,000 and 10,000 respectively by 2020, said the French ministry.

The six areas of mutual interest to the two countries’ research agenda are: sustainable development, green chemistry, biodiversity and water management, infectious diseases, digital technologies and smart towns. Two strategic agreements were signed concerning educational and academic linguistic cooperation and establishing a joint working group on innovation respectively. The other nine agreements seek to reinforce cooperation between higher education and research institutions.

University World News [13]
May 4, 2013


Brain Drain Hampers Economic Recovery

Over the past two centuries large numbers of unskilled and semi-skilled Greeks have left the country in search of a better future. Today’s emigrants are highly skilled professionals with graduate qualifications who are unable to put their skills to work in the country’s dysfunctional economic climate. But their leaving is also delaying – even preventing – Greece’s recovery, reports University World News.

During the boom years of the last 30 years since Greece joined the European Union, the standard of living improved significantly, more resources were invested in education, illiteracy was eliminated and, in a short time, Greece established a large number of universities and technical institutions that produced degree holders at graduate and postgraduate level.

The improved financial situation allowed Greek students who could not be guaranteed a university place in their own country to study abroad, and conditions within the EU made this movement easier. It is estimated that more than 100,000 Greek students undertake studies abroad at all levels every year.

Improvements in education standards and the plethora of degrees ultimately impacted on opportunities for employment for many trained professionals. Rising education standards and the acquisition of degrees by a high proportion of the population created an imbalance with manual labor, which became scarce and had to be imported from abroad.

With the economic meltdown came an exodus of not only foreign labor, but also native Greeks. While the movements of populations across countries and continents can be beneficial and even desirable under certain conditions, Greece has a serious brain drain that in the long run will adversely affect the country’s effort to overcome the present crisis. Economic orthodoxy claims that the road to economic recovery cannot take place without young people with fresh ideas, without well-educated executives and managers, without graduates who could help rescue the country from stagnation.

University World News [14]
May 18, 2013


Government Tests New Multidimensional Ranking System

Russian universities, like universities from other countries, increasingly compete not only at the national level but also globally. This trend is reflected in the growing interest in global university rankings. In Russia almost 30 different approaches to ranking have been developed recently and tested in a bid to satisfy the needs of various stakeholders.

Thus in 2011 the Ministry of Education and Science contracted the National Training Foundation to develop and approve a template methodology for a Russian university ranking, as part of the project “Developing and Approving a Template Methodology for National Ranking of Higher Education Institutions,” to be piloted between 2011 and 2013.

There are more than 1,000 higher education institutions in the Russian federation, 103 took part in the methodology pilot, including eight federal universities and 28 national research universities. The results demonstrate that the multidimensional ranking methodology reveals the qualitative characteristics of Russian higher education institutions, identifies their relative strengths and weaknesses in the five areas, and helps them to shape development strategies.

A detailed description of the methodology is available here [15].

University World News [16]
April 20, 2013

MIT to Work with Russia in Developing Curriculum at High-Tech Hub

Just 12 miles from the Kremlin at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology [17] (Skoltech) a new curriculum is being designed by MIT academics with financial backing from the Russian government. The school will offer graduate degrees only and teach in English, and will serve as the cornerstone of an 85 billion ruble ($2.7 billion) innovation hub funded by the Russian Ministry of Finance. The degrees will be conferred by Skoltech.

Russian officials say they’re aiming to create tech start-ups and lure corporate research laboratories with tax breaks and relaxed visas and customs regulations. International Business Machines Corp., Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Siemens AG have already agreed to locate there. The foundation running the project says it has recruited 52 venture capital firms to the Skolkovo Innovation Centre [18], which was founded in 2010.

MIT, which already has programs in Abu Dhabi, China, Portugal and Singapore, sees advantages as well. Skolkovo will give it access to the most-promising scientists in a country where it has had little contact, says Leo Rafael Reif, MIT’s president.

“There is a tremendous amount of talent there,” Reif, 62, told Bloomberg News. “It is really an incubator.”

The Skolkovo Foundation is paying MIT $300 million for its participation in the university. That involvement includes designing the university curriculum and research programs and providing visiting faculty at up to 15 research centers [19] where scientists from Skoltech and international and Russian universities will collaborate. Skoltech’s first president, rocket scientist Edward Crawley, 58, is an MIT professor on long-term leave. Crawley, who signed a five-year contract, says Skoltech aims to have hired 30 to 35 professors by the end of this year and plans on adding about 30 more annually until the faculty reaches 200 at the end of the decade. When fully staffed, the school will be equipped to teach more than 1,200 graduate students, according to current plans.

Bloomberg [20]
April 29, 2013


US Rejects Turkish Applications for Visas in Unusually High Numbers

One of the biggest recruitment agency associations in Turkey, UED [21], claims that the United States refused a higher number of student visas for Turks than any other major study destination country in 2012. However, it says the situation has started to improve in 2013.

In an annual survey of around 20 of its 80 agent members – representing about 50 percent of total business volume – UED said Turks experienced a visa acceptance rate of 77 percent in the United States last year. This compared with 100 percent in France, 94 percent in Germany, 93 percent in the UK and 83 percent in Canada.

UED’s coordinator, Gokhan Islamoglu, blamed it on the spike in rejections that followed the arrest last summer of Turks using F1 and J1 visas to work illegally in the United States. The British Council estimates that around 45,000 Turkish students studied abroad in 2010, with 40 percent of them using agents – higher than much of Europe and Latin America.

The UED also offers a snapshot of the Turkish student market for tertiary, language and other forms of education overseas with recommendations for penetrating the market and effective recruitment strategies. In 2012, language comprised most agent business (34 percent), with the UK the top destination (48 percent) followed by the USA (24 percent) and Malta (6 percent). On penetrating the market, UED recommends that foreign educators build their brand presence (and translate marketing materials into Turkish); discuss pricing policy with agents; advertise; and always follow up on enquiries.

The PIE News [22]
April 25, 2013


10 Percent Increase in International Students

The number of international students at Ukrainian universities stands at more than 61,000 this year, representing a 10 percent increase from 2012, according to Education Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk.

“Over 61,000 foreign students from 152 countries are now studying in Ukraine. This fact confirms that our country is actively developing higher education,” Tabachnyk told an international conference.

Over a half of foreign students are from Asian and the ex-Soviet states, he said. The growth in international students going to Ukraine for higher education has contributed some 537.5 million dollars to the Ukrainian economy in 2012, Tabachnyk said.

Universities in the eastern city of Kharkov, where over 20,000 foreigners have been enrolled this year, are the biggest destination for international students in Ukraine. There are nearly 35,000 Ukrainian students abroad, mainly in Russia, the United States and Poland.

NZweek [23]
May 14, 2013

United Kingdom

UK Not That Attractive as a Post-Study Destination

Among non-EU students considering a UK education, the prospect of emigrating to the country afterwards is not that attractive, a student survey has found, despite previous government claims to the contrary. Higher education marketing firm Hobsons polled 5,500 students from more then 150 countries in March about their “perceptions and expectations of study in the UK.” All had enquired about places within the last two years at 15 different UK universities.

A majority of the 5,500 international students polled said their main reason to study in the UK was to improve job prospects in their home country by attending a good university. Only 6 percent said that staying was a primary reason to apply. The finding comes just a year after the government controversially curtailed the post-study work rights of overseas students as part of a series of student immigration reforms to help lower net migration.

Students who chose not to come to the UK did so largely because of their perceptions of visa restrictions including post-study work options (24 percent), ease of obtaining a visa (24 percent) and ability to work while studying. Most students said that a further tightening of regulations would prompt them to switch their prospective destination country. Among other English-speaking destinations under consideration, the United States was the most popular (32 percent), followed by Australia (20 percent) and Canada (20 percent), with New Zealand next in line albeit some way behind.

The PIE News [24]
May 2, 2013

Economist Calls for New Three-Year Degree in Scotland

A leading economist has called for a radical shake-up of Scotland’s traditional four-year university degree. Jeremy Peat, director of the Edinburgh-based David Hume Institute [25], said a more intensive three-year degree would save money and get graduates into the workforce more quickly.

The proposal is controversial because Scottish universities see the four-year degree as the gold standard in higher education, giving students an unrivalled breadth of study. However, its status has come under greater scrutiny in recent years with concerns over the cost to the public purse of studying for four years. There are also concerns pupils who study Advanced Highers in the sixth year at school are essentially treading water for the first year of a degree.

The Herald Scotland [26]
April 30, 2013

Chinese University Looking to Establish a Joint Campus in London

Zhejiang University [27] has signed an agreement with Imperial College London that could see it become a major partner in a London research center for as many as 3,000 scientists, according to Imperial College.

While Zhejiang is among the first Chinese universities to move to set up a campus overseas, others are likely to soon follow suit, reports the Telegraph of London. The Chinese government is encouraging its universities to establish a presence across the world in much the same way that Western universities have done in recent years.

“China will support and help its universities to go out and internationalize,” said Zhang Xiuqin, the director of the department of International Cooperation and Exchanges [28] at China’s Education ministry. She added that Zhejiang University’s foreign campus would be a “valuable step” that would pave the way for other institutions. Xiamen University has also recently announced that it will set up a campus in Malaysia.

The precise details of the project are still to be fixed and the agreement is so far non-binding, said a spokesman for Imperial, but the Chinese are said to be taking it very seriously. For Zhejiang University, a London campus would hugely boost its standing in China and potentially allow it to reap more government grants.

The Telegraph [29]
May 19, 2013

QAA Review of UK Transnational Provision in China Finds Local Frustrations With Teaching

“Fly-in, fly-out” academics are a source of frustration for Chinese students taking UK degrees in their own country, according to the findings of a new Quality Assurance Agency review into overseas provision in China.

Around 38,000 students in China were studying for qualifications taught by a total of 70 British higher education institutions last year, either through a branch campus, partnerships with Chinese universities or via distance learning. However, the May report from the QAA questions whether UK staff are spending enough time teaching students on their degree programs, with contact hours mostly delivered by Chinese academics.

While the use of “fly-in, fly-out faculty” suited UK universities, “it is less well liked by the students in China, who are faced with perhaps too much opportunity for independent learning between the teaching blocks,” says the report, titled Review of UK Transnational Education in China [30].

Most students interviewed by the QAA during its two-week visit to China last year expressed a desire for “more face-to-face contact with academic staff from the relevant UK university,” the review says.

The report’s publication follows recent calls by David Willetts, the universities and science minister, for UK higher education institutions to teach more students overseas, rather than encouraging them to attend university in the UK – widely viewed as a reaction to tougher student visa requirements designed to cut net immigration. However, the QAA raises several concerns about applying such a policy to China, citing the English-language skills of many students and the difficulty of integrating British examination methods into Chinese universities.

Times Higher Education [31]
May 16, 2013

University Participation Rates Hit New High as Students Scramble to Avoid Fee Hikes

The percentage of 17-30 year-old Britons accessing higher education hit a record high of 49 percent in 2012 as students scrambled to avoid last year’s tuition fee hikes, a new study has found.

According to a report by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, published in April, higher education participation rates rose from 46 percent in 2010-11 to 49 percent in 2011-12 – the final year before tuition fees nearly trebled to up to £9,000 (US$13,900) a year. The rise in the provisional participation rate – the likelihood of a UK student entering higher education by the age of 30 – can be partly explained by the fewer number of students deferring university study until 2012-13, with many students seeking to gain a place under the previous fee regime.

Times Higher Education [32]
April 24, 2013