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NEWSLETTERQuality teaching is key to modernising universities – European Commission
The European Commission has launched a High Level Group on the Modernisation of Higher Education. Androulla Vassiliou, European commissioner for education, culture, multilingualism and youth, and Mary McAleese, former president of Ireland and chair of the group, explain why.
Also in Commentary, Emily R Miller and Richard A Skinner argue that imposing North American models of higher education governance elsewhere would not necessarily work. Goolam Mohamedbhai finds a pilot study for the African Quality Rating Mechanism flawed and says there will be challenges in moving forward, and Lucian J Hudson writes that now is the time for huge progress in widening access to higher education – but opening up access to content is not enough.
In Features, Lee Adendorff reports on the 24th conference, held in Bologna, of the Magna Charta Universitatum – a declaration on fundamental university principles that has now been signed by some 750 universities worldwide – and Chrissie Long investigates why a high number of medical graduates who studied in Cuba have failed licensing exams in Costa Rica.
Andrew Green probes Not In My Country, a website in Uganda dedicated to exposing corruption in higher education and rating academics, and Kounila Keo finds that despite a rapidly growing number of higher education institutions in Cambodia, they are struggling to meet growing demand and quality is a real concern.
Karen MacGregor Global Editor
NEWS: Our correspondents worldwide report
Universities in Europe and Asia must collaborate to make their graduates employable in a globalised world, with joint programmes and dual degrees paving the way for greater student mobility, heads of universities in 37 Asian and European countries heard at a major conference in The Netherlands last week.
As the 18-month conflict in Syria escalates, a growing number of higher education organisations are mounting efforts to extend scholarships and aid to students and academics who are suffering, especially those in the worst-hit areas.
Student exchanges between Japan and China have grown steadily in recent years. But ongoing tensions in Sino-Japanese relations over a territorial dispute in the East China Sea has dealt a blow to bilateral diplomacy and fledgling grassroots friendships, experts say.
SWEDENJan Petter Myklebust
The European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education has given the Swedish Agency for Higher Education two years to sort out anomalies in the country’s quality assurance system. The development has sparked criticism of the education ministry for its decision to introduce learning outcomes-based assessment and for undermining autonomy.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday launched a new education initiative called Education First, at a high-level event at the UN headquarters in New York.
Uganda is emerging as the regional powerhouse for higher education in East Africa, with its universities aggressively pursuing students and establishing collaborations with colleges in Kenya, Tanzania and South Sudan.
SOUTH SUDANWagdy Sawahel
South Sudan plans to upgrade its five public universities to new, modern campuses, with US$2.5 billion worth of Chinese loans backed by oil. But the move has come in for criticism, including for lack of consultation with local higher education stakeholders.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has opened the country’s first military university, built with a US$98 million Chinese loan secured by mortgaging diamonds. The National Defence College in Harare will become a fully fledged university in 2015.
In a major effort to expand the scope of higher education and enhance access, Oman plans to set up a second public university. Also on the cards is a city of science and technology – to house the new university, a range of other education and research facilities, and branches of foreign universities.
More than 110 academics and university administrators met in Bologna, Italy, on 21 September for the 24th anniversary conference of the Magna Charta Universitatum – a declaration on fundamental university principles that has now been signed by some 750 universities worldwide.
A high number of medical graduates who studied in Cuba have failed licensing exams that would allow them to practise medicine in Costa Rica. While the director of the medical programme at the University of Costa Rica called the graduates “gravely deficient”, other experts suggested different reasons.
Raymond Qatahar, a first-year law student at Makerere University, is eager to use Not In My Country. The website, launched in May, asks students in Uganda to report corruption in higher education – such as lecturers trading higher grades for money or s ex – and lets students rate classroom experiences.
The number of higher education institutions in Cambodia has mushroomed, but they are still struggling to meet demand. Quality is also a real concern. The kingdom will struggle to lure foreign investment and compete with other ASEAN nations if it does not start producing more, and better-qualified, graduates.
Higher education in Ukraine will not progress without an overall strategy setting out what it aims to achieve. The draft Law on Higher Education offers just that strategy, but analysts fear it is in danger of being kicked into the long grass.
EUROPEAndroulla Vassiliou and Mary McAleese
Teaching has been playing second fiddle to research for too long in Europe's universities. It is time to improve teaching quality and promote its importance to economic and societal progress.
UNITED STATESEmily R Miller and Richard A Skinner
International rankings may show US universities doing well, but adopting North American models of governance elsewhere will not work, since they are a product of a particular system and have several flaws.
The African Quality Rating Mechanism was developed as part of the African Union’s strategy to harmonise higher education. A survey was undertaken to gather information on and self-assessments by universities across Africa, but the response was disappointing and the methodology flawed, and there will be challenges in moving beyond the pilot phase.
GLOBALLucian J Hudson
The internet allows much wider access to higher education, but simply making content more easily available does not result in higher quality learning. Tools that promote active engagement with learning material are essential. Open educational resources deliver greater interactivity, but their impact needs to be measured.
The largest genomic study conducted among Khoe and San groups of Southern Africa has revealed that they are descendants of the earliest diversification event in human history dating back some 100,000 years, well before the ‘out-of-Africa’ migration of modern humans.
A research team of scientists in London, Oxford, Melbourne and Sydney has created the first working quantum bit based on a single atom in silicon, opening the way to ultra-powerful quantum computers of the future.
In universities around the world, postdoctoral students are the unsung heavy lifters. Not only do they take on much of the academic load in running tutorials but they are also crucial in many research programmes, carrying out the most technically demanding tasks and helping write up papers but not always acknowledged by the professors who benefit from their work.
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Motivation and the ability to network have a far greater impact on research productivity than age, gender, job satisfaction, managerial support or teaching load, writes Matthew Reisz for Times Higher Education.
They're the pride and backbone of American higher education, doing essential research and educating en masse the next generations of scientists and engineers. But a new report argues that the mission of the country's 101 major public research universities is imperilled by budget cuts amounting to a fifth of their state funding over the past decade, writes Justin Pope for Associated Press.
Anhanguera Educacional Participacoes SA, Brazil’s largest for-profit university, and its two biggest Brazilian competitors are beating global peers after student loans tripled when the government reduced interest rates and made repayment easier, write Denyse Godoy and Fabiola Moura for Bloomberg Businessweek.
Chinese students head overseas in huge numbers, but some may no longer feel the need to leave home for education. Coursera, the online education platform that offers free courses from universities worldwide, is aiming to net some of the biggest consumers of overseas higher learning – Chinese – write Su Zhou and Lin Jing for China Daily.
Concerned over declining public expenditure on higher education, India’s central government is ready with an ambitious scheme to encourage states to improve the quality and reach of higher education, writes Ritika Chopra for Mail Online India.
For most new students, the first day at university involves nothing more taxing than collecting timetables and planning a night out. But the first cohort of students at philosopher AC Grayling's new £18,000-a-year (US$29,000) private university had to brave a gang of egg-throwing protesters last week as they arrived for the start of term, writes Kevin Rawlinson for The Independent.
Poor students face being priced out of university by the UK government’s education policies, 400 leading academics have claimed. In an open letter to Education Secretary Michael Gove, the signatories, including dozens of professors from top universities, say there has been a “seismic shift” in the public provision of higher education, writes Mark Ellis for the Mirror.
A petition has been circulating asking for the cancellation of the Council of Higher Education sub-committee’s decision not to allow students to register in Ben-Gurion University’s politics and government programme starting in the 2013-14 academic year, writes Danielle Ziri for The Jerusalem Post.
An uneven economic year yielded uneven results for the largest university endowments, with reports released last week revealing a range of results, from a fractional loss on investments for Harvard to a healthy gain for MIT, writes Richard Pérez-Peña for The New York Times.
It’s tough being a university chancellor these days, and nobody knows that better than University of North Carolina Chancellor Holden Thorp, who announced this month that he will resign next June after two tough years of academic and athletic scandals, writes Gregory Childress for The Herald Sun.
China and Russia are natural business partners, but China has a headstart in developing its economy after investing more in education over the past two decades than Russia, said the new director of the London School of Economics, reports Jonathan Earle for The Moscow Times.
Canada’s economy could be in trouble if universities do not start churning out more graduates from all fields of study, including the arts and humanities, says the Association of Universities and Colleges Canada, writes Matthew Pearson for Ottawa Citizen.
India is preparing to involve industries in higher education in an effort to boost both research and employability. The Human Resource Development Ministry expects this will, in addition to employability, solve issues related to land availability and finance, writes Prashant K Nanda for Livemint.
Fears in South Africa that the academic status of an MBA degree could be officially considered no better than an honours degree or postgraduate diploma appear to have been overcome, writes David Furlonger for the Financial Mail.
Brisbane's original sandstone university is set to give academic content away for free as part of a revolutionary programme transforming the business of higher education around the globe, writes Katherine Feeney for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Durham University has accepted a £2.5 million (US$4 million) donation from a Kuwaiti sheik forced to quit as the country’s prime minister amid corruption allegations, writes Mark Tallentire for The Northern Echo.
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