WENR, June 2014: Europe


Institutions Worldwide Focus on Internationalization

A new survey from the International Association of Universities (IAU) finds that higher education institutions (HEIs) across the globe are focusing on internationalization, with 53 percent of 1,336 responding institutions stating that they have an internationalization policy/strategy in place, and 22 percent reporting that one is in preparation.

However, the IAU’s 4th Global Survey [1], which saw responses from institutions in 131 countries, also found that internationalization forms part of the overall institutional strategy at only 16 percent of HEIs, suggesting that there is some way to go before an international approach is embedded fully in institutions’ strategic goals.

According to the research, student mobility and international research collaboration are the highest-priority internationalization activities, cited by 29 and 24 percent of respondents respectively as their top priority. Student knowledge of international issues is the most significant expected benefit of internationalization, cited by 32 percent of respondents.

Among the biggest risks to internationalization is the fear that international opportunities are only available to students with sufficient financial resources (31 percent), and the concern that internationalization can bring about the commodification and/or commercialization of education (19 percent). Limited funding, meanwhile, is the major internal and external obstacle to advancing internationalization. This finding was also true in the two previous IAU Global Surveys.

International Focus [2]
April 2014

TNE Affordable Alternative to Study Abroad, Research Finds

Recent data showing the impact of transnational education (TNE) on host countries was released in May, with findings showing that TNE is often an affordable alternative to traditional overseas study and is seen to better prepare students for the job market than local providers.

The research, [3] conducted by the British Council and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), surveyed 2,000 TNE graduates, non-TNE graduates, faculty, government agencies and employers. It is the first in-depth look at the impact of TNE in 10 countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

Transnational Education is the term given to the delivery of education services in a country different from where the awarding or overseeing institution is located. International branch campuses, distance education, double degree programs, and franchised programs are all examples of TNE delivery.

The top advantages and challenges to TNE reported by respondents concern the cost. Overall the number one positive benefit of TNE for institutional and government leaders as well as students is that it provides an affordable alternative to studying abroad. However, despite the positive view that TNE is more cost effective than going abroad, respondents also said the top negative attribute of TNE is the high cost for students compared with local programs.

Students said that TNE strengthened their international outlook and promoted intercultural understanding. Students also felt that TNE qualifications gave them an edge in the labor market, mainly because of the prestige of the foreign university and the fact that they had developed an international outlook.

Surveys were carried out in host countries with “mature TNE markets” and include Botswana, Egypt, Hong Kong, Jordan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Turkey, UAE and Vietnam. Countries providing TNE are led by the UK, Australia and Germany.

The PIE News [4]
May 14, 2014

New EU-Backed International University Ranking System Launches

A new international effort to gauge the performance of universities went online [5] in May, promising to be a nuanced tool for students and institutions when compared to existing global rankings.

U-Multirank, a project announced in 2011 and backed by the European Union, aims to foster greater transparency about higher education around the world. But while its approach has received praise, some experts say it still has a way to go before achieving its goals.

On its website, [5] U-Multirank allows users to select their own criteria and generate customized results. It compares five performance areas—teaching and learning, research, knowledge transfer, international orientation, and regional engagement—and grades them from A (“very good”) to E (“weak”). The indicators for knowledge transfer, for example, include the number of joint publications with industry. Another indicator reflects how often publications from a particular institution are cited in patents.

The project’s designers say it is the first international ranking to reflect the diversity of higher education by including all types of institutions, including specialist colleges, smaller regional institutions, and universities of applied sciences.

The Chronicle of Higher Education [6]
May 13, 2014


Belarus Seeks Entry to European Higher Education Area

Belarus is attempting to adopt liberal market-led policies to improve the quality of its higher education system and to attract more international students, reports Inside Higher Ed.

As part of such moves, a deal was signed in April in the capital, Minsk, between a British organization – the Association of Business Executives [7] – and the Belarusian government recognizing ABE qualifications as the equivalent of the country’s diplomas of higher education and master’s degrees.

The signing of such a memorandum is part of a campaign by Belarus to join the Bologna Process, a system designed to ensure comparability in the standards of higher education qualifications and to promote freedom of academic movement within Europe.

By investing 2 percent of its gross domestic product in improving the quality of its higher education, Belarus hopes to shift a stagnant economy that is reliant on state-owned manufacturing companies supplying Russia with trucks, coaches and chemicals toward high-technology industries.

Although the Russian higher education “five plus one” model of combining undergraduate and master’s education is widely adopted within Belarus, universities are now trying to shorten degree programs to converge with the Bologna Process. Belarusian universities have also been upgrading quality management systems to meet European standards. Despite these efforts, the Soviet Union’s legacy is still apparent in a country where academic freedom can be constrained and degree syllabuses traditionally need state approval. These are issues that must be resolved ahead of the republic’s Bologna bid.

Inside Higher Ed [8]
May 16, 2014


Government Announces Plans to Attract More International Students

The Danish government announced plans in April designed to attract more foreign students. The internationalization initiative aims to make study programs and environments more international, reduce dropouts among foreign students and help them find employment in Denmark after graduation. It includes a scholarship program for 60 – 65 non-European Union students in selected fields — to be announced shortly — and a visa program to allow those with a Danish masters or doctorate to work or create a company in Denmark for two years after graduation.

Ministry figures show 22,260 international students enrolled in full-time programs in 2012, about 9 percent of the country’s postsecondary student population. The largest sending countries are Norway (3,003), Germany (2,164), Romania (1,776), Sweden (1,735), Lithuania (1,498), Bulgaria (1,025), Iceland (907), Poland (801), Latvia (731) and China (716).

The New York Times [9]
April 28, 2014

Sector Reforms Coming

Danish universities are preparing for extensive changes after the delivery of two major government reports from the Productivity Commission and the Quality Commission. Higher Education and Science Minister Sofie Carsten Nielsen told higher education officials that among other things she wants a focus on quality, new ways of teaching using new technology, and producing more employable graduates.

Although the commissions’ proposals have yet to be discussed in parliament, and the final report of the Quality Commission is not expected until the fall, universities know change is coming and pretty much what it will entail, and are positioning themselves accordingly.

In an April article in Politiken, Carsten Nielsen expanded on the ministry’s approach. “Status quo is not an option. There is a need for change and improvement,” she wrote, adding later:

“Some of the recommendations involve fundamental changes to the education system. These include the proposal for four-year undergraduate programs and one-year masters programs.”

University World News [10]
May 9, 2014


Sorbonne Overdose After Mergers

The Sorbonne, originally the University of Paris, is a name now carried by three of its successor institutions – Paris-Sorbonne University, Paris Sorbonne Nouvelle University and Pantheon-Sorbonne University. Now further clouding matters, a number of universities in Paris are merging into clusters, and three of the five new groups are also using the coveted name to increase their international recognition: Sorbonne Universités, Sorbonne Paris Cité and Hautes Études Sorbonne Arts et Métiers (HeSam).

Some of the universities involved in the groupings – known as Comues – will be fully merged, while others will remain looser associations. Ironically, the restructuring, which will complicate things for those who already struggle with the number of Paris Sorbonnes, grew out of an effort to improve the visibility of the capital’s institutions abroad and to give students more choice and flexibility.

Parisian universities suffer from poor ratings in international academic rankings: Pierre et Marie Curie is the first French university to appear in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings’ top 100, at 96th position. Many experts think that this is because French universities are simply too small and underpowered to win top rankings positions and should merge. The consolidation of universities began in 2006, and the Comues are expected to present their legal statutes this summer.

The Paris universities are discovering that the name “Sorbonne” is a valuable asset and a brand that can attract students, lecturers and investors. In a move that raised eyebrows in 2006, Paris-Sorbonne opened a subsidiary in the Gulf called “Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi [11],” a venture that generates hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, according to French media reports.

Times Higher Education [12]
May 22, 2014


Milan University to Ditch Italian in Favor of English

Only seven of 36 degree programs will be taught in Italian at the Politecnico di Milano [13] from the start of the next academic year; the rest will be taught in English. The plans were initially announced by the university’s rector, Giovanni Azzone, in 2012, with the aim of rolling out all degree programs in English from 2014. Azzone reportedly said at the time that in order to stay competitive at a global level, universities have no choice but to adopt the English language.

“We strongly believe our classes should be international classes – and the only way to have international classes is to use the English language,” he was quoted by the BBC as saying.

Only five degree and PHD-level programs will still be taught in Italian, including architecture, safety engineering, product design and innovation, and nautical design.

The Local [14]
May 6, 2014

United Kingdom

8,500 Brazilians in the UK on Scholarship

The UK HE International Unit (IU) announced in May that over 2,700 Brazilian undergraduate students will be coming to the UK in September 2014 under the Brazilian government’s Science without Borders (SwB) program.  This takes the total number of students who have come to the UK since the program launched, including PhDs and post-docs, to over 8,500. The numbers have grown significantly from the 519 students that arrived as the first cohort in September 2012.

The SwB program in the UK is managed by the UK Higher Education Unit (IU) on behalf of Universities UK (UUK). Over 85 UK institutions regularly participate in the scheme, which aims to send 101,000 students from Brazil overseas (of which up to 10,000 will come to study in the UK) on undergraduate sandwich courses, PhD sandwich courses, full PhDs, and post-docs.   The subject areas covered by the program are science, technology, engineering, mathematics and creative industries that focus on technological and innovative development.

International Unit [15]
May 14, 2014

Survey: Tuition Fees Biggest Student Compliant

One third of undergraduates paying higher fees in England believe their program of study represents ‘very poor’ or ‘poor’ value for money, while students rank cutting tuition charges among their highest priorities.

The findings – from the Higher Education Policy Institute’s UK-wide Student Academic Experience Survey 2014 [16] – show that overall 86 percent of respondents were fairly or very satisfied with the quality of their program.

But on students’ views of value for money, the survey finds “considerable variations across the UK nations, with a striking 70 percent of [students at] Scottish institutions believing they have received at least good value for money compared with 41 percent in England.”

This is not a particularly surprising finding, however, as Scottish students essentially face no fee, whereas English students face up to the equivalent of roughly US$15,000 a year.

Times Higher Education [17]
May 22, 2014