ISSN 1756-297XIssue No: 0017  24 February 2008
HE Events Diary

Opportunities Jobs

The European Parliament has voted to boost Europe's research capacity. See the story in our news section.

Norway plans sweeping education reforms. See this week's feature section.

Rock n roll is the secret to the success of Professor Mark Pettit's lectures at Boston University Law School. See our Uni-lateral section.


SPECIAL REPORT: Universities and community engagement

Around the world, community engagement is widely accepted as one of the core functions of public universities along with teaching and research. It nevertheless remains regarded by most higher education institutions as a moral rather than a strategic imperative, with few institutional returns, and so receives limited intellectual, managerial and financial resources.

Scholars believe one of the reasons for this is lack of clarity and consensus around community engagement. This is especially so since the term encompasses a range of activities such as community service, community development and service learning. Also, there is a complex connection to the public role of universities, and limited understanding in many institutions of the full range of benefits that community engagement can deliver. As a result it is usually marginalised within universities, relegated to junior managers and subsumed into marketing or fundraising functions.

But the tide is turning in favour of community engagement. Demands for greater accountability, the central role of universities in the ‘knowledge economy’ and trends in knowledge production, among other things, are obliging universities to rethink their public role and to develop more systematic approaches to community engagement. Meanwhile, academics have initiated myriad projects that bring universities closer to society in ways that in most cases benefit both. Our correspondents report.

GLOBAL: Worldwide growth in university outreach
Karen MacGregor
Voter education for students in the United States; social service placements for graduates in Scotland; storefront classes in Canada; student volunteers in African schools; the Living Knowledge network of ‘science shops’ across the planet. These and numerous other university programmes are moving community engagement out of the closet and into the mainstream of higher education worldwide, and generating a growing pedagogic branch alongside teaching and research.
Full report on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: Mixed attitudes to community involvement
Geoff Maslen
If their annual reports are any guide, Australian universities take community engagement seriously although attitudes clearly vary from one institution to the other, as does the nature of involvements that occur. The former federal government exerted little pressure on universities to be involved with community issues but most are – to a greater or lesser extent – even if this is sometimes uncoordinated, fragmented, spasmodic and reliant on particular individuals to carry the flame.
Full report on the University World News site

UK: Growing engagement between HE and communities
Diane Spencer
Inclusion, engagement and partnership have been common parlance in the lexicon of Britain’s ruling Labour Party since it came to power in 1997. Earlier this month, Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell called on universities to increase partnerships with schools and communities to help achieve the government’s aim of attracting 60,000 more students into higher education. This followed his appeal last October for universities to sponsor ‘academies’ – a government programme aiming to transform former failing inner city schools into successful schools with new money, sponsorship and buildings. On a less formal level, universities around the country are involved in community and school projects with thousands of students helping to run them.
Full report on the University World News site

SOUTH AFRICA: Engaging developments continue to grow
Karen MacGregor
Community engagement has been embedded in South Africa’s higher education quality assurance system as a core function that universities must systematically develop and describe in institutional audits, along with teaching and research. Next month, universities will attend a World Bank and government-hosted workshop to brainstorm ideas, encourage collaboration on and develop a framework for community engagement.
Full report on the University World News site

GREECE: Engagement is a moveable feast
Makki Marseilles
Community engagement is a somewhat moveable feast in Greece. It means different things to different people and varies from place to place because communities have different needs. Commitment also fluctuates from one institution to another because of disparities in funds available and different research interests.
Full report on the University World News site

US: Service learning expanding rapidly
Anne Langworthy*
For a variety of reasons, service learning in America has grown rapidly to suit different purposes: as a means of engaging students with communities, promoting civic and social responsibility, and enhancing student learning of academic content. Service learning is usually defined as a credit-bearing activity and is integrated into existing subject units: students apply what they have learned in the classroom to address priorities in the community – in partnership with that community.
Full report on the University World News site

US: New community engagement journal
A new online refereed publication, The journal of community engagement and higher education, is to be launched later this year and is currently calling for papers. One of its two editors is Dr Nancy Brattain Rogers, director of the Center for Public Service and Community Engagement (CPSCE) at Indiana State University. “As campus environments have changed to more fully integrate community engagement into teaching and learning, an increasing number of faculty have actively pursued the scholarships of teaching and engagement,” she says. “This journal provides a publication outlet for their work”.
Full report on the University World News site

US: Network promotes social responsibilities
The Washington-based Talloires Network is a collective devoted to strengthening the civic roles and social responsibilities of higher education institutions around the world. It was established in 2005 when the president of Tufts University, Lawrence Bacow, convened the Talloires conference, the first international gathering of heads of universities interested in furthering community engagement. The conference attracted 29 university presidents, rectors, and vice chancellors from 23 countries and led to to the Talloires Declaration on the Civic Roles and Social Responsibilities of Higher Education.
Full report on the University World News site

US: Princeton plans early year abroad
Seizing on students’ desire for a year off before college, Princeton University is working to create a programme to send a tenth or more of its newly admitted students to a year of social service work in a foreign country before they set foot on campus as freshmen, writes Karen W Arenson in the New York Times.
More on the University World News site

NEWS: Our correspondents worldwide report

WORLD: English losing out to other tongues
Geoff Maslen
English has lost its place as the world’s most widely spoken language and even its top spot on the internet has evaporated, according to new research. While universities around the English-speaking world deplore the decline in foreign language enrolments, other tongues are becoming dominant.
Full report on the University World News site

UK: Record increase in applications
Diane Spencer
Applications from students to enrol in British universities for 2008 are at an all-time high. Numbers are up by almost 7% on last year – an increase of at least 26,000. The rise follows a record number of applications last year and was higher than expected. Figures published earlier this month by UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Application Service, showed that the number applying from poorer families had also increased slightly from almost 29% to nearly 30%.
Full report on the University World News site

EUROPE: Parliament demands better conditions for researchers
Alan Osborn
The European Parliament has overwhelmingly supported the European Commission’s plea for an improvement in the conditions for researchers, which it hopes will stop Europe falling further behind internationally in R&D. A parliamentary report, carried by 602 votes against 18, calls on the 27 EU member countries to abolish barriers that hinder researchers from entering the EU and stresses the importance of increasing research spending – especially to facilitate the transition towards digital.
Full report on the University World News site


NORWAY: HE commission proposes sweeping reforms
Tito Correa
A recent story in Aftenposten newspaper featured pictures of Pol Pot, Mao and Stalin with a headline about the bad grades children scored in the latest Programme for International Student Assessment. The kids, it announced, had no idea who these historic bad guys were or what they stood for. On the other hand, Norwegian higher education is doing rather well – so why establish the National Commission on Higher Education, which published its report last month? It was mainly a preventative move, explained Professor Peter Maassen of the University of Oslo, a commission member. “We wanted to know where we were heading”.
Full report on the University World News site


AUSTRALIA: Oxford don heads Australian science centre
Geoff Maslen
Professor Martin Westwell is the foundation head of the Centre for Science Education in the 21st century, launched last month at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia. Westwell, formerly deputy director of the Institute for the Future of the Mind at Oxford University, says the centre will use current evidence to help inform decisions in science education. “The choices and decisions made today will shape tomorrow,” he says.
Full report on the University World News site

UNI-LATERAL: Off-beat university stories

US: Pop and pedagogy
Judith Ritter
When the prestigious higher education ranking Princeton Review named Boston University Law School number one for the quality of its faculty, Professor Mark Pettit might have taken some credit for the top spot. He is the law school’s rock and roll professor. Along with a very traditional roster of course work in his first year contracts class, he belts out legal lyrics to the tunes of popular rock songs.
Full report on the University World News site

RUSSIA: Students to be tested for drugs
Helen Womack
Students in Moscow are to face compulsory tests for drug abuse from next autumn. The newspaper Kommersant quoted officials from the Federal Narcotics Control Service saying tests would be carried out in a “number of institutions of higher education” and the focus would be on young people studying for responsible professions.
Full report on the University World News site


CANADA: Moving from the ivory tower to the community
Nine years ago the University of British Columbia announced its intention to establish a presence in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The commitment was part of UBC’s aspiration to strengthen its contributions to the community beyond the campus. But many residents, professionals, and activists in the Downtown Eastside were sceptical. What did a large, mainstream, conservative university have to offer a neighbourhood infamous for its poverty and associated social problems – homelessness, high rates of communicable disease and mental illness, and an open drug scene and s ex trade? Margot Fryer writes about an extraordinary community project in which she is involved, in a recent edition of the journal Academic Matters.
More on the University World News site


ISRAEL: Exodus of academics ‘unparalleled’
A new report on the flight of Israel's academic researchers to the United States foretells of catastrophic consequences for the economic and defence sectors if the haemorrhaging of leading minds out of the country does not cease, reports the Jerusalem Post. “The deeper I dug, the clearer it became to me that we have developed a problem that is at a magnitude beyond anything that exists anywhere else in the developed world," said Professor Dan Ben-David, of Tel Aviv University's Center for Economic Policy Research.
More on the University World News site

US: HE gap might slow economic mobility
The widening gap in higher education between rich and poor, and between whites and minorities, may lead to a downturn in economic mobility, making it harder for today’s poor to move up the income ladder, according to the authors of a major research report. It found that mobility had not changed significantly over the last three decades – though there was some evidence it might have worsened – and that family background remains a large predictor of future income, reports the New York Times.
More on the University World News site

US: Higher education donations up
Donations to colleges and universities rose solidly last year, to a record of nearly $30 billion, with the wealthiest universities again attracting a hugely disproportionate share, a new survey shows. Private donations to higher education rose 6.3% last year to $29.75 billion, according to the annual Voluntary Support of Education survey of the Council for Aid to Education, reports Associated Press. But the economic downturn means the fundraising pace for 2008 could slow.
More on the University World News site

EUROPE: More support for EU-Asia research cooperation
The European Commission has announced further €12 million funding support for the Asia wide Trans-Eurasia Information Network. TEIN currently enables 10 countries in Asia and the Pacific to use large-scale internet connections to carry out research projects globally, the Commission said in a press statement: “With the new budget and an additional €6million coming from Asian partners, TEIN will be able to operate until 2011 with improved capacity in a greater number of countries.”
More on the University World News site

UK: University dropout steady at 22%
An £800m drive to reduce the number of university dropouts has had virtually no effect, according to a report from a committee of MPs. The proportion of students who fail to complete their degree has remained at 22% for five years, reports The Guardian. Poorer students, older students, disabled students and those with families – the ‘non-traditional’ students the government is keen to attract – are more likely to drop out.
More on the University World News site

SWEDEN: Universities’ research resources stagnating
A new report by the Swedish Research Council has revealed that research funding for universities and colleges rose from the mid-1990s until 2002 – but has since stagnated. According to a report on the Jura Forum website, during the period higher education institutions increased their numbers of undergraduates, admitted more doctoral students, hired more people and faced higher salary costs. One consequence is insufficient or non-existent investment in infrastructure.

More on the University World News site

N igeria: Lecturers shut down universities
The Academic Staff Union of Universities has declared a one-week warning strike, reports Leadership. The union’s national president, Dr Abdullahi Sule-Kano, told reporters that the decision was taken after it had exhausted all amicable avenues through which the problem of the 2001 sacking of 49 University of Ilorin lecturers might have been resolved.
More on the University World News site

UGANDA: Student loan scheme could be on the cards
The feasibility of establishing a student loan scheme in Uganda has been investigated at a workshop organised by the National Council for Higher Education, reports New Vision. Although the demand for tertiary education has increased, government funding is low.
More on the University World News site

LATIN AMERICA: University expansion urged
In all of Latin America and the Caribbean only 14 million people are studying at the higher education level and 60% of university students are concentrated in three countries: Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. The Cuban newspaper Periodico reports that these statistics challenge Latin American university systems to expand without sacrificing quality.
More on the University World News site
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