WENR, June 2015: Europe


Bologna Progress Report Says Much Left to be Done in Harmonizing Education Systems

Much more needs to be done to harmonize Europe’s higher education system, according to a new report on the state of implementation of the Bologna Process across the European Higher Education Area (EHEA).

The report [1] provides strong evidence that quality assurance continues to be an area of dynamic evolution that has been spurred on through the Bologna Process and the development of the EHEA. There is also evidence of progress in implementation of the European credit transfer and accumulation system, or ECTS, since 2012. But in almost every other sphere the record of progress in the EHEA is inconsistent, the report found, with particularly disappointing lack of progress on widening access for under-represented groups within the population.

Although the EHEA has evolved towards a more common and much more understandable structure of degrees, there is no single model for the first cycle, and there are large differences in the total workload of first and second qualifications, which may cause problems in recognition. In more than two thirds of countries, higher education institutions make the final decision on recognition of foreign qualifications, while recognition of credits gained abroad is fully in the hands of higher education institutions.

Nearly three quarters of qualifications from at least some of the EHEA countries are treated equally as national qualifications. “This demonstrates that there is already some potential for working towards automatic recognition at system level in most EHEA countries,” the report says.

University World News [2]
May 21, 2015


Belarus Granted Membership of European Higher Education Area

Belarus – a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States – has been awarded membership of the European Higher Education Area, conditional to the fulfillment of a road map emphasizing not only Bologna degree structures, but also academic freedom, university autonomy and democratic and civic values.

The decision was made in May at the biannual Bologna meeting of European ministers of higher education in Yerevan, Armenia. It was not entirely uncontested, as some Bologna members would have preferred to postpone membership to 2018, and make it subject to the actual fulfillment of the conditions set out in the roadmap.

The Bologna Process is a system designed to ensure comparability in the standards of higher education qualifications and to promote freedom of movement within Europe. Belarus has been working towards adopting liberal market-led policies to improve the quality of its higher education system and to attract more international students. One example of such moves, was the signing of a deal last year in the capital, Minsk, between a UK awarding body – the Association of Business Executives – and the Belarusian government recognizing ABE qualifications as the equivalent of the country’s diplomas of higher education and master’s degrees.

Although the Russian higher education “five plus one” model of combining undergraduate and master’s education remains common currency within Belarus, universities are now trying to shorten degree programs to converge with the Bologna model. 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 some of the issues that must be resolved before the republic is made a full member of the Bologna area.

European Universities Association [3]
May 21, 2015


Lower Standards Set for University Status

Recent changes to Malta’s Education Act have resulted in lower requirements for education institutions to be recognized as universities, according to the Malta Independent.

The changes in the country’s education legislation were introduced in a legal notice published just three days after an agreement was signed between the government and the Jordanian Sadeen Group, which is investing in the American University of Malta.

Among those changes, a new proviso allows an accredited higher education institution to apply for university status if the National Commission for Further and Higher Education “considers that such application is in the national interest and in fulfillment of national policies.”

The government in Malta is strongly backing the American University project, saying it will create new options for students from the small nation and attract students from elsewhere. But critics note that the university is being set up not by American educators, but by a Jordanian hotel and tourism company, reports Inside Higher Ed.

While DePaul University is involved (and its role has been pointed to by supporters of the effort as evidence of the American nature of the university), the institution is not offering degrees or setting up a campus there, but has only agreed to provide curricular materials for 10 degree programs.

Articles in local media have featured questions about whether the government should be providing land for the project, whether the new American University of Malta will undercut the University of Malta and whether the new institution really is an American university.

Malta Independent [4]
May 17, 2015


Government Looks to Increase Foreign Scholarships

The Russian Science Ministry, Foreign Ministry, and the State Agency for Cooperation with CIS countries have partnered on a proposal to raise the quota of state sponsored students in all Russian universities as a means of fostering Russia’s international relations.

In a joint statement, the ministries said: “Forming pro-Russian national elites in foreign countries… [will prove] an effective promotion of Russian national interests including the long-term ones.”

Currently, Russia provides state sponsored loans and scholarships to 15,000 foreign students from around the world. Even though the plan to raise the quota for international student loans and scholarship has not yet been officially adopted by the Russian Government, RT reports the following.

“According to Rossotrudnichestvo requests for additional places in Russian Universities have already been made from such countries as Angola, Brazil, Venezuela, Vietnam, Germany, Palestine, Syria, Iran, Yemen and others. Russian authorities have previously decided to allocate additional means for 2,200 places for students from Asia, 1,200 places from Africa, 700 places for citizens of CIS countries, 500 places for people from the Middle East, and 200 places to Latin America and the European Union.”

April 26, 2015


Government to Use Rankings as Recognition Tool for Foreign Degrees

Turkish students who study abroad must do so at a top-500 ranked university or take the domestic higher education entrance exam in order for their qualifications to be recognized by the government, under new regulations from the Higher Education Council of Turkey [5] (YOK).

The new regulations, which apply only to undergraduates, have been sparked by a large number of complaints to YOK that students had been accepted onto substandard programs abroad that were being taught by unqualified staff, it said in a statement. The government has expressed particular concern about programs in professional fields such as medicine, dentistry, pharmacology, law and engineering.

Under the new regulations, which came into effect two months ago, if a student studies abroad their institution must appear among the top 500 institutions as listed by the CWTS Leiden rankings, Shanghai rankings or University Ranking by Performance established by Middle East Technical University. Students who are accepted to any other university must sit the two-tier university entrance exam embedded in the Turkish education system.

The PIE News [6]
May 4, 2015

Turkey Sets Targets on 100,000 International Students by 2018

Turkey wants to attract 1.5 percent of all students from around the world who want to study overseas, which amounts to 100,000, by 2018, according to the ‘International Student Research Project’ report prepared by the Development Research Center.

Currently there are 48,000 foreign students in Turkey, a market share of 0.9 percent of international students globally. Last year, US$96 million was allocated for government scholarship programs for approximately 13,0000 international students. The report by the center, which operates under the Development Ministry, evaluated the steps that should be taken to draw more international students to Turkey.

The largest source of international students for Turkey are: Turkmenistan, followed by Azerbaijan and Iran, data from Turkey’s Council of Higher Education reveals. Africa’s share has also increased in the last three years due to Turkey’s policy toward the continent, which involves outreach and financial aid.

Daily Sabah [7]
May 7, 2015

United Kingdom

International Students in London Contribute 40% of All University Tuition Fees

International students in London are contributing £2.8 billion (US$4.3 billion) a year to the UK economy through fees and spending that they, their friends and families bring to the UK.

Some £1.32 billion is spent on fees, £1.36 billion on living costs and £121 million through visitor spending, says a new report. The £1 billion of direct spending on tuition fees paid by non-European Union international students represents 39 percent of the total fee income of London’s universities; and total spending by international students supports nearly 70,000 jobs in the UK capital, researchers found.

The economic contribution of international students is documented in London Calling: International students’ contribution to Britain’s economic growth, a report published by London First and the consultancy PwC. It was supported by a quarter of London’s universities.

The report focuses on the net contribution made to Britain by students from outside the EU and aims to influence the ongoing political debate in the UK about immigration, which was high on the agenda during the recent General Election. David Cameron’s new government, which has a narrow majority of just 12 MPs, is expected to bring in more curbs on immigration.

While international students have often been mentioned in political debate about the high rate of immigration, the report says only 12 percent of international students remain in the UK after their studies have finished, so that employers could make use of their skills.

The report says suggestions that international students are a net drain on the economy are “wrong.” The oft-cited concern about rising immigration in general is the pressure it puts on public services such as schools and the National Health Service and the cost in welfare benefits. The report points out that international students have no recourse to public welfare benefits as a condition of their visas. Although they do consume public services, including use of the National Health Service, at an estimated cost of £540 million, this is dwarfed by their contribution to the economy.

More than one in five of the 310,000 international students studying in the UK studies at a London university and 18 percent of students in London are international.

University World News [8]
May 21, 2015