Volume 19, Issue 2
FROM THE ARCHIVES
The Changing Face of International Credential Evaluation
Austria and Belgium Restrict Number of EU Students in Certain Programs
Universities in Austria and the Walloon region of Belgium have declared a cap on the number of European Union students eligible to enroll in the two countries’ medical programs. The percentage of Germans filling placements within Austria’s institutions of medical education is up by nearly half, while a large number of French students, fleeing the difficult admissions process of their own country, are dominating admissions to neighboring Belgium’s university medical programs.
In response, Wallonia has restricted the percentage of foreign medical enrollments to a third of total enrollments and Austria a quarter. It is still uncertain whether or not the European Union Court of Justice will uphold the quotas imposed by the two nations. According to EU law, nationals of member countries may not be discriminated against due to their nationality (see Oct. issue of WENR).
Austria Invests in “Elite” University
Austria, like its counterparts Germany, India, and China among others, has joined the current international trend to create an “elite” or “world-class” university that will serve as the masthead for research and excellence within its higher education system. The proposed new university, dubbed the “Institute of Technology Austria” for the time being, is slated to be a postgraduate level institution with a focus on interdisciplinary research in the natural sciences and technology. The institute will cost Austria an estimated US$640 million over the next ten years and plans to admit its first students in the fall of 2007. The temporary location of the new project is scheduled for Gugging, but controversy over that decision has brought the selection into question.
New Research Center at the University of Helsinki
The Ministry of Education and the University of Helsinki are in the process of developing a research center for molecular medicine, genetics, and epidemiology. The new center will be comprised of two bodies, the Finnish Genome Center and the Molecular Medicine Research Center, both housed at the University of Helsinki. The Ministry of Education first proposed the idea of creating the top-level research centers last autumn with the goal of enhancing the work of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory and other research centers in the Nordic countries. The Turku Center for Biotechnology will contribute to the development of the project as well.
Ministry of Education Press Release
Two Universities Sponsor New Economics and Management Institute
French universities HEC Paris and Ecole Polytechnique have combined to create the Institut d’Economie et Finance-Paris (Insefi). The new institute is designed to serve as an elite finance and management school that will also develop higher education and research in the fields of economics and finance.
The new program, to be conducted in English, will start with 40 students this autumn in their first year general master’s program. The second year of study will be a specialized course organized with partner schools such as ParisTech. The new institute plans to accommodate more students as its reputation grows, as well as cater to around 50 doctoral students.
Chinese Language on the Rise in French Schools
In a move that reflects the impact China’s rapid economic growth is having on education the world over, France recently named the country’s first general inspector to oversee the learning and teaching of the Chinese language in the nation’s schools.
France’s Education Minister Gilles de Robien cited the growth of foreign firms in China and close Sino-French economic cooperation as reasons for the increasing importance of quality Chinese language training in the French education system. According to the French Ministry of Education, there are currently 12,000 students learning Chinese and that number is growing by 20 to 30 percent each year. Chinese is currently taught in 195 French middle schools and 12 elementary schools.
People's Daily Online
Education Minister Making Plans to Ensure Quality Higher Education
Despite mixed reactions from the academic community, Greek Education Minister Marietta Yannakou has announced plans to develop a government body that will assess the quality of education offered in Greece’s institutions of higher education. Greece is currently the only country in Europe without a quality assurance authority.
The new law for university assessment will be implemented as soon as the government agrees on the criteria by which universities should be evaluated. According to Yannakou, legislators have relied heavily on the European Network of Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) throughout the process of designing a national system of quality assurance. The Tertiary Education Quality Assurance Authority will carry out evaluations on all Greek public universities as well as require internal self-evaluations by each institution. Degrees awarded by private universities in Greece are currently not recognized, but the government plans to reconsider this stance once the universities are evaluated by the new federal quality assurance organization.
Belarusian University Reopens in Vilnius
Two years after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko closed the Minsk campus of the European Humanities University (see Sept/Oct 2004 issue of WENR), the Lithuanian government has reopened the university in Vilnius in an attempt to help support the institution’s estranged students. After conducting an assessment of the university’s programs and facilities, Lithuanian education authorities announced in February that they have approved the establishment and accreditation of EHU as a Lithuanian institution of higher learning, giving it the right to legally operate in Vilnius as Lithuania’s 22nd university until conditions provide for its return to Belarus. The Lithuanian Education Ministry has also requested that the university adapt its curriculum and teaching programs to meet European standards.
Of the 1,000 or so students currently enrolled at the university, the majority are Belarusians studying from their home country via correspondence, although some students have taken up residence in Lithuania, and yet others commute to Vilnius which is a two-hour drive from the Belarusian border. The Vilnius government received support from the French Foreign Ministry as well as U.S.- and German-based foundations in opening the new campus. The institution’s current incarnation supports an undergraduate study program with diverse course offerings in the humanities as well as a number of graduate programs. With the exception of programs in Belarusian language, the language of instruction at EHU is Russian.
Ministry of Education Expands Foreign Offices
Nuffic, the Netherlands organization for international cooperation in higher education, has been ordered by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science to develop more Netherlands Education Support Offices around the world. The Netherlands has stepped up efforts to recruit international students in recent years and Nuffic has in turn created support offices in countries with a potential growth in the number of students interested in studying abroad. The centers serve to forge ties with local higher education institutions, promote study program franchising, and provide local students with information about the prospect of studying at Dutch universities
There are currently Netherlands Education Support Offices in China, Taiwan, and Indonesia, with offices slated to open over the next two years in Vietnam, Mexico, Russia, Brazil, India, Thailand, and Malaysia. Around 40,000 foreign students travel to the Netherlands each year to receive their education.
Nuffic News Release
New Studies Show Dutch Want to Leave for Doctoral Studies
A recent study conducted on the prospects of Dutch doctoral students concluded that half of all candidates in the Netherlands would rather travel abroad for their postgraduate studies. Conducted on behalf of two organizations representing PhD and other graduate students (Promovendi Netwerk Nederland and Landelijke Postdoc Platform), the new study found that students consider the prospects for education at Dutch universities bleak, and almost half of all young academics would contemplate pursuing a university position abroad if positions at local institutions were not available.
President of Promovendi Netwerk Nederland, Derek Jan Fikkers, cited a lack of opportunity for career advancement in Dutch higher education as the biggest obstacle facing Dutch academics today. While most Dutch academics polled responded that they would prefer to stay in country for their careers, a majority felt they were qualified for a career at a foreign university.
Nuffic News Release
Universities Forge Agreement on Transnational Education
Britain’s University of Manchester and Open University have joined forces in a venture to offer a combined online degree to overseas students. The move comes in response to increasing demand for higher education in developing markets such as China, where traditional bricks and mortar institutions are unable to open at a rate that corresponds to the number of students seeking their services.
Despite the well-publicized failings of past worldwide online education projects such as New York University's NYUOnline, Columbia University's Fathom Project and Britain’s UKeU project, Manchester and Open University are moving forward with the conviction that higher education is on the brink of an industrial revolution. University of Manchester Vice-Chancellor Alan Gilbert is confident that in the midst of this revolution, problems of student support and online education pedagogy will have to be solved and that only the strong will survive the competition for students the world over. With India and China developing their own higher education systems at a dizzying pace and the number of foreign students enrolling in Western universities declining, the two British universities hope to be in the best position to provide education for the international students left in the wake of this education sea change.
Boom in Number of Chinese Students Comes to an End
The boom that Britain has experienced over recent years in the number of Chinese applicants to its universities has peaked and is now experiencing a period of steady decline. Universities UK, an organization that represents British higher education, chalks up the phenomenon to tougher visa requirements as well as increased competition from rival countries. The British Council disagrees, citing the large-scale expansion of the quality and quantity of Chinese institutions of higher education as the catalyst for the current downturn in attention from China. Changxin Wu, president of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association in the UK, said high costs of living, tough visa requirements, and a general opinion that they weren’t getting their money’s worth in British higher education had dissuaded potential Chinese students.
So far this year, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service has reported a 13.6 percent drop in the number of applications received from China, while last year saw the number plunge a total of 35 percent in comparison with 2004 statistics. On the positive side for university recruiters, the number of graduate students applying to Britain’s institutions has remained steady, but as China’s own higher education system has improved, its potential students have become more discerning about their choices for undergraduate study. At the start of the boom in education export to China, students were under the impression that a degree from any British institution was prestigious, but as China’s institutions have become more competitive for their own citizens, potential students have become very selective about their college choice. China’s massive growth and investment into higher education coupled with their emergence as an education exporter themselves to neighboring markets such as India, Taiwan and Japan is also concern for British universities.
Whatever the causes and effects of the sharp drop in interest from Chinese students may be, many share the sentiments of Birmingham University’s chancellor who summed up the situation simply by saying, “The Chinese bubble has now burst.”
Scotland: Must Compete for Foreign Profs
A policy paper prepared by the organization Universities Scotland implores the Scottish higher education sector to recruit more talented foreign scholars. University leaders have also warned that without renowned academics from around the world, Scottish universities would not be able to compete on an international stage in an increasingly globalized market. Universities Scotland’s recent report warned, “established economies are doing more to target the best minds. There is no standing still – if we do not move forward we will fall behind.”
Leaders in Scottish higher education feel that now is the right time to make a push for excellence in the country’s universities, especially since England recently introduced top-up tuition fees. Even so, England has made strides to import the best academic talent possible. By way of example, Manchester University recently recruited US Nobel laureate and economist Joseph Stiglitz, former economic advisor to U.S. President Bill Clinton, to head their new World Poverty Institute.
Scotland: Chinese Students Given Incentive to Stay After Graduation
The latest figures reported by the Scottish Executive and Home Office's “Fresh Talent Working in Scotland Scheme” show that 1,176 international students have taken advantage of the program implemented last year. The initiative, which allows non-EU students who graduate from Scottish colleges with a Higher National Diploma to stay and work in Scotland for two years without work permits, is an effort to retain foreign talent in the declining UK workforce.
Scotland will utilize the program again this year, heavily promoting the opportunity to the 4,000 odd Chinese students studying in Scottish colleges. To date, a total of 333 Chinese students have been approved for the “Fresh Talent” program. Scottish authorities have not denied any applicants up to now and they estimate there are some 4,800 students eligible for the special visa who have not yet taken advantage.