University World News Global Edition
18 February 2018 Issue 493 Register to receive our free e-newspaper by email each week Advanced Search


Are vice-chancellors enjoying fat-cat pay levels while students rack up debts?

   With public attention drawn to the inflated salaries of university leaders, University World News carries a Special Report this week on the subject. Frances Tsakonas suggests a revolutionary financial model for universities, where staff and students get to share some of the surplus funds of universities rather than vice-chancellors being handed fat pay cheques. Brendan O’Malley reports on staggering findings by the UK’s University and College Union that at most British universities the vice-chancellor either sits on the committee that sets their pay or is allowed to attend its meetings. And Kristen Lyons and Richard Hill reveal that Dame Glynis Breakwell, who resigned as the UK’s top-paid vice-chancellor after a furore over her salary, earned less than most of her Australian peers.

   In Commentary, Anamika Srivastava suggests that India should take lessons from Asia in its quest to develop world-class universities and should also reflect realistically on how Indian universities can be improved. Jonathan Nicholls says that while the UK is reviewing higher education funding, they should seriously consider the funding and structure of a system that can provide the kind of skills that will be needed for the future. Jane Knight encourages the global higher education sector to use knowledge diplomacy as a tool to address global challenges through enhanced relations between countries.

   In World Blog this week, Eric Fredua-Kwarteng and Samuel Kwaku Ofosu suggest that African university leaders put pressure on their governments to grant universities the autonomy they require to find solutions to the crisis of exploding enrolments on the continent.

   In Features, Jan Petter Myklebust reports on plans by Utrecht University in the Netherlands to tackle key societal challenges in a multidisciplinary way with other social partners, while Stephen Coan reports on the launch of the Africa Evidence Leadership Award to recognise those who have increased awareness of evidence-informed decision-making in Africa.

Brendan O’Malley – Managing Editor

NEWS – Our correspondents worldwide report


Bill would hold universities to account for sexual abuse

Brendan O'Malley

In the wake of the Larry Nassar abuse scandal, which led to the resignation of Michigan State University’s president, three United States senators have introduced legislation to hold universities accountable for sexual abuse and require university leaders to review sexual abuse cases involving employees.


University quality assessment system to be revamped

Eugene Vorotnikov

The rationalisation of universities has been completed and the Russian government is now set to radically change the system of quality assessment of higher education institutions. This will see inspections concentrated on universities deemed at risk, the education ministry has announced.


H2020 failing to ease Europe’s research funding divide

Jan Petter Myklebust

The European research funding divide between longstanding European Union member states and the newer ones has barely improved in the EU’s eighth framework programme, Horizon 2020. Eastern European states are urging strengthening of the ‘Widening Participation’ measures.


Court orders speedy hearing in Axact fake degrees case

Ameen Amjad Khan

On 9 February Pakistan's Supreme Court ordered the high courts to decide the long-pending cases against employees of the Karachi-based firm Axact – several of whom are charged with massive global fake degree fraud – within three weeks after hearing that fake degrees are still being sold.


Universities urged to do more to nurture women in science

Sam Otieno

African universities have been urged to foster gender equality, parity and mentoring of girls and early career women scientists in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, in order to facilitate economic transformation and other developmental challenges affecting the East African region.


Family demands inquiry into jailed academic’s ‘suicide’

Yojana Sharma and Shafigeh Shirazi

The family of Kavous Seyed Emami, an Iranian-Canadian academic and environmental activist who died in an Iranian jail in early February, has queried the official Iranian version that he committed suicide in jail and demanded an independent investigation into the case.


Sharp rise in international students, but mobility falls

Brendan O’Malley

Benchmark data shows more than 10% growth in international student recruitment and nearly 8% growth in revenue from international students’ fees in 2016 – but also suggests a sharp drop in outbound mobility participation.


New general staff union to tackle university challenges

Wagdy Sawahel

A nation-wide union of university staff has been established to represent both academic and non-academic employees. The move comes in the wake of discontent over the passing last year of the 2016 University Law, which university staff believe does not serve their interests.


Top university’s next president mired in controversy

Mimi Leung

The president-to-be of Taiwan’s top higher education institution, National Taiwan University, has been unable so far to take up his post amid a controversy over a conflict of interest with a private company and allegations of plagiarism, as lawmakers sought to block his appointment.


Private universities have the potential to ‘take over’

Francis Kokutse

Some investors in private universities are cutting corners by not maintaining quality assurance levels, short-circuiting official quality assurance bodies and procedures and generally giving a bad name to the sector. But there are exceptions, according to the acting chairman of Ghana’s Council of Independent Universities.



Lessons from Asia on road to world-class universities

Anamika Srivastava

Asia is now a breeding ground for some of the world’s top universities. Indian universities could learn a lot from looking at how their Asian peers have managed to climb the rankings, and urgently become more enterprising and stop being so dependent on state intervention.


Why the skills debate matters – Short and long term

Jonathan Nicholls

The United Kingdom is at the centre of a debate on fees and employability, but we are now in the midst of the digital revolution and cannot easily predict what skills we will need in the future and what kind of jobs will exist. It is vital we ensure that our education system is based on teaching a range of skills for a rapidly changing world.


Knowledge diplomacy or knowledge divide?

Jane Knight

What connects international higher education with international relations and pressing global challenges such as climate change, epidemics, food security and terrorism? Is it knowledge diplomacy, strengthening relations between countries to address pressing issues, or a growing knowledge divide?



How can universities address spiralling enrolment?

Eric Fredua-Kwarteng and Samuel Kwaku Ofosu

A big growth in student enrolment across Africa, combined with drastically declining funding, is having a damaging impact on the quality of teaching and learning in public universities. They need greater autonomy to find their own solutions to the problem.



Most vice-chancellors can have say in setting their pay

Brendan O’Malley

At 19 in every 20 universities in the United Kingdom, the vice-chancellor either sits on the committee that sets their pay or is allowed to attend its meetings, according to new research. The findings will add to growing pressure on universities to rethink how they set pay for their senior staff.


Students invest in universities, so pay them a dividend

Frances Tsakonas

Vice-chancellors are enjoying fat pay cheques while students rack up debts from rocketing fees. Is it time to revolutionise the financial model, treat fees as an investment and share some of the surplus, whenever there is one, with staff and students?


VC salaries are a sign of what’s wrong with universities

Kristen Lyons and Richard Hill

The United Kingdom’s top-paid vice-chancellor, whose salary caused a furore, earns less than most of her Australian peers. The row has drawn public attention to the inflated salaries of university leaders and the huge pay disparity with low-paid casualised academics, driven by government policies and corporatisation.



Utrecht plots new way to tackle societal challenges

Jan Petter Myklebust

Utrecht University is investing on an unprecedented scale in 14 profiled hubs to tackle key societal challenges in a multidisciplinary way with other social partners – knowledge institutions, businesses, government authorities, non-governmental organisations and lobby groups.


Promoting the value of useful and used research

Stephen Coan

The Africa Evidence Network at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, recently launched the first annual Africa Evidence Leadership Award to honour and recognise those who have increased awareness of evidence-informed decision-making in Africa.



Students protest against extended military conscription

Mariam Yevdokimova

Students have been campaigning against new legislation on military service which forces them to serve an extra year if they defer to undertake their undergraduate studies, and prevents them from deferring until after completing postgraduate studies.



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China has spies across US universities – FBI chief

Chinese intelligence operatives are littered across United States universities, possibly to obtain information in fields like technology, and universities have little understanding of this major predicament, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray said last week, writes Greg Price for Newsweek.


Report exposes universities’ corruption cover-up

A new report by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has revealed how most allegations of corruption in federal universities in Nigeria – such as unfair allocation of grades, contract inflation, truncation of staff’s salaries on the pay roll, employment of unqualified staff, examination malpractices, sexual harassment and sales of university certificates – have neither been thoroughly investigated nor punished, writes Davidson Iriekpen for This Day.


‘#MeToo’ hits universities, despite internet censors

After highly-regarded Beihang University Professor Chen Xiaowu was dismissed over multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, students and alumni from dozens of top universities launched online petitions demanding that university administrators establish official policies against sexual misconduct, which are all but non-existent in Chinese universities, writes Oiwan Lam for Hong Kong Free Press.


Staff vacancies continue to plague higher education

The functioning of Indian institutions of higher learning continues to be crippled due to a large number of staff vacancies. The latest government data has shown that the scale of the problem is massive and the scope widespread, writes Charu Kartikeya for CatchNews.


West Bank university law draws Palestinian Authority ire

The Palestinian Authority last week stepped up its rhetorical attacks on Israel – this time by calling on all parliaments and lawmakers around the world to boycott Knesset members who supported a bill that applies Israeli law to Israeli academic institutions in the West Bank, writes Khaled Abu Toameh for The Times of Israel.


Call for more Framework social sciences research funding

Eleven universities, including Ghent University, La Sapienza in Rome and the Freie Universität Berlin, are urging the European Commission to set a target under its next research framework programme of spending at least 10% of the budget on social sciences and humanities, reports Science/Business.


No surprises for higher education in White House budget

The White House budget released on 12 February won't be approved by Congress and likely won't even be seriously considered by lawmakers as a framework for their spending priorities. But the document makes clear that the Trump administration is in many respects on the same page with House Republicans as they seek to dramatically reshape the student aid system in renewing the Higher Education Act, writes Andrew Kreighbaum for Inside Higher Ed.


Universities to get more money for postgraduates

Czech public universities will receive 50% higher contributions for postgraduate students this year, Education Minister Robert Plaga said last week, adding that the ministry would like the conditions of the postgraduates and their quality to improve in the next few years, reports CTK.


Universities resist quotas on teacher-training courses

Third-level colleges are resisting plans by Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton to introduce quotas on the number of teachers they train in specific subjects, writes Carl O'Brien for The Irish Times.


Employers favour science universities for recruitment

Universities known for their science and engineering majors have been ranked as employers' favourites in a survey by a Taiwanese job bank focused on where businesses are most likely to recruit their new talents, write Chiu Po-sheng and Kuan-lin Liu for Focus Taiwan.


Lecturers plead for help to rescue 'broke’ universities

Academic staff have painted a gloomy picture of the financial status of public universities in Kenya and called for national dialogue to support the institutions of higher learning, writes Augustine Oduor for the Standard Digital.


Top universities offer new course on technology ethics

The medical profession has an ethic: First, do no harm. Silicon Valley has an ethos: Build it first and ask for forgiveness later. Now, in the wake of fake news and other troubles at tech companies, universities that helped produce some of Silicon Valley’s top technologists are hustling to bring a more ethical approach to computer science, writes Natasha Singer for The New York Times.


Few universities adopt rules against impact-factor abuse

A survey of British institutions reveals that few have taken concrete steps to stop the much-criticised misuse of research metrics in the evaluation of academics’ work. The results offer an early insight into global efforts to clamp down on such practices, writes Nisha Gaind for Nature.


Staff union blames government for poor HE access

The Academic Staff Union of Universities has said the federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari is doing nothing to increase access to public university education in Nigeria, writes Daramola Adebayo for the Daily Post.


University College London head denies fall in standards

University College London’s top administrator has dismissed suggestions of declining standards after academics overwhelmingly backed a vote of no-confidence in its governance, writes Robin Wright for The Financial Times.


Why one university declared Valentine's Day a holiday

To ensure there is absolutely no nod to Valentine’s Day customs – like exchanging flowers and chocolates – Lucknow University declared 14 February a holiday, citing ‘mahashivratri’, a Hindu festival, as the reason and forbidding students from coming to campus on the day, on pain of disciplinary action, reports The Times of India.

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