17 January 2017 Register to receive our free newsletter by email each week
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World Blog
International education in 2017 – Any room for optimism?
Hans de Wit
Although 2016 was a year of political shocks that have called into question a lot of perceived ideas about internationalisation of higher education, there is still scope for innovation if universities look outside their own walls.
Budget scraps tuition fees for all state universities
Elvira Ramirez-Cohn
The first budget under the administration of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, signed into law on 22 December, includes allocations to scrap tuition fees in all state universities and colleges from the 2017 academic year, as part of a significant increase in the country’s education budget.
Video appeal by professors abducted by armed group
Shadi Khan Saif
Two professors of the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul who were abducted last year, have called on the United States government to free Taliban fighters in exchange for their release, in a video released on Wednesday. Officials have declined to comment amid ongoing efforts to liberate them.
Research bodies seek changes to EU copyright proposals
Brendan O'Malley
Five key European research organisations have called on legislators to modify current European Union copyright reform proposals, including broadening exceptions from copyright on text and data mining, to facilitate research and innovation in a digital environment – or risk impeding progress in one of the most dynamic parts of the economy.
State agency takes the lead in university corruption cases
Tunde Fatunde
A recent series of investigations by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission into allegations of corruption against high-level university staff is challenging the traditional autonomy of university governing councils.
Rapid expansion of defence research divides academics
Suvendrini Kakuchi
Academics in Japan are bitterly divided over defence ministry grants to universities for defence-related research, with such funding receiving a dramatic boost this year amid declining general research budgets for universities over the past decade.
Supreme Council pushes to secure university autonomy
Brendan O'Malley
Despite reports of thousands of students and scholars remaining in prison and a tightening of control of universities, the Supreme Council of Universities is pushing for autonomy and academic freedom to be established through governance reform.
Government funds unlikely to meet campuses needs
Tonderayi Mukeredzi
A fiscally constrained Zimbabwe government has allocated a meagre US$23.2 million to both kick-start new and complete existing infrastructure projects at its burgeoning universities. The amount is far less than what is needed to effect real physical improvements on all of the country’s campuses.
Choppy waters ahead for international student demand
Brendan O'Malley
Demand from international students for places at United Kingdom universities will be hit by the impact of Brexit and other global changes, but could the negative effects be softened by the Trump effect in the United States? Two new pieces of analysis offer some interesting insight.
Survey reveals high unmet demand for study abroad
Jan Petter Myklebust
There is a huge mismatch between student aspirations to study abroad and the number of students actually doing so, according to a new survey. It found that most students have thought about taking a whole or part of their education abroad, but currently only 10% of Norwegian students study abroad.
Spate of arrests in Ewha University ‘favours’ scandal
Aimee Chung
The repercussions of the scandal over the admission to a prestigious women’s university in Seoul of Chung Yoo-ra, daughter of the South Korean president’s confidante Choi Soon-sil, are beginning to take their toll, with a spate of arrests on charges related to criminal corruption and academic fraud.
School of law to start year without foreign students
Christabel Ligami
No foreign law graduate is to be admitted to the Kenya School of Law for the 2017-18 academic year following a decision last year by the Kenya Council of Legal Education to bar the admission of law graduates from other universities in the East African region.
No easy way out of the higher education ‘trilemma’
Jens Jungblut
Governments face a ‘trilemma’ in higher education policy as they can always only reach two out of three politically desirable goals – low public costs, low private costs (tuition fees), and mass access. Student movements such as #FeesMustFall in South Africa must demand both free higher education and matching increases in public spending, or risk incentivising governments to take the easy way out and compromise higher education quality.

Cut red tape and raise funding in Erasmus+, says EUA
Nic Mitchell
The European Union’s showpiece Erasmus+ mobility and cooperation programme should be simplified and its “cumbersome” processes streamlined, according to a survey by the European University Association or EUA. Members complained that funding did not cover the full costs of cooperation and exchanges.
The far right’s ‘new offensive against academia’
Goldie Blumenstyk, The Chronicle of Higher Education
George Ciccariello-Maher, a scholar of revolutionary movements, was engulfed in a far-right twitter storm, along with family and friends, when he tweeted “All I want for Christmas is white genocide”. He believes it reflects a new offensive against academia by far-right and neo-Nazi groups.
World Round-up
Public research universities ramp up global recruitment
Study International
Elsevier deal impasse severs journal access
Times Higher Education
Lords signal strength of opposition to HE bill
Financial Times
Education minister found guilty of plagiarism
Total Croatia News
Universities face thousands of first-year queries
City Press
Ministry revives national student testing service idea
The Indian Express
Over 70% of students drop out of certain college courses
The Irish Times
University strategist outlines brighter side of Brexit
The Telegraph
Pressure mounts on lecturers as student numbers rise
SOAS students call for rethink of Eurocentric curriculum
Are female scholars taken seriously in Japan?
The Japan Times
University bans staff criticism of Communist Party
South China Morning Post
Professor forced to retire after Mao comments
Global Times
Human rights-focused student denied study visa
Inside Higher Ed
International Rankings
Does your place in global university rankings matter?
The Higher Education Policy Institute's latest report on ranking has further stoked debate about how accurate and how useful international university rankings are. University World News asked its author and ranking experts to share their views.
Why most universities should quit the rankings game
Philip G Altbach and Ellen Hazelkorn
For mid-range national, regional and specialist universities and colleges, and their stakeholders and governments, rankings are a losing game – it is almost never worth the resources required or the changes in mission – and they present dangers for flagship universities too.
Are global university rankings a badge of shame?
Bahram Bekhradnia
Governments, universities and potential students need to understand that international rankings of universities are essentially measures of research activity that are based on data which is unaudited and of doubtful quality.
Rankings – A useful barometer of universities’ standing
Ben Sowter
While current global rankings need to be understood based on the limitations of the data available, criticism of them needs to be evidence-based and to take into account the positives as well as the negatives, which the Higher Education Policy Institute report fails to do.
University rankings are innovating and improving
Phil Baty
The Higher Education Policy Institute report on rankings contributes to the ongoing discussion of how to improve global university rankings, but is wrong in saying governments should ignore them, as they provide useful strategic analysis and are definitely here to stay.
Towards a fairer and more robust university ranking
Frank Ziegele and Frans van Vught
The Higher Education Policy Institute has raised significant concerns about rankings. U-Multirank offers ways to tackle many of them by offering a multi-dimensional and fair way to assess performance, and reflects the diversity of global higher education.
Special Report
The third meeting of the Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa, or HERANA, held in Franschhoek in South Africa in November, was attended by representatives of seven of the eight participating universities: Botswana, Cape Town, Dar es Salaam, Eduardo Mondlane in Mozambique, Ghana, Nairobi in Kenya, Mauritius, and Makerere in Uganda. Each gave detailed and fascinating presentations on key research indicators. Led by the Centre for Higher Education Trust, the goal of HERANA is to institutionalise data collection with a view to strengthening knowledge production in a group of emerging research-intensive flagship universities.
Indicators show flagship African universities on rise
Karen MacGregor
The notion of ‘Africa Rising’ has found traction in recent years, although the ascent is very uneven, says Nico Cloete, coordinator of the Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa. Certainly the continent’s flagship universities are rising. “There are upward trends in a number of areas that I think are very positive.”
Profiles of flagship universities in eight African countries
Research by the Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa has produced data on flagship universities in eight African countries over a 15-year period. One outcome has been to improve data collection at the universities involved. Another has been to build a first accurate picture of leading universities across the continent, their performances according to key indicators, and their achievements and challenges.
Research excellence – Beyond the buzzword
Robert Tijssen and Erika Kraemer-Mbula
Centres of excellence and related initiatives have become a high-profile feature of the African science landscape during the last decade, where the eye-catching ‘excellence’ tag usually reflects either worthy aspirations or challenging levels of ambition. We believe that African science can and should take the concept of excellence more literally, moving from aspirational to ‘outstanding performance’ or ‘highest quality’.

Strengthening universities – Lessons from Europe
Karen MacGregor
Recent data from Norway’s statistical office revealed that 50% of all jobs will require a masters degree in the next 10 years, while unskilled jobs will shrink to 5%. This means universities will have a growing impact on development, argues Peter Maassen of Norway's University of Oslo – and that ensuring their success will become increasingly important. What lessons in strengthening universities may be learned from Europe?
Festschrift – Celebrating a friend and a research field
Sharon Dell
As the editors to this festschrift note in their introduction, Peter Maassen’s academic life is “very much entangled” with the development of higher education as a research field. Thus the publication is not only a celebration and a gift to a friend and colleague, but also an informal and “hopefully interesting peek into the historical and continuous development of an academic field”.
Progress on gender equity in Afghan higher education
Fred M Hayward
Higher education in Afghanistan has moved quickly from no women lecturers or students in 2001 to 22.4% women students and 14% women faculty in a war environment and amid major challenges. This, along with significant transformation of the sector, bodes well for the future success of both higher education and gender equity.
Rise of research universities – A tale of two countries
Sharon Dell
Among a collection of countries and territories in the Southeast Asian and Australian region concerned with building research-intensive universities, Singaporean higher education stands as a model for what can be achieved through planned growth and development and sustained investment.
Change by design? The challenge of institutional reform
Sharon Dell
Universities around the world need to adapt to changing external and internal circumstances, but achieving intentional change in these complex institutions is often more challenging than theories of organisational change might suggest.
CHET – Reflections on an organisational journey
Sharon Dell
After establishing itself as a key player in the South African higher education policy sector in the late 1990s, the Centre for Higher Education Trust or CHET has broadened its horizons, moving into the area of African institutional development with an emphasis on research. At last year’s Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa meeting in Franschhoek near Cape Town, members of its board reflected on the journey thus far, with a few suggestions for the future.

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