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3 September 2017 Issue 472 Register to receive our free e-newspaper by email each week Advanced Search


Are too many university programmes now being taught in English?

   In World Blog, Hans de Wit explores some of the tensions arising from universities increasingly teaching in English rather than the local language in continental Europe, and highlights a study in the Netherlands that offers a balanced approach to dealing with this complex issue.

   In Commentary, Sjur Bergan and Stig Arne Skjerven contend that the recognition of foreign qualifications is a moral duty that is key to building inclusive societies, and they examine the impact of the Lisbon Recognition Convention and what the future may hold. John Daniel warns universities planning to expand internationally to ‘look before they leap’ as changing political attitudes globally pose challenges for international education and accreditation. Peter Scott writes that universities need to be pragmatic and strike the right balance in their defence of free speech – while free expression is a core value in the academy, no sensible person would argue that freedom of speech should be absolute.

   Also in Commentary, Anand Kulkarni discusses how global and domestic university rankings can be used as a valuable tool for promoting reform in the Indian higher education system, while Angel Calderon compares the 2017 Academic Ranking of World Universities with the 2003 ranking of the top 500 universities, pointing out significant geopolitical shifts in higher education. And William G Tierney acknowledges the accomplishment of launching the University of Southern California’s new US$700 million campus, but expresses concern about its leaders’ inability to speak out on pressing national issues.

   In Features, Sungula Nkabinde reports on a new economics curriculum for undergraduates developed by internationally renowned economists, which seeks to make economics more relevant to today’s problems, while Tunde Fatunde reports that a strike by public university staff in Nigeria over funding and salary issues is set to continue and campuses will remain closed.

Brendan O’Malley – Managing Editor

NEWS – Our correspondents worldwide report


Geopolitics are hitting Chinese student flows in Asia

Yojana Sharma and Mimi Leung

There was relief in Taiwan last week as mainland Chinese are once again enrolling in Taiwan’s universities after China curbed student exchanges across the Taiwan Strait due to tense relations between the two sides, but overall the number of Chinese students has halved since last year. At the same time, South Korea is seeing a major dip in enrolment of Chinese students.


Government steps up funding for elite universities

Eugene Vorotnikov

The Russian government is stepping up its funding of the 5-100 programme aimed at getting five universities into the global top 100 in international rankings, conceding that it has faced significant challenges due to underfunding and budget cuts.


Academics targeted after student activists are jailed

Yojana Sharma

In the wake of the internationally-condemned jailing of former student leaders of Hong Kong’s 2014 student movement, including an elected legislator Nathan Law, academics who were active in the movement have become the latest target.


Minister dismisses critics of university funding cuts

Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham has dismissed vice-chancellors’ opposition to his proposed budget cuts for higher education, saying that universities can find efficiency savings to allow for the shortfall. But universities say STEM disciplines – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – will suffer most.


Universities must fight ‘unfair’ claims of elitism

Brendan O’Malley

Universities are facing a crisis of public confidence born of being “unfairly categorised as elite, aloof and detached from individuals, communities and day to day challenges” and must fight back, according to Alistair Jarvis, the new chief executive of Universities UK.


Tunisia in new bid to attract Sub-Saharan students

Wagdy Sawahel

A series of new measures to reverse the sharp decline in numbers of Sub-Saharan African students in Tunisia over the next three years has been unveiled.


Commission stops new enrolments in 19 universities

Christabel Ligami

The Tanzania Commission for Universities will not withdraw its decision to bar 19 universities, including three international institutions, from admitting new students for the 2017-18 academic year starting this September, owing to concerns over quality.


Is interest in language courses in critical freefall?

Jan Petter Myklebust

Questions are being raised about the fate of Denmark’s national languages plan following the presentation of the government budget for 2018, which contains barely a trace of measures addressing the freefall of interest in language courses at universities.


Academics organise to fight fascists on campuses

Nell Gluckman, The Chronicle of Higher Education

In an effort to push back against far-right rallies, racism and Islamophobia on campus, some academics have formed a coalition of scholars called the Campus Anti-Fascist Network and its members – academics, university staff and students – are growing.


New student loan scheme – A 'half-baked' plan?

Kudzai Mashininga

A student union representative has described Zimbabwe’s new student loan scheme – supported by US$1 billion put together by the state and six local financial institutions – as a “half-baked cake”, catering only for those whose parents are formally employed.



Recognition of foreign credentials is a moral duty

Sjur Bergan and Stig Arne Skjerven

Recognition of qualifications is key to building inclusive societies. Twenty years after the Lisbon Recognition Convention there is now a stronger focus globally on how recognition can help applicants, including refugees, continue their academic journey and less on ‘protecting’ one’s own system.


A risky time for universities to internationalise

John Daniel

Current global politics pose a number of challenges for international education and accreditation. While accreditation abroad may previously have brought prestige and facilitated international linkages, this may boomerang in nationalist times.


When does ‘free speech’ become ‘offensive speech’?

Peter Scott

Free expression, in the shape of critical enquiry, is a core value in the academy, but freedom of speech should not be unlimited, even on campus. Universities have to try to strike the right balance, which will be different in different places and times.


Driving positive change through university rankings

Anand Kulkarni

Global and domestic rankings can be harnessed to drive change in India’s higher education sector. Indeed, as domestic rankings evolve and mature, India may eventually be in a position to influence the parameters and indicators of the global rankings.


What 15 years of global ranking says about HE trends

Angel Calderon

It is 15 years since the Academic Ranking of World Universities or ShanghaiRanking published its top 500 ranking. Comparing the 2017 rankings with those in 2003 reflects significant geopolitical shifts in higher education. Who are the winners and losers?


A new body for USC, but not enough soul

William G Tierney

As the University of Southern California or USC launches its shiny new US$700 million campus, there are concerns about its leadership’s silence on pressing political issues, particularly Donald Trump’s initiatives, and an unfolding scandal involving a former dean.



The complex politics of teaching in English in HE

Hans de Wit

There is a tension between the demand for internationalisation and the need to preserve the quality of education in the local language, but a more nuanced approach to teaching in English would take into account the pros and cons for individual study programmes.



Economics curriculum reform – In search of relevance

Sungula Nkabinde

A new question-motivated, relevant curriculum, which positions itself in part as a response to weaknesses in the mainstream teaching of economics – some of which were exposed by the global financial crisis of 2008 – is showing early indications of success, according to its creators.


University staff remain resolute over indefinite strike

Tunde Fatunde

A strike by public university staff over funding and salary issues is set to continue and campuses will remain closed after a second round of negotiations between the Nigerian government and the union broke down.


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Universities tighten ideological control of staff

A group of China’s top universities have set up Communist Party departments to oversee the political thinking of their teaching staff after the colleges were criticised amid the government’s tightening ideological control on campuses, writes Nectar Gan for South China Morning Post.


Group of Eight seeks special visa for Indian PhDs

The Group of Eight – comprising leading research universities – is pushing for a new visa class to attract PhD students as it seeks to unlock the potential of the Indian market, write Bernard Lane and John Ross for The Australian.


Girls a third more likely to go to university than boys

Teenage girls are now over a third more likely to go to university than boys, according to new figures, as the gap between the sexes reaches record levels, writes Rachael Pells for the Independent.


Academics call to declassify apartheid-era archives

A group of academics and activists are calling for apartheid-era documents to be declassified for the sake of scholars and “transitional justice for victims of oppression”, writes Tanya Farber for Times Live.


More universities reject lower admission standards

More universities have insisted that they have no intention of lowering their admission standards to accommodate students who score 120 marks in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, write Laolu Harolds, Adelowo Oladipo and Shehu Bello for the Nigerian Tribune.


Universities use interviews to screen future teachers

The ratio of public universities that used interviews as part of the screening process for aspiring teachers who entered this spring rose to half. Universities are hoping to improve how they gauge the suitability of future teachers amidst repeated trouble with mental health, and cases of child molestation and other indecent acts, reports The Mainichi.


Universities unhappy over budget rise

The draft 2018 state budget that Finance Minister Ivan Pilny has to submit to the cabinet by the end of August projects a CZK700 million (US$32 million) increase in the sum to go to universities, which consider it absolutely insufficient, reports CTK.


240 students get scholarships to Chinese universities

The Chinese government has awarded scholarships to at least 240 South Sudanese students to study undergraduate and postgraduate programmes at various Chinese universities, reports Xinhua.


Top liquor maker to launch ‘Moutai university’

Chinese liquor maker Kweichow Moutai is to open a ‘Moutai university’ as a dearth of skilled workers prompts local companies to launch training schools for future employees, writes Emily Feng for the Financial Times.


Ontario proposes French-language university in Toronto

Ontario is moving to create a French-language university – the first of its kind in the province – that will offer students a completely French environment and will provide programmes different from those offered in traditional universities, writes Miriam Katawazi for The Globe and Mail.


Oxford University professor quits over Trump backer

A leading political academic has resigned from his Oxford University post after he claimed that one of the university’s main patrons is also one of Donald Trump’s biggest financial backers, write Matthew Weaver and Helena Bengtsson for the Guardian.


Professor blames government for eroding research quality

A professor of health law at the University of Helsinki and administrative chief physician at the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa has warned that cuts in education spending by the government of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä mean that Finland will lose its status as a top-tier research country, writes Aleksi Teivainen for the Helsinki Times.


Modest growth in international student enrolment

International student enrolments across Chile showed modest growth in 2016, with most degree-seeking students originating in neighbouring Latin American countries and with study abroad growth driven by students from Europe and North America, writes Sara Custer for The PIE News.


Gender parity among academics ‘disappointing’ – Minister

The minister for higher education in Scotland has described as “disappointing” attempts by universities to provide female academics with the same career opportunities as men, writes Andrew Denholm for The Herald Scotland.


Noam Chomsky to leave MIT for University of Arizona

Linguistics Professor Noam Chomsky has announced plans to depart Cambridge in favour of, well, not greener pastures, exactly, but certainly warmer ones. He’s joining the linguistics department at the University of Arizona in Tucson, writes Lisa Weidenfeld for Boston Daily.


Central universities told to host 'patriotic' rock shows

In a recent circular sent to all the central universities and Indian Institutes of Technology across the country, the human resource development ministry has asked them to host rock shows. However, there is a twist – the shows will have a patriotic theme, writes Riya Sharma for TNN.

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