WENR, April 2014: Europe


EU Looks to Improve Work Rights for Foreign Students and Researchers

The European Union Parliament in February supported draft rules that will offer ‘talented’ non-European international students and researchers improved living and working conditions, in a bid to help member countries attract the world’s best minds.

In a press statement [1], the EU Parliament said it “would also clarify entry and residence conditions.” The idea is to boost the long-term competitiveness of member states and to “create better conditions to make the EU more attractive to third-country nationals seeking opportunities to do research, study, take part in a student exchange, or do paid or unpaid training, voluntary service or au pairing.

Parliament voted to entitle people from outside the European Union to stay in the country in which they studied or conducted research for 18 months in order to seek work or set up a company. The European Commission had proposed an entitlement of 12 months.

“Researchers’ and students’ family members would also have the right to stay and work for the same period,” said the statement. Researchers, students, trainees and volunteers would also have the right to move to other European Union countries and carry out activities there for up to six months.

The draft rules propose a 30-day deadline for accepting or refusing visa applications – the commission had suggested 60 days – as well as for deciding on appeals against refusals. Fees charged for applications should “not be so excessive or disproportionate as to hinder the aims of the legislation,” and host institutions should reimburse fees paid by applicants.

In 2005, concerned that Europe was losing out to competitors in attracting highly skilled migrants, the EU adopted the Scientific Visa [2], which was directly targeted at attracting foreign scientists and researchers. And in 2009 it produced the Blue Card [3] to attract highly qualified foreign professionals.

University World News [4]
February 28, 2014


Belarusian Universities Ready to Join Bologna Process

Belarusian universities are getting ready to join the European Higher Education Area through the Bologna Process, the president of Belarusian State University Mikhail Zhuravkov told reporters before the opening of an international seminar titled “Erasmus Mundus as a Catalyst for Internationalization: Sharing best practices and exploring future perspectives.”

“I am convinced that Belarus will join the Bologna Process in 2015. The country has been getting ready for it for a long time already. No doubt, all our students are looking forward to it. In order to join the Bologna Process, our universities have to comply with certain requirements, like teaching disciplines in English, new courses for foreign students etc. Now we have plans to introduce new inter-disciplinary courses in English,” Zhuravkov said.

Licia Proserpio, Coordinator of WEBB Project from the International Relations Division of the University of Bologna, noted that Belarus’ accession to the Bologna Process is very important for all the countries. “We assume an obligation to help Belarus join the process. So far, one of the biggest obstacles is incompatibility of Belarusian and European grades. It would be regrettable if the student mobility program got stalled in Belarus, because students coming from Belarus are well-trained and are very smart academically,” Licia Proserpio noted.

Belarus State University [5] plays a big role in the academic mobility of Belarusians. In 2013 alone, 15 new projects were implemented at the university with the purpose of academic exchange of students, teachers and scientists between universities in former Soviet states and the European Union.

– Belarusian Telegraph Agency
February 10, 2014


French Universities Partner in Singapore

A new collaboration between France’s Université Paris-Dauphine and Singapore Management University (SMU) is the latest move by a French university to link up with Asian counterparts and build an international research alliance, reports University World News.

The hope is that the new collaboration will lead to an international alliance of universities specializing in research, linking business, industry and society, and which will extend across Europe, Asia and other continents, according to university leaders.

Both universities are already in talks with other as yet unnamed world-class institutions around the world that share their declared ‘holistic’ approach.

Other French institutions with a presence in Singapore include INSEAD [6], which has operated a campus there for over 10 years, ESSEC Business School [7], the Grenoble Graduate School of Business [8] and Paris-Sorbonne [9]. This partly reflects strong trade links – the French Chamber of Commerce has been in the city-state since 1979 and now represents a “network of over 550 company and individual members”.

University World News [10]
February 7, 2014

France Liberalizes Foreign Student Visa Regulations

In a bid to boost university enrollments from overseas, the French government has introduced a series of immigration reforms designed to make the country’s system of education more attractive.

Students will no longer have to renew their visas annually but will be issued permits lasting the length of their program, while President François Hollande recently said he plans to introduce new measures to make the country more attractive to foreign students including extending post-study work rights and simplifying administration around visa processing. He also said he plans to introduce a “talent visa” giving four-year residency to between 5,000 to 10,000 graduates, researchers and highly skilled workers

The country attracted more than 280,000 international students in 2012 accounting for 12.3 percent of total tertiary enrollments. Under the government’s new push to recruit internationally, government officials have said they would like to see foreign enrollments climb to 15 percent by 2020 and 20 percent by 2025. The latest figures from Campus France show that visa issuances were up 8 percent for 2013 and universities account for 78 percent of foreign enrollments.

The PIE News [11]
March 4, 2014


New Six-Year Internationalization Strategy Released

The German Academic Exchange Service [12] (DAAD) recently released an internationalization strategy outlining the organization’s plan to support German institutions in meeting future challenges in global education and to significantly grow inbound enrollments.

Currently there are approximately 280,000 foreign students studying in Germany. DAAD’s Strategy 2020 [13] aims to attract 350,000 within the next six years.

Supporting German students abroad is another key element to the strategy, with the goal to increase the number of domestic graduates with an international study experience from 30 percent to 50 percent by 2020. The measures also include increasing scholarships for foreign and domestic students, expanding DAAD’s on-the-ground presence in markets worldwide, and improving marketing and information strategies. DAAD expects the number of English-taught programs to expand also, especially at the graduate level.

In order to reach the goal of having half of all domestic students graduate with a foreign study experience, DAAD will encourage more German institutions to recognize credits from abroad.

The PIE News [14]
February 24, 2014

The End of University Tuition Fees

During the past eight years, university tuition fees were introduced into most west German federal states. Yet in a few months, every single state will have abolished them.

Why did Germany introduce tuition fees in the first place? The answer, in short, is that politicians favored the idea, reports Times Higher Education. Self-styled “modernizers” had been advocating tuition fees since German reunification in 1990. Cultural differences between east and west initially hindered this plan, but the main obstacle was a federal law banning tuition fees, which echoed provisions guaranteeing free education in the constitutions of individual states.

In 2005, however, the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe ruled that moderate fees, coupled with affordable loans, would safeguard these constitutional provisions. Within two years, a cascade of laws had swept through most of the federal Länder, and all but three of 10 states in west Germany introduced fees in 2006 or 2007; an eighth, Bremen, was prevented from doing so by a lawsuit. Only two – Rheinland-Pfalz and Schleswig-Holstein – resisted the tide completely.

Yet within a single electoral cycle, their long-sought policy was comprehensively overturned. The only state still charging tuition fees in 2014, Lower Saxony, will cease to do so at the end of this academic year.

This raises a second and more interesting question: what immovable object blocked this seemingly irresistible force? The answer, in a word, is democracy. In Hesse, for instance, students protested en masse, a citizens’ initiative collected 70,000 signatures, and the ruling Christian Democratic Union party, fighting for re-election in 2008, reversed course in order to retain power. Tuition fees then unraveled at almost the same speed as they had been stitched up. Those state governments that followed Hesse’s lead in abolishing fees stayed in power; those that refused were removed from office at the next election. And now, in a few months, Germany’s brief experiment with university tuition fees will be over.

Times Higher Education [15]
February 13, 2014


After Decades of Growth, Higher Ed Enrollments Decline

Enrollments in Polish higher education peaked in 2009 after growing fivefold for two decades to almost 2 million. This year, the numbers have tailed off and are set to fall farther, even though Poland’s university enrollment rate is the fourth highest among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations.

By 2020, the number of 19-year-olds in Poland will be about 361,500 – almost half the level of the high in 2002, when those born at the height of the baby boom of the early to mid-1980s reached university age.

“By 2016, the number of places on offer in state universities will be equal to the number of teenagers graduating from high school,” explains Witold Bielecki, rector of Kozminski University in Warsaw, one of Poland’s most highly regarded private universities.

In preparation for the changing demographic situation, Kozminski has changed its recruiting focus away from school-leaving undergraduates, with close to 30 percent of its income now generated from graduate students on MBA and executive study programs. The university is also offering courses taught in English to attract international students, who now make up about 30 percent of Kozminski’s main undergraduate student body. The university uses agents to recruit in Ukraine, Russia and China.

But very few Polish universities have or are able to follow Kozminski’s blueprint for financial success with international students. According to the latest available data, just 24,253 international students studied Poland in 2011-12, accounting for 1.4 percent of all students. Although that figure is double the 0.6 percent it was just five years before, it is still one of the lowest rates of internationalization among developed countries. And as many as 40 percent of Poland’s higher education institutions have no international students at all.

In the private sector, the number of higher education institutions has boomed over the last two decades, with approximately 350 established since 1991. Observers believe private institutions will be the major losers in the coming years due to decreased enrollments.

Times Higher Education [16]
March 6, 2014

Republic of Ireland

Colleges and Institutes of Technology to Use ‘University’ Label to Attract Foreign Students

Colleges and institutes of technology in Ireland will be allowed to describe themselves as a ‘university’ when trying to attract foreign students, according to a recent article in Independent Ireland. Education Minister Ruairi Quinn is to change the law to allow non-universities “in limited circumstances” to describe themselves as a university.

Institutes of technology say they are missing out on tuition revenue and internationalization opportunities because students from many countries do not rate tertiary institutions unless they have the title ‘university’ in their name. The perception leaves institutes of technology at a competitive disadvantage when going up against similar colleges from other countries that are called universities.

However, the change would only be allowed with the approval of the Higher Education Authority and would not mean the institutes of technology were attaining university status. And only “high-quality institutions” will be allowed to make the change. Lower-level colleges won’t be allowed to describe themselves as universities as the law still stands.

But the problem around the name even extends to the country’s most prestigious university, Trinity College Dublin. It is considering a name change to ‘Trinity College, University of Dublin.’ It is being considered as part of a drive to modernize and also to attract larger numbers of students from China, India and Brazil. But the name change is being opposed by academics.

Independent Ireland [17]
March 5, 2014


Government Takes Steps to Combat Fake Dissertations and Degrees

The Russian government has designed a new set of rules to combat fake dissertations and degrees. The move follows a recent order by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev after a series of scandals exposed well-known politicians, businessmen and officials who illegally received degrees from prestigious Russian universities.

According to a recent study conducted by Anti-Plagiarism, one of Russia’s leading analytical agencies in the field of intellectual property, one out of every 10 theses on history defended in Russia involves plagiarism.

Amid the ever-declining prestige of Russian science and university degrees, the government decided to take a set of countering measures to improve the situation.

Medvedev commented: “Frankly, the latest scandals regarding the granting of fake degrees by domestic universities affected the prestige of national science. Therefore the quality of dissertations, the transparency of their defense and the elimination of violations in their defense should be among the priorities of state monitoring in the near future.”

According to state plans, the responsibilities of dissertation councils in awarding degrees will be significantly tightened. The adoption of special rules should help avoid scandals in future. It is planned that the Higher Attestation Commission, a national government agency that oversees the awarding of advanced degrees, will be responsible for implementing the new rules.

According to the plans, the new rules will require every degree applicant to publish the text of his or her work on the internet before defending the degree. Public officials will not be allowed to defend their theses in dissertation committees that have any affiliation with them.

University World News [18]
February 24, 2014

Russia & India to Sign Mutual-Degree Recognition Deal to Promote Mobility

In an attempt to increase educational and student exchanges, Russia and India will sign an agreement on the mutual recognition of higher education diplomas.

“The text of the agreement is ready and practically approved,” said Sergey Karmalito, senior counselor at the Russian Embassy in India. “We are confident that we will sign it in a year.”

Professor Dr A Najeerul Ameen, president of the All-India Foreign Medical Graduates Association, said he was confident that this step would help increase the number of Indian students coming to Russia. “Every year, thousands of Indians come to study medicine in Russia,” he said. “If an agreement on mutual recognition of diplomas is signed, their number may increase five times.”

Russia & India Report [19]
March 4, 2014


Universities Losing Students Due to Stringent Visa Policies and Tuition Fees

Since the introduction of tuition fees for foreign students in 2011, Swedish universities have struggled to attract foreign students, and critics now warn its visa system pushes highly qualified graduates out of the country.

Until 2011, Sweden was one of the few countries in the world to offer free university places to all foreign students, attracting nearly 8,000 in the final year before fees were introduced. Since then, enrollments among non-EU nationals have dropped by 80 percent to 1,600 with the greatest fall-off among African and Asian students.

Sweden still offers scholarships for qualified graduate students from non-EU countries, but not many. Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) receives 5,000 applications per year for foreign scholarships but can only offer 60 funded places.

And post-graduation work policies make recouping the cost of tuition fees difficult. When foreign students finish their studies they must find work quickly and get employment visas before their student visas expire — just 10 days after graduation. Despite 76 percent of students saying they want to stay in the country and work after graduation, a mere 17 percent succeed, according to a report from Boston Consulting Group.

In a recent op-ed article in the daily Dagens Nyheter, KTH president Peter Gudmundson argued for a review of the fees decision and better visa arrangements. His counterpart at Gothenburg University, Pam Fredman, co-authored the article and said that Sweden makes it too hard for students who have lived in the country for several years to get visas, and that Sweden needs better links between education and industry.

Agence France Presse [20]
March 5, 2014

United Kingdom

Thousands of Professional Programs to Lose Government Funding

The British government is to cut funding to 5,000 adult vocational programs to “simplify and streamline” the adult skills system in England.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills describes programs in niche fields such as self-tanning, balloon artistry and instructing pole fitness as “low value.” However, the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education says they can be “a way back into learning.”

Nearly £200 million (US$334 million) of the department’s adult skills budget will now be redirected towards the “most relevant qualifications.” Officials say the plan would make programs respond more closely to employers’ needs and give learners a clear route either to employment or further training.

There are currently 15,400 regulated qualifications, with 11,000 eligible for government funding under current restrictions.

BBC [21]
March 4, 2014

UK Universities Increasingly Reliant on Fees from International Students

The Higher Education Funding Council for England released financial results [22] for the sector from 2012-2013 in March. The data show slowing growth in international student numbers but an increase in the extent to which institutions rely on overseas fees for income.

The number of institutions reporting that overseas fees account for 20 percent or more of total income has risen from four to 14 in five years. Universities in the UK have seen a reduction in funding made available through recurrent grants in recent years, pushing them to secure a higher number of students paying higher tuition fees.

This funding model has come under scrutiny by leaders in the sector and recently the Higher Education Commission, an independent body of senior leaders in UK education, business and the three major political parties, launched a nine-month inquiry into the financial sustainability of higher education in England.

The inquiry co-chair Lord Norton, Professor of Government at the University of Hull, said that the failure of UK politicians to engage with this issue makes the inquiry “even more timely and important”. “The absence of a higher education bill has left a worrying hole at the heart of parliamentary debate over the future of higher education in England,” he added.

The inquiry will investigate factors including international and domestic student fee levels and the roles of government, higher education institutions and employers in the financial sustainability of the tertiary sector.

The PIE News [23]
March 5, 2014

UK’s Immigrant Population Better Educated than Native Born Population

Over a third of people born outside the UK had degree level qualifications in 2011 compared with a quarter of people born in the UK, according to a recent study based on Census data.

The Dynamics of Diversity Study: Evidence from the 2011 Census [24], from the Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity at the University of Manchester, compared data from the 1991, 2001 and 2011 Censuses and found that members of the Indian, Chinese and Black African groups had higher educational attainment than other ethnic minority groups and the White British Group in both 2001 and 2011.

Historically, ethnic minority groups have been disadvantaged in terms of education compared with the White British group. However, the report found that “over the last 20 years, educational attainment has been increasing among ethnic groups as a result of an improvement in access to education overseas and the increasing proportion of ethnic minority people educated in Britain.”

Furthermore, “in 2011, only people from the White Gypsy or Irish Traveler, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and White and Black Caribbean groups were less likely than White British people to have degree level qualifications or equivalent. The groups with the highest proportion of people with degree level qualifications were the Chinese (43%), Indian (42%) and Black African (40%).”

Centre on Dynamics in Diversity [24]
March 2014