University World News Global Edition
08 December 2013 Issue 0299 Register to receive our free e-newspaper by email each week Advanced Search
Research funding crisis in Spain, HE integration in Latin America, and MOOCs

In Commentary, theoretical physicist Domènec Espriu argues that cuts and delays to research funding in Spain have followed years of mismanagement and inefficiency in the system. Recent moves to ease the research crisis may be too little, too late.
Shuangmiao Han contends that proposals to downgrade the English language component in Beijing’s version of China’s national university entrance exams could affect the ability of Chinese students to study abroad.
Andrew Gunn describes the growth of alliances in a competitive higher education world, and suggests that the sacrifice of some sovereignty can be a price worth paying for the advantages of membership, and Philip Altbach looks at MOOCS and the question of who controls knowledge and why this matters.
In World Blog, William Patrick Leonard writes that debates about higher education sustainability in America have shifted from environmental concerns and the green campus to another increasingly scarce resource – money – and institutional survival.
We republish a Student View by Kitso Rantao on lessons today's youth can learn from the young Nelson Mandela, as a tribute to the great leader who died last Thursday.
Higher education integration in Latin America and building partnerships with universities in Europe were discussed at a major bi-regional conference held in Colombia last week, covered by Miriam Wells in a Special Report.
In Features, Lucy Hodges looks at Hamad bin Khalifa University, Qatar’s new graduate institution that aims to increase Qataris’ participation in postgraduate education – and counter local concern about foreign universities. And Jan Petter Myklebust reports on international collaboration in Europe’s huge Horizon 2020 research programme.
Karen MacGregor – Global Editor
NEWS: Our correspondents worldwide report
Yojana Sharma

In a downward revision in international student trends, the number of Indian students looking to study abroad will not rise dramatically – even as the Indian economy grows – the British Council has said in its latest report from the country.
Karen MacGregor

China has dominated the first BRICS and emerging economies ranking published by Times Higher Education, taking 23 slots in the top 100 universities followed by Taiwan with 21. Peking and Tsinghua universities came first and second, and the University of Cape Town third.
Munyaradzi Makoni and Karen MacGregor

Following his death at the age of 95 last Thursday, tributes from universities around the world have poured in for Nelson Mandela. South Africa’s great leader, Nobel peace prize laureate and global icon embodied humanity and humility, tolerance and forgiveness – the Truth and Reconciliation Commission launched during his presidency has been studied the world over as a model for post-conflict societies.
See also the article in Student View
Geoff Maslen

Australia’s former Labor prime minister Julia Gillard created a storm of outrage across the university sector last April when she announced that spending on higher education would be slashed by A$2.3 billion, equivalent at the time to US$2.5 billion. Last week, with Labor now in opposition, new Labor leader Bill Shorten said the party would not back a conservative government plan to adopt the spending cuts.
David Jobbins

A report from an influential, left-leaning British think-tank has accused the government of getting its migration policy wrong by focusing on controls on international students, and warns that it risks damaging the long-term interests of UK higher education.
Ashraf Khaled

The death of a student in a police crackdown on Egypt's biggest public university has sparked angry student protests at the country’s universities. On 1 December, thousands of students also demonstrated in central Cairo before being dispersed by police using teargas.
Peta Lee

If PISA founder Andreas Schleicher had his way, the Programme for International Student Assessment would extend to higher education as well. Until then, the three-yearly tests, and their much-awaited scores, will be limited to high schools around the world.
Hiep Pham

Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training could revoke the licences of at least two universities in the wake of a recent evaluation by the Hanoi People’s Committee, which inspected 20 higher education institutions operating in the Hanoi region and recommended that two of them be shut.

Research into the medical uses of stem cells is growing at a rate of 7% a year, or twice the world’s average growth in research of 2.9%, according to a new report. Released at the World Stem Cell Summit in San Diego in California, the report provides a comprehensive analysis of the growth and development of the stem cell field and examines the research landscape.
Geoff Maslen

After opening its first international offshoot at London’s City University in May, the Australian-based online academic newsletter, The Conversation, is planning to open in other, as yet unnamed, countries – while its monthly unique visitor numbers at home have tripled over the past year to 1.4 million, with 400,000 readers outside Australia.
Wagdy Sawahel

Five North African countries – Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia – along with 38 European and Mediterranean states will benefit from a new framework initiative to promote student mobility across the region.
SPECIAL REPORT: Regional HE integration
The second Bi-Regional Conference of Alfa PUENTES – a project aimed at improving integration across Latin American higher education institutions and building partnerships with European counterparts – was held from 2-4 December in Cartagena, Colombia. The project, coordinated by the European University Association, involves more than 20 university associations from Latin America and Europe. University World News was at the conference, titled “A Europe-Latin America Partnership for Innovative, Responsive and Sustainable Universities”.
Miriam Wells

An international higher education conference has underlined major progress made in building links between universities in neighbouring countries in Latin America. But it also highlighted significant remaining challenges facing Latin American higher education if it wants to be truly integrated with tertiary institutions worldwide.
Miriam Wells

Latin American and Caribbean university rectors have come together to create the first region-wide higher education association, in what they say is a major step forward for regional identity in ways that go far beyond education.
Miriam Wells

The most comprehensive survey of Latin American universities ever undertaken has revealed an ongoing failure to adapt to the modern age, Mexico's director general of higher education has told a major regional tertiary education conference.
Lucy Hodges

Unusually for a Muslim country, Qatar has opened its door to Western-style institutions. In broadcasting, this has meant Al Jazeera. In higher education, it has meant the creation of Education City, which houses Hamad bin Khalifa University, a new all-graduate institution.
Jan Petter Myklebust

International collaboration has been an important element in the European Commission’s research framework programmes, and work is ongoing to strengthen such cooperation significantly in the huge Horizon 2020 research initiative that kicks off in January 2014.
Kitso Rantao

As a young South African, I have asked myself a somewhat odd question: Who was Nelson Mandela? In history I have been taught that he was the first black president of democratic South Africa, a martyr who was imprisoned for 27 years, a Nobel peace prize winner – among many other accolades for his great political reform.
William Patrick Leonard

American institutions face a sustainability dilemma – how to keep going in an era of government cuts without continuing to raise tuition fees. Two states have looked at ways to offer cheaper programmes, but are these cost-shifting scholarship schemes that cannot be applied widely?
Domènec Espriu

The economic crisis has brought cuts and delays to research funding in Spain, but they follow years of mismanagement and inefficiency in the system. A series of announcements have been made recently suggesting that the government sees research as vital for the Spanish economy – but many think it is too little, too late.
Shuangmiao Han

Proposed changes to Beijing’s regional gaokao – the national college entrance examination – that de-emphasise the use of the English language, could have important implications for Chinese students’ ability to study abroad and for educational equality.
Philip G Altbach

One aspect of the massive open online courses, or MOOCs, movement has not been fully analysed – who controls the knowledge? Considering where the content and the technology that support MOOCs originate, the answer is clear.
Andrew Gunn

Alliances represent a curious form of cooperation in an increasingly competitive higher education arena. Whether they boost performance is difficult to measure and giving up a degree of autonomy over international policy can present challenges – but it may be a price worth paying for the collaborative advantage created through membership.

Large fish traps in the Persian Gulf could be catching up to six times more fish than what is being officially reported, according to the first investigation of fish catches from space. Officially reported data claims that fish weirs take only 1% of the total catch in the Persian Gulf whereas researchers now estimate the real amount caught is almost 10% of the total.

Up to 24 countries may be netting sharks in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea but failing to report these catches, as is legally required by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas.

The salt in common effervescent and soluble drugs may be exposing consumers to increased risk of heart problems, including heart attacks and strokes, according to a team of British pharmacologists.

The world’s largest scientific psychology organisation is encouraging researchers submitting papers to its influential global journal, Psychological Science, to use a radically different statistical method in reporting their research findings.
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Officials are being paid up to CNY1 million (US$164,000) for admissions to a top university in Beijing, the offical Xinhua news agency reported last week. The report came in the wake of a corruption case involving Beijing-based Renmin University, writes Angela Meng for the South China Morning Post.

In the global marketplace of higher education, the humanities are increasingly threatened by decreased funding and political attacks, writes Ella Delany for The New York Times. Financing for humanities research in the United States has fallen steadily since 2009, and in 2011 was less than half of 1% of the amount dedicated to science and engineering research and development.

Private colleges in England have been thrown into chaos after the government acted to stop half from recruiting any more students from Britain and the European Union to study for higher national diplomas and certificates, write Shiv Malik and Andrew McGettigan for the Guardian.

Myanmar’s government will allow first-year university students to live on campuses across the country starting from this month, according to Acting Education Minister Dr Myo Myint. It will be the first time students have been allowed to live in university halls of residences since the student uprisings of 1996, reports Eleven.

In a meeting this week with UK Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts, Israeli Science Minister Yaakov Peri slammed the academic boycott campaign and urged Willetts to "try and put some more influence on vice-chancellors to see who are the speakers, who are the leaders for the movement", reports Ben White for Middle East Monitor.

New developments suggest that there is a high probability that the academic semester of the universities in Athens will be lost. Administrative employees at the University of Athens and the National Technical University of Athens announced a new 48-hour strike last week. In the meantime, five of the nine schools at the National Technical University are occupied by students, writes Ioanna Zikakou for Greek Reporter.

In a new magazine profile of Sebastian Thrun, the Udacity founder calls his company’s massive open online courses – MOOCs – a “lousy product” to use for educating underprepared college students. That assertion has prompted a chorus of ‘I told you so’ from critics in academe, writes Steve Kolowich for The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Quebec’s largest university is rejecting the Canadian province’s secular charter as a useless measure, adding to signs of a growing revolt against Parti Québécois’ controversial bill, writes Ingrid Peritz for The Globe and Mail.

It is time for promoters of international student programmes to stop acting as if they are “white knights”. That is the view of Hanneke Teekens, one of many scholars studying the internationalisation of higher education who are worried about the ethical pitfalls that have opened up with the meteoric rise in the number of foreign students in the West, writes Douglas Todd for Vancouver Sun.

China's higher education is getting more accessible for the disabled, but students say more facilities for the mobility-challenged are needed, writes Xu Lin for China Daily.

Makerere University has issued a terror alert in an effort to forestall any terror attacks on the institution after numerous reports in recent months that terrorists were plotting to attack Uganda, writes Innocent Anguyo for New Vision.

The World Innovation Summit for Education released an interview with Noam Chomsky recently in which the noted linguist discussed, among other things, how high student tuition fees indoctrinates students into corporate culture, writes Scott Kaufman for The Raw Story.
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