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03 November 2013 Issue 0294 Register to receive our free e-newspaper by email each week Advanced Search
After the Robbins Report – Half a century of UK higher education evolution

On the 50th anniversary of the UK’s Robbins Report, Sir Peter Scott argues that while Lord Lionel Robbins and current Universities Minister David Willetts have both supported mass higher education, their approaches are very different. Jan Petter Myklebust probes Willetts' pamphlet on Robbins and his call for “bigger and better higher education”, and David Jobbins provides a post-Robbins timeline for UK higher education.
In Commentary, Alasdair Taylor unpacks Sir Andrew Witty’s report on UK universities and innovation and suggests that while more support for enterprises is a worthy goal, universities should not neglect blue skies research. In World Blog, in the centenary year of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, Brenda Gourley reflects on the accelerating pace and nature of change in higher education.
Ard Jongsma visited Brazil to attend a European Union-Brazil seminar on academic mobility, internationalisation and innovation, and found the rapidly growing economy with seven million tertiary students far more able to call the tune on cooperation than less developed countries.
Also in Features, Katherine Forrestier charts the rise of MOOCs in China. Matt Krupnick looks at challenges facing students and academics from Syria, and finds that in many ways conflict in the country has been tied to universities. Nicola Jenvey describes a controversial ‘equity index’ developed to measure racial and gender transformation in South African universities. And Hiep Pham reports on Vietnam’s efforts to maintain support for poor students through loan funding.
Finally, in Africa Analysis, we report on a workshop that explored ways of strengthening PhD programmes in Sub-Saharan Africa, held in South Africa last week and attended by university leaders and experts from across the continent.
Karen MacGregor – Global Editor
NEWS: Our correspondents worldwide report
Suvendrini Kakuchi

Aiming to strengthen Japan’s global influence and soft power through the internationalisation of higher education, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is turning the spotlight on research collaboration – in particular strengthening joint research with developing countries in Africa and Asia.
Yojana Sharma

Can university leaders ensure that their institutions keep up with rapid changes in technology and shifts in local and global economies? The International Association of University Presidents session at the WISE conference in Doha last week sparked considerable debate on whether universities can survive to serve ‘emerging generations’.
Ashraf Khaled

Thousands of students at Al-Azhar University, Egypt's huge Islamic seminary, have held rallies in support of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi for the second consecutive week amid accusations from the institution’s administrators that the students have been engaged in acts of violence and vandalism. Dozens of students have been arrested.
Suluck Lamubol

The Bangkok Criminal Court last Wednesday upheld the verdict of a lower court that had acquitted the president of Chulalongkorn University in Thailand of conducting an unfair investigation in the first ever case of the university revoking a PhD.
Peta Lee

Free, credit-bearing online learning has become accessible for students worldwide. The Open Educational Resource university – a project of the UNESCO-Commonwealth of Learning OER Chair network – was unveiled on 1 November, promising to “revolutionise tertiary learning”.
Geoff Maslen

Open Universities Australia reached a remarkable milestone last Monday when it announced that its free online learning platform Open2Study had lured 100,000 enrolments, with 53,000 students from more than 180 countries undertaking one or more of its massive open online courses, or MOOCs.
Katherine Forestier

The Chinese government has responded positively to the arrival of massive open online courses – MOOCs – and is speeding up the development of its own online offerings.
More on China and MOOCs in the Features section
Maina Waruru

Phase one of the Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence initiative, being sponsored by the World Bank to the tune of US$158 million, is expected to kick off in the third week of November when the identities of universities that have been selected to host the centres will be made public.
Wagdy Sawahel

The United States and Libya have agreed to set up a higher education task force that will work to strengthen Libya’s educational capacity, provide information about study abroad to Libyan students, and expand scholarships and exchange opportunities.
Tunde Fatunde

Public universities in Nigeria have been shut since 2 July by crippling industrial action by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities. The main grouse of academics is the government’s failure to fund various formal agreements aimed at revitalising the public university system.
Gilbert Nganga

Kenya has formally allowed universities to take over tertiary colleges in a new policy framework. But the upgraded institutions must retain their original courses, programmes and mandates, says the policy announced last Thursday by cabinet.
Francis Kokutse

Ghana’s public universities are facing a boom in applications, but do not have sufficient facilities to meet growing demand that has been exacerbated by an influx of students from neighbouring countries and a double cohort leaving school this year.

A higher education grant competition has been launched as a major collaboration between the United States and United Kingdom. The Global Innovation Initiative plans to strengthen higher education research partnerships between the US, UK and selected countries – Brazil, China, India and Indonesia.
Ard Jongsma

For the European Union, cooperation with Brazil is not quite the same as cooperation with developing and transition countries has been in past decades. Brazil is a rapidly developing economy with seven million higher education students, and a partner with a huge bag of earmarked funds. Because of this, it can set the tune to a much greater degree than less developed countries.
Katherine Forestier

Millions of learners in China and internationally can now access courses offered by China’s leading universities. The country’s top universities launched their first massive open online courses – MOOCs – on the US-based edX and Coursera platforms recently.
Matt Krupnick

A year ago, Tony Law was studying computer science at university – without internet service and while violence raged across Syria. Now Law and most other students have fled the country’s once-respected universities. Those who stayed are either fighting or doing what they can to survive.
Nicola Jenvey

A study by the head of a ministerial oversight committee on transformation in South African higher education, which found that it could take 43 years to achieve racial balance among staff in universities and proposes new admissions policies and funding penalties against untransformed institutions, has sparked controversy.
Hiep Pham

Despite the need to deal with a rising budget deficit, Vietnam this year decided to raise the amount available for student loans by almost 40%, after funds available from government fell short of demand for loans. The increase represents a considerable effort to maintain support for disadvantaged students.
The Robbins Report – 50th anniversary
The Robbins Report, produced by a government-commissioned Committee on Higher Education, was published in the United Kingdom in October 1963. Its recommendations were accepted and had a literally massive impact on the sector. We revisit Robbins and how higher education has evolved in the subsequent half a century.
Peter Scott

Lord Lionel Robbins’ report marked a watershed in the history of higher education in the United Kingdom – the beginning of a huge transformation from an elite to a mass system. Fifty years on, David Willetts, the universities minister, has published a pamphlet to mark the anniversary. While Willetts supports a mass system, his government’s policies stand very much at odds with Robbins.
Jan Petter Myklebust

Fifty years ago the Robbins Report proposed massive expansion of higher education in the United Kingdom – up to 300% over the next two decades. In a report on Robbins, current Universities Minister David Willetts calculates that with British births on the rise again, university places for new entrants will need to rise by another 25% by 2035.
David Jobbins

On the eve of the Robbins Report, half a century ago, Britain’s universities were small in number and in size, élitist and predominantly male.
Brenda Gourley

The Association of Commonwealth Universities is celebrating its 100th birthday. Over the years the pace of change in higher education has got faster. The role and power of universities has grown, as has societies’ expectations of them. The challenges universities face will only increase in the years to come.
Alasdair Taylor

Sir Andrew Witty’s recent report on how UK research can lead innovation suggests many activities that universities are already doing to link up with industry – but balance is key. While more support for and engagement with small and medium-sized enterprises is a good thing, universities should not lose sight of their mission to foster blue skies research.
Africa Analysis
Karen MacGregor

There is broad agreement that Africa needs tens of thousands more PhDs, to renew an ageing professoriate and staff rapidly expanding higher education, boost research and generate the high-level skills growing economies need. How is this to be achieved? Last week African university leaders and experts thrashed out a range of proposals, including on networks and collaboration, supervision incentives and the diaspora, political support and funding.
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Australia’s Abbott government last week moved to loosen visa restrictions to attract international students, prompting calls for increased funding for regulators to ensure there was no return to the ‘visa factory’ that marked the height of the 2008-09 higher education boom, writes Andrew Trounson for The Australian.

Foreign students have outnumbered their UK counterparts in postgraduate education at British universities for the past five years, it was revealed last week, writes Richard Garner for The Independent.

Turkish universities should not hesitate to open their doors to more foreign scholars and students, President Abdullah Gül said during a speech calling for increased contact with other academic cultures, reports Anadolu Agency.

Bulgaria’s capital Sofia has witnessed a series of student protests and the occupation of university buildings that have injected new life into a persistent anti-government movement that last week entered its 138th day, writes Thomas Seymat for Euronews.

He lectured students about the trespasses of the Communist Party, publicly belittled China’s mighty propaganda minister and issued frequent demands for an end to single-party rule. But in voting to dismiss economist Xia Yeliang from Peking University, officials say they considered only one criterion: his performance as an academic, writes Andrew Jacobs for The New York Times.

South Korea’s education system is both inspiring and intimidating. The country’s 15-year-olds ranked fourth in science (excluding Shanghai and Hong Kong), second in maths and first in reading in the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment, PISA. Its youngsters aged between 16 and 24 did equally well in the OECD’s international survey of adult skills, released last month, reports The Economist.

Everyone, it seems, loves the idea of scholars’ interdisciplinary work. But does academe reward those – particularly young scholars – who actually do it? A new study, based on data from all people who earned PhDs in 2010, suggests the opposite, writes Scott Jaschik for Inside Higher Ed.

The excellent prospects for British graduates in the social sciences are highlighted in a new report. What do social science graduates do? was compiled by the Campaign for Social Science and draws on information from the Higher Education Statistics Agency for graduates completing full- or part-time degrees in 2008-09, writes Matthew Reisz for Times Higher Education.

A Malaysian university faced public criticism last week for awarding an honorary doctorate in economics to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whose country is among the poorest in the world, reports Associated Press.

Pioneering feminist academic and broadcaster Germaine Greer has sold her lifetime archive to the University of Melbourne, where she began her education more than 50 years ago. She plans to devote the proceeds to rehabilitation of the Australian rainforest, writes Margaret Simons for the Guardian.
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