WENR, December 2014: Europe
More Harmonization Beyond Bologna Required
More harmonization of higher education systems across the European Union may be needed if its universities are to continue to compete on the global stage, speakers at a recent conference have claimed.
Kurt Deketelaere, secretary general of the League of European Research Universities, told the Reinventing Higher Education conference at IE University in Madrid in October that EU-wide legislation may be required to enable the truly free movement of students and researchers. Professor Deketelaere warned that “we are not going to survive” if Europe continues with 28 separate sets of research systems and funding arrangements.
“Everything we do in the educational field and the research field is bottom up and voluntary without allowing, as 28 member states, the EU to take any legislative initiative and harmonize a situation where there’s free circulation of students and free circulation of researchers,” said Professor Deketelaere.
“If we want to survive competition with the U.S., China and the [emerging] Brics [nations], we will have to get our act together in Europe and act as one bloc from the higher education and research perspective,” Professor Deketelaere added.
Enthusiasm for Bologna was not universal, with the conference hearing how one unnamed Nobel prizewinner had described the process as “the worst thing that ever happened” because it forced him to decide what he was going to teach 18 months in advance.
Dr Vincent-Lancrin suggested that wider adoption of practical learning methods could help to create the next generation of graduates needed for “our innovation societies.” He argued that although Bologna had helped to harmonize degree structures: “It is not very clear it has had so much impact on pedagogies and the way institutions have delivered education across Europe, and perhaps this is the next challenge.”
– Times Higher Education
October 30, 2014
International PhD Students Look to Rankings in Choosing University
Universities’ reputations play a key role in attracting international PhD students and this is increasingly being expressed by their position in global rankings, a report has revealed.
The study, How International PhD Students Choose Top Universities and Interpret Reputation and Rankings, prepared by The Knowledge Partnership, a marketing agency, for the World 100 Reputation Network, finds that reputation is an important part of students’ initial consideration of possible universities to decide between. The attractiveness of an institution’s country and city also influences early deliberations. It is not until a shortlist is established that the availability of suitable supervisors and funding support becomes more important.
Respondents listed global university rankings as their top source of information on reputation. More than three-quarters of the students from 21 universities who were interviewed said that being at a top 200 university mattered to them.
The report, aimed primarily at university communications and marketing staff, notes that the websites are “much easier to influence by good communications and marketing than rankings.”
Universities should put academics at the forefront of digital marketing campaigns if they want to boost brand awareness, reputation and engagement with potential student marketing, the report surmises.
– Times Higher Education
October 30, 2014
Nordic Countries Top for International Student Satisfaction
Finland, Sweden and Denmark have ranked in the top three European countries for international student satisfaction, most notably for academics and organization of their universities, while Southern European countries are at the bottom of the latest StudyPortals student satisfaction report.
Finland ranked number one this year and scored 9.2 out of 10, receiving praise for its high level of academics, great social life and impressive university services. Sweden which scored 9.1 was most often recommended by students for its urban and social life.
There was not much change at the bottom of the table and Southern European countries although improving and liked for their Mediterranean climate, still came last overall, owing to poor bureaucracy, student services and sometimes academic-related problems. The average European score is 8.8 out of 10 and Spain, Italy and France scored 8.6, 8.4 and 8.3 respectively.
Among its recommendations, StudyPortals advises universities to continue expanding course offerings in English, using students in interactive teaching methods and modernizing facilities and equipment.
– The PIE News
October 29, 2014
The Impact of Rankings on European Universities
A recent study from the European Commission provides insight into how rankings impact and influence European universities’ behavior and decision-making processes, finding that despite high levels of criticism universities in Europe are in fact big-time users of global rankings.
The study, Rankings in Institutional Strategies and Processes, was led by the European University Association and found that of the 171 higher education institutions that responded to the survey, over 60 percent used rankings to inform strategic decision-making – specifically with regard to setting a strategic target. Over 70 percent of respondents said they used rankings to inform strategic, organizational, managerial or academic actions.
This may involve giving a new focus to particular areas (26%), changing research priorities (23%), altering recruitment and promotional criteria (21%), informing resource allocation (14%), revising student entry criteria (9%) or closing or merging departments (8%). Not surprisingly perhaps, 80 percent of respondents used rankings for publicity or marketing purposes.
In 33 percent of cases, a specialist unit within the institution monitored and reported on rankings performance, while 54 percent of respondents said they had several dedicated people at the institutional level who undertook this role – often in addition to other strategic or institutional research activities.
Of the students, international non-European graduate students were the most likely users: 86 percent of those seeking admission to a master’s level program and 81 percent of those entering a doctoral program.
Higher education institutions have a schizophrenic attitude towards rankings – not least because their main stakeholders use rankings. Effectively, the research shows that institutions are “learning to live with rankings” and to use them in a sophisticated way, often as part of a basket of indicators.
– University World News
November 13, 2014
An Action Plan for International Cooperation
The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) published an action plan for international cooperation in October that sets out a roadmap for increased mobility to and from Germany, by easing roadblocks to cooperation, increasing networking opportunities, focusing on quality and excellence, and strengthening the competitiveness of German industry.
According to the framework, the plan will focus on developing projects based on sound and measurable parameters and using the new overarching frame of reference to establish future specialist, regional and country strategies. The plan also emphasizes networking activities between stakeholders in the fields of research and education policy “with a view to ensuring a more coherent international presence.”
By identifying and implementing projects that can serve as examples with good processes, networking opportunities and impact – so-called “beacons” – BMBF hopes it can increase the visibility of Germany’s education, research and innovation environment.
A summary of the strategy is available here.
– German Federal Ministry of Education and Research
October 2, 2014
U.S. News Ranks German Universities Second Best Globally
United States universities continue to dominate the top 500 in a new global university ranking launched by leading American education publisher US News & World Report. But German universities have outperformed their UK counterparts.The U.S. has 134 universities in the top 500, followed by Germany with 42 and the UK with 38. China has a strong showing with 27 institutions in the Best Global Universities ranking launched in late October. The U.S. continues to lead among research universities – with Harvard top, followed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley, at number three. Of the top 10 positions, only two come from outside the U.S. – Oxford University and Cambridge University came fifth and sixth respectively.
The are also four regional rankings, for Asia, Australia-New Zealand, Europe and Latin America, but no ranking for Africa. The top five in Asia are University of Tokyo (Japan), followed by Peking University (China), University of Hong Kong, National University of Singapore and Kyoto University (Japan). China had three in the top 10 and Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science came eighth.
In Latin America, Brazilian institutions dominate the top 10, filling seven places. Universidade de Sao Paulo is first followed by Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro and Universidade Estadual de Campinas. The University of Buenos Aires (Argentina) came fourth, followed by the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
The Best Global Universities rankings are based on data and metrics provided by Thomson Reuters InCitesTM research analytics. The methodology weighs factors that measure a university’s global and regional reputation, academic research performance (using bibliometric indicators) and international collaboration, and university-level data on staff and PhD graduates.
— University World News
October 29, 2014
International Student Numbers Jump 25% in One Year
Close to 36,000 foreign students are currently studying at Polish universities, marking an increase of almost 25 percent over the previous academic year. But Poland is still lagging behind other European Union countries in attracting international students.
According to data obtained by the Gazeta Wyborcza daily, foreign students registered in Poland come from 149 different countries. The largest group is from Ukraine, making up 42 percent of all foreign students. The number of Ukrainians has risen five-fold since 2008.
Although Poland’s universities have a distinctly low proportion of foreign students compared with other EU countries (bottom with Croatia), several factors are contributing to the upward trend. One is that the costs of studying and living in Poland are considerably lower than in many western European countries.
– Radio Poland
November 17, 2014
Oxford University Head Berates UK Immigration Policy
The vice-chancellor of Oxford University argued in October that new government visa controls are “hostile” to international students. In his annual address to the university, Professor Andrew Hamilton said: “Whenever I travel in the world, particularly in China and India, one question persists. Why has the UK adopted a visa system so hostile to student entry?”
Hamilton said the government’s stance was having a harmful effect on the UK’s interests but he had “limited expectations” that a real debate on higher education “as opposed to vainglorious point-scoring on past crimes and misdemeanors” would be on the agenda in the run-up to next year’s election.
Hamilton’s comments came on the same day as Nobel prizewinner John O’Keefe, a professor of neuroscience at University College London, voiced his concerns over the possible impact of government immigration policy on scientific research in the UK.
– The Independent
October 7, 2014
Indians Continue to Shun UK Universities
The number of Indian students starting university programs in the UK has continued to fall after almost halving over two years, according to a new report.
A survey of more than 100 institutions by Universities UK shows that despite growth in overall overseas recruitment in the latest academic year, there appear to have been further drops in enrollment from certain countries. The survey found that the decline in demand from India and Pakistan appeared to be continuing. Institutions recruiting from India said that they had welcomed nearly 800 fewer students from the country in 2013-14 compared with the previous year. The survey also asked about applications for study in 2014-15, with 43 universities saying that they had seen a decrease in the number of Indian students applying, compared with 19 reporting an increase.
The findings of the new survey build on data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency showing that the number of Indian students starting programs in the UK fell by 49 percent in the two years to 2012-13, from 23,985 to 12,280. Over the same period, the number of students recruited from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia dropped by 38 percent and 35 percent respectively.
Growing recruitment from China, Malaysia and Hong Kong meant that the decline in the number of first-year students from overseas over the two years was just 1.3 percent, from 174,225 to 171,910.
– Times Higher Education
September 25, 2014