WENR, September 2015: Europe


Internationalization High Priority in Europe

International recruitment is driving overall enrollment growth at universities across Europe, according to the European University Association [1]’s Trends 2015 [2] report. Internationalization is among the highest priorities for EU higher education institutions, it also found.

Of 451 universities surveyed for the report, 39% said that international recruitment is driving an increase in their student population. Widening access and participation (41%) and changes in admissions policies (28%) are also key drivers of growth.

More than two thirds of the universities surveyed (69%) have seen non-EU enrollments rise over the last five years, while 64% have seen an increase in EU students. In fact, 100% of the Danish respondents said international recruitment is driving student growth, along with 92% of the universities in the UK and 86% in the Netherlands.

Internationalization was rated as “highly important” by 69% of respondents, up 8% since 2010. In addition, an overwhelming 92% of respondents agreed with the statement that “internationalization contributes to improving learning and teaching”.

Looking at key markets for international student recruitment, the EU was considered one of the top three most important regions by three quarters of the responding universities. Half of the universities polled also said that Asia was an important source region, while a third mentioned the US/Canada and just under a third Eastern Europe (non-EU).

 – The PIE News [3]
August 24, 2015

A Look at Internationalization Progress

Since the 1980s and the first initiatives for joint study development in Europe, internationalization has broadened, breaking down borders and globalizing campuses and students worldwide. While approaches and progress differ between countries, it’s apparent there’s been dramatic growth and movement in this area.

The recent release of the study Internationalisation of Higher Education [4] commissioned by the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education, provides penetrating insight into trends, strategies and challenges in internationalization across 17 countries.

Written by Hans de Wit and Fiona Hunter of the Centre for Higher Education Internationalisation; Laura Howard of the European Association for International Education; and Eva Egron-Polak of the International Association of Universities, the report reveals that although there’s been much development, there is still scope for improvement.

While the role of the EU and the Bologna Process in developing the internationalization of higher education, or HE, in Europe is undeniable, it is not the only model and Europe could learn from elsewhere. For that reason, the study focuses not just on 10 European countries – Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain and the UK – but also seven countries outside Europe – Australia, Canada, Colombia, Japan, Malaysia, South Africa and the USA.

 – University World News [5]
August 21, 2015


Budget Cuts Hit Universities

On August 14th Minister of Finance Alexander Stubb presented the government’s budget proposal for 2016, totaling €53.9 billion (US$59.6 billion). The budget proposal is being prepared in a situation where the economy has not grown in recent years due to weaker economic conditions and long-term structural problems.

The decision to adjust central finances will reduce the government’s spending in 2016 by around €900 million (US$993 million), and the savings to be made within the school education and higher education portfolios will reduce funding by approximately €210 million (US$237 million).

In a shock for the University of Helsinki, the ministry is proposing a €30 million (US$34 million) cut in funding, which will be the first of several. By 2020, the University of Helsinki will have faced funding cuts amounting to about €100 million (US$115 million) due to decisions made by the previous and new governments.

Helsinki University in 2015 is ranked number 67 of the world’s best universities in the recently announced Academic Ranking of World Universities, and this is its best ranking in the 13-year history of the ARWU or Shanghai ranking.

“We want to maintain our position among the top universities of the world and to improve it further, but our efforts would be a great deal easier if the government of Finland hadn’t targeted the University of Helsinki specifically with major budget cuts,” says Markus Laitinen, head of international affairs at the university.

 – University World News [6]
August 20, 2015


Number of Foreign Master’s Graduates Skyrockets

In 2014 the number of foreign students in Germany broke the 300,000 mark for the first time, the study named “Open-minded Academia 2015” showed. [7] With a total of 301,350 foreign students currently working towards a degree, roughly every tenth student in Germany comes from abroad. The number is a 7 percent rise on 2013, reports the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung [8] (FAZ), and makes the government target of 350,000 foreign students by 2020 seem ever more plausible.

Almost half of foreign students come from other European countries, with Russian being the most common European nationality. But the number of Asian students has risen dramatically, with China and India playing an ever more important role. China is the country from which the most non-German students originate, at over 28,000 of the total.

Another positive revelation of the study is that foreign master’s students are thriving, with a 91 percent pass rate. And of these around 60 percent say that they want to stay in the country for a period of time after their studies.

The study also revealed that ever more Germans are spending part of their university studies abroad. Thirty seven percent of all students leave the German borders for Erasmus, an internship or a language course, for a section of their degree, meaning the government is optimistic of hitting its target of 50 percent of all German students spending time abroad.

 – The Local [9]
July 22, 2015


Dutch Female Students Underrepresented in STEM Fields

In 2010, figures from UNESCO showed the Netherlands had fewer female science graduates than any other country in the world. Though the representation varies across the different specialties and in some fields there are undoubtedly more women than in others, for a country that considers itself generally open-minded, egalitarian and educationally advanced, last place seems pretty damning.

A study published by Northwestern University in the U.S. at the beginning of May found that the Dutch were the most likely to associate the sciences with men and masculinity. The report concluded that this kind of ‘explicit’ stereotyping is an indicator of biased hiring and a lack of encouragement for girls towards engineering and the sciences.

VHTO, a Dutch expert advocacy group for women in science, says self-confidence, fertility/lifestyle issues and the necessity to opt for specific study paths early in Dutch education are contributing factors to the problem. In addition, ‘it is hard to find female role models to guest lecture,’ VHTO spokeswoman Masja Gielstra, said.

The VHTO has now developed a database of nearly 2,000 female role models they can call upon. Together they conduct research, consult and organize programs and events and work closely with the education ministry. The flagship program is Girlsday which takes place nationwide every April. Female experts, coached by VHTO to effectively deal with different age groups, visit schools; specifically to introduce strong role models to girls.

The VHTO does see the fruits of these kinds of partnerships between businesses, themselves, government bodies and educational establishments. Nevertheless, ‘we’re not there yet,’ Gielstra says.

‘It is vitally important that education and businesses keep working together in public-private partnership in the future, so that…the chances for girls in technology and IT remain clearly visible.’

 – Dutch News [10]
August 5, 2015


Number of Polish Academics Declining

One of Poland’s university associations is reporting that the number of academics at the country’s higher education institutions is in decline. This has been accompanied by falling student numbers at higher education institutions. Funding problems are being blamed for the drop.

The report [11] from the KRASP university association claimed that, ‘in the past decade, the average ratio of tutors per student has significantly increased, but this improvement is entirely a consequence of the changing demographics.’ The report indicates that Polish universities are unable to secure as much funding from private stakeholders as they once were owing to falling student numbers.

The KRASP recommends that Polish universities call on the government to establish a ‘professional, apolitical public agency which should handle the financing of higher education institutions’. The new fund would help to ‘stabilize the system of financing higher education’ and would allow the science and higher education ministry to ‘focus on the political and strategic aspects of development.’

Chemistry World [12]
August 5, 2015

United Kingdom

UK Sees a Decline in German Students for first time since 2007

The number of Germans studying at universities in the UK has declined for the first time since 2007, according to a new report from German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

The Wissenschaft Weltoffen 2015 report [13] states that the 9 percent drop in the total number of German students in the UK in 2012 compared to 2011 is “most likely attributed to the substantial increase in tuition fees” in the UK, which came into force in the same year.

Overall 2011 saw the first decrease in the ratio of German students abroad in relation to the total number of German students; in 2010 there were 66 students abroad compared to every 1,000 students in Germany, compared to 64 in 2011 and 62 in 2012. However, the UK is still the most popular country for German students on temporary study-related visits abroad (14 percent), followed by Spain and the U.S. (both 10 percent) and France (9 percent).

 – Times Higher Education [14]
July 22, 2015



Scottish Universities Might Lose Charitable Status under New Bill

Scottish universities fear that they could lose their status as charities and become part of the public sector if the Edinburgh government pushes ahead with a new higher education governance bill. The controversial bill, published [15] in June, would shake up the composition of Scottish university governing bodies, and would require them to include at least two members directly elected by staff, and another two by trade unions, students’ unions and alumni associations.

It also raises the possibility of elected governing body chairs, although exactly how they are chosen would be decided by ministers at a later date. Because ministers would gain these powers, Universities Scotland, which represents the country’s higher education institutions, has warned that this could prompt the Office of National Statistics to reclassify universities as part of central government. This change would restrict university borrowing, stop them from reinvesting surpluses, and imperil income from donations, the body said in a submission [16] to the Scottish Parliament Finance Committee.

A loss of charitable status would “severely prejudice institutions’ capacity to access philanthropic funding, currently worth around £53 million [$83.2 million] a year. Donors are highly unlikely to wish to support institutions that are no longer charities.”

The Scottish education secretary Angela Constance has argued that the bill would create more accountability for universities and give a stronger voice to students and staff.

 – Times Higher Education [17]
August 25, 2015

UK Universities Will Not Escape Immigration Crackdown

With the recent news that vocational colleges will be impacted by dramatic immigration changes, foreign nationals at UK universities will also be facing new hurdles this fall. Announced last month, the UK government has made a number of changes to the immigration rules, including scrapping all part-time work rights for non-EU students studying at publicly funded colleges [18]. Home Secretary, Theresa May, has also implemented tighter rules for international students at universities starting with those who wish to extend their studies at the same academic level.

If the desired program does not move up a notch on the National Qualifications Framework, then students will be required to prove how it is related to their previous field of study. Furthermore, universities will be required to confirm that this new program supports the student’s career aspirations.

The government has also announced that beginning in November this year, students applying for Tier 4 status – the visa used for international students – will have to provide evidence of a higher amount of financial savings to cover their living costs than before.

Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire, said that these new measures have been implemented in order to “reduce net migration and to tackle immigration abuse,” while ensuring the UK maintains “an excellent offer for students who wish to study at our world-class universities.”

Nichola Carter, of Carter Thomas Solicitors [19], said that the speed at which these changes are being introduced will almost certainly have an impact on the sector stating “the changes related to academic progression, [are] to some extent fairly complicated and require universities in particular to redesign potentially some of their processes.”

 – The PIE News [20]
August 13, 2015