March 2011  Volume 24, Issue 2
  International Education Intelligence   
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Europe


English-language Provision Proving Somewhat Problematic

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that there are more than 2,000 English-language university programs being taught in Europe as universities look to diversify their student body and raise their international profiles. However, there are problems associated with teaching and learning in a non-native language.

Some students reportedly complain that their professors' language skills are not classroom-ready. Some professors complain that their students, many of whom come from different countries and cultures, aren't adapting well to their new environment. Critics of the growing use of English include nationalist politicians, students and professors, and pedagogical experts, who have argued that adopting English as a lingua franca imperils other languages and creates classrooms and lecture halls in which cultural differences hinder communication and comprehension.

Even those who support English as the medium of instruction acknowledge that the rapid adoption of English has often taken place with insufficient preparation, and that in turn, universities must do more to deal with the complications that can arise. In addition to the language issues, teaching difficulties are also rooted in profound cultural learning differences among an increasingly diverse student body in Europe.

The introduction of English into the classroom has also had plenty of successes. A Danish survey conducted last year found overall high levels of satisfaction with the level of English in classrooms among both students and professors. But there is always room for improvement. Along with five other universities in the region, Aarhus has developed a series of courses not just aimed at improving language skills but also focused on broader pedagogical and cultural issues. The four one-day and two-day courses, each of which is limited to about 30 participating professors, cover topics such as working in a multicultural and multilingual environment. The courses offer tools for building intercultural competence, increasing student participation, and understanding how the Danish "learning culture" compares with other cultures.

Grant proposals are being considered for a European project that will explore and evaluate how universities are grappling with the challenges of teaching in English and help institutions develop strategies for improvement. That project will receive financial backing from the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, which is increasingly focusing on the challenges of multilingualism.

- The Chronicle of Higher Education
February 13, 2011

France

Controversial French Ranking of World's Universities Pegs HEC as Country's Best

Released in February, the fifth Professional Ranking of World Universities found that the joint best institutions in the world are Harvard, Tokyo, Keio (Japan) and HEC Paris. Compiled by researchers at the French grande école Mines ParisTech, the ranking considers just one criterion - the number of graduates holding CEO positions at one of the 500 international companies listed in the 2010 Fortune Global 500.

The school explains that it uses the single indicator as it "is meant to be the equivalent, as far as companies are concerned, of the criterion of 'alumni having been awarded the Nobel Prize or the Fields Medal', used in the ranking established by Shanghai Jiao Tong University in its influential ranking of world universities.

However, the report states that “unlike the Shanghai classification, this criterion points to the performance of the training courses provided by higher education institutions rather than performance achieved in research by those institutions".

The ranking survey found that 15 institutions had trained four or more global business leaders, 28 had trained three or more, 58 two or more, and 210 one or more. After the top four institutions in joint fifth are Oxford University and Japan's Kyoto University, followed by École Polytechnique and École Nationale d'Administration of France in seventh and ninth respectively, Waseda University of Japan eighth, and Seoul National University, South Korea, in 10th position.

Classifying institutions by country, the top 10 are the US, Japan, France, China, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Spain and the Netherlands.

- Mines ParisTech
February 2011

Germany

Germany Exemplary in Internationalizing Study

According to the British Council, Germany has the best political and financial support in place to encourage international study. Australia comes second in the organization’s “global gauge” for international higher education, while the UK was ranked third. The top three are followed by China, Malaysia and the United States.

The ranking is based on an analysis by the British Council both of government policies that encourage international opportunities and those that act as a barrier. The factors taken into account by the ranking include each country’s “openness” to international study, the levels of support for those working or studying abroad, and quality assurance and degree recognition worldwide.

Germany scored particularly well in the British Council ranking because of policies that encourage domestic students and academics to spend time abroad, as well as its success in attracting international students.

- BBC
March 8, 2011

Hungary

Budapest Draws International Students

With more universities around the world developing English-language programs, there are an increasingly large number of viable destination options for international students to choose from. Particularly in Europe, where Hungary is one shining example.

Having first offered English-language programs back in 1983, the country’s universities are well known for their high academic standards, particularly in the areas of medicine and veterinary studies. Other popular study choices for international students in Hungary include psychology, engineering, architecture, and business. And with the capital city, Budapest, offering a highly vibrant and multicultural setting, the city itself attracted around 15,000 international students in the 2009/2010 academic year alone – up from 12,000 in 2006/2007. Along with the high academic standards, perhaps the biggest draw for students is the low cost of tuition.

- The Malta Independent
February 2011

The Netherlands

New Accreditation System Launched

A new accreditation system for individual programs came into force in January. An assessment panel of independent experts assesses each program on a limited number of standards. On the basis of this assessment, the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders decides whether or not to accredit the program.

The new accreditation system comprises six assessment frameworks:

    1. Institutional quality assurance assessment: an institutional-level framework to be used for "institutional quality assurance assessments"
    2. Limited program assessment: a program-level framework with limited assessment criteria for the accreditation of institutions whose institutional quality assurance assessment produced a positive result
    3. Extensive program assessment: a program-level framework with extensive assessment criteria for accreditations, required if an institutional quality assurance assessment turns out negative and for institutions that have not applied for an institutional quality assurance assessment
    4. Limited initial accreditation: a program-level framework with "limited assessment criteria" for the initial accreditation of new programs provided by institutions whose institutional quality assurance assessment produced a positive result
    5. Extensive initial accreditation: a program-level framework with "extensive assessment criteria for the initial accreditation of new programs," required if an institutional quality assurance assessment turns out negative and for institutions that have not applied for an institutional quality assurance assessment
    6. Distinctive feature: an assessment framework to determine whether an institution or a program has any distinctive.

- NVAO
January 1, 2011

Norway

As the Last Tuition-Free Destination in Europe, Norway Sees Influx of Students

Colleges and universities in Norway are reporting increased applications from foreign students. Norway is now the only country in Europe to continue offering tuition-free higher education to all, regardless of country of origin.

With a number of top Norwegian universities reporting large increases in applicants from overseas, the secretary general of the Universities and Colleges Council, Ola Stave, fears growing administrative challenges, including the verification and evaluation of foreign academic credentials. The Minister for Research and Higher Education, Tora Aasland, has promised to look at what the government can do to support the sector, including the possibility of a national admissions office for master’s studies applications.

The University of Oslo is reporting a 60 percent increase in self-financing international applicants to masters programs, with Trondheim's Norwegian University of Science and Technology reporting 45 percent growth.

- Views and News from Norway
February 9, 2011

United Kingdom

Universities Likely to Charge Maximum Tuition Fees

Most of England’s top universities are likely to begin charging tuition rates at the upper limit allowed under legislation passed late last year, the head of an association of leading institutions says. The chairman of the Russell Group, whose members are Britain’s 20 leading research-intensive universities, told The Guardian that he expects most of the group’s members to charge close to the fee ceiling of £9,000 (US$14,500) beginning next year.

British lawmakers voted to allow universities to increase tuition from the current rate of £3,290, with £6,000 expected to be a “basic threshold” for most institutions and the maximum rate of £9,000 intended to be charged only by a handful of universities. Universities that want to charge the maximum will be required to demonstrate that they have implemented policies to ensure that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are not deterred from applying.

- The Guardian
February 6, 2011

British Students Stay Home

Government efforts to encourage more UK students to study abroad appear to be failing, with the country retaining the worst outbound-inbound student ratio in Europe. According to data from the Academic Cooperation Association (ACA), the UK still sends just one student abroad for every 20 who come to the UK to study for a degree.

Bernd Wächter, director of the ACA, told a conference held in January by the UK HE Europe Unit that the next worst performers were Belgium and Sweden with a 1:3 ratio. At the other end of the scale, delegates heard at the conference in London, that Slovakia sends out 13 students for every one coming in.

European countries have committed to a target of at least 20 percent of their students spending a period studying or training abroad by 2020. However, Europe as a whole remains a net importer of students, and less than 7 percent of all European programs are taught in English, further discouraging UK students who cannot speak another language. Issues related to credit transfer and language barriers appear to be the main sticking points for British students.

- Times Higher Education Supplement
February 10, 2011

Academics to be Favored Under New Visa System

University lecturers and researchers are to be prioritized under the British government's proposed new visa system. According to the Home Office proposals, the points system for Tier 2 (skilled work) visas will be overhauled to prioritize Ph.D.-level occupations with domestic shortages, including research and higher education teaching positions.

The changes, subject to parliamentary approval, will be introduced on April 6. All applicants with Ph.D.s or equivalent-level job offers will be prioritized over applicants for lower-level jobs, even if they command much higher salaries.

Imran Khan, director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, said the new rules represented an important victory for campaigners who had long argued that the UK's international standing in science and engineering was dependent on its ability to attract global talent.

- Times Higher Education
February 16, 2011

British High School Students Encouraged to Enroll Abroad

In response to the British government's decision to raise university tuition substantially, a leading secondary school in Britain is encouraging its students to apply to foreign universities. According to a recent article in The New York Times, students are looking abroad both to save money and because of a shortage of places at British universities this year.

Hockerill Anglo-European College is one of the most successful schools in Britain, with students regularly coming at or near the top of exam results for the entire country, outperforming such famous names as Eton or Harrow. But unlike those private schools, where fees can exceed £28,000 ($45,000) a year, Hockerill is a state comprehensive, which charges no tuition fees and is forbidden from selecting its students on the basis of academic ability. When Simon Dennis, the school’s principal, heard of government plans to triple university tuition fees in England to £9,000 a year, he decided to make use of the school’s international focus, urging his students to apply to universities abroad and hiring a counselor to help students apply to universities in countries whose fees are cheaper.

“If you can get into the École Normale Supérieure in France and pay about £180 a year for an education at one of the best institutions in the world, why would you pay £9,000 a year in Britain?” Mr. Dennis asked.

Alex Usher, president of Higher Education Strategy Associates, a Canadian policy research institute, doubts the British government reckoned on the effect of raising fees in a global market. In a report issued this month, Mr. Usher said the rise was “the largest single increase in tuition fees anywhere in the world since records began.”

The shortage of university places in the past year has already prompted a record number of British students to study outside the country. At a Westminster Forum conference in London in February on the future of education, Vincenzo Raimo, an official at Nottingham University, said that there are already about 22,000 U.K. students enrolled in degree programs overseas. “There are more British students, as a percentage of full degree students, than there are from China and India,” said Mr. Raimo, whose office runs campuses of Nottingham in Malaysia and China.

-New York Times
February 28, 2011

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