WENR, October 2014: Europe

Study: World’s Best Universities are all Financially Well-endowed

Times Higher Education has identified the characteristics of the world’s most successful universities, and money is the key.

The UK had 31 universities in the top 200 last year but the leading 20 were dominated by wealthy U.S. institutions. The magazine says the average top-200 university has plenty of money and strong international links.

Times Higher says its analysis will help universities and countries that are aiming to reach the global peak of higher education. Its top 200 ranking, due at the beginning of October, aims to identify the world’s best 1 percent of universities. The analysis found the average top 200 university has 19 percent international students, hires 20 percent of staff from abroad and has at least one international co-author on 43 percent of published research papers.

Their annual income – from government grants, student fees, investments and commercial fees – is worth some $750,000 per academic, says Times Higher. Around a third of this is generated from research contracts in the form of government grants and fees from industry and commerce.

The BBC [1]
September 15

One Million Babies Under Erasmus Mobility Program

The Erasmus student exchange scheme [2] has brought so many couples together from across the continent that it has led to the birth of one million babies, the EU said in September.

A study of the program’s impact since its launch in 1987 showed that 27 percent of people who took part had met their current life partner during their period studying abroad. The study found that 33 percent of Erasmus relationships were international, nearly three times (13 percent) the rate of students who had not traveled.

That had created something of an EU baby boom, the bloc said as it released the results of the study. Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for education, said that the EU “estimates that around one million babies are likely to have been born to Erasmus couples since 1987.”

But the EU insisted the program achievements went beyond spawning dual-nationality babies — creating jobs as well as population growth. In total, three million students and 350,000 teachers have taken part in the scheme, the EU said.

A further four million people will get support from Erasmus to train or study abroad over the EU’s next budget period until 2020.

AFP [3]
September 23

Finland: Universities to Revert Back to Free Tuition for Non-EU Students

The pilot project in which nine Finnish universities and 10 polytechnics charged tuition fees from some non-European masters students closes at the end of this year. But already most of the institutions have announced that they will not claim fees from students admitted this fall.

During the pilot project, higher education institutions could charge fees from students from outside the European Union and European Economic Area who were admitted to a university or polytechnic masters program delivered in a foreign language. Institutions could independently determine the amount they would charge. Fees of between €3,500 (US$4,700) and €11,750 (US$15,900) were charged annually to 110 students, more than 80 percent of them studying at Aalto University or Lappeenranta University of Technology.

Of the students charged tuition fees, almost all received grants of different sizes from higher education institutions or the Erasmus Mundus program. The grants covered the tuition fee either in full or partially, and some also included funds to cover some living costs.

University World News [4]
June 13

Greece: Government to Strike 180,000 ‘Eternal’ Students from the Register

The Greek Education Ministry is looking to strike 180,000 ‘eternal’ students, who for various reasons have not completed their studies during the prescribed time, from the enrollment registers of the nation’s universities.

In an official letter the Education Ministry says that its aim is to adhere to the law and solve a series of administration problems, including falsification of the student population in universities and technology institutes. In unusually tough language, the ministry warns institutions that “all those who believe in the necessity of the measure but feel we are going to go back on our decision for dubious party politics have only to wait for a few days in order to discover our determination.”

It is estimated that more than 180,000 students will be prevented from completing their studies and that many regional institutions will be so depleted of students that they will be either forced to close or to merge with neighboring institutions, which is the Education Ministry’s aim in order to cut further costs.

Where previously only very poor families were unable to sustain their offspring in higher education, the austerity measures – which threw nearly two million people out of work – have increased the number of families, particularly middle-class families, who are unable to finance the education costs of their offspring. Accordingly, over the years the number of students who are unable to complete their studies in the set time because they have to work has been swelling. Universities understand the problem and that is why they are against any kind of deregistration across the board.

University World News [5]
August 29

Norway: Government Says University Rankings Are Useless

A government-commissioned study of the placement of Norwegian universities in global rankings – in particular compared to other Nordic institutions – has concluded that even the top rankings are so based on subjective weightings of factors and on dubious data that they are useless as a basis for information if the goal is to improve higher education.

The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research commissioned the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education, or NIFU, to analyze Norwegian universities’ placements on the three most widely cited international university rankings.

In turn, NIFU appointed a working group of six staff members and external consultants who produced a 180-page report [6] (in Norwegian only), titled Nordic Universities and International Rankings. What explains the Nordic placements and how do universities relate to these rankings?

The report provides in-depth analysis of the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities – ARWU – and the World University Rankings produced by Times Higher Education, or THE, and discusses the Leiden ranking on publication performance.

The main conclusions regarding the ARWU and THE are that “placement on those rankings is to a large degree based on a subjective weighting of factors which often have a weak relationship to the quality of education and research.

“The rankings are based on data that to a varying degree are made available and made transparent. The rankings say almost nothing about education.

“The international rankings are therefore not useful as the basis for information and feedback both on research and education, if the goal is further improvement of Norwegian higher education institutions.”

University World News [7]
September 19

Republic of Ireland: Laws Governing Student Immigration Overhauled

Only accredited English language and higher education programs will be permitted to recruit international students in Ireland from next year, under a major reform of student immigration and the international education sector announced in September. The reforms also introduce more stringent inspection processes for accredited education institutions and curb work permissions for international students.

The reform has been spurred by the closure of a number of colleges amid a visa probe in the wake of a Sunday Times investigation in April that revealed some schools had violated visa regulations by falsifying attendance records, impacting some 2,000 international students.

As of January 1, only programs that are accredited by Irish awarding bodies will be listed on the new Interim List of Eligible Programs for Student Immigration Permission (ILEP) while a new International Education Mark is being rolled out, with a few specific exceptions. Programs that fail to make the cut will be allowed to teach out current students and to recruit new students who will commence their studies before January 1, but will not be allowed to re-apply to the register once they have been removed.

In a move to clamp down on the abuse of student visas in the labor market, students will only be allowed to work 40 hours a week during the months of May, June, July and August and from 15 December to 15 January inclusive irrespective of providers, in line with the traditional academic year. The revamp will help to protect international students by supporting quality providers and making it more difficult for bogus colleges to operate, according to Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, who are spearheading the initiative.

The PIE News [8]
September 4

Russia: Russo-German University Open in Tatarstan

Teaching has started at the first German-Russian university in Kazan, capital of Tatarstan. The new institution is being supported by the Tatarstan government and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

The German-Russian Institute of Advanced Technologies [9] has four engineering programs oriented to standards in Germany. The Kazan National Research Technical University, one of Russia’s leading research universities, is providing a 20,000 square meter building for the new project. The German partner institutions are Technische Universität Ilmenau and Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg, both of which have long-standing links with Russian partners.

There are plans to introduce a further 10 programs over the next few years. Teaching is in English, although German language training is part of all curricula, as students have to spend their third semester at one of the German partner institutions.

University World News [10]
September 5

United Kingdom: Study Shows Public in UK Overwhelmingly Wants Foreign Students to Stay on After Graduation

A new study based on opinion polls has been released showing strong public support for taking international students out of net migration figures.

The report, International Students and the UK Immigration Debate, draws on a poll carried out by ICM of 2,111 people and six workshops held across the country. Not only were participants against reducing international student numbers but 75 percent think they should be allowed to stay and work in Britain after graduating, for at least a year, while 41 percent said they should be allowed to stay for as long as they want.

Last year some 300,000 international students studied in the UK, contributing an estimated £3.4bn (US$5.5bn) to local economies in off-campus expenditures. Prime Minister David Cameron’s right-leaning Conservative party set the target in 2010 to reduce net migration figures to less than 100,000 by 2015 and has placed immigration control high on its platform for next year’s elections. However, statistics from the report surprisingly reveal that Conservatives are among the strongest supporters for taking international students out of immigration figures with 66 percent of the party’s supporters saying they are in favor of the policy.

Based on the public support, the report recommends that the government remove international students from any net migration target, launch an international student growth strategy, similar to those in place in other countries and backed by investment, make a renewed effort through to show convey the message that Britain welcomes international students and should enhance work opportunities for qualified graduates.

The PIE News [11]
August 26

Max Tuition Fees Becoming the Norm

Figures show that the number of British universities charging blanket £9,000 (US$14,900) tuition fees for all undergraduate programs will soar by 50 percent this year.

A study by The Complete University Guide found that 75 percent of institutions were imposing the maximum possible fee for every program in September – up from half in 2013. It will be the third year that universities have been given powers to levy fees of up to £9,000.

Many institutions are already putting pressure on the government to lift the cap amid claims that the current system is unsustainable. A shortage of undergraduate funding has already prompted many universities to impose hikes in fees for other programs.

The Telegraph [12]
August 22

Minister Launches Website to Encourage More UK Students to Study Abroad

A website designed to assist UK higher education institutions in encouraging more students to study abroad was launched in September by Universities Minister Greg Clark at Universities UK’s national conference, where UUK leader Christopher Snowdon called on policymakers to implement more favorable immigration policies for international students.

The Go International [13] website is a resource hub with information on studying, volunteering and working abroad as well as providing access to research and reports on the sector. It features information on funding and the benefits of study abroad such as increased employability and graduate earnings and a study abroad pre-departure guide.

The website forms part of the UK Strategy for Outward Mobility [14], devised by the Higher Education International Unit [15] and launched last year, to address the low proportion of UK students who undertake study abroad.

The PIE News [16]
    September 10