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APRIL 2019 – US – Teaching quality in US higher education is a myth
US universities might be world-leading in research terms, but there is scant evidence that this has any bearing on their prowess as educators, John Tagg - professor emeritus at Palomar College, California - suggests. Despite the instruction myth guiding the behaviour of colleges and universities, serious research on what students learn in college has all pointed to one conclusion: they don’t learn much. How can this situation persist? The answer resides in the myth of the unity of teaching and research. One of the most interesting studies on this topic was done at Northwestern University in 2017 entitled “Are tenure track professors better teachers?”. The researchers assessed teaching quality by looking at students’ performance in subsequent classes. They find that: “regardless of the measure of teaching and research quality, there is no apparent relationship between teaching quality and research quality.” A college education should help students know what they are doing and shape their behaviour to the changing demands of the world. Yet in the US the institutions generate an endless flow of self-referential data that tell them little or nothing about the real consequences of their work.
APRIL 2019 – GLOBAL – Could student mental health apps be doing more harm than good?
As concern about the well-being of students grows, and as waiting lists for counselling and support expand, university websites increasingly direct students – and, in some cases, staff – to online support resources, which include a number of apps, among them Headspace and Calm. However, academics have warned that many such apps are based on limited scientific evidence. And with universities striving to demonstrate that they are acting on student mental health and with some software developers seeking to meet a growing demand, there is concern that students might be steered to an app that offers them incorrect “diagnoses” or inappropriate “therapy”. A study published last month in NPJ Digital Medicine found that 47 of the 73 mental health apps it examined claimed effectiveness in diagnosing a mental health condition or in improving symptoms, mood or self-management. Only two, however, were able to cite evidence based on evaluation of the app itself, and only one could provide a citation to relevant scientific literature.
APRIL 2019 – GLOBAL – Universities should be working for the greater good
Friendly competition can push us all to do better. But when the competitiveness that fuels excellence and prestige becomes based in the logic of the market, universities lose sight of their true purpose, writes Kathleen Fitzpatrick, director and professor at the Michigan State University. The pursuit of prestige is not the problem in and of itself, and excellence is, of course, something to strive for. But it can result in a diversion from the on-the-ground work of producing and sharing knowledge and in misplaced investments and misaligned priorities. But what if we were to consider what we truly value, what we actually want higher education to be for? Such a humane process would require, first, a careful articulation of what our values are and why they represent success for us. These values might include equity, or openness, or public engagement. A process like this would enable us to understand that the things that count most for us might exist outside quantitative metrics of faculty excellence and hierarchical rankings of institutional excellence. And a process like this, rather than require us to be ranked against one another, would ask us to think about how our work contributes to our collective goals as a department, a college and an institution. To give but one example, We might decide – as Ghent University did – not to “participate in the ranking of people”. This would create an environment in which talent of all varieties can flourish, instead of being assessed according to bureaucratic metrics that not only depersonalise and disenfranchise but that too often stifle the real innovation that we hope to foster.
APRIL 2019 – GLOBAL – Research must solve social problems, says top EU policymaker
One of the European Union’s top policymakers Jean-Eric Paquet, director general of the European Commission’s Research and Innovation Directorate has warned universities that the bloc’s research priority is now tackling current-day economic and environmental challenges rather than funding curiosity-driven enquiry. The EU’s next €100 billion research and innovation package, Horizon Europe, should replace the current Horizon 2020 deal from 2021. To the concern of some universities, plans have tilted away from curiosity-driven research towards backing ideas that aim to create immediate real-world impact, like a new European Innovation Council, which Brussels hopes will give European start-ups the financial muscle to compete with US and Chinese rivals. There was now a “consensus” that European research should focus on delivering the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, a checklist of 17 aims including protecting biodiversity, making society fairer, and weaning the economy off burning through natural resources. But he was keen to reassure university heads that traditional pillars of blue-sky research would remain a part of Horizon Europe, and were working well.
MARCH 2019 – UK – UK success in latest ERC round spotlights Brexit risks
The importance of UK participation in the European Research Council has been underlined after the country took the biggest share of awards in the latest funding round. Researchers based in the UK secured 47 of the 222 advanced grants being handed out by the ERC, equivalent to more than one in five. German-based researchers secured 32 of the grants, which are typically worth up to €2.5 million, while academics in France won 31 and scholars in the Netherlands got 23. Around one in three of the UK awards went to European nationals who have moved to the country. However, the funding could be jeopardised in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Without an association agreement to the European Union’s next research funding programme, ERC grantees will no longer be able to work full-time in the UK. The UK is considering creating a domestic alternative to the ERC, which would be open to researchers from around the world, but sector leaders have warned that this would struggle to rival the prestige of the ERC.
MARCH 2019 – UK – UK ‘driving forward’ plan for post-Brexit alternative to Erasmus+
The UK government is drawing up plans for an alternative student mobility programme in case access to Erasmus+ is lost after Brexit, the universities minister has confirmed. Addressing sector leaders at Universities UK’s International Higher Education Forum, Chris Skidmore said that the UK was “open to exploring participation in the successor scheme to the current Erasmus+ programme” after the UK leaves the European Union. But, he added, the UK was “also considering a wide range of options with regards to the future of international exchange and collaboration in education and training, including a potential domestic alternative to the Erasmus+ programme”, Mr Skidmore said. “The potential benefits of the UK establishing its own international mobility scheme would include the ability to tailor the scheme to UK needs and target the funding where it is most needed” . The UK’s future involvement in Erasmus+, which accounts for more than half of all international mobility of UK students, has been in doubt ever since the UK voted to leave the EU. The UK has pledged to cover the funding of continued participation until the end of 2020 under the terms of its withdrawal agreement, and has agreed to cover awards approved before exit day in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
MARCH 2019 – NORWAY – Scientific outcry as Norway approves loans for astrology courses
A row has erupted in Norway after the country’s higher education regulator agreed to accredit courses in astrology, meaning students will be able to use government loans to look for meaning in the stars. Norwegian scientists have criticised the decision, but the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT) said that in making the ruling it was only following the law and blamed the government for not heeding its calls for stricter academic criteria. NOKUT accredited three courses at the Oslo branch of Herkules, an 18-year-old astrology school with sites in four cities across Norway, triggering a wave of criticism. Herkules has fought a long-running battle to win accreditation, which was finally granted after the school argued successfully that there was a "potential field of work" for astrologers to enter after graduation. The problem for the regulator is that for vocational education, unlike for university courses, it cannot legally assess the “academic standards, objectivity and ethical consideration” of a programme. Instead, accreditation focused largely on areas such as governance, infrastructure, faculty qualifications and relevance to the workplace. In the wake of the row, the government has set up a working group to define “what should be the knowledge basis for the vocational college sector”, according to Tom Erlend Skaug, state secretary at Norway’s Ministry of Education and Research
MARCH 2019 – GLOBAL – Progress of female leadership stalls in world’s top universities
The number of the world’s top universities that are led by women has remained stagnant in the past 12 months, following a decline the previous year, according to an analysis of Times Higher Education World University Rankings data. Just 34 – or 17 per cent – of the top 200 universities in the latest 2019 ranking have a female leader, the same number as last year. In 2017, 36 (18 per cent) of the universities ranked in the top 200 of the global table were led by a woman. South Africa is a new entry to the list, after Mamokgethi Phakeng became vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town in July. The institution is the only African university in the top 200 of the ranking. Sweden is second in the list of countries with the highest proportion of female leaders; of the five Swedish institutions that make the world top 200, three are led by women. Switzerland, France, the UK and Australia are the only other countries that outperform the global average on the share of universities headed by women. The US is still home to the highest number of female presidents (nine) in the analysis. It accounts for just over a quarter (26 per cent) of female leaders at the top of the table, down from 32 per cent last year. Meanwhile, seven of the 34 female leaders (21 per cent) are still based in the UK, including Louise Richardson, vice-chancellor of the world’s highest-ranked institution, the University of Oxford. Of the 25 countries that feature in the top 200, 14 have no female university leaders in that group.
FEBRUARY 2019 – AUSTRALIA – Foreign student numbers should be cut, say Australians
In the past 20 years, the number of overseas students enrolled in Australia’s schools, colleges and universities has jumped by more than 300,000 or an astonishing 560%. Foreign students now total almost 360,000 – up from 53,000 in 1997. The Group of Eight leading universities claimed that every three international students they enrolled contributed AU$1 million (€ 623,200) to the Australian economy during the course of their degrees. But, with the inner suburbs of the capital cities crowded with foreign students and other international arrivals, Australians are becoming increasingly resentful. A national survey, commissioned by the University of New South Wales (UNSW), unexpectedly revealed the growing public antagonism to the international visitors. So much so that a majority of people now believe the government should call a halt to any increase in their numbers. The survey of more than 1,500 people was taken early in February. The results showed that 54% of Australians thought foreign student numbers should not be increased. Surprisingly, strongest support for not boosting their numbers was among Australia’s 18- to 34-year-olds, among whom nearly 62% said restrictions should be placed on foreign enrolments and nearly half of those holding a bachelor-level degree agreed.
FEBRUARY 2019 – FRANCE – France set to get first national strategy for research
France is preparing to implement a national, multi-year research plan for the first time. The programme should cut bureaucracy and give scientists more resources. Indeed, scientists in France have long complained that their research budgets fluctuate with political administrations — something that the strategy aims to address. Publicly funded research in France is conducted mostly in university-affiliated labs run by research agencies and field-specific bodies. Each receives a portion of the central research budget, about €8.8 billion (US$9.9 billion) for 2019. Last July, a French parliamentary fact-finding mission backed the idea of a national research plan. Scientists, research leaders and members of parliament are currently advising on the programme, which will be modelled on a national defence strategy; working groups will look at funding, human resources to improve science-career prospects for young scientists and links between the public and private sectors to boost innovation. The plan should be introduced in a law that the government intends to pass by 2021. It will cover at least three years and could coincide with the European Union’s next major research-funding programme, Horizon Europe, for 2021–27. An increase in the research budget is part of the plan, with the aim of raising France’s public and private research spending to 3% of gross domestic product, up from an average of 2.2% over the past 4 years. The plan was warmly welcomed by the heads of the country’s major research agencies, while reactions from the research community have been mixed.
FEBRUARY 2019 – EUROPE – Is a European initiative on teaching and learning needed?
A European initiative on teaching enhancement in higher education would be of added value in countries that have no existing national initiative, whether because it has not been developed or due to the limited capacity and size of the higher education system. But it would not be realistic to expect one European initiative to cater to the diverse needs and demands of the entire European higher education sector. Therefore, several alternative models should be considered. This is the conclusion of a feasibility report produced by the European Forum for Enhanced Collaboration in Teaching (EFFECT) project* for the European University Association. The project set out to explore how pedagogical staff development and learning and teaching developments in general could be enhanced and supported through European-level action. The report said the alternative initiatives would seek to synergise and collaborate with already existing national and institutional initiatives, facilitating exchange and collaboration among them, and enabling a European dimension in teaching enhancement similar to other areas of collaboration established either at European policy levels or among institutions in the European Higher Education Area. The models considered in the report include structured peer learning opportunities, a network of institutional centres for learning and teaching, collaborative staff development programmes offered by university consortia and an institutional evaluation approach.
FEBRUARY 2019 – HUNGARY – Researchers Protest Against Government Changes to Funding
Thousands of scientists took to the streets in Hungary on Tuesday February 12th to protest changes to government research funding. The demonstrations are just the latest in a series of clashes between researchers and the country’s populist government over academic freedom. Tension between the Hungarian government and academic institutions has been building for months. Last December, the Central European University, a Budapest-based institution founded by investor and philanthropist George Soros, announced it would be forced to move most of its programs to Vienna. The government argued that the university had failed to comply with regulations for higher education institutions, but critics said pressure on the university was politically motivated as a result of Soros’s liberal views on immigration and globalism, BBC News reported at the time. The latest moves, announced last month by the government’s Ministry for Innovation and Technology, funnel money away from institutions such as the Academy of Sciences and instead require individual researchers to compete with one another for funds. The country’s president, Viktor Orban, has claimed that the purpose of the changes is to better allocate resources toward innovative research. Critics have warned that the policy could mean the government is able to impose political and ideological agendas onto the projects that researchers pursue. Physicist Zoltan Berenyi tells Reuters that he thinks the move is motivated by Orban’s dislike of the Academy’s independence. “We see that in today’s Hungary many things can be done even in the university and scientific fields,” Berenyi says. “One thing I am certain this isn’t is an attempt to make research more efficient.”
JANUARY 2019 – GERMANY – Facebook to fund Munich institute for ethics in AI
The Technical University of Munich (TUM) is receiving a €6.5 million donation from Facebook to set up an institute looking into ethics issues in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). TUM’s Institute for Ethics in Artificial Intelligence is to explore areas such as health, policy-making, business and the web economy, and will address transparency, accountability, human rights and other issues in the context of human-AI interactions. Facebook is spreading its funding for the new institute, scheduled to open in February, over a five-year period.
JANUARY 2019 – FRANCE – French female recruitment quotas backfire after male ‘backlash’
The introduction of quotas to get more women on to university recruitment committees in France has backfired and has actually led to far fewer female academics being hired, new research has revealed. A male backlash against the equity measures is the most likely reason for the decline in female recruitment, according to analysis by Pierre Deschamps, an economist at Sciences Po in Paris. He investigated recruitment data from 455 hiring committees across three French universities in the years before and after the introduction of the requirement for recruitment committees to draw at least 40 per cent of their membership from each gender. Dr Deschamps’ modelling indicates that, had the quotas not been introduced, 38 per cent more women would have been hired.
JANUARY 2019 – UK – Call for sector guidelines on academic freedom on social media
Universities and academics must urgently establish what constitutes acceptable speech by scholars online, experts have claimed, as several staff at institutions across the UK reveal that they have been contacted or disciplined by managers over their use of social media. “Universities hadn’t expected that Twitter would be used so widely, so the response from most universities was to increase the scrutiny of what was taking place on social media. This is an issue that universities around the world are grappling with. Earlier this month, Chicago State University agreed to pay $650,000 (€579,000) to settle a four-year legal battle with two academics who published a blog critical of the institution’s leadership.
JANUARY 2019 – GLOBAL - Is the party over for branch campuses?
The £27 (€31) million loss at the University of Reading’s Malaysia branch campus last year should provide lessons about the challenges associated with opening overseas outposts, according to sector experts. Malaysia campus’ deficit pushed the institution as a whole into the red to the tune of £20 (€23,5 ) million for the year ended July 2018. A detailed financial review of the outpost had stated that “the current loss-making position would continue for around four years” before the campus breaks even. However, an internal document suggests that the shortfall was far more significant than anticipated: a report from Reading’s chief financial officer in February 2017 forecast an £8 (€9,3) million loss for the campus in 2017-18. It opened in 2016. A review by KPMG highlights that the university had already invested £21 (€24,3) million and “this will get to between £50 (€58) million and £70 (€81) million over the five-year period” between 2016-17 and 2020-21. It adds that the campus “could physically exit/close down on 1 June 2021,but whichever decision is made “at least a further £40-45 (€46-52) million of funding will be needed for Malaysia over the coming five years”. The report notes that the outpost is located “in an area that doesn’t have the best reputation in Malaysia”, close to the Singaporean border, which has made recruitment difficult. It also highlights Malaysia’s visa regime, economic difficulties and degree accreditation process as reasons for the loss, claiming that “the crucial law degree (around which much of the initial business case was constructed) [is] now looking unlikely to be approved”
SEPTEMBER 2018 – GLOBAL - The problem is the publishing system, not the scholars
The outstanding scholars Philip Altbach and Hans de Wit argued that, in order to restore rationality to the publishing system, the sheer volume of articles and books must be reduced. They do not advocate that knowledge production be concentrated in the rich countries, but rather that knowledge production be concentrated mainly in research universities in all countries. It is simply wasteful to have such a large proportion of academic institutions focusing on research when the institutions cannot afford it and the academics themselves often are not committed to the research enterprise but rather are forced by pressures of competition to produce marginal publications. They call for quality but also for control of what is quality by the academic community instead of non-academic rankers, publishers and citation and impact measurers. The solution is not to produce more research of poor quality
SEPTEMBER 2018 – UK – Can you get a refund if you're unhappy with a university course?
When Chris Moore headed to University College London to start a history degree, he was promised that he would be taught by “leading historians” with an “outstanding commitment to teaching”. The reality, he says, was somewhat different. His £9,000 (€10,000) a year fees bought him five hours of lectures and seminars a week – in some cases, he claims, taught by uninterested postgrads – and just one hour a week of individual contact time with his tutor. He describes constantly changing rooms and a tutor who made it clear that he should not email him because he simply wouldn’t have time to reply. Moore decided to drop out at the start of the second year. That year of study left him with a student debt of £16,000 (€18,000) and a profound sense of disappointment and frustration. According to the latest figures, Moore is by no means alone. Drop-out rates have been rising for three years now. About 26,000 UK students who started in 2015 failed to complete their first year, with the £9,000 (€10,000)-plus fees cited as a factor. Courses failing to live up to the hype and a lack of significant contact time with tutors were also highlighted. Students who can show that their course was not as described do have options for taking action. In 2017, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (or the Scottish public services ombudsman) received 1,635 complaints and found in favour – either partially or entirely – in 24% of cases. Students were collectively awarded £583,000 (€660,000) – in one case £47,000 (€53,000)
SEPTEMBER 2018 – US – Academic mothers ‘work similar hours to fathers’
Female early career researchers in the US work similar hours to their male counterparts after they have children, a study has found, casting doubt on the idea that women are held back in their careers by the burden of greater childcare responsibilities. Before having children, female researchers clocked up an average of 52.6 hours of work a week, compared with 54.4 for men. Afterwards, women worked 49.3 hours, and men 47.7, according to the analysis. The study also surveyed researchers in Germany, where the picture was very different: all researchers worked far fewer hours than their US-based colleagues, and women with children in particular. Male academics worked 48.6 hours a week before children, and only slightly fewer, 46.8, afterwards. Yet for women, the drop-off was substantial: before children, they worked 47.1 hours a week; afterwards, that fell to an average of 38.2. Professor Sieverding – a co-author and professor in Heidelberg University’s psychology department – talks about “high-potential female researchers” quitting academia to follow their husband to a new city and raise children. “It’s very frustrating for us female professors to see that,” she said. What was needed was a cultural shift towards equal responsibility for childcare, she said – and this required not just visible, successful female academic role models, but male ones, too, who had managed to balance a career, childcare and support for their partner’s work
SEPTEMBER 2018 – UK – Number of academics working beyond 65 doubles
The number of academics working past the age of 65 in UK universities has more than doubled since the compulsory retirement age was abolished, new figures show. Some 7,090 scholars aged 66 or over are now working in UK higher education, representing 3.4 per cent of the 206,870-strong academic workforce, according to data published by sector agency Advance HE. That is more than twice the 3,390 scholars aged 66 or over who were employed in August 2011, shortly before the UK’s mandatory retirement age was abolished in November that year. Then, over-65s made up just 1.9 per cent of the workforce. There is mixed evidence over whether older staff are taking the jobs of younger faculty. Some 27,570 academic staff aged 30 or under were employed in UK higher education at the end of August 2017 compared with 25,000 six years earlier. But the proportion of academics aged 30 or under in the workforce fell from 13.9 per cent to 13.3 per cent, given that overall staff numbers rose by about 25,000 during this six-year period
SEPTEMBER 2018 – UK – Remote participation yet to take off in universities
A new study of 1,000 United Kingdom university students has revealed that, on average, students miss 10 hours of classes a month, yet UK universities are struggling to keep up with the remote study trend, which has taken off in the workplace to adapt to modern lifestyles. The survey conducted by OnePulse for Owl Labs, the smart video conferencing company, revealed a severe lack of remote learning options at UK universities, with 59% of students stating they do not have the option to attend lectures or seminars remotely. On the flip side, universities that are embracing the remote learning demand are hindered by stagnant technology, resulting in a lower quality of education than those in the room, the survey found. When joining a seminar remotely, more than 40% of students note that they find it hard to pay attention (42%) and difficult to absorb information (41%). Owl Labs claims its own 360° smart conferencing camera, which automatically tracks and focuses on the person speaking to create a feeling of being in the room with those at the meeting, is one of the first Internet of Things or IoT devices designed to improve collaboration and productivity
AUGUST 2018 – GLOBAL – The publication game leads to trivial pursuits
Academics are told by their leaders that it is better not to publish at all than to publish in anything less than a top-ranked journal. Such journals prize methodological sophistication and very high analytical ability above all else. Method triumphs over content. Focusing only on elite journals is very bad for the morale of all thoughtful academics. The process of getting published is tortuous and, despite the use of peer review, not always particularly meritocratic. In the social sciences, you would hope that articles are read not merely by other academics but also by students and, above all, practitioners. If our work has no relevance to such people, university leaders and academics alike should be asking themselves what all this effort, expense and stress in pursuit of global excellence is really worth
AUGUST 2018 – AUSTRALIA – Australian merger can be world’s biggest and influence rankings
Size matters for Australian universities targeting rankings glory with a merger, say the bosses of the two prospective partners, the universities of Adelaide and South Australia. If it proceeds, the merger will transform two mid-sized institutions into a single university with about 60,000 students. David Lloyd, the University of South Australia’s vice-chancellor, said that a merger could boost course choice and exploit the institutions’ complementary strengths. A “more rational” use of infrastructure could free up millions of dollars for discretionary spending on research or other activities, he added. Peter Rathjen, Adelaide’s vice-chancellor said: “if you want to do a lot of research, you’ve got to fund it from some source of revenue, and in the Australian context that’s normally student revenue, in part because philanthropy’s not particularly mature here yet.”
AUGUST 2018 – GLOBAL – Is everything healthy in cancer research?
Nearly 50 years since war on cancer was declared, declarations of victory remain a distant prospect. Many things have still to be done. We need to communicate goals and results of biomedical research in a manner that sets up realistic expectations and does justice to the nature of research progress. Unfortunately, there is a tendency among researchers to exaggerate the impact of their research. Indeed, over the past decade, cancer researchers have been especially concerned by the fact that some experiments published in highly regarded research journals lead to inconsistent results when repeated by others. This “reproducibility crisis” in cancer research could be the result of a multitude of factors. It does not necessarily entail intentional wrongdoing: it could, for instance, reflect the complexity of cancer experiments, in which even tiny changes in the set-up, or unnoticed differences in the reagents, may change the outcome. Nonetheless, the influx of money into cancer research from both government and corporations has been a challenge to scientific integrity
AUGUST 2018 – GLOBAL – What is it like to take a leadership role at a university?
Carel Stolker has been rector of Leiden University since 2013. In 2014, he published a book, Rethinking the Law School (Cambridge University Press), about his prior experiences as dean of the Leiden Law School. He learnt that the Formula One boss who took on the role of vice-chancellor, sport-style “heroic leadership”, whereby charisma alone is considered to be enough for success, is not a good fit for higher education. He then asked himself how to convince all wonderful academic suns, moons and stars to accept him as their leader. The first thing he realised is that you don’t have to do it all alone. Second, try to understand your academics: not so much the ins and outs of their specialist field (how could you?), but, rather, the people behind the disciplines. Keep asking lots of questions. Third, give your academics, young and old, as much attention as possible. Fourth, in whatever you do, try to be guided by the shared values of your institution. And, fifth, keep some of your own research going, if only in the holidays. Research, too, connects (as does teaching): it really makes you one of them
AUGUST 2018 – GLOBAL – Can we measure education quality in global rankings?
The possibility to measure educational quality and student learning in global rankings is hotly debated. Despite some scepticism about the methodological and practical aspects of a global methodology in this regard, the race is on to establish one. But one of the lessons of rankings is that, without due care, indicators can lead to unintended consequences. Conclusions based on simplistic methodologies could further disadvantage students who could and should benefit most if universities become more selective and focus on students most likely to succeed in order to improve their position in global rankings. Clearly, assessing teaching and learning is central to determining the quality of higher education, but using current methodologies to produce comparative data is foolhardy at best. Rather than fooling ourselves by believing that rankings provide a meaningful measure of education quality, we should acknowledge that they simply use inadequate indicators for commercial convenience. Or, better yet, we could admit, for now at least, that it is impossible to adequately assess education quality for purposes of international comparisons
JULY 2018 – US – Access to Literacy Is Not a Constitutional Right, Judge in Detroit Rules
Do students at poorly performing schools have a constitutional right to a better education?
On Friday, a Federal District Court judge in Michigan decided that they did not when he dismissed a class-action lawsuit filed by students at troubled schools in Detroit. The suit, filed in September 2016, argued that students at some of the city’s most underperforming schools — serving mostly racial minorities — had been denied “access to literacy” because of underfunding, mismanagement and discrimination. The complaint described schools that were overcrowded with students but lacking in teachers; courses without basic resources like books and pencils; and classrooms that were bitingly cold in the winter, stiflingly hot in the summer and infested with rats and insects. In his decision on Friday dismissing the suit, Judge Stephen J. Murphy III said that “access to literacy” — which he also referred to as a “minimally adequate education” — was not a fundamental right
JULY 2018 – UK – UCL row over email stating immigration-check fine of £20,000
A row has broken out over University College London’s enforcement of immigration controls for international students, with staff and students accusing the senior management of pursuing draconian and discriminatory policies. The dispute comes after UCL advised lecturers to carry out random spot checks on students’ identity documents, and one of the university’s leading faculties warned that staff who fail to report those in breach of the terms of their visa and immigration requirements “may be liable to a £20,000 (€22,000) personal fine per case”
JULY 2018 – UK – Has the tide turned towards responsible metrics in research?
By analysing publication, citation and co-authorship metrics at an early stage in a researcher’s career, a recent study by researchers at the MIT Sloan School of Management suggests that it is possible to predict future performance with greater reliability than by subjective judgements alone. Given the role that citations, H-indices, journal impact factors, grant income and other metrics already play in the management of research, some might view predictive analytics as the logical next step. Already there are private providers, such as Academic Analytics, offering a version of these services to universities. Others would be horrified – and see predictive analytics as anathema to conventional notions of scholarship and the development of an academic career. Wherever we stand on this spectrum, it seems likely that applications of metrics and machine learning within universities are still at a relatively early stage. Over the next decade, we can envisage increasingly granular indicators of research qualities and impacts being combined with metrics for teaching and learning to give academics, managers, funders and policymakers access to an unprecedented wealth of data. Nonetheless, there has also been a push back against inappropriate uses of metrics to value research and a call for a more responsible use of such metrics
JULY 2018 – UK – It’s time to burst the biomedical bubble in UK research
Sam Gyimah, Minister for universities and science, opening the Schrödinger Building in Oxford, set out in the most comprehensive terms yet why the government has made the biggest increase in research spending for 40 years, and set a further ambitious target of investing 2.4% of GDP in research and development (R&D) by 2027 (up from roughly 1.7% now). He expressed a willingness to revisit the balance of funding across the UK system: between regions, between institutions, and between basic and more applied research. Nonetheless, policymakers have to be willing to tackle the power and influence of the biomedical community in shaping research priorities and the allocation of resources. Globally, in excess of US$200bn (€170bn) is invested each year in biomedical research. In the UK, since the mid-2000s, there has been a substantial expansion of health related research as a fraction of overall public investment in R&D. This covers a range of disciplines and goals, but around half of all health-related research is in basic biomedical science. The share of overall research council spending accounted for by the Medical Research Council (MRC) has risen from 16% in 2004 to 24% in 2015 – a 75% increase in real terms. There have also been substantial uplifts in the volume of funding available from the Welcome Trust and other charities. A biomedical bubble has developed, which threatens to unbalance the UK’s research and innovation system, by crowding out the space and funding for alternative priorities. The distorting effects of the biomedical bubble are becoming more visible: in terms of corporate R&D and industrial strategy; health outcomes and inequalities; regional growth; and the long-term sustainability of the research and innovation system. After decades of success, the biomedical sector is in danger of becoming a case study in how research and innovation policy go wrong
JULY 2018 – UK – Universities outsource mental health services despite soaring demand
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) last month showed the annual suicide rate among students rose slightly over the last decade to 4.7 suicides for each 100,000 students. The ONS said this was below the rate for the general population. However, a recent study of UK suicides by age group and education carried out by the Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention at the University of Hong Kong said the student suicide rate was higher than that for non-students, rising from 6.6 to 10.3 (56%) per 100,000 students between 2007 and 2016. Amid mounting concern over student suicides, some universities have found a surprising solution to their long mental health waiting lists – they are reducing or outsourcing their counselling services in a move apparently designed to shift the burden on to the National Health Service (NHS). Unable to keep up with rising demand, they are rebranding their mental health student support as “wellbeing” services. Some universities plan to maintain a reduced number of counsellors, but others are sending students to local NHS services. Professional counsellors are being told to reapply for jobs as wellbeing practitioners, or face redundancy
JUNE 2018 – EUROPE – The higher education landscape is changing fast
The landscape of higher education globally continues to shift remarkably.
It is estimated that the number of enrolments will rise by 281% over the 30 years from 2000 to 2030; the growth over the period from 2000 to 2030 is therefore likely to be higher than that experienced between 1970 and 2000 (206%).
Aside from demographic shifts, other key drivers that are influencing the global society and economy include:
• Geopolitical shifts are altering the balance of power, the dynamics of trade (including educational services and the mobility of people) and social norms – especially with the continued rise of China
• The process of urbanisation remains unabated and by 2050, 66.4% of the world’s population will live in urban centres
• The technological revolution is equally having such an impact in changing the world's economy, by making education more accessible and affordable and by contributing to define global labour market landscape through automation and artificial intelligence.
The key challenges are:
• Improving quality of education and competitiveness of institutions together with higher secondary education completion rates and increased tertiary education retention rates. Private provision is likely to remain strong over the next 20 years
• Improving pathway opportunities, lifting participation rates from disadvantaged and minority groups as well as lifting tertiary education completion rates and tuition affordability. Further fragmentation of the sector is envisaged given the economic and social instability that will hinder investment in tertiary education
• Inadequate funding to support growth, access to education, quality of education and institutional capacity. To the extent that governments and international agencies support economic and societal development, the region will be positioned to attain higher levels of participation and attainment.
By 2035, countries from Sub-Saharan Africa are likely to become the sunrise markets for higher education. Likewise, countries from East Asia and the Pacific will continue to dominate in volume and are likely to be mature markets. More than ever before, the composition of the world’s population will shape the basis for the regional make-up of those who participate in higher education (and determine the movement of people across borders). Middle-income countries are likely to be the new generators for enrolments in higher education by 2040 and it may be the beginning of a new era in the geopolitics of higher education.
JUNE 2018 – EUROPE – Will Horizon Europe be more open to the world?
The European Commission’s draft proposal for the European Union’s research programme for 2021-28, Horizon Europe, has been heralded by some stakeholders for adding a rule change on third-party participation that could pave the way for more countries from across the world to join the programme. The rule change is needed to address the falling rate of involvement of participants from non-EU countries. The share of international programme participants from outside Europe fell to 2.5% under the current programme, Horizon 2020, down from 4.3% in its predecessor, the Seventh Framework Programme, as Science Business has reported, despite the EU openly acknowledging that widening participation is vital to its ambition to be a global innovator. According to Peter Fisch, European Commission officer from 1994 to 2013 and head of the Unit for Evaluation and Monitoring of the Framework Programme (2006-13): “In financial terms, participation will be a kind of zero sum game, as third countries will have to pay just for their respective participations. In strictly financial terms there will be thus no gains and no losses”. It is also important to bridge the East-West divide in the EU and support actions that “enable researchers and innovators coming from less developed areas to show their full innovation potential”, said Mateja Kramberger, EU project manager at TIKO PRO, Slovenia, a company that helps firms and organisations obtain EU and other funding
JUNE 2018 – GERMANY – University bar lowered to raise rural doctor recruitment
Fewer and fewer graduates from university medicine programmes opt for careers as general practitioners. And only a very small proportion want to become country doctors. The government of North Rhine-Westphalia intends to introduce incentives for medical students to commit themselves to work as country doctors for 10 years. The scheme centres on special admission regulations and generous financial awards. North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister, Christian Democrat Karl-Josef Laumann, has come up with plans to reserve 10% of study places in medicine for students willing to work as general practitioners in rural areas. The scheme is to start off with 7.6% of North Rhine-Westphalia’s roughly 2,200 places for medical students being reserved as of the 2019-20 winter semester for those choosing to work in country surgeries. Medicine is an admissions-restricted subject at German universities. Admission is based on excellent average marks in the German certificate of higher secondary education, the ‘Abitur’. Ahead of the 2017-18 winter semester, there were a total of 9,176 places to apply for to study medicine in Germany and 43,184 applicants. Applicants awarded a place to study then enter a contract with the state of North Rhine-Westphalia according to which they commit themselves to work as general practitioners in an ‘under-supplied’ region for at least 10 years. Graduates who decide not to work as country doctors will be fined up to €250,000 for breaching the contract, according to Laumann. Country doctors establishing or taking over surgeries in communities with up to 25,000 inhabitants will be awarded €60,000.
JUNE 2018 – GLOBAL – Universities suffer under free-tuition regimes
In most countries around the globe the number of students is rising, as is the cost of higher education. Introducing free-tuition policies therefore relies on the unrealistic expectation that governments will be able not only to fund higher education budgets but also regularly and consistently increase those budgets. In free-tuition countries as well as in countries where tuition fees are low and regulated such as Germany and Argentina, governments are left with two options. The first option is to keep universities operating but on a comparatively smaller budget. This leads to underfunding of universities and the quality of public higher education is sacrificed to the idea of free-tuition higher education. The second option for governments is to control the size of the public sector, by applying free-tuition policies only to public institutions. Thus, governments – like the Brazilian one – have the opportunity to control their higher education expenses. In the short-term, higher education institutions in newly free countries will probably suffer from funding freezes as well as cuts. In the long run, they might have to choose between the quality of their system and open access. The ultimate solution might be to bring back tuition fees, if it is a conceivable political solution
MAY 2018 – KOREA – Will Korea be reunited sooner than we expect?
Because Incheon is the closest university to the Korean Demilitarised Zone, the 2.5 mile-wide strip of land separating the two countries, the issue of potential unification of the two states – North and South Korea – is particularly pertinent to Incheon National University president, Professor Cho. And, in October 2017, the idea of “post-unification integration” was adopted as one of Incheon’s grand themes, with researchers from different disciplines applying their time and expertise to how the two states could merge. In October, the world’s first academic conference on Korean unification involving academics from both states will take place at Yanbian University, in Yanbian, the Chinese region that borders North Korea, explained Professor Cho. He said that the input of Chinese professors had been crucial to furthering the research. As the historic meeting of Korea’s two leaders last month suggests that a rapprochement may be possible, it is not fanciful to expect full-scale reunification in the near future. The unexpected events that led to the reunification of Germany in 1990 could equally occur in Korea
MAY 2018 – SINGAPORE – What universities must do to ensure they are cyber secure
Cyber-attacks on educational institutions have grown in number and severity. In the first six months of 2017, globally, there was a 164% increase in stolen, lost or compromised digital records compared to the last six months of 2016. During this period, the education sector witnessed a 103% increase in breaches – one of the highest jumps among all industries. These statistics, along with reports that staff accounts at four Singapore universities were breached by Iranian hackers, make it crucial to understand why institutions of higher learning are now prime targets. The motives were either reconnaissance or profit, or both, because higher education institutions typically conduct research on behalf of governments. In Singapore, for example, the universities are involved in defence, foreign affairs and transport projects. A layered approach to security is needed and includes next-generation firewalls, systems that identify behavioural anomalies, mobile device management and advanced data encryption
MAY 2018 – EUROPE – European Commission proposes budget increases for research
The European Commission has called for a 30% increase in the European Union’s research budget and a doubling of the budget for Erasmus+ in its proposal for the Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021-27, which it presented to the European Parliament on 2 May. If agreed by the European Parliament and the European Council, this would bring spending on research up from €70 billion (US$84 billion) in Horizon 2020 to €100 billion (US$84 billion) in Horizon Europe – as the next Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (FP9), the successor to Horizon 2020, will be called. Members of the European Parliament were quick to praise the European Commission for earmarking a drastic increase in funds towards programmes that have been championed by the Parliament, including Erasmus+, which will receive €30 billion (US$36 billion) over the seven-year funding period – compared with €15 billion in 2014-20. By contrast, funding for agriculture and cohesion have been slashed. It is actually very difficult to evaluate the significance of the figures proposed because it is not possible to know yet what the United Kingdom will be contributing to the budget post Brexit. In theory, Brexit will create a €12 billion hole in the EU’s overall finances, but the UK has indicated it would like to buy back into some parts of the EU programme – if the EU will allow it. The League of European Research Universities (LERU) said the proposed research budget is about €35 billion more than Horizon 2020 when you take into account the UK contribution. This represents the biggest [percentage] increase ever for the Framework Programme
MAY 2018 – AUSTRALIA – Research infrastructure allocated record AU$1.9 billion
In one of the largest outlays ever made for Australian research, the federal government has committed AU$1.9 billion (US$1.4 billion) towards research infrastructure to secure the future of the nation’s research efforts. Under the latest grant, the fields of genomics, nanotechnology, astronomy, imaging and supercomputing will receive additional sums, along with a new building to house Australia’s national collection of insects, wildlife and plants. Chief Executive of Universities Australia Catriona Jackson said the investment would provide 40,000 researchers with “state-of-the-art equipment that was crucial to breakthroughs”. The latest allocation is in addition to a grant of AU$260 (€ 168) million the government had previously announced to support high-performance computing and astronomy. It is also additional to an AU$150 (€97) million grant for the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy that the government provided two years ago
MAY 2018 – US – When university tuition fees go up, diversity goes down
Two American researchers in Higher Education, Drew Allen and Gregory C Wolniak, examined tuition fee hikes at public four-year colleges and universities over a 14-year period, from 1998 to 2012. What they found is that for every US$1,000(€853) increase in tuition fees at four-year non-selective public universities, racial and ethnic diversity among full-time students decreased by 4.5%. But, how long does it take for tuition fees to rise by US$1,000 (€853) at a given university? A US$1,000 (€853) hike could happen over the course of only one or two years in some cases. Over the past decade tuition and (other) fees rose by US$2,690 (€2.300) at public four-year institutions. However, not only tuition fee hikes could impact diversity at a given institution, but tuition fee increases at institutions down the street, or in a neighbouring state, also affect diversity. Indeed, researchers uncovered intriguing evidence that tuition increase among private institutions within a 100-mile radius augments student diversity at public institutions
APRIL 2018 – UK – Defence contractors hand British Universities £40m
Britain’s Universities are taking tens of millions of pounds from some of the world’s biggest defence contractors to help develop the next generation of military hardware. The close relationship between academia and the defence sector is credited with helping sustain tens of thousands of jobs in the UK but it is causing unease among some scientists, even as other sources of funding for Universities dry up. In the past three years alone, 15 Universities with renowned engineering departments have received almost £40m (€45m) in grants from the contractors, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act. But Jessica Poyner of Campaign Against Arms Trade, questioned the decision of Universities to accept money from companies active in the defence sector. Likewise, Stuart Parkinson, executive director of Scientists for Global Responsibility, called on Universities to re-examine their relationship with the defence sector
APRIL 2018 – ASIA – Military use of research pushback in Japan and South Korea
A number of Japanese Universities and research institutions have set up special screening procedures to ensure that research conducted by their scientists is not linked to military use, after the Science Council of Japan (SCJ) called on research organisations to come up with evaluation procedures last year. While in Japan the concern is linked to increased government funding, including from the Ministry of Defence, for military-related research, the stakes and international repercussions for such links have risen after more than 50 of the world’s top artificial intelligence researchers last week threatened to boycott one of South Korea’s top research Universities because of links to a munitions manufacturer to help develop artificial intelligence-directed weapons. In South Korea, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) announced in February that it was launching a joint research centre with Korean defence company, Hanwha Systems, to develop weapons that would “search for and eliminate targets without human control”. The boycott announced in an open letter organised by Toby Walsh, professor of artificial intelligence (AI) at the University of New South Wales in Australia, said that AI experts at major institutions in 30 Countries, including the University of Cambridge (UK) and the University of California, Berkeley (US), would boycott “all collaborations with any part of KAIST until such time as the president of KAIST provides assurances (…) that the centre will not develop autonomous weapons lacking meaningful human control”
APRIL 2018 – UK – Oxford and Cambridge: will elite Universities go private and raise fees?
As Universities wait to see if the government will cut tuition fees – and therefore their income – one of the most controversial questions of all is being discussed. Could Oxford and Cambridge Universities opt to break free from state control and go private? The government launched its review of post-18 education in February. With the Tories keen to woo young voters, following Jeremy Corbyn’s commitment to end tuition fees, a reduction of the £9,250 (€10,545) fees cap is widely expected. But vice-Chancellors say quality could be threatened if the government does not plug any gap with new funding. Unlike other Universities, Oxford and Cambridge say fees, even at £9,250 (€10,545), do not cover the costs of the tutorial-led teaching for which they are famous. A spokesperson for Cambridge would not comment about going private, but said each student costs an average of £18,500 a year to teach
APRIL 2018 – AUSTRALIA – Foreign students’ economic contribution soars by 22%
Selling education to nearly 600,000 foreign students generated a record AU$32 billion (€20 billion) for the Australian economy last year, according to the latest trade figures. The 22% boost to the AU$26.3 (€16.4) billion that foreign students contributed in 2016 was the largest annual increase since 2008. Their fees and living expenses represent Australia’s third largest export, behind only iron ore and coal. According to a report on the World Atlas website, the United States attracts 19% of global international students while the United Kingdom hosts 10%. Australia and France follow with 6% of the global total each; Germany with 5%; and Russia, Canada and Japan with 3%. Among the reasons for Australia’s popularity with foreign students is that study costs are markedly lower than in America and the UK. In addition, students can work part-time and some have access to scholarships and grants. Moreover, the prospect of gaining a permanent visa to remain in Australia is also a powerful attractive element for tens of thousands of students from Asia
APRIL 2018 – RUSSIA – Putin to boost science research funding by 150%
Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised to increase funding of national science by 150% over current levels by the end of the year, according to the press service of the Presidential Administration of Russia. The increase will be applied to unallocated funding under Russia’s existing science and technology programme 2014-20, and will increase the amount available from RUB40 billion to RUB60 billion (from €527.5 to nearly €790 million). A significant part of the planned funding will be allocated to Universities, particularly those from a list of strategic institutions that includes the Moscow State University, Saint Petersburg State University and some others. But some Russian scientists have already criticised the latest state decision. Alexander Kuleshov, a leading mathematician and information technology expert and director of the Kharkevich Institute for Information Transmission Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences, commented: “The increase in funding and the use of a model of competitive financing is good news.” However, he is worried that many promising researchers would not receive funding, and would be suspended or have their research frozen. According to Eugene Onishchenko, deputy head of the Moscow University of Economics, there could be a threat of research money going to Universities that have strong lobby influence within government but are not the best institutions
MARCH 2018 – DENMARK – Plan to seek EU-wide initiative on unpaid student debt
Danish Tax Minister Karsten Lauritzen and Minister for Higher Education and Science Søren Pind have published a seven-point action plan to address the issue of foreign citizens who leave the country before paying off their student loan debt.
“Denmark is not to be a ‘gift heaven’ where we let foreign citizens leave Denmark without repaying their debts,” Lauritzen said. There has been an increase in the debt held by citizens from European Union/European Economic Area (EU/EEA) countries, from approximately DKK106 million (€8.5 million) in 2015 to DKK155 million (€12 million) in 2017, an increase of 46%. The number of European citizens owing this debt has over the same time increased from 900 to 1,100 people, with one third of them having left Denmark.
“It could be tempting to press the emergency brake on foreign students’ access to Danish SU [student financial support] where Denmark does not have a bilateral agreement with the countries from which the foreign students are coming, to recover outstanding debt,” ministers Lauritzen and Pind wrote in the action plan. “But this would be against the present EU legislation on the discrimination against foreign students because of their citizenship.” The plan to recover the outstanding debt will have a national track and an international track. The four national initiatives are: • Establishment of a new unit within the national debt agency to work specifically with outstanding SU debt;
• Cooperation with debt-collection agencies abroad;
• Debt enforcement through court lawsuits;
• Total recovery of outstanding student loans if an SU recipient moves abroad without leaving a forwarding address.
The international track has three components. It will include a Nordic collaboration scheme with Iceland, Sweden and Norway; and bilateral agreements with Germany, the United Kingdom and Poland in the first place and later with other countries. Third, Denmark has started negotiations with the European Commission to develop a new EU instrument that makes it possible for all member states to support initiatives to recover SU debts in the same way as outstanding taxes and fees are recovered when people move from one EU country to live in another EU country
MARCH 2018 – CHINA – The “closing” of China will affect universities worldwide
The news that China’s constitution will be amended so that Xi Jinping can be president beyond his current second term is only the latest indication of fundamental political change taking place. Experts have noted that President Xi has amassed the most power since Mao Zedong and seeks long-term authority to carry out his policies. Current changes at the top in China will have lasting implications for both Chinese higher education and for China’s academic relations with the rest of the world, and might seriously impact what has been accomplished so far. Of course, the most important implications of a ‘closing’ of Chinese higher education will be for Chinese universities. It will be more difficult for the top institutions to achieve true ‘world-class’ status if their academic culture is infused with restrictions, problematic access to knowledge and constraints on the emergence of a truly free and innovative academic culture. A restrictive academic environment will make it more difficult to attract talented foreign faculty to work in China and it is likely that international students, especially at the graduate level, will be reluctant to study in China. Moreover, Chinese students and doctoral degree holders are refusing to return home
MARCH 2018 – AUSTRALIA – Warning over rising university enrolments from China
More than 135,000 students from China are enrolled in Australian universities – nearly 40% of the total number of foreigners on campus. Twenty-five years ago, back in 1993, a total of 43,000 overseas students were enrolled in the nation’s universities and a mere 2,700 were from China. Since that time, Chinese student enrolments have rocketed upwards by 5,000% compared with a 914% rise in total overseas numbers. Selling higher education to foreigners has proved highly lucrative for the country, as well for the nation’s universities. This year across Australia, university earnings from the fees paid by foreign students are expected to exceed AU$7 billion (€4.3 billion), with a significant slice of that huge sum coming from mainland Chinese. But a report last year by the New South Wales Auditor-General warned that some of the state’s universities had become “vulnerable” to fluctuations in overseas student numbers. The report referred to the risk this posed to the institutions by an increasing reliance on one main source of income. “The increasing number of overseas students can have significant financial benefits to a university. However, there are associated risks, including pressure on capacity constraints and the need to maintain teaching quality,” the auditor-general’s report said. And, in a clear reference to China, the report noted there was also a “concentration risk” from reliance on overseas students “from the same geographical location in the event of an economic downturn from that region”. But it is not just an economic downturn that could affect Chinese enrolments. The Chinese government also has a say over where its students will study and has proved sensitive to Australia’s criticism over China building its `islands’ in the South China Sea
MARCH 2018 – UK – 300,000 extra university places needed by 2030
Universities in England will most likely need to provide an extra 300,000 places by 2030 to meet rising demand caused by a demographic bulge and rising rates of participation among disadvantaged groups, with implications for student subsidies, a new report by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) says.
This would represent growth of around 25% on today’s total of 1.2 million students in England.
The report Demand for Higher Education to 2030 examines the impact of major policy changes, demography and entry standards on participation rates. It found that the number of 18-year-olds in England is set to rise by 23% by 2030. On its own, this would increase demand by only 50,000 by 2030. But if participation rates increase in the next dozen years at the same average as the last 15 years, that would increase the total demand to 350,000. Against that, the impact of Brexit reducing demand from European students – unless some special arrangements are negotiated – would knock 56,000 or so off that figure, the report says, leaving an increased demand of approximately 300,000. Other factors could come into play, too. For instance, if male participation rates grew to match female rates, the total would rise to 500,000 by 2030, but this is not anticipated
MARCH 2018 – EUROPE – Double EU budget, say European university associations
Thirteen university associations, including the European University Association, the League of European Research Universities, and the Coimbra Group and the Guild network, have published an open letter to the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council. They call for a doubling of the European Union budget for research, innovation and education – to €160 billion for the period 2021-28. Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, in a speech to the European Parliament on 14 March said: “If we went – I dream – up to €160 billion, this would result in the creation of 650,000 jobs by 2040 and an increase in GDP of 0.5%. If we did – in fact, I think we should – the European Union will become one of the world's leading players in the areas of research and innovation.” In their letter, the 13 associations argue that Horizon 2020 is underfunded, with the budget supporting less than one out of five high-quality proposals. In addition, despite the “outstanding” work of Erasmus+ in fostering mobility and employability, European student mobility, at 5%, is far below the 20% Bologna target
FEBRUARY 2018 – EUROPE – University leaders push for Europe-wide excellence initiative
European universities are pushing for the implementation of a new continent-wide “excellence initiative” that would see the European Union provide institution-level funding to help “increase the competitiveness” of higher education systems. The “European Excellence Initiative” has been proposed by the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) and the Conference of Rectors of Academic Schools in Poland, and was discussed at a strategy day for European university leaders last month, which was organised by the HRK and attended by political and academic experts. Following the example of Germany that invested €4.6 billion in its excellence initiative since 2006 and similar programmes in Asian countries, most notably in China, the aim of the initiative is turbocharging universities’ research performance. According to the HRK, each EU member country would choose whether or not to participate in the initiative, which would be funded “primarily from national funds and money from the EU structural funds” and could be “topped up” with funds from the EU’s research and innovation framework programme to “make investments attractive for the member states and regions”. The evaluation process, which would include peer review, could be “handled by independent European funding organisations” with funds from the framework programme. “This would allow states with a lower-performing innovation landscape, in particular, to objectively assess the strengths and weaknesses of their national research systems and thus achieve more focused development and become more internationally competitive,” HRK said
FEBRUARY 2018 – EUROPE – There is no necessary economic benefit to expanding universities
For a very long time, policymakers and commentators alike have stressed the importance of the graduate worker in modern, post-industrial economies. As a result of such conviction, higher education policy is used to drive economic improvement (including productivity, innovation and wages). Greater participation in higher education is also widely believed to benefit social mobility, as more people from lower socio-economic backgrounds move into graduate careers. Graduate work tends to be understood as relatively high-status, autonomous, high-skilled, knowledge-intense and complex. This political narrative provides an optimistic story about a tight relationship between higher education and well-paid professional and managerial work. According to Gerbrand Tholen, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the City University of London, this narrative is too simplistic, failing to acknowledge the enormous variation between graduate occupations, sectors and employers. Tholen recently carried out a three-year study on graduate labour, which used case studies of four graduate occupations: pharmaceutical and biotechnological research, software engineering, financial analysis and public relations. The study confirms that graduate work is an untidy aggregate of various types of work, with a wide range of characteristics. It does not provide much support for the assumption that higher education attainment, on its own, will lead to higher status in the labour market. Recruitment and career advancement are not always driven by university qualifications and the skills associated with higher education; although those skills tend to be seen as useful by graduate workers, in no sense do they cover the entire range of abilities they need to perform their jobs. His study also shows that what counts as graduate work remains contested and under constant reinterpretation and renegotiation. For instance, within bioscience, the traditionally non-graduate role of lab technician is often performed by graduates. Yet technicians still have a considerably lower status within the job hierarchy. So further growth of the graduate labour force may not support improved economic performance. Policymakers should not equate graduate expansion with economic and social progress, or take the relative high status and earnings of graduate workers as proof of the educational advantage conferred by university degrees in the labour market
FEBRUARY 2018 – GERMANY – Will other Countries follow Germany into battle with Elsevier?
In January 2017, negotiating collectively with Elsevier for the first time, about 50 German institutions had their access to the publisher’s journals cut off after their subscription deals had expired without a new contract in place. Yet, in February 2017, Elsevier restored access for institutions that had been cut off, reflecting the company’s “support for German research” and its “expectation that an agreement can be reached”. Although many German institutions’ contracts expired, Elsevier will maintain journal access for these universities also for 2018. Germany is thought to be saving more than €10 million a year in journal subscription fees after calling the bluff of the world’s biggest academic publisher during a negotiation stand-off. The two sides still appear to be separated by a fundamental disagreement over how publishing should be paid for. Germany wants to pay per article published by its researchers – with full open access – while Elsevier has argued that this would be unfair because it would allow German researchers to read work published by other scholars from countries without paying anything. And what about other countries? On 17 January, Finland agreed a three-year deal worth just under €27 million, which includes a 50 % discount when researchers publish open access in some journals. South Korea, meanwhile, was reported on 15 January to have agreed to price rises of between 3.5 % and 3.9 %, a hike that Dr Mittermaier - a member of the German negotiating team - described on Twitter as “outrageous”. One elephant in the negotiating room is the pirate site SciHub, an illicit provider of millions of papers free of charge, which potentially gives countries at least unspoken leverage with publishers threatening to end their journal access. But global usage of SciHub dropped sharply at the end of 2017 just as several domains were taken down after legal action from publishers. “We do not use SciHub as an argument in the negotiations,” Dr Mittermaier insisted. For now, Germany was the only country “still standing” in its negotiations with Elsevier. But France, Switzerland and Austria are planning to take a similarly hard line against the publisher when they next negotiate their contracts, Dr Mittermaier said, adding: “Everybody is looking at Germany.”
FEBRUARY 2018 – UK – Why more British students are choosing foreign universities
Although there are no official statistics, data from international higher education authorities show that most destinations have seen a big increase in the number of British students in recent years. Of seven countries surveyed by The Economist, America, Canada, France, Germany and the Netherlands have all seen growth since 2010. Only Australia and Ireland have not. America exerts the greatest pull. It lured 11,489 British students in 2016-17, some 30% more than in 2009-10. There has also been a rise in the number going to America from poorer families. The efforts of top American universities in recruiting British students are helped by rising tuition fees in England and Wales, which have made foreign universities look like better value. In 2012 fees nearly trebled, to £9,000 (€10,233) a year. By contrast, students who go to Germany study free of charge. In the Netherlands, many have access to state benefits (although British students probably won’t qualify for these discounts after Brexit). Even American universities can seem reasonable by comparison. Growing numbers of English-language courses have helped to entice monoglot Britons abroad. In the Netherlands, the number of English bachelor’s courses has risen from 188 in 2011 to 426 today. In the same period, the number of Britons studying in the Netherlands rose from 910 to 2,778. Some universities in France and Italy now offer courses in English. Universities have also benefited from rising international mobility. In 2007, 4.4% of British residents younger than 15 were born overseas; today they are 5.4%. Since 1987, more than 200,000 British students have spent some time working or studying abroad under the Erasmus scheme
FEBRUARY 2018 – GLOBAL – ‘Sharp drop’ expected in global student mobility growth
According to the British Council report International Student Mobility to 2027: Local investment, global outcomes, the growth in the rate of outbound mobility of international students is predicted to slow from an annual average of 5.7% (2000-15) to 1.7% to 2027. It should also be noted that “the number of countries competing to host international students is rising; many of these potential destination countries are offering high-quality education at affordable prices, complete with options for post-study work or residence rights,” the report says. China and India are forecast to account for 60% of the global growth in outbound students to 2027. Their combined growth in outbound students will outpace total growth in all of the other selected markets. The report predicts that African countries will have five of the 10 fastest growing tertiary enrolment ratios in the decade to 2027, including four in the top five (Ethiopia 8.2%, Angola 6.8%, Ghana 4.8%, Kenya 4.7%). Nigeria is eighth on the list with 4.1%. However, the top 10 growth markets for outbound students up to 2027 in terms of absolute numbers are China (245,000 increase), India (185,000), Pakistan (32,000), Nigeria (30,000), Bangladesh (27,000), Saudi Arabia (30,000), France (20,000), Nepal (20,000), Indonesia (18,000) and Kenya (16,000)
JANUARY 2018 – Netherlands – Rector says internationalisation should have limits
There are limits to how far internationalisation in higher education should grow and it is right to set them, said Rector Magnificus of the University of Amsterdam (UvA), Professor Karen IJ Maex. Maex said that while 15% of UvA’s students now are international, the percentage of international first-year students is close to 25% due to a “significant increase” in new English-taught bachelor programmes. Internationalisation is producing challenges and raising some pressing questions, she said, about whether every programme will soon be taught in English, whether universities are internationalising just to make money, whether Dutch students’ interests are being pushed aside and even whether the command of the Dutch language is at stake
JANUARY 2018 – US –Many efforts to discourage black colleges’ growth
Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have encountered criticism from pundits who suggest they are no longer relevant. According to the report HBCUs Make America Strong: The Positive Economic Impact of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, HBCUs have a nearly $15 (€12) billion annual impact on the nation. Moreover, HBCUs created over 134,000 jobs and their alumni generate over $130 (€105) billion throughout their lifetimes. Dr. Robert T. Palmer, interim chair and associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies in the School of Education at Howard University, said: “Ironically, the arrival of this report coincides with the bill that Republicans introduced in the House, according to which the eligibility of minority-serving institutions to access funding will be limited if they fail to graduate or transfer 25 percent or more of their student populations”
JANUARY 2018 – US – What College Is Like as a Single Mother
According to a report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), the number of single mothers in college more than doubled between 2000 and 2012, to nearly 2.1 million students. Only 28 percent of single mothers who start college complete degrees, and there has been no systematic effort to address the obstacles they face. The Trump administration wants to cut a federal-aid program that provides money for campus-based childcare programs, the Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program (CCAMPIS). The average childcare costs a little under $10,000 (€8,100) a year
JANUARY 2018 – US – Hit to universities from new tax may be in tens of $ millions
Some universities may have tens of millions of dollars fewer to spend on students due to a new tax on the returns of endowments. The $1.5 (€1.2) trillion tax bill passed by Republicans in December and signed by President Donald Trump includes a 1.4% excise tax levied on the returns of any university endowment that amounts to over $500,000 (€405,000) per student. Previously, capital gains from endowments were not taxed
JANUARY 2018 – US – From technologists to teachers is but a short step
In the face of a nationwide teacher shortage, a pioneering program based at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) aims to take people with experience in high-demand fields such as engineering, physics, math, languages, biology and neuroscience, and transform them into teachers. Free tuition and a $20,000(€16.193)-a-year stipend is what the program offers. “We don’t have to focus on math, because they’re already good at math,” said Yoon Jeon Kim, a research scientist in MIT’s Teaching Systems Lab who is monitoring the effort to see how well the program works. “We don’t have to focus on science, because they’re already good at science. So we can concentrate on how to teach.” The program offers a significant departure from traditional teacher training programs in several high-tech ways. In addition to the familiar student teaching routine, for instance, it uses virtual reality avatars to simulate classroom situations and crises
DECEMBER 2017 – US – Can non-academics make good university leaders?
In the US, the traditional university president coming up from the ranks of tenure-track faculty is still the norm by a 2:1 margin. Yet signs of a shift are evident; one-third of US liberal arts college presidents today are non-traditional, up from less than 10 per cent just a few decades ago. One of the biggest drivers is a scarcity of traditional candidates. Tenured and tenure-track faculty accounted for just over one-third of all liberal arts faculty in 2009, compared with 78 per cent in 1969. Scholars holding the classic credentials to lead also have a diminished appetite for the top job. The business model of higher education is also far more challenging than it used to be. Overwhelmingly, the modern president’s work involves duties for which most professors are neither trained nor prepared
DECEMBER 2017 – GLOBAL – The 10 most popular academic papers of 2017
Alternative metrics find that research on dieting, PhD mental health and female doctors attracted the most online attention this year. To compile the list, Altmetric – a provider of metrics and qualitative data that are complementary to traditional, citation-based metrics – looked at a range of measures including mainstream news media references, Wikipedia citations, social media mentions and performance in scholarly spaces such as post-publication peer-review forums and patient advocacy groups. The top-rating articles performed as follows. Of the top 100, 53 were in the field of medical science. Biological science (17), earth and environmental science (9), and studies in human society (8) were the next most popular
DECEMBER 2017 – UK – The cross-subsidy of research by teaching is a myth
The mantra that research is loss-making is a convenient fiction used to draw more money to the centres of universities, say Peter Coveney from the University College London and Christopher Greenwell from Durham University. Only last month, a report by the Higher Education Policy Institute put the research “deficit” at £3.3 (€3.7) billion in 2014-15 alone. This is because research funders pay only about three-quarters of the “full economic costs” (FEC) of research, necessitating some form of subsidy. The Research Councils UK – a public body coordinating the seven Research Councils that are responsible for funding and coordinating academic research – agreed to pay 80 per cent of the notional FEC on grants awarded, expecting that the universities would find the remainder themselves. When asked to explain what they do with the research grant overheads, UK universities answered that they have no means of tracking the difference between income streams originating from teaching and research. We need universities to be transparent about how they are spending taxpayers’ money. As Brexit looms, we need research to be treated as more than a cynical accounting exercise. Were research truly to be loss-making, we would need to admit that students – especially international students, but also domestic ones, including in the humanities – fund a lot of scientific research
DECEMBER 2017 – SWEDEN – Universities are sitting on a large pot of unspent funds
In a recent report “Why do Universities Save Money? An investigation of governmental capital at universities and university colleges” the Swedish National Audit Office (NAO) says “higher education government capital” – its term for unspent researcher and higher education allocations to universities – is now higher than ever, totalling SEK12.3 billion (€1.25 billion). Charlotta Tjärdahl, chair of the Swedish National Union of Students or SFS, said that the reason for the unspent funding may be that Swedish universities are worried about what governmental allocations they will be given from year to year and hence are saving as a backup
DECEMBER 2017 – DENMARK – Sectorally mobile researchers are too few
Danish universities need to do more to promote sectoral mobility of researchers (between universities and the private sector), which fosters increased innovation, knowledge turnover, technological development and relevance for research and education, according to the findings of a major investigation by the Danish Council for Research and Innovation Policy or DFiR. 20,000 researchers with PhDs are working in the private sector, which is approximately the same as the number of researchers working at adjunct level and above at Danish universities. The number of researchers privately employed with a PhD degree has increased by around 6,000 in 2008-14. But a survey by the analysis bureau Norstat found that only 600 researchers (in exclusive clinical positions and part-time positions) had been mobile between sectors in a three-year period compared with the total of 6,800 established researchers in 2015. The distribution of the sectorally mobile researchers between different research institutions demonstrates that: - Approximately one-third of Danish university institutes do not have any mobile researchers - Around half of the institutes have between one and 10 mobile researchers - Only a small group of institutes have more than 10 mobile researchers. According to the DFiR report, the knowledge exchange can enhance “the quality of collaborations and closer ties between university environments and companies more so than a number of more formal collaborative relations”
NOVEMBER 2017 – EUROPE – Universities feel effects of EMA move to Amsterdam
The European Medicines Agency or EMA will relocate to Amsterdam in the Netherlands when it leaves London in 2019, the General Affairs Council of the European Union has decided. The EMA brings economic benefits to its location, attracting some 36,000 annual visits from experts each year, boosting hotels, restaurants and other services. Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern earlier this year calculated that the victor could enjoy a €1 billion lift. But the EMA also brings benefits to academia, because it supports research projects, learned societies and research groups, and its presence can stimulate investment in its field of research in the host country. Bert Leufkens, chair of the Dutch Medicines Evaluation Board, announced that the board will increase its scientific capacity to take a larger share of the post-Brexit workload. The Netherlands is investing €10 million to expand the board’s capacity and to help strengthen other national medicines agencies across Europe. Professor Kurt Deketelaere, secretary-general of the League of European Research Universities, said the decision would probably have no immediate effect on UK universities, but is the first real Brexit blow to the UK, along with the relocation of the European Banking Authority to Paris
NOVEMBER 2017 – IRELAND – Funding to be linked to gender equality
Universities have been warned that funding will be withheld if they do not promote more women to senior posts. Currently, although more than half of all lecturers in universities are women, only 29% of associate professors and 21% of professors are women and no woman has ever been appointed university president. But Mary Mitchell O’Connor, minister of state with special responsibility for higher education, said universities that do not make progress towards achieving gender equality will lose access to research funding. She announced the setting up of a high-level Gender Equality Taskforce, which will oversee a national systems review of recruitment and promotion policies and practices in higher education institutions, to identify good practices and highlight areas that need improvement. Funding of €500,000 was provided in the Budget 2018 to support the work of the taskforce and greater gender equality in the sector. A regular reporting mechanism will be put in place. Institutions will be expected to take steps to improve their systems in a specified timescale where the need for improvement is identified
NOVEMBER 2017 – UK – New university tops green table as Oxbridge lags behind
In 2007, the People & Planet University League - an independent league table of UK universities ranked by environmental and ethical performance elaborated by the UK’s largest student campaigning network, People & Planet - calculated that only five universities were recycling more than half their waste. This year (2017) it is 85. This year marks a step change in one area: education. The most noticeable rise is the number of universities taking education for sustainable development seriously and embedding it in the curriculum. All but 24 of the 154 universities considered are doing at least something to prepare students for the environmental challenges they will face. Of those, 69 have a written commitment at a senior level. Data collected every year at enrolment shows the majority of students – 82% – rates sustainability as important and 68% say they are gaining skills and knowledge about it while at university. Again this year, the newer universities dominate the top of the table and many of the older, research-intensive universities lag behind. One of the most surprising fails, with a total score of 18.5, is Imperial College London, which comes 141st – despite its world class reputation for science, engineering, business and medicine, all areas fundamental to tackling climate change, poverty, world health, sustainable food production and energy conservation. The University of Oxford has reached 54th place, up from 115th two years ago, scoring a low 35 out of 100 for its ethical investment policy. The University of Cambridge, at 58th, and up from 113th in 2015, scored just 15 out of 100 for its ethical investment policy
NOVEMBER 2017 – CHINA – Beijing vies for greater control of foreign universities in China
More than 2,000 education joint ventures between Chinese and overseas universities have been established since 2003, when they were first allowed. The Chinese Communist party has ordered foreign-funded universities to install party units and grant decision-making powers to a party official, reversing an earlier promise to guarantee academic freedom as President Xi Jinping strengthens political control over all levels of education
NOVEMBER 2017 – GLOBAL – MBAs as a big asset to address environmental challenges
Nearly every leading company — from Google and Facebook to Virgin and Unilever — is addressing the issue of climate change. For example, between 2008 and 2016 Unilever reduced its total generated waste by 96 per cent, while 63 per cent of its total grid electricity consumption last year was from renewables. For most companies, however, the barriers to tackling environmental impact are significant. There is a lack of information. Hence, an MBA student with a strategic understanding of this interdisciplinary area can be a big asset to a company. The London Imperial College Business School MBA students from the financial sector are receiving a lot of interest from companies specifically linked to green and sustainable investment
OCTOBER 2017 – SWEDEN – Nearly one in two university staff are administrative
The number of administrative personnel at Swedish universities has risen seven times as fast as the number of academic staff since 2000, according to research by Daniel Waldenström, a Swedish professor of economics at the Research Institute of Industrial Economics in Stockholm. Hence, the administrative staff now fills nearly half of all university jobs. The raw data used in Waldenström’s analysis show that there were 27,281 academic staff at Swedish universities in 2001, rising to 31,040 in 2013. The number in university administration positions grew from 13,915 to 27,580, while the number of personnel in academic support positions fell from 6,406 to 816. Administrative staff hence accounted for 29% of staff at universities in 2001, and 46% in 2013
OCTOBER 2017 – GERMANY – Accommodation crisis forces students to sleep in tents
Many first-year students are having to sleep in cars, tents or party halls due to continuing accommodation shortages this winter semester, and the German National Association for Student Affairs – Deutsches Studentenwerk or DSW – is calling for more affordable accommodation and more government money to maintain cheap rent levels in its new student hostels. Around 192,000 students are currently accommodated in the 1,700 student hostels run by the DSW throughout Germany. At €241 a month, rent is just below the amount taken as a basis for the BAFöG (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung) federal student grant needs calculations. However, in the university city of Münster, for example, the DSW’s 5,617 flats can only house a mere 10% of all students. In Cologne, the student union has turned a party hall into a makeshift dormitory with mattresses and sanitary installations. “While the number of public-funded places to study has risen by 42% since 2008, government support for housing has only just been enough for the student welfare services to create an additional 5% of hostel accommodation. We must not allow this gap to widen” says DSW Secretary General Achim Meyer auf der Heyde
OCTOBER 2017 – UK & US – Does higher education contribute to rising inequality?
There has been an enormous increase in economic inequality in most Western countries over the past 30 years or so. In the United Kingdom the share of income taken by the top 1% has more than doubled (to 12%); in the United States it has more than tripled. What has happened to personal and household incomes has been paralleled by what has happened to functional incomes. In Britain the share of gross domestic product or GDP accounted for by wages has fallen from just over 60% in 1975 to just under 50% in 2015 (the comparable US percentages are 57% and 53%). It is widely recognised that, after climate change, increased inequality is the greatest challenge now facing the Western world. The post-80s expansion of higher education may actually have contributed to the growth of inequality as a huge gap has opened up between people with and without college degrees. This gap can be seen in the continuing difference in financial rewards between graduates with degrees and high school graduates, the ‘graduate premium’; in the growing geographical separation of communities with and without large concentrations of graduates, which is becoming an important issue in its own right; and in the differences in attitudes towards ‘popular reform’ in the Brexit and US presidential election votes, where it seems clear that the best indicator of whether someone will vote for a populist, anti-establishment candidate is whether they have high-school qualifications or above
OCTOBER 2017 – UK – Oxford and Cambridge accused of 'social apartheid'
Several colleges in both Oxford and Cambridge frequently admit cohorts with no black students in them at all. Roughly 1.5% of total offers are made to black British applicants and more than 80% of offers are made to the children of the two social classes
OCTOBER 2017 – GLOBAL – Major cities losing scientific publication dominance
The results of a study published in the October issue of the journal Scientometrics show that the cities whose scientific papers are historically most often cited (including New York, London and Tokyo) are losing their hegemony. The share of the top 10 global cities in terms of the number of citations received fell from 23% in 2000 to 17.3% in 2010
SEPTEMBER 2017 – UKRAINE – One in six state-funded university places axed
Oleg Sharov, head of the department of higher education of the Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science, said last week: “This year students will not be accepted to receive the degree ‘specialist’. We are leaving Soviet practice behind and moving on to the European one, which is built on three levels: a bachelor, a master, a doctor of philosophy. This will result in the cut of 17% of state-funded places at Ukrainian universities." The specialist degree is a five-year degree that used to be the only first higher education degree in the former Soviet Union and has remained generally preferred by employers in those countries. Sharov, however, also added this will not lead to a reduction of state funding of Ukrainian universities, which will actually grow this year by 9%, up to UAH23.69 billion (€760 million), compared to 2016. In the meantime, these state plans have been criticised by the Ukrainian university community and students. In 2017, the total number of state-funded places in Ukrainian universities amounted to 212,388 students, of which 189,728 were full-time students. During the period of 2018-19, the total will decline further, to 201,500 in 2018 and 199,200 in 2019. This is the second measure taken by the Ukrainian government this year that aims to cut state funding of the national system of higher education. In January, the number of students receiving scholarships – a stipend towards living costs – in Ukrainian universities dropped by almost 60% because of the new system, which sets higher levels of student academic achievement as a condition of receiving a scholarship. Currently, the total number of students studying at Ukrainian universities is estimated at about 380,000. Of these, about 180,000 pay fees to study on a contractual basis. Since 2012 the number of students signing contracts with Ukrainian universities has fallen by 50%, as the majority of these students prefer to study abroad
SEPTEMBER 2017 – THAILAND – Drastic population drop to hit higher education funding
Some 80,000 Thai students nationwide applied for the central admissions examination compared to 100,000 last year. Some 110,000 places are available in the higher education system in 2017 – already reduced from 156,000 available places two years ago. Rapid expansion of universities, increased competition among education institutions – currently, there are a total of 170 higher education institutions in Thailand – and population decline are being blamed for the gap between higher education supply and demand, experts say. Higher education expanded rapidly during the 1980s due to an increase in population, where over one million babies were born each year. However, this has dropped to an average of 600,000-700,000 babies born each year in recent years. According to 2015 statistics from the United Nations’ population division, Thailand ranks seventh in the world in terms of rapidly-aging population. The country’s economic planning agency, the National Economic and Social Development Board, also estimates that by 2040 the school-age group will drop to 20% of the population, compared to 62% in 1980. Education experts warn that without reforms to the higher education sector, Thailand’s drastic population drop in recent years could affect the funding and quality of universities
SEPTEMBER 2017 – WORLD – Large gender disparity in graduate premium across OECD
Figures published in the OECD’s 2017 Education at a Glance report – published on 12 September –show that out of 28 countries where data were available, only in Spain and Estonia was the net graduate premium higher for women. The net financial return for female graduates in Spain is $195,300 (€165,272), which is almost $43,000 (€37,000) more than the net return for male degree holders. In Estonia, women can expect a graduate premium of $116,500 (€98,588) which is just over $27,000 (€22,800) more than men. In the 26 other countries where figures were available, men had a higher net graduate premium (calculated by taking the extra money earned by graduates compared with school-leavers and subtracting costs such as tuition fees and forgone earnings while at university). In seven countries, the “gender gap” in the net graduate premium was more than 50 per cent. The highest disparity was in Japan, where male graduates can expect a net financial return of almost $240,000 (€203,000), compared with just $28,200 (€23,866) for women. The biggest female graduate premium was in Luxembourg, where women with degrees could expect to earn almost $330,000 (€279,282) more than those who went straight into work after leaving school. However, this is smaller than the country’s male graduate premium, which is $374,500 (€316,943). According to the data, the countries with the most equal graduate premiums were the Netherlands (a gender gap of 5.9 per cent) and Norway (6.7 per cent). Across the OECD, the average gap was 33.6 per cent, with men earning a graduate premium of about $250,000 (€211,500) and women about $170,000 (€144,000)
SEPTEMBER 2017 – UK – English fee cut, grant plan would give ‘more control’ to aid STEM
The SundayTimes reported on 17 September that the chancellor, Philip Hammond, “is considering slashing the annual tuition fee universities can charge to £7,500 (€8,539)”. The government would “top up” that fee with a £1,500 (€1,708) grant for students in science and technology courses, it added. Such a move would reduce the Treasury’s outlay on loans. However, Chris Belfield, a research economist at the IFS (Institute of Fiscal Studies) said that “if the lost fee income is replaced with grants then the government will be worse off in the long run (due to the lost repayments from high earning graduates)” in a £7,500 (€8,539) fee system. But he added that “replacing fees (and loans) with grants does have the benefit that the government has more control over how these are targeted". The IFS report Higher Education Funding in England: past, present and options for the future found that in the switch to £9,000 (€10,248) fees there were proportionally greater per-student income increases for classroom-based subjects than for more costly subjects in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The IFS commented that the current system “does not give the government much flexibility to directly target courses or individuals that have high value to society”
SEPTEMBER 2017 – TAIWAN – Could Chinese demand plug Taiwan’s higher education hole?
Taiwan has more than 150 higher education institutions, including those in the state and private sectors. In 1950, there were just seven. However, according to the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) World Factbook, Taiwan’s fertility rate of just 1.12 children per couple put it 156th out of 158 listed countries in 2016, with only Macao and Singapore ranked lower. The implications for universities are clear. A report by the Taiwan Ministry of Education last year found that 151 tertiary institutions had offered classes that had seen zero people enrol. Sixty-four of the affected departments and graduate programmes were at the more respected public universities, with the remaining 87 at private schools. A further 269 programmes across the sector were less than 30 per cent full, the ministry’s report found. Hence, attracting students from China could become critical for universities. But the desperation to attract fee-paying students from mainland China is, many believe, having a damaging impact on Taiwanese academic freedom. Earlier this year, for instance, a Ministry of Education emergency investigation reported that at least 80 institutions in Taiwan had signed agreements with institutions in mainland China saying they would avoid teaching topics that China may view as controversial, such as the “one China” policy, or the issue of Taiwanese independence
AUGUST 2017 – UK – Are UK vice-chancellors overpaid?
The average university leader’s salary hit £258,000 (€279,000) in 2015-16, according to Times Higher Education’s recent survey, rising to more than £280,000 (€303,000) when pension contributions are included. Moreover, those figures have risen substantially in recent years, while pay for academic and support staff pay has been held back. Following UK politicians’ anger over vice-chancellors’ pay levels, Jo Johnson, Minister for universities and science, has unveiled plans to require universities to publicly justify paying their leaders anything above the prime minister’s salary of £150,000. But are university leaders really overpaid? Who are we comparing them with? Even the £434,000 (€467,000) earned by the sector’s top earner, the University of Bath’s Dame Glynis Breakwell, is tiny compared with the £1.75 (€1.89) million recently revealed to have been paid by the BBC to sports presenter Gary Lineker in 2016-17. If you don’t like that comparison, think about equivalent jobs in comparable countries. A quick Google search reveals that in the latest year for which figures are available, eight US college presidents each earned over $2 million (€1.7 million). Nine Australian vice-chancellors earned more than A$1 million (€864,000). In Canada, as far back as 2010, Ontario’s top university boss was being paid more than C$1 million (€663,000). Even in New Zealand, the University of Auckland’s vice-chancellor earns more than NZ$710,000 (€471,000). In reality, running a major university today is a hugely demanding job, requiring clear leadership, detailed managerial skill, fundraising ability and considerable stamina – usually on top of a strong, if largely irrelevant, academic record
AUGUST 2017 – JAPAN – How do university leaders view internationalisation?
The Research Institute for Higher Education at Japan’s Hiroshima University implemented a national survey of 744 university leaders in charge of international activities to discover their views, following recent political developments worldwide (e.g Trump’s administration and the Brexit) which might have a negative impact on their international activities. More than half of Japanese universities (58.6%) believe that internationalisation is an important agenda at an institutional level. Frequently cited goals of internationalisation include ‘improving the quality and level of research’ (34.3%), ‘enhancing university prestige and reputation’ (31.4%) and ‘improving staff quality’ (30.8%). However, sectoral stratification is clearly evident. Leaders of national universities are notably more likely (93%) than their local public (43.4%) or private (43.1%) counterparts to identify internationalisation as an important agenda. And while the primary goal of both national and local public sectors is to improve the quality of research (80.6 % and 41.7% respectively), private universities primarily hope to enhance their prestige and reputation (21.4%). When asked to identify important practices of internationalisation, the top response from all respondents emphasised outbound student mobility (94.8%), followed by ‘strengthening students’ English proficiency’ (89%), ‘hiring international staff and researchers’ (81.1%), ‘dispatching academic and administrative staff abroad for research and training’ (79.7%) and ‘accepting international students’ (79.7%). National universities tend to engage in a broad range of these activities, while private universities, in contrast, focus on the exchange of students and staff with foreign partners, particularly attracting international students to their campuses. Many more aspects of internationalisation were explored. In conclusion, it appears that the international context signified by the Trump administration and Brexit has exerted little influence on the appetite in Japanese universities for internationalisation. Nor have Japanese universities considerably slowed their pace of internationalisation
AUGUST 2017 – JAPAN – Regional universities: a new focus of research excellence
Substantial research grants will be extended to regional universities, according to budget proposals currently being drawn up for the 2018 fiscal year. The Ministry of Education launched the World Premier International Research Center Initiative or WPI in 2007 to shore up the country’s international research competitiveness. The programme, supporting large teams of researchers, allocates an annual budget of JPY1.4 billion (€10.7 million) to create world-class research hubs. Nine leading institutions are recipients, including the national University of Tokyo and Tohoku University. Currently two research projects are ongoing. But under the current plan the government will allocate hundreds of millions of Yen each year to research centres outside the main cities, that are not part of the WPI project, so as narrow the gaping divide between Japan’s elite research institutions and regional universities
AUGUST 2017 – UK – Net migration to UK drops to lowest level for three years
Net migration to the UK has fallen to its lowest level in three years, as significantly more EU citizens left the country in the wake of the Brexit vote, official statistics have shown. The headline net migration figure of 246,000, which is the difference between immigration and emigration, was 81,000 lower than the 327,000 recorded in the March 2016 according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Related research also revealed that the impact of international students on net migration is much lower than previously thought. The Home Office paper on “exit checks” data – a proper count of all people who are actually known to have left the UK – found 176,317 (97.4%) of 181, 024 international students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) left before their visa expires
AUGUST 2017 – GLOBAL – Female leadership advances slowly in world's top universities
Just 36 – or 18 per cent – of the top 200 universities in the latest Times Higher Education (THE) 2016-17 ranking have a female leader. Sweden is the country with the highest proportion of female leaders; of the six Swedish institutions that make the world top 200, four are led by women. Meanwhile, one of Belgium’s three representatives – Ghent University – and two of Switzerland’s seven-strong cohort have a female leader. The US is home to the highest number of female presidents (12), largely owing to its high number of institutions in THE's top 200. But its share of female leaders at the top of the table has fallen three percentage points to 33 per cent, despite the fact that the number of US top-200 universities remained the same. Meanwhile, six of the 36 female leaders (17 per cent) are based in the UK, including Louise Richardson, vice-chancellor of the world’s highest-ranked institution, the University of Oxford. But gender parity in the world’s two leading higher education nations is little better than the average for the entire top 200, with only 19 % of elite US and UK universities headed by women. Of the 28 countries that feature in the top 200, 17 have no female university leaders.
JULY 2017 – UK – Let's undo the great mistake: make university tuition free
Why did the last two UK governments overturn a stable university funding system? CIearly it was convenient to push £16bn (€17.8 bn) of £17bn (€18.9 bn) in higher education expenditures off the government’s books and on to the backs of graduates. This month’s report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies “Higher Education Funding in England: past, present and options for the future” confirmed that by tripling the fee cap from one year to the next, the new policy doubled debt per graduate to £50,000 (€ 55,700) in just five years. That’s a level that the US took 50 years to achieve – except that the US average is still about $37,000 (€32,000). But that isn’t the whole story: it’s about “the great mistake” in higher education policy, i.e. miscategorising higher education as a private good. The private good model sorts people by willingness or ability to pay. Families with more resources send their children to more prestigious – meaning more selective – universities, which correlates with more money per student and higher graduation rates. In the US, this has meant that students from families in the top quartile by income have nearly doubled graduation rates over the past four decades. Meanwhile, students from the bottom quartile started at a fraction of the top group’s participation and have made little progress. It’s too early in Great Britain’s experiment with tuition-based university funding to see the divergence - but under the current model it will happen. According to Christopher Newfield, professor of English and American Studies at the University of California, the real difference between the US and British systems is that Great Britain can still easily fix its “higher education mistake”. Instead of tweaking interest rates or income repayment thresholds, it should cut tuition to zero, replace all lost revenue with teaching grants, restore maintenance grants, and buy down the £100m (€110m) in student debt. The government will need to raise revenues to cover part or all of the £8bn to £13bn annual cost. Such numbers are used to describe free university as unaffordable, but it is not. In California, Christopher Newfield with his colleagues calculated that making that state’s 3 public university systems tuition free (for their 2.7 million students) while replacing all lost revenue would cost the median taxpayer an income tax surcharge of $48 (£37) per year – or one bottle of decent scotch. Free university is affordable, and the benefits to the whole society are far greater than the cost. With any luck, the UK will beat us to it - Christopher Newfield concludes
JULY 2017 – UK – The Guardian view on the 1%: all gain, no pain
As research for the Resolution Foundation shows , the rich are back. While the rest of society have shared in an equality of misery following the 2008 financial crash, the top 1% – households with incomes of £275,000 – have now recovered all the ground they lost during the world’s worst post-second world war slump. The share of income going to the very richest is now 8.5%. That’s double their share in 1985. The question has to be asked: has the value of the 1% in society doubled in the last 20 years? The economy is about £300bn (€336bn) smaller than would be expected if the crash had not happened. While public spending as a proportion of GDP might be roughly constant since the crash, the country’s needs are higher, so there’s a feeling of less to go round. Nevertheless, there has been a quiet secession of the successful. When a dividend tax was readied for 2016-17, the very wealthy took their payments early and avoided £800m (€895m), money that could have been used for schools and hospitals. More than £100m (€112m) of that tax saving was enjoyed by 100 people. The OECD study “The squeezed middle class in OECD and emerging countries –myth and reality” shows a decline in the influence of the middle-classes, compared with the wealthy, fuelling social and political instability. The rich think all their power and money and success is down to their brilliance and hard work. This is why the FTSE CEOs now earn on average £5.3m (€6m) a year, 386 times more than workers on a national living wage. But as a matter of fact the richest in our society are not worth the rewards they give themselves
JULY 2017 – UK – Students should not try to pay off loans early, research suggests
Students should not try to pay off their loans early despite the controversial interest rate rise to 6.1% in September, according to research by money expert Martin Lewis. Lewis estimates that “overpaying is just throwing money away” unless the graduate is likely to be in very high-paid employment all their lives. Only if the student lands a job earning £40,000 (€45,000) a year on graduation, and then enjoys big pay rises after, should they consider repaying their loan early, said Lewis. A graduate earning £36,000 (€40,000) a year will repay £40,500 (€45,000) of a £55,000 (€61,500) total student loan over 30 years, said Lewis, at the current repayment rates. The remaining debt will be wiped clean after 30 years. If the same graduate cuts the total £55,000 (€61,500) balance to £45,000 (€50,000) with an overpayment of £10,000 (€11,000), they will still have to repay the same amount of student loan over 30 years, making the overpayment entirely pointless. Student loan debt has been soaring and its total value rose above £100bn (€112bn), for the first time earlier this year, according to figures released by the Student Loans Company. Lewis echoed findings from the Institute for Fiscal Studies earlier this month, which found the government will have to write off some or all of the debt taken out by 77% of students because they will not earn enough to repay their loans within 30 years of graduation. “Most graduates won’t come close to repaying 6.1%. Not just for the obvious reason that the interest is only that high for those earning £41,000+ (€46,000),” he said. “More potently it’s because what you owe [your borrowing plus interest] doesn’t change what you repay. That’s fixed at 9% of everything earned above £21,000 (€23,500). “I’m tempted to say ‘rip up your student loan statement’ – it’s just frightening and irrelevant. Just accept you’ll pay a 9% increased tax-like burden.”
JULY 2017 – NORWAY – Strong punishment for misuse of the title ‘Professor’
The Ministry of Education and Research is proposing new legislation to punish unauthorised use of the title of professor. In a letter outlining proposed new regulations, the ministry said that those falsely using the protected title of professor, or using this title in part, will be punished by fines of up to NOK188,000 (€ 20,000). The Ministry said it had noticed that staff members at universities, university colleges and in the institute sector have been using the title of research professor as a position they have even if they are not employed as professors. “Employees of research institutions cannot use the title of professor when they are not entitled to this according to the law," the Ministry said
JULY 2017 – RUSSIA – Government cuts 40% of state-funded university places
The Russian government is pushing on with plans to cut 40% of state-funded places in domestic universities in 2018 and to cut teaching jobs at state universities as a consequence of the difficulties in the Russian economy following the financial crisis and the Western sanctions. It is planned that this year up to 500 scientists will be laid off from Russian universities in early 2018. Overall, up to 8,300 scientific workers will lose their jobs in Russian universities by 2020, while the share of spending on education in total budget expenditure will fall from 2.75% in 2015 to 2.45% in 2020. However, funding cuts will not affect some of Russia’s leading higher education institutions, such as Moscow State University, Saint Petersburg State University, the National Research University Higher School of Economics, Sevastopol National Technical University and some others, which are considered as strategically important for Russia and its national economy. In contrast, funding of these higher education institutions will be increased by RUB17 billion (€243 million) during 2018-19. It is planned that this sum will be equally distributed among these universities. Still, many Russian MPs privately oppose the initiative. “We need to take into account the future demographic situation in Russia, with the number of students studying at Russian universities expected to fall by 700,000 [at the beginning of 2018], creating a ratio of 125 students for 10,000 people,” Oleg Smolin, first deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee on Education said. “And if the proposal of the government is implemented, then the ratio will fall below 120 students per 10,000 people, a very low figure for such a country as Russia.”
JUNE 2017 – UK – University attended has stronger link to high earnings
The Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) dataset, released by the UK’s Department for Education, pinpoints for every subject area which universities produce the highest-earning graduates. The dataset reveals that attending a more selective university carries much more of an advantage in some subjects than others. For instance, the median salary after 5 years for a Cambridge graduate who left in 2008-09 after studying an economics subject was £61,000 (about €69,000), the highest in the sector, while the lowest median salary for economics was £18,100 (about €20,500) for someone who went to the University of East London. But another popular subject such as English shows a much smaller spread: the highest median salary after 5 years was again earned by a Cambridge graduate, but was lower at £31,000; while the lowest, £13,300, was recorded for a graduate attending the University of St Mark and St John
JUNE 2017 – EUROPE – Is Europe actually catching US on high-impact science?
The paper published in the Science and Public Policy Journal, “European paradox or delusion – are European science and economy outdated?” says no. The paper suggests that the decentralised nature of research funding in the US is less constraining for young scientists and increases their chances of winning grants. According to the paper’s authors Alonso Rodríguez-Navarro, emeritus professor at the Centre for Plant Biotechnology and Genomics at the Polytechnic University of Madrid and Francis Narin, former president of research consultancy CHI Research (now The Patent Board), “EU science is not excellent, [it] lags far behind the US in most fields, and is in danger of, and in some cases already is, falling behind China and other Asian [countries] in science areas critical to highly scientific future industries”. However, case critics are not lacking from Sir Richard Roberts, joint winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine and chief scientific officer of Massachusetts-based bioscience supplier New England Biolabs, from the European Commission and from Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, president of the European Research Council (ERC), who underlines the importance of ERCs citing a recent independent report by Clarivate Analytics
JUNE 2017 – EUROPE – Europeans back funding vocational training over higher education
A pan-European survey of nearly 9,000 citizens in 8 European countries reveals continent’s education funding priorities. Only 17 % chose higher education, compared with 30 % who want more vocational education and training (VET). 39 % backed general schooling and 15 % preschool. Support for prioritising higher education was highest in Spain (30 %) and Italy (23 %), and lowest in Sweden (6 %), Germany and Denmark (both 9 %). Professor Busemeyer – who co-authored the survey - suggested that enthusiasm for vocational training could be a reaction to the enormous expansion of universities. The survey results were published as “Investing in education in Europe: evidence from a new survey of public opinion” in the Journal of European Social Policy
JUNE 2017 – UK – The universities’ priorities for Brexit talks
In a recent policy brief on the priorities for Brexit negotiations and policy development, Universities UK – whose members are the vice-chancellors or principals (executive heads) of universities in the UK – said British Universities have a vital contribution to make to a successful, dynamic and internationally competitive post-exit United Kingdom. Universities generate an annual output of £73 billion (€83 billion) for the British economy and contribute 2.8% of UK gross domestic product. They generate more than 750,000 jobs and around £11 billion of export earnings for the UK annually. Currently, 17% (33,735) of academic staff at UK universities are from other EU countries and there are more than 125,000 EU students studying at UK universities. In terms of research collaboration, the UK is one of the main players in the EU's research and innovation programme Horizon 2020. Hence, Universities UK’ priorities for exit negotiations include, inter alia: agreeing the residency and work rights for EU nationals currently working in the university sector; securing continued UK participation in the Horizon 2020 programme and access to Erasmus+ and Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions mobility programmes
JUNE 2017 – IRELAND– The cuts may force cap on Irish (but not foreign) students
Professor Andrew Deeks, president of University College Dublin or UCD, said in a statement: “Unless there is movement on the funding of Irish students soon, the university will have to seriously consider the option of reducing the number of places available to Irish students in order to preserve quality." However, the same cannot be said for non-EU students since international undergraduate students generally pay €18,000 to €24,000 in fees while graduate-entry medical students pay up to €50,000, which helps subsidise higher education for Irish and EU students. Currently, most Irish students and students from other EU or European Economic Area countries or Switzerland pay €3,000 each towards non-tuition costs.
JUNE 2017 – FINLAND – Universities provide key contribution to economy
The key finding of the report Economic Contribution of the Finnish Universities is that in 2016 the economic contribution of Finnish universities equated to over 6% of economic output and more than 5% of employment. The report was published by BiGGAR Economics, a Scottish-based company which specialises in analysing universities’ contribution to national economies. The report’s key finding implies that for each €1 Finnish universities generated through their direct operations terms, they created almost €8 in total benefits for the Finnish economy, and each person directly employed by the universities supported more than four jobs elsewhere in Finland. In a hypothetical situation, if the universities’ core funding was reduced by 10%, this could result in a loss of 16,900 jobs and €1.8 billion ‘gross added value’ in Finland. Such a reduction in the economic impact might be associated with a reduction in taxation revenues of €0.8 billion
JUNE 2017 – AUSTRALIA – Is university drop-out rate really alarming?
Claims by critics in the Australian media that universities are facing a crisis of rising student drop-out rates because of poor admission standards and students unprepared for higher education have been rejected by the new report entitled Improving retention, completion and success in higher education written by the government-commission Higher Education Standards Panel The current system encourages universities to enrol students who would typically never undertake university studies, notably those from low socio-economic families, migrants and indigenous communities. The government promised it would cover the cost of increased enrolments and the past 10 years have seen dramatic rises in student numbers. Domestic student enrolments jumped from less than 700,000 in 2007 to almost 950,000 last year, a 38% increase. In the same period, foreign student enrolments rose from 215,500 to 303,000, or nearly 41%. Recent research has found the most likely factors contributing to student attrition are part-time attendance, followed by age and academic preparation. Research by academics at Melbourne’s La Trobe University found much of student attrition was either unpredictable or inevitable. Common reasons cited by students for withdrawing were personal, including physical or mental health issues, financial pressures and other reasons often beyond institutional control
MAY 2017 – DENMARK – New employment outcomes criteria in university funding
The Minister of Higher Education and Science Søren Pind has proposed a shake-up in which the DKK 13 billion (€1.75 billion) budget for the system – which caters for 270,000 students – will be divided up using the taximeter system for 70% of the allocation (which is linked to the number of examinations passed by students), while 20% is given as a basic component, and 10% as a ‘quality and results’ component, based on the proportion of candidates that are graduating on time and the degree of transfer to working life the higher education is providing
MAY 2017 – AUSTRALIA – Students pay more, universities have less
The 2017 budget for university funding tabled by Treasurer Scott Morrison hits universities and their students hard. Students will have to pay an additional 7.5% in fees to undertake their degrees by 2021, while universities face cuts of AU$2.8 billion (€1.89) in their federal grants. Overall, the government will slash its investment in higher education by 10%, leaving university incomes down 2.9% a year for the foreseeable future. In another controversial move, the government will withhold a further 7.5% of its total funding for ‘performance’ payments that will be taken out of the pool from which all universities compete. Critics say the AU$500 million that universities currently count on to fund salaries – their largest single annual expenditure – and all the other annual expenditures, will no longer be predictable
MAY 2017 – SWEDEN – International student fee case goes to high court
Mälardalen University has appealed to the High Court to overturn the verdict reached in Svea Hovrätt, the Court of Appeal, which ruled that it must repay international student Connie Askenbäck the tuition fees she paid for a course which was evaluated as being of 'poor quality', which amount to SEK170,000 (€17,750). Mälardalen University is also asking for a refund of their legal costs of SEK668,750 (€69,040) up to this stage, plus the lawyer fees for processing the case in the High Court. The main argument in its appeal is that even if courses were evaluated as being of poor quality in Sweden under the evaluation procedure used when Connie Askenbäck studied there, these courses are valid under Swedish university law. Mälardalen University will also argue that it was not the only institution to have a course marked down in this way. Out of 2,088 courses evaluated in 2011-15, 548 or 26% were evaluated as being of poor quality. After a year of improvements, 466 of these were evaluated as being of high quality
MAY 2017 – GERMANY – Call for pact to tackle affordable student housing shortage
The German Student Welfare Service or Deutsches Studentenwerk (DSW), representing Germany’s 58 student services organisations, has made an urgent appeal to federal and state governments to provide more housing for students. According to the DSW, over the next four years investment totaling roughly €3.3 billion will be required for student housing – around €2 billion for the creation of cheap hostel accommodation for students throughout Germany and about €1.3 billion for the renovation of hostel facilities in order to maintain already existing affordable housing. To implement these measures, the student services organisations would have to be provided with a €1.45 billion federal and state subsidy, DSW says
MAY 2017 – UK – Students resorting to ever-more-imaginative ways to cheat
After micro-earpieces, smart watches and miniature mobile phones confiscated from exams, last year a law student was caught red-handed with 24 pages of unauthorised notes written in “invisible UV ink”. This is but one among several cases detailed in the latest annual report of the higher education ombudsman serving England and Wales (the Office of the Independent Adjudicator – OIA). However, despite growing concern over the rise in such incidents, plagiarism and academic dishonesty featured in only 4% of the 1,668 cases closed by the OIA in 2016. The bulk of appeals to the OIA related to “academic status”, with 53% centred on student disputes about their grades. Furthermore, the overall number of complaints received by the OIA also dropped dramatically last year, falling from 1,850 in 2015 to 1,517 in 2016, an 18% decrease. It means that appeals received by the OIA are now at their lowest level since 2010, defying predictions that complaints to the ombudsman would soar when £9,000-a-year tuition fees were introduced in England in 2012
MAY 2017 – UK – Academic pay is still falling and equality is still an issue
Times Higher Education has published a snapshot of average pay for full-time university staff across the UK. The figures are broken down by role, gender and ethnicity. Referring to the gender gap, at first glance, the picture is mixed: the closing of the gender pay gap at the professorial level appears to have stalled. It nudged up very slightly in 2015-16 to 5.83 per cent after also rising the year before. But the pay gap between male and female professors is still smaller than that for academics overall: the latter figure was 10.5 per cent in 2015-16, meaning that women’s average salary was 89.5 per cent of men’s. But the gap across all ranks of academics has been continuously falling since 2010-11, when it was 12.3 per cent. Any discussion of the pay gaps between university staff from different ethnic backgrounds is much less further advanced. For professional and support roles, the overall average pay gap between black and white staff in 2015-16 was 7.3% – rising to 12.6% for senior administrative posts. Among academics, blacks were paid 12.6% less than their white colleagues, while for academics of Asian ethnicity, the gap was 10.4%. Perhaps most striking, though, is that for the most senior academic roles, including professors, Asian staff are actually paid more than their white colleagues while black academics endure pay gaps against white staff of 6.0 % for professors and 13.3 % for other senior academic jobs
APRIL 2017 – UK – Drop in overseas students: not just a Brexit matter
According to figures at the beginning of this academic year, UK higher education system is still attracting over 130,000 overseas students. Historically, a rule of thumb suggests that about one in five of the students at British universities come from overseas, and about one in four of postgraduates. However the figures have started to slide. Those who came UK to study in the three months to September 2016 were at the lowest level since 2002. In the US the number of foreign students went up by about 10% in 2015 (though this figure may have taken a hit last year after the election of Donald Trump). In Australia, the figure in 2015 rose by 9%. In the UK it went up by 1%. Brexit anxieties have probably hit the latest numbers, which continued to sag. But the perception issue goes much wider than this. India, for instance, has criticised the British government for not appearing to want to educate its young people, unlike those from Canada, Australia, France and Germany. It is surprising that in the quarter before last September more students came to Britain from Central and South America than from south Asia
APRIL 2017 – GERMANY – What's it like to study in Germany?
For British students wishing to do a full-time degree, or just get out to the continent on a year abroad while they are still EU citizens, Germany – named the most attractive destination for foreign students in Study.EU Country Ranking 2017 for International Students – could be the place to go. Although English-taught programmes are rare for undergraduate courses, they are more common for postgrads. At master’s level, there are about 970 courses taught in English and 250 PhDs. Getting into a German university can be tricky, since they require four instead of three subjects at A-level. But according to the British Council senior advisor on mobility, some students have reported being able to attend top universities although they may not be eligible for one in the UK. While undergraduate fees are set to rise over £9,000 a year in the UK, German public universities charge just a few hundred euros a year. However, it is worth mentioning that private universities charge a lot more
APRIL 2017 – GLOBAL – Young universities outperform their old counterpart
The world’s youngest universities outperform their older counterparts when it comes to attracting overseas students and publishing international research, according to data used in the 2017 Times Higher Education Young University Rankings. The data also show that Generation X (1967-1985) universities and the Millennials (from 2000 to present day) achieved the greatest scores for citation impact on average
APRIL 2017 – AUSTRALIA – All Australian universities commit to releasing sexual assault data
Every one of Australia's universities has committed to simultaneously releasing data on sexual assaults on their campuses after concerns were raised about a landmark survey of 39,000 students that would not reveal how many assaults had occurred at each institution. In February, universities were accused of "actively covering up sexual assaults" after a submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission alleged there had been just six expulsions in the past five years despite more than 500 official complaints
APRIL 2017 – DENMARK – Cut in study places aimed at culling EU student intake
The Minister for Higher Education and Science has decided to cut the intake of business academies and professional universities for higher education courses by a quarter – a cut of 1,600 study places. The impact will be to reduce the number of European Union students claiming support grants, which has risen steeply because programmes taught in English attract a high percentage of EU students. The decision follows analysis by the Ministry of Education and Science showing that only 20% of graduates from the English-taught courses at the business academies and university colleges are working in Denmark two years after graduation. Of professional degree holders, 57% left Denmark less than two years after graduation, while the corresponding rate is 31% for the business academy graduates. Of the latter group, 27% are in continuing education two years after graduation
MARCH 2017 – GLOBAL – Does university size matter?
The average number of students at an institution in the 2017 World’s Best Small Universities Ranking by Times Higher Education (THE) is 3,038 – that’s about the same number of people as would fit on 45 London buses. In contrast, the average number of students at an institution in THE’s World University Ranking is 24,953 (or a whopping 378 buses!). In THE’s recent ranking of the best liberal arts colleges in the US, it was found that students in the smaller places were generally more satisfied with the teaching they received, and it seems that this positive view of smaller schools is echoed by students from Paris to Japan
MARCH 2017 – GERMANY – ‘Elite’ status: all risk and no benefit for universities?
Stripping universities of a marker of elite status hits their reputation and causes them to lose students, but the benefits of conferring it in the first place are negligible. These are the findings of a German study by Professor Wigger, Kerstin Bruckmeier and Georg-Benedikt Fischer which was published in the International Journal of Economics and Finance. To give but one example in the state of Baden-Württemberg, losing official excellence status was correlated with subsequent recruitment of 7 per cent less first-year students than would otherwise have been expected. However, Professor Wigger’s research found that universities that won elite status for the first time enjoyed no bump in their student numbers
MARCH 2017 – FRANCE – Paris university offers 160 scholarships for international students
The University of Paris-Saclay is widening its international student outreach by offering 160 scholarships to outstanding master’s students. The grants will be valued at up to €10,000 for each student and will be awarded to those who have demonstrated academic excellence. Admittance to a master’s programme does not automatically entitle a student to a scholarship. Applications to master’s programmes will be individually reviewed by a panel of experts made up of University of Paris-Saclay members. The scholarships are available to students outside France and those aged up to 30. They can be granted for one or two years depending on the course selected. The University of Paris-Saclay offers 350 courses at master’s level – 12 per cent of these courses are taught in English
MARCH 2017 – CHINA – Are Chinese PhDs becoming more like US doctorates?
A recent Centre for Global Higher Education working paper reveals that, within the Chinese system of doctoral education, the shift towards a United States influence is evident and considerable. An increasing number of doctoral programmes are being provided in Chinese universities, as opposed to being solely provided by research institutes. In 1995 the proportion of doctoral graduates from research institutes accounted for 16% of the total, but by 2013 this had declined to 7%. The doctoral student body has become increasingly diversified, with at least three broad types of students: the traditional cohort (78.4% of the total), students in service (16.6%) and private doctoral students (5%). There has been rapid growth in numbers of professional doctorates, from 2% in 2009 to 3.5% in 2013, as well as in the number of professional doctoral degrees – 6 by 2014
MARCH 2017 – NORWAY – Fees for international students put on election agenda
Fees for international students are a hotly debated topic within the general election debate in Norway. To give but one example, Christian Anton Smedshaug, a member of the programme committee of the Centre Party, wrote in the student newspaper Universitas: “The growth in the number of foreign students is high, totalling 25,000 students, compared to 10,000 ten years ago. This is expensive. On average a study place costs NOK200,000 [€21,928]. The cost of foreign students hence is close to NOK5 billion [€548 million] or 13% of the total budget for higher education. It is therefore necessary to bring the Norwegian system on a par with that of our neighbouring countries, like Denmark, introducing tuition fees [for non-EEA students] in 2006, Sweden in 2011 and Finland in 2016”. However, Marianne Andenæs, chair of the National Union of Students in Norway, said Norway will not become better by closing higher education inside a “payment fence”
FEBRUARY 2017 – UNITED STATES – 17 top global universities vs the Trump immigration ban
This month 17 American universities joined a court challenge to President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration (see the article for the complete list of universities). The reason is simple: American higher education system heavily depends on international students and staff. To give but a few examples, at MIT, 40% of graduate students and 10% of undergraduate students are international, at Stanford, nearly 9% of undergraduates and 33.5% of graduate students are international. Moreover, at Yale there are 4,462 international students, faculty and scholars, hence Yale’s faculty is 10% international, as is around 65% of its postdoctoral research
FEBRUARY 2017 – NETHERLANDS – The university brand goes global
In Dutch research universities, the proportion of international faculty members increased from 17% in 2003 to 33% of the total in 2015. By 2012 the proportion of PhD candidates accounted for the largest share (46%), followed by other research staff (36%) – in particular post-doctoral students and lecturers – while the proportion of professors constituted the smallest share of the total (15%). As of 2012, by region of origin, the total number of international faculty members coming from the European Union or European Economic Area (20.7% of faculty members) was more than the number from outside (12.5%)
FEBRUARY 2017 – AUSTRALIA – Education exports hit record high of nearly US$17 billion
Export earnings from selling Australian higher education to foreign students reached a record high of nearly A$22 billion (€16 billion) in 2016 – an astonishing 17% increase on the total for the previous year and the biggest annual growth rate since 2010. The capacity of Australian universities to boost their income from selling courses to foreign students is shown by the rapid increase in numbers. In 2005, overseas students numbered less than 240,000 while a decade earlier only 52,000 foreigners were enrolled – out of a total university enrolment of 604,000. Foreign students comprised less than 9% of the total population in 1995 – a ratio that has risen three-fold in 20 years
FEBRUARY 2017 – UNITED STATES – Trump’s travel ban orders will harm US higher education
The recent ban on entry into the United States by citizens from seven Muslim countries will dramatically reduce the number of international students, not only from the seven named countries but other Muslim-majority countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The ban will also be extremely damaging for Optional Practical Training or OPT, which is is a highly attractive programme for international students. The number of OPT students from the seven banned countries rose by 664% between 2014-15 and 2015-16 to 1,940. Furthermore, it should be mentioned that in 2008 and 2016 a 17-month OPT extension for students graduating with a degree in a STEM – science, technology, engineering, mathematics – field was approved. Data from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program indicates that in 2016, 83% of Indian students, 43% of Saudi Arabian students, 78% of Iranian students and 40% of Chinese students were enrolled in STEM programmes
FEBRUARY 2017 – UNITED STATES – Trump's travel ban hits Iranian professors, students hard
Of the seven Muslim-majority countries that the Trump administration’s order targets (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) Iran by far sends the most students to American colleges and universities. In 2015-16, more than 12,000 Iranians studied in the United States, with a majority of them – almost 78% – in graduate programmes, according to the Institute of International Education. Iraq sent the next-largest cohort, about 1,901 students
FEBRUARY 2017 – GLOBAL – How does university excellence relate to country income?
A recent data analysis by Times Higher Education World University Rankings assesses the correlation between country GDP and university performance. At first sight, there is a fairly straightforward relationship between GDP and university score: the higher the GDP, the higher the average score. But oddly this strong correlation seems to fade when hitting a GDP of $40,000 (€37,500). The “dwarf stars” countries in terms of GDP (i.e. Kuwait, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar) seem to underperform compared to what we would expect based solely on GDP. On the other hand, the “giants” (Hong Kong and the Netherlands), and the “super giant” (Singapore) countries in terms of higher education quality score are doing far better than their GDP alone would suggest
JANUARY 2017 – UNITED STATES – Technology is changing jobs in the US
Between 1996 and 2015 the share of American workforce employed in routine office jobs declined from 25.5% to 21%, eliminating 7 m jobs. The 2007-08 financial crisis made things worse: between 2007 and 2015 job opening for unskilled routine work suffered a 55% decline relative to other jobs. By contrast, over the past 5 years, demand for data analysis has grown by 372%; within that segment, demand for data-visualisation skills has shot up by 2,574%
JANUARY 2017 – UNITED KINGDOM – A new ‘credible alternative’ to universities
The Green Paper aims to revamp technical education and boost the number of students in higher-level education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, so-called STEM subjects, across the country. The Green Paper will list the areas of technology that could be supported by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. This £4.7 (€ 5.5) billion pot of new funding, announced in November last year, is earmarked for areas where the UK has research and development strengths and the potential to excel, which include smart energy technologies, robotics and artificial intelligence and 5G mobile network technology
JANUARY 2017 – EUROPE - The European public research funding: a focus on the ERC
The European Union’s huge public research funding initiatives involve the Horizon programme, which has a budget of €70 billion and includes the European Research Council or ERC, for ‘frontier’ (basic) research. In the ERC, the criterion for getting funding is the quality of the proposal and all the grants go to individuals, not to universities. Out of a total number of just over 6,000 grants, which correspond to €13 billion from the Horizon programme, 21.1% have gone to researchers working in Britain, 14.9% to Germany, 11.8% to France, 9.4% to the Netherlands and 7.1% to Switzerland
JANUARY 2017 – UNITED KINGDOM – A new typology of professor: the Lego Professor
The Lego Foundation has already made a £4 (€4.65) millions endowment to the university. Of this, £2.5m (€2.9m) has been put aside for the professorship. The remaining £1.5 (€1.75) millions is going to the Pedal Centre – Centre for Research on Play in Education, Development and Learning - whose agenda will, in the future, be determined by the interests of the new professor
JANUARY 2017 – UNITED KINGDOM – No black academics in top roles
Figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency record no black academics in the elite staff category of “managers, directors and senior officials” in 2015-16 – the third year in a row that this has happened
DECEMBER 2016 – UNITED KINGDOM – Female professors earn less than the male ones
According to a paper by Bruce Macfarlane, professor of higher education at University of Southampton, and Damon Burg, a research fellow at Southampton Education School, women academics of all ranks tend to do a disproportionate amount of service that will not lead to promotion, such as mentoring PhD students and junior staff, serving on committees and undertaking commitments outside the university. That may partially explain why female academics earn less than male peers. According to the 2016 Times Higher Education Pay Survey, the pay of female professors at UK universities was £4,570 (€5.430), 5.7% less on average in 2014-15 than the £79,252 (€94.154) earned by male professors
DECEMBER 2016 – GLOBAL – Research funding cuts threaten global innovation
The OECD report Science, Technology and Innovation Outlook 2016 says R&D spending in government and higher education labs, most of which is provided by governments, began flattening out in 2010 following three decades of growth. Although they carry out less than 30% of total R&D in the OECD area, universities and public research institutes perform more than three-quarters of basic research. They often undertake longer-term and higher-risk research, that have more potential to translate into tangible societal benefits
DECEMBER 2016 – SOUTH AFRICA – Universities plan to increase tuition fees
Seven universities have announced an 8% hike in tuition and residence fees – the maximum increase recommended by the Department of Higher Education and Training. The fee increases apply only to those students with a family income of more than R600,000 (€41,290) per annum. Universities need to increase tuition in order to remain financially sustainable following the net decline in income from the state of approximately R54 million for 2017
DECEMBER 2016 – GLOBAL – How to improve universities? Leave the floor to students
OmniPapers launched their international essay contest The Ideal Higher Education Model for My Country. Students from more than 50 countries took part and 218 entries were assessed. What emerged from the contest were some important themes, such as students’ funding, curricula inefficiency and the quality of teaching staff
DECEMBER 2016 – UNITED KINGDOM – The effect of Brexit on the UK university system
A Parliamentary Education Committee’s inquiry was launched in September. It aims to explore the implications of the UK's exit from the European Union for England’s universities both in terms of reputation and number of EU students and staff. The Cambridge University is particularly concerned, since admissions data reveals a 14.1% drop in EU applications for admission in 2017, while overall applications were up by 3.2%
NOVEMBER 2016 –WALES – Every Welsh student will receive a grant of £1,000
Welsh students will receive a universal maintenance grant of £1,000 (€1190), regardless of family income, and will be able top up grants with loans. Students studying in London would receive a 25% boost to their maintenance grants, so that those from the poorest families would receive a maximum of £11,000
NOVEMBER 2016 – AUSTRALIA – Melbourne: a thriving global centre of tertiary education
The city is ranked number two as the best student city, and number five taking research into account. Melbourne is home to upwards of 250,000 tertiary students. International education is the largest export industry in the state and in 2015 it contributed over A$5 billion (US$3.7 billion) to the economy and supported around 40,000 jobs
NOVEMBER 2016 – UNITED KINGDOM – £2bn increase in research spending per year
The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a commitment to £2 billion (€2.39 bn) more spending per year in research and development funding by 2020-21, aimed to raise research and development funding for universities and businesses with R&D projects. But critics say the increase falls way short of the recommended target of spending 3% of gross domestic product or GDP, reaching just 1.7%, an increase of 0.1%
NOVEMBER 2016 – GLOBAL – The importance of graduate employability
According to the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) and Times Higher Education (THE) Rankings, students are increasingly emphasising the link between their university choice and their future career. Employers consider graduates from American universities the most employable, with California Institute of Technology (1st place) leading the pack, followed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2nd) and Harvard University (3rd)
NOVEMBER 2016 – EUROPE – Food Innovation at the centre of Horizon 2020 programme
13 universities and 6 research organisations are members of the 50-institution consortium that has been chosen to set up EIT Food, a project focused on creating a sustainable supply chain from resources to consumers. The total contribution from the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) - an integral part of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 framework programme - could rise to € 400 million, about a quarter of the total consortium costs. The project is expected to attract significant funding from other sources of private and public sector investment
NOVEMBER 2016 – GERMANY – Tuition fees to be reintroduced for non-EU students
Tuition fees were scrapped in Baden-Württemberg in 2011. Now the state government plans to reintroduce tuition fees by autumn 2017 for non-European Union students who are not German residents. The higher education minister refers to a semester fee of €1,500 which would fill a funding gap of around €48 million next year
OCTOBER 2016 – GLOBAL – The access-excellence trade-off
Governments always face a choice between access and excellence. Since 2008, total per-student expenditures across the university sector have risen in only three countries: in United Kingdom (about 8%), in Japan (just over 3%), in Sweden (roughly 15%). Only in Canada, Switzerland and the United States are ‘top’ universities doing better than the rest of the pack. In the United States and Switzerland per-student income climb 10% since 2008, while in Canada it remains constant. In Australia and Sweden, ‘top’ universities are doing worse than the rest of the system. In Sweden, the sector has seen per-student incomes increase by 15%. In Australia, the entire sector is seeing a fall in per-student income, but it is worse in the ‘top’ universities (–15%) than in the sector (–10%)
SEPTEMBER 2016 – UNITED STATES – Harvard University: Annual Endowment Report
The endowment distributed $1.7 (€1.6) billion to Harvard University in fiscal year 2016 - contributing more than one-third of the University’s total operating revenue
AUGUST 2016 – UNITED STATES – American higher education at a crossroads
Educators should ask themselves how best to serve a generation of students as they face evolving challenges that stem from changing demographics, rising income inequality, political tumult and doubts about whether the nation can overcome its deepest divides
AUGUST 2016 – UNITED STATES – Today's biggest challenges for higher education institutions
Finding new ways to teach the digital generation, bringing down the cost of a college education and ensuring that more students graduate are among the biggest challenges facing institutions of higher learning today
JULY 2016 – GLOBAL – University rankings: 15 ways to prick the bubbles of reputation
Reputation is part of the past. It should be relegated to oblivion, liberating innovative universities to challenge the old guard. Reputation reflects prejudice. It is self-accreting, like mould or rot, and is evidence of nothing save itself
JULY 2016 – GLOBAL – Generation Z – Why we need to future-proof universities
In order to become more attractive to prospective students, Universities should study the needs and habits of the so called “Z generation” and increasingly invest in new digital technology
JULY 2016 – CANADA – New challenges for the internationalisation of the university system
Internationalisation has become a core strategy for Canadian universities, especially in terms of international students recruitment and the internationalisation of academic programmes. However, the Canadian university system needs to address new challenges, for example increasing the number of Canadian students studying abroad
JUNE 2016 – EUROPE – The Reuters top 100 most innovative universities in Europe 2016
Belgian university KU Leuven has topped the inaugural Reuters Top 100: Europe’s Most Innovative Universities ranking, with Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge completing the top three. Universities in Western Europe claim 60 universities of the top 100, with Northern Europe second with 24, Southern Europe boasting 15 and Eastern Europe just one
JUNE 2016 – GLOBAL – Mass higher education and social inequalities
Recent studies suggest that the massive growth of higher education across the world since the early 1970s has not reduced social inequalities
JUNE 2016 – SOUTH KOREA – A documentary on the “mania for university”
In South Korea, in 1971 only 7% of young people entered any kind of tertiary education. In 2015 almost every young person in the country enrols in tertiary education
MAY 2016 – UNITED KINGDOM – Brexit and the brain drain alarm
UK universities will lose many more talented scientists to the US if voters opt to leave the European Union
MAY 2016 – SCOTLAND – Do free university tuitions help widening access to university?
Research by the University of Edinburgh shows that, in Scotland, maintaining free university tuitions does not ensure a wider access to university over the rest of the UK. In order to reach a better university participation rate, specific measures facilitating access should be adopted, for example with regard to students from deprived areas
MAY 2016 – NEW ZEALAND – Universities worried by Government productivity investigation
New Zealand’s universities are worried by a Government review started in 2016 and aimed at increasing the productivity of the tertiary education system. The review is too focused on new technology and could lead to changes that might harm the quality of teaching and range of programme choices at universities
APRIL 2016 – UNITED KINGDOM – English students have highest debt in the Anglophone world
On average, English students in universities in England face debts of over £44,000 (€ 51,600) – by far higher than in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand
MARCH 2016 – NORWAY – Foreign-born academics face recruitment discrimination
A recent report commissioned by the Committee for Gender Balance and Diversity in Research (appointed by the Norwegian Government) suggests that foreign-born academics are less likely to be employed in higher education and research compared to the majority population
MARCH 2016 – GLOBAL – One in three higher education students is in the private sector
A study by the State University of New York suggests that, globally, one in three higher-education students is in the private sector. In Europe the figure is only one in seven. But the share is set to rise
MARCH 2016 – CHINA – China has been building the equivalent of one university per week
China has been building the equivalent of almost one university per week in terms of new graduates, thus overtaking the United States and the combined university systems of European Union countries. The gap is going to become even wider: the number of 25 to 34 year-old graduates in China rising by a further 300% by 2030
MARCH 2016 – UNITED KINGDOM – Sharp drop in foreign students at business schools
According to a new report by the Chartered Association of Business Schools, in 2015 the number of foreign students at British business schools dropped by 8,6%. Such decline is largely the consequence of non-EU student visa restrictions adopted by the British Government
MARCH 2016 – GLOBAL – Only 12% of science academy members globally are women
A report on Women for science: Inclusion and participation in academies of science suggests that, globally, only 12% of the members of 69 national science academies are women. Several challenges remain in ensuring equal opportunities to women scientists in accessing academic careers
FEBRUARY 2016 – NEW ZEALAND – Decline of about 11,000 students in 2016-2018: what to do?
In New Zealand universities a drop of nearly 3,000 students has been predicted this year, a further 5,200 in 2017, and about 1,900 in 2018. The Education Ministry plans new strategies to tackle such decline
FEBRUARY 2016 – CHINA – Universities inflate graduate employment figures
According to a recent report of Shanghai universities on graduate employment rates, in 2015, 95% of bachelor degree Shanghai graduates received job offers or went on to masters degrees. The accuracy of such figures has been strongly contested and Shanghai universities have been taken to task for inflating graduate employment figures in order to attract new students
DECEMBER 2015 – AUSTRALIA – $800m lost: overseas graduates will pay back student debts
In Australia, the non-repayment of student debt has cost the economy $800m. Hence, from 2016 also Australian graduates who move overseas must pay back their student debts
JUNE 2015 – UNITED STATES – Up to 69% of family income for college expenses
In the United States, families are increasingly hard-pressed to shoulder more of the burden of paying for higher education. For low-income families, the share of family income to pay for educational expenses is around 69%
JUNE 2015 – UNITED STATES – Tuition and fees from the mid 1980s-2013 have rised by 632%
Between the mid 1980s and 2013 university expenses for families increased significantly, especially in comparison to the lower increase in family income (152%) and health care costs (325%)
APRIL 2015 – UNITED STATES – The real reason college tuition costs so much
Over the past 35 years, in the United States college tuition at public universities has nearly quadrupled, to $9,139 in 2014. The decrease of public funding for higher education is not the real reason for such a sharp rise
MARCH 2015 – UNITED KINGDOM – 44.5% of total income (£30.7 b) came from tuitions in 2013
HE Finance Plus 2013/14 shows that the total income of higher education providers in 2013/14 was £30.7 billion. The relative contribution of tuition fees to total income is 44,5%. Total expenditure of UK higher education providers in 2013/14 was £29.4 billion. Staff costs contributed more than 50% towards this total.