WENR, September 2017: Europe

Europe: Massive Growth in English Language Instruction Over Last Eight Years

Research from the European Association for International Education and StudyPortals shows a huge increase in the prevalence of English-taught bachelor’s programs at European universities. The number has skyrocketed from 55 to 2,900 over the last eight years. More English-taught bachelor’s programs lead to greater internationalization as the language of instruction becomes more standardized, however, some fear that these changes come at the cost of their culture. One critic in the Netherlands has even launched a petition calling for all instruction to be in Dutch unless otherwise necessary.

Times Higher Education
September 14

Altbach and De Wit Predict Impact of Nationalist Sentiment on Higher Education

According to Phillip Altbach and Hans de Wit, two leading figures in international education, the for-profit sector of the higher education industry could benefit from the recent surge of nationalism in the U.S. and Europe. With policy changes drive funding cuts at institutions across Europe and the United States, the scholars note that private players, including international recruiters or agents, and for-profit institutions are largely unaffected. Altbach and de Wit predict that countries such as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand will become more prominent players in internationalization. The two also believe that  funding cuts in Europe will have additional negative ramifications around the globe, hurting scholarship schemes and other projects in the developing world.

Times Higher Education
September 13

U.K.: Grade Inflation Threatens Reputation of University System

Universities Minister Jo Johnson warned of increased levels of grade inflation at U.K. universities during a recent speech to university chiefs. According to Johnson, the presence of grade inflation is clear as the proportion of students receiving top honors has outpaced student attainment. In fact, at some schools the proportion of students receiving top honors has more than doubled between the 2010/11 and the 2015/16 academic years. Grade inflation carries the danger of undermining the reputation of the countries entire higher education system. Universities have personal incentive to hand out top degree honors, in the form of better rankings, but this does not lead to high quality output or teaching.

Times and Star
September 7

Netherlands: Student Housing Shortage Affects Foreign Students

A housing shortage for international students at Dutch universities has left many students without a place to stay. The chairman of national student union LSVB alleges that the “universities have actively recruited students with nowhere to live,” and must take action to find housing for affected students. A housing shortage can be particular difficult for foreign students, as many student houses won’t accommodate international students, arguing they aren’t in the country long enough to create close connections. The situation is particularly dire in some areas, with the city council of Groningen going so far as to reopen a refugee center where students are able to sleep for a small fee.

Dutch News
September 7

UK: Record High Number of Suicides at U.K. Universities

An increasing number of undergraduates at U.K. universities are reporting mental health problems according to a study by IPPR think tank. Some 134 students committed suicide in 2015, nearly double what the figure was a decade ago. Many attribute the mental health crisis to increased debt pressure for students. Mental health issues have significant impact beyond these extreme cases; a record number of students dropped out due to these issues in 2015 as well. The spike may also be partly due to increased awareness regarding these issues, leading to a higher number of reports than previously occurred. A survey of 58 U.K. higher education institutions found that 94 percent saw an increase in demand for counseling services over the last five years. IPPR and other institutions are calling on universities to bolster their mental health services and ensure that they are providing students with the support they need.

The Guardian
September 2

U.K.: Remaining EU Universities Headhunting U.K. Academics

As the future state of the U.K.’s research relationship with the rest of Europe remains unclear, many remaining EU universities are attempting to capitalize on their situation by poaching worried, top academics. Head of University College London, Michael Arthur, reports that 95 percent of UCL’s senior researchers from other EU countries have been approached about leaving. According to many U.K. vice-chancellors, the government has not done enough to reassure EU academics that they will be able to continue living and working in the U.K. Some researchers, looking to insulate themselves from any potential negative developments, have initiated the exploration of other opportunities themselves. The headhunting is also not exclusive to the EU, with some professors reporting being approached by US universities.

The Guardian
August 29

U.K.: Government Prevent Program Racist and Ineffective, Advocacy Groups Say

The U.K. government’s Prevent is an anti-radicalization scheme, which advocacy groups say is fostering an environment of “fear, suspicion and censorship.” Just Yorkshire, one such group, says the scheme creates a “policing culture,” and advocates the program be terminated immediately. The Prevent program aims to divert people from terrorist activity, and has institutions report people they feel are at risk for radicalization. Though it is currently voluntary, police and ministers are considering making the program compulsory. Just Yorkshire says the program is “built upon a foundation of Islamophobia and racism,” as well as being unsuccessful and ineffective.

The Guardian
August 28

Germany: Potential Student Surge for Frankfurt International Schools, Due to Brexit

The recent Brexit vote has caused an influx of bankers to Germany’s financial center in Frankfurt as Britain exits the European Union. The accompanying families may create a flood of new students to Frankfurt’s 12 international schools. These schools teach in English and follow internationally recognized baccalaureate programs. The new business is welcomed, however, some worry the increased student numbers may be overestimated. Schools will not be able to fund any sort of significant expansion to accommodate increased numbers until they have more financial guarantees. One U.S. bank, when discussing securing places for employee families, was even asked to pay in advance.

Reuters
August 23

U.K.: GSCE Results Changing Format, Still Needs Higher Cut-Offs

GSCE results are changing to a new nine-point system, with a grade of four denoting a “standard” pass and a grade of five denoting a “strong” pass. Researchers from the Education Policy Institute say this cutoff needs to be raised to a grade of five if England’s schools are to catch up to their high performing global counterparts. This analysis underscores the gap between England’s schools and those of countries like South Korea, Singapore, and Japan. Researchers report that only 40 percent of students at England’s state schools are at a “world class standard.” Some educators also worry about confusion arising from the use of two different pass grades.

BBC News
August 23

France: Rising Living Costs for Students

Living costs for students enrolled in higher education are up by over 2 percent. This increase is more than twice that of previous years and is three times the rate of inflation. The two primary drivers behind the rising costs are increased rent and public transportation costs. Students in some areas, like Clermont-Ferrand, are experiencing particularly steep rent increases as high as 5.12 percent. Thankfully for students, both university registration fees and campus meal costs are currently frozen. The National Union of Students of France (UNEF) is calling for the launch of an emergency plan for students.

The Local
August 21

U.K.:  Number of Students in Clearing Pool Down by Nearly 13 Percent

The number of U.K. students seeking placement through clearing has fallen 12.9 percent from last year. This is likely dude to universities making students offers earlier in the admissions cycle, aiming to secure students from a dwindling number of total applicants. Low-tariff, or less selective, universities are seeing the biggest drop in acceptances, with the effect becoming much smaller at highly selective universities. The low number of students in clearing leaves universities in a difficult position when called upon to boost their student intake. If these trends continue, universities will likely have great difficulty in meeting 2020 government targets to broaden higher education access for poor students.

Times Higher Education
August 18

U.K.: New Associate Member Criteria May Pave Fresh Road to Maintaining Collaboration

Associate member criteria reforms for the European Commission’s next research framework program may offer a new route for U.K. researchers to maintain continental grants and collaborations following their country’s exit from the EU. The changes are expected to expand eligibility for academics seeking grants from Horizon 2020’s successor, currently known as Framework Program 9. Historically, associated members have been countries seeking membership in the EU or those designated in the European Neighborhood policy, but a recent report suggested that Canada and Australia may be invited to join the program. This could mean hope for U.K. academics, who potentially have a way of maintaining their collaboration without their country accepting freedom of movement and other requirements typically demanded of associated countries.

Times Higher Education
August 16

Germany: Increases in English Language Teaching Met with Both Delight and Dismay

According to a 2014 survey, around 44 percent of German higher education institutions offered courses in English, and this number has only been increasing since. This shift toward English language teaching is not entirely welcome, however, according to interviews conducted at the University of Hamburg. Though many students prefer instruction in English, as completing English language coursework improves job prospects, the faculty is more resistant. One faculty member even threatened to sue his department, though decided to leave instead. The shift toward English courses is difficult to stave off, as student interest in English language coursework is not the only driver behind the change; English language publishing is crucial for universities hoping to rank well internationally.

Inside Higher Ed
August 4

Posted in Europe, Regional News Summaries