Are universities ever right to accept money from the tobacco industry for research or is it always tainted somehow? The issue has been around for decades but a recent spat in America has given it a new airing.
The central criticism about whole-of-institution rankings relates to the methodology that addresses quality in a superficial way but projects a complex image. Most rankings rely on two types of data: data given by institutions that may not be validated, and data obtained from opinion polls in the name of 'expert opinion'. With both components on shaky ground, the use of complex formulae with weights and indicators only helps to project a pseudo-scientific image to outcomes that may be statistically irrelevant.
The higher education funding system is creaking under the pressure of market forces, says a report just published by the National Union of Students. In Broke and Broken: A critique of the higher education funding system, the NUS presents what it sees as the unfairness and lack of sustainability in the current system, and argues that the scenario can only get worse if the cap on top-up fees were raised or lifted. A wide-ranging debate is needed, it says.
A notable development of the last decade was the pluralisation of research capacity in the sciences. Between 1995 and 2005, the annual number of scientific papers produced in China rose from 9,061 to 41,596. China was poised to overtake UK and Germany at the top of the EU table though its output remained less than one fifth that of the EU as a whole.
India's decision in the early 1990s to open its markets and fully participate in the global economy is widely credited for the nation's spectacular rate of economic growth over the past decade or so, says Professor Fazal Rizvi. But Rizvi says many within and outside India believe this rate of growth is not sustainable unless India overhauls its crumbling system of higher education.
As universities around the world internationalise their curricula and their research links, or offer courses abroad or enrol foreign students, these activities should be subject to internal quality assurance. By the same token, external quality assurance agencies must be able to assess the nature and effect of these internal processes. This is the "QA of internationalisation".
The 27 EU member states will have to speed up their educational progress if they are to meet a range of self-imposed targets deemed necessary if the Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs is to be successful by 2010. A report by the European Commission* acknowledges that progress has been made in five key areas (though not in low achievement in reading) and that long-term reform processes have been launched. "Although progress towards... targets is slow, it is mostly going in the right direction," said Ján Figel, Commissioner for Education. "But much work still needs to be done," he warned.
Are higher education institutions equipping their graduates with the skills they need? Representatives of the European Commission and national governments will discuss this and other such questions in Brussels on Tuesday when members of the multi-country Research into Employment and Professional Flexibility (Reflex) project present the conclusions of their investigations into the role of universities within the knowledge society.
China is emerging as the world leader in science. From a mere speck in the atlas of science two decades ago, China today has overtaken Japan, Britain, Germany and France to become second only to the US in the number of scientific research papers produced each year. China also made the third largest investment in research and development last year, after America and Japan.
Academic freedom worldwide must be strengthened through a better defence of core university values and greater solidarity within higher education communities. This was the conclusion from a conference organised by the New York-based Scholars at Risk organisation at the European Humanities University in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.
More than six decades after India won its Independence on Gandhi's principle of 'Swadeshi' or self-reliance, an ever-increasing number of Indian students are going abroad for their education. Indeed, more go overseas for higher education than from any other country.
In its proposals for the next phase of Erasmus Mundus, the European Commission is moving towards higher student contributions for enrolment in the EU joint programmes scheme. The proposals have met opposition from countries such as Denmark, where tuition is paid through taxation. The issue will come up for debate in the European Parliament this month and an amendment has already been mooted.
The Bologna process has sufficient momentum to become the dominant global higher education model within the next two decades, according to a report released last week by the US Institute for Higher Education Policy. The report calls on American universities and colleges to take careful note of what is happening across Europe as a result of Bologna and implies it could be time for sweeping changes in the US as well. The 200-page report, The Bologna Club: What US higher education can learn from a decade of European reconstruction, says that in terms of crossing geographic and language boundaries, "let alone turning ancient higher education systems on their heads", the Bologna process is the most far-reaching and ambitious reform of higher education ever undertaken. Not only that, the core features of Bologna "have sufficient momentum to become the dominant global higher education model within the next two decades and Americans had better listen up".
Higher education in the Czech Republic - long caricatured by critics as the dinosaur of Europe's university system - is due for a major overhaul. This follows publication of a White Paper that proposes sweeping reforms, penned by a 30-year-old Green Party Minister of Education.
Almost every aspect of higher education in New Zealand, from student numbers to university cooperation, has been thrown open for debate with the publication of a discussion document on the future of the nation's universities. The document, by former Ministry of Education boss Howard Fancy, indicates New Zealand's eight universities will need more funding, have more postgraduate students and be markedly different from one another in future. But it also suggests they will need to work more closely together, perhaps as a federation of institutions, and that their collective international reputation will be extremely important.
In a major transformation of traditional education, most universities in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia are expected to switch to a system of e-learning next year. The Saudi Ministry of Higher Education has established a National Centre of E-learning & Distance Learning, known as the ELC, to organise the change and prepare e-learning material. Nine universities have already agreed to implement the system.
Reform of higher education in Indonesia, as in any sector of governance, cannot be considered outside the context of the history of Dutch colonialism and the record of the 32-year militarised dictatorship of the late President Suharto.
Higher education in Australia is undergoing a wide-ranging review commissioned by the new Labor government. As the latest in a long line of investigations over the past two decades, this one was announced in March by Education Minister Julia Gillard. It is focusing on the future direction of higher education, its 'fitness for purpose' in meeting the needs of the Australian community and economy, and the options for ongoing reform.
Universities are big places and it is easy to lose your way. We have taken to placing maps at strategic locations to help people navigate their way around. I recall a California university president describing how one map was the victim of graffiti. Right under the orientation arrow and the words "You are here", someone had written "But, why?" Universities are also wondering why they are here.
Alia Sabur is the world's youngest professor. Indeed, New York-born Sabur was three days short of her 19th birthday in February when she was offered a professorship in the department of advanced technology fusion at Konkuk University in Seoul, South Korea, as part of a likely research liaison with Stony Brook University in New York.
Timbuktu is synonymous with the middle of nowhere. But centuries ago it was a world centre of intellectual pursuit and knowledge production, and its manuscripts - there are more than 200,000, some dating back to the 13th century - were widely circulated across Africa. A major project is underway to preserve the documents of the old mud-brick city on the edge of the desert. Now a new book co-edited by University of Cape Town historian Dr Shamil Jeppie, The Meanings of Timbuktu, is reviving Africa's rich written tradition of scholarship.
The magnificent fresco decorating the façade of Philip II's grave, discovered in Vergina in north-east Greece near Thessaloniki, shows the Macedonian king accompanied by his eldest son Alexander and other courtiers during a hunting expedition.
The north of England has a reputation for its down-to-earth common-sense attitude to making a bob or two, so it is no surprise to learn that 20 years ago, 12 universities in the region spotted a business opportunity and formed a consortium to attract overseas students to their institutions. The Northern Consortium UK's slogan is "your bridge to international success" as it pioneered what are now known as "pathway programmes" to prepare students in their home countries to continue studying abroad, mainly in the UK. The consortium has just opened a new centre in Sri Lanka.
A pioneering skills development programme is tackling rural poverty at its roots in central Asia through innovative and flexible use of a network of existing higher education institutions. Nearly 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union swept away communal farms – and the system of centrally organised agricultural training and support that went with it – smallholders and livestock herders in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan are being taught basic agronomics in a pilot scheme designed and supported by the European Training Foundation, based in Turin, Italy.
Researchers in France are uniting in protest against planned reforms they claim will lead to political control of public research and loss of autonomy for the nation's research organisations, such as the multi-disciplinary National Centre for Scientific Research. More than 600 directors of laboratories and members of national scientific authorities gathered in Paris earlier this month to express their fears for the future of public research.