University World News Global Edition
10 September 2017 Issue 473 Register to receive our free e-newspaper by email each week Advanced Search


Universities are in for a long period of disruption as alternatives compete

   In our World Blog this week, Tom Abeles says the traditional idea of the university is changing, their funding models are up for debate as never before and they are in for a long cycle of disruption as alternatives compete to provide qualifications.

   In Commentary, Miguel Antonio Lim pieces together the puzzle of why university rankings are so influential given the relative scepticism with which they are perceived by academics, while Damtew Teferra explains why it would be wise for the world, especially Africa, to ignore reputation-based global university rankings.

   Also in Commentary, Mariam Aman Shah and David Santandreu Calonge suggest a ‘frugal MOOC’ model to overcome barriers to online education for refugees, and list four critical elements of such a model. And Yves Gingras writes that science funding decisions should be based on evidence-based policies – which scientists usually love to promote – and that concentrating funding in a few hands goes against the data on diminishing returns and does not maximise the probability of scientific breakthroughs.

   In Features, Wagdy Sawahel reports that the rising number of suicides among North African students and graduates has seen the spotlight turned onto the role of universities in supporting vulnerable students, and Jan Petter Myklebust reports on a new protest movement in Norwegian academia that questions the way universities are increasingly being run like businesses.

Brendan O’Malley – Managing Editor

NEWS – Our correspondents worldwide report


Chinese universities hit new heights in global ranking

Brendan O'Malley

United Kingdom universities have taken the top two places in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for the first time, but the key trend is the continuing rise of Chinese universities which have taken two top-30 places for the first time. China’s lower-ranked universities have also made big gains.


Rankings results show ‘risks posed by HE cuts plan’

Geoff Maslen

The threat from Chinese universities to Australian universities' standing in international rankings, demonstrated in the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, has led to claims that a planned AU$2.8 billion (US$2.2 billion) government cut to universities’ funding will weaken their competitiveness internationally.


Trump’s DACA decision bars door into higher education

Mary Beth Marklein

United States President Donald Trump’s decision last week to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, programme for children of undocumented immigrants without a clear legislative solution leaves them unable to enrol in college or university and prompted stern rebukes from US higher education leaders.


Plan for universities to hold jobs for foreign faculty

Ranjit Devraj

India wants to hire more foreign academics to boost its performance in international university rankings. But plans to keep one in five faculty jobs for foreign academics have led to fears that universities will have to pay the cost without any increase in funding.


Government unveils post-Brexit science position paper

Brendan O’Malley

The United Kingdom will seek a far-reaching agreement to strengthen science and innovation collaboration with European partners post-Brexit and would prefer to design a new type of deal than build on existing precedents, according to the government’s position paper.


France and Germany start joint climate change research

Michael Gardner

France and Germany have launched a joint research programme as a contribution to implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. The programme, part of the French ‘Make our Planet Great Again’ initiative, invites climate, energy and earth system scientists worldwide to engage in research in the two countries.


PUST stays open, but British Council suspends teaching

Yojana Sharma

Despite new travel curbs on United States passport-holders and tension over missile tests and military manoeuvres, the private Pyongyang University of Science and Technology or PUST, which teaches in English, is staying open. But the British Council has suspended language teaching at all North Korean universities.


Foreign firms to plug universities’ infrastructure gap

Gilbert Nganga

Foreign financial institutions and private equity funds are lining up millions of dollars to invest in Kenya’s higher education, potentially helping to narrow the damaging infrastructure gap facing the sector.


Pro-independence banners re-emerge on campuses

Mimi Leung

Banners advocating Hong Kong’s independence from China have re-emerged at several Hong Kong university campuses despite moves to tear them down at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, in a renewed show of defiance following the jailing of three former student leaders.


New survey to assess challenges facing young scholars

Sharon Dell

What are the unique challenges faced by researchers and academics early in their careers and how can they be better supported? A new study – geared towards early-career scholars in all disciplines in Africa – is set to find out.



How do university rankings maintain their influence?

Miguel Antonio Lim

University rankings’ influence continues to increase even though academics are often very sceptical about them. Why? Part of the reason lies in the need for greater accountability and the way rankings are increasingly curating spaces of higher education expertise, including summits and conferences.


Tempest in the rankings teapot – An African perspective

Damtew Teferra

There are many reasons why the world, especially Africa, would be well served to ignore reputation-based international university rankings.


Frugal MOOCs – The future of refugee higher education?

Mariam Aman Shah and David Santandreu Calonge

Massive open online courses or MOOCs in their current form, shape and design do not socially empower those who most need it, such as refugees. But if we adopt a frugal approach that is adaptable and contextualised, existing barriers to online education for refugees can be overcome.


Evidence-based policies for all – Except for science?

Yves Gingras

Science funding decisions should be based on proof of what works, not on vested interests and anecdotal evidence. The concentration of funding in a few hands goes against the data on diminishing returns and cannot maximise the probability of scientific breakthroughs.


Young researchers need help with academic networking

Donatella Camedda, Ana Mirman-Flores and Ashling Ryan-Mangan

Universities across the world recognise the value of networking as a way of fostering research collaboration, mobility exchange and curriculum improvement, but young researchers often struggle to find a way to build professional relations that will lead to effective collaboration.



Fees, disruption and the meaning of the university

Tom Abeles

Universities are in for a long cycle of disruption as alternatives compete to provide qualifications. This means their funding models are up for debate as never before as the whole concept of the university comes under scrutiny.



Rising student suicides – What can universities do?

Wagdy Sawahel

As the world marks the 15th World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September, the rising number of suicides among North African students and university graduates is turning the spotlight onto the role of universities in supporting vulnerable students and raising awareness around mental health issues.


Should universities be run like businesses?

Jan Petter Myklebust

A group of academics in Norway are questioning the way universities are increasingly being run as businesses, with policy choices based on financial returns rather than societal needs. The ‘New Public Management’ style of governance of universities and public services was slated by well-known academic Frank Aarebrot ahead of the 11 September general election.


Commonwealth campaign sees universities as peacebuilders

Munyaradzi Makoni

As places where ideas can be advanced and challenged in an atmosphere of tolerance and objectivity, universities play a critical role in promoting mutual respect and understanding between people of different faiths and beliefs.


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Student suicide rate hits record levels at universities

A new study has shown that a record number of students in higher education in the United Kingdom have killed themselves in recent years. The alarming statistics also claim that the number of undergraduates who have disclosed mental health problems during their first year has grown to a total of over 15,000 in a decade, writes Oliver Cragg for the International Business Times.


More rural youngsters entering top universities

China has launched three special projects to broaden rural students’ access to universities, helping 100,000 poor youngsters enter their dream universities in 2017, reports People’s Daily Online.


Parliament committee slams R14m payment to student

The parliamentary portfolio committee on higher education and training has slammed the R14 million (US$1 million) accidentally paid from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme into a Walter Sisulu University student's account as "dubious" and "unacceptable", writes Khanyisile Ngcobo for Independent Online.


UK visa delays put Hong Kong students’ places at risk

At least 220 Hong Kong students are at risk of missing classes – or even losing their place – at British universities because of visa delays, writes Peace Chiu for South China Morning Post.


Philosopher returns doctorate in protest over Putin

Hungarian philosopher and left-wing intellectual Mihály Vajda said he has returned his honorary doctorate to the University of Debrecen because the university has also awarded an honorary title to Russian President Vladimir Putin, reports Novinite.


More pursuing masters degrees to gain job-market edge

More Malaysians are pursuing masters degrees in public and private learning institutions, with some juggling work and studies at the same time, to gain an extra edge in education in view of today’s tough job market, writes Yuen Meikeng for The Star.


Surge in university giving by donors of Chinese descent

Major philanthropic gifts by Chinese Americans have surged nearly fivefold to almost US$500 million in recent years, with most of the money going to higher education, a new study has found, writes Teresa Watanabe for the Los Angeles Times.


Universities body drafts policy to check plagiarism

The University Grants Commission has released draft regulations to create academic awareness about responsible conduct of research and prevention of misconduct including plagiarism in academic writing, writes Anisha Singh for NDTV.


Increasing number of Chinese students head to Africa

Many Chinese students have their eyes set on American and European universities for overseas study because of advanced social development, but a growing number of Chinese students are going against the trend and receiving their education in African countries, reports ECNS.


Indefensible vice-chancellor salaries may attract fines

Universities will be fined unless they can justify paying their vice-chancellor more than the prime minister, writes Camilla Turner for The Telegraph. Institutions will be forced to demonstrate that vice-chancellor salaries over £150,000 (US$196,000) represent value for money.


Boston’s aid plan achieves leap in equitable access

With a single change in its financial aid policies – wiping out all loan funds for any student eligible for a Pell Grant – Boston University has increased the proportion of its first-year students who qualify for the federal grants for low-income students to 18.2% this autumn, from 14.6% a year ago, writes Doug Lederman for Inside Higher Ed.


Private universities reject state-sponsored learners

Private universities have turned away many government-sponsored students, citing poor funding, write Peter Mburu and Linet Amuli for the Nation. The problem has been reported in at least 28 universities.

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