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4 March 2018 Issue 495 Register to receive our free e-newspaper by email each week Advanced Search


Can automatic recognition of university qualifications be achieved in Europe by 2020?

   In Commentary, Jenneke Lokhoff and Katrien Bardoel consider how automatic recognition of qualifications might be achieved in the European Higher Education Area by the 2020 deadline. Mark Ashwill explains why Vietnamese universities should focus on pursuing their stated missions and not concern themselves with global university rankings. And Baroness Ruth Henig introduces readers to ProtectEd as a sector-wide solution to raise standards in student security in the UK amid growing concerns about mental health, sexual harassment and crime.

   Also in Commentary, William Tierney says universities need to confront their past rather than whitewash it, however uncomfortable that may be, so we can unveil truths and better understand the challenges of the present. Sharon Fonn describes a programme that helps scholars engage in multidisciplinary research to improve health outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa. And Wondwosen Tamrat says the introduction of a national system for assessment and standardisation of journals could have considerable impact on the quality of Ethiopia’s research.

   In World Blog, Angel Calderon unpacks the latest QS World University Rankings by Subject, advising Asian universities to address their weaker subject areas to progress further in the overall rankings.

   In Features, Brendan O’Malley outlines research conducted by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences into the current state of trust in science among Americans, while Stephen Coan reports on the 10-year anniversary of the African Leadership Academy – ‘a different kind of school’ with a mission ‘to impact on Africa’.

Brendan O’Malley – Managing Editor

NEWS – Our correspondents worldwide report


Rise of Asia slows in university subject rankings

Brendan O’Malley

Asian countries’ improvement has decelerated for the first time in this year’s QS World University Rankings by Subject, and the supremacy of United States’ universities has slipped further. The United Kingdom, China, Switzerland and Australia are rising, but France is falling.


Science academy calls for STI policy reform to meet SDGs

Wachira Kigotho

The African Academy of Sciences has called for urgent reform of African national science, technology and innovation (STI) policies to sharpen their focus on the social and environmental dimensions of development and bring them in closer alignment with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Xi Jinping power grab disturbs students, scholars abroad

Yojana Sharma

The removal of the text in the constitution limiting China’s president and vice-president to two terms, cementing Xi Jinping’s leadership possibly for the next two decades, will mean a further ideological tightening in universities, an extension of ‘Xi Jinping research’ in institutions, and may deter students and scholars overseas from returning home.


China’s equal status policy causes Taiwan brain drain

Mimi Leung and Yojana Sharma

Moves by Beijing to give Taiwanese students and graduates equal status with mainland Chinese, granting them greater access to mainland universities, professional qualifications and jobs, has caused consternation in Taiwan, which has seen a major brain drain of qualified people.


Rising concern over influence of Confucius Institutes

Dan Bauman, The Chronicle of Higher Education

As Americans and their policy-makers focus on Russian interference in the 2016 election and broader efforts to stoke discord in American society, China’s relationship with the nation’s colleges and universities is drawing renewed attention as well.


Minister looking for a revolution in accountability

Brendan O’Malley

The new universities minister, Sam Gyimah, announcing the new regulatory framework, pledged to press on with the marketisation of higher education – including funding via high tuition fees – with the aim of creating a new “age of the student” where choice and data bring accountability.


Universities seek to strengthen commercialisation

Eugene Vorotnikov

Leading Russian universities are planning to significantly strengthen their cooperation with business, by increasing active sales of their scientific developments to producers and seeking investment for their further development, according to recent statements of representatives of some of Russia’s leading universities.


Plan to seek EU-wide initiative on unpaid student debt

Jan Petter Myklebust

Danish Tax Minister Karsten Lauritzen and Minister for Higher Education and Science Søren Pind are seeking support for an initiative across the European Union to tackle the problem of students leaving the country without paying off their student loan debt.


English teaching reform to boost international trade

Jane Marshall

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has announced plans to expand the teaching of English in secondary schools and higher education, including internationally recognised qualifications, as part of France’s strategy to boost international trade and exports.


Lecturer issues warning over loss of academic freedom

Francis Kokutse

Ghanaian universities have traditionally enjoyed high levels of academic freedom, but a law academic at the University of Ghana is concerned that recent developments suggest a threat to those freedoms and said academics need to develop “thick skins” in order to resist political interference.



How to get to automatic recognition of qualifications

Jenneke Lokhoff and Katrien Bardoel

By 2020 all countries within the European Higher Education Area are expected to automatically recognise each other's bachelor and masters degrees. Can this ambition set by the 48 ministers of education in the 2015 Yerevan Communiqué be achieved?


Why don’t Vietnam’s universities rank higher in Asia?

Mark Ashwill

The Vietnamese press has been questioning the country’s lack of highly ranked universities, but rankings do not accurately portray the issues facing countries like Vietnam or their universities’ wide social role. Universities should concentrate instead on pursuing their stated missions.


Raising standards in student safety and security

Baroness Ruth Henig

Universities need to work together to raise standards in student security amid growing concerns about mental health, sexual harassment and crime – particularly for those living far away from home. For international students, especially, safety is a significant factor in their choice of university.


Universities need to confront their past, not omit it

William Tierney

Whitewashing the history of our institutions obscures the lessons we must learn for our present. It is universities’ role to search for the truth and to accept whatever we may find out about ourselves, however uncomfortable that may make us.


Why we should train scholars to think across disciplines

Sharon Fonn

If researchers want to make an impact on public health, they can’t just have a thorough grounding in their own discipline. They will benefit from also being literate in other research approaches and methods, as one programme for Sub-Saharan African scholars is demonstrating.


Towards a national system of journal accreditation

Wondwosen Tamrat

The introduction of a national system for the assessment and standardisation of Ethiopian journals could have considerable impact on the quality of future research in the country, and proactive government action is needed to see it materialise.



Subject data show areas Asian universities must work on

Angel Calderon

Asian universities continue to climb the rankings, but subject-specific data highlight weaker areas that they need to address – as well as the growing role of university networks. They should leverage partnership, collaboration and research opportunities with institutions that outperform them.



The question of trust in science requires many answers

Brendan O’Malley

Science communicators and advocates need to take on board the complex multiplicity of attitudes towards science to be effective in their outreach, according to new research into trust in science for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


African Leadership Academy celebrates 10-year milestone

Stephen Coan

“When you leave here the idea is not that you will get a job, but that you will create a job,” said 19-year-old James Sloane from Cape Town, a first-year student at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa. What he says perfectly encapsulates the entrepreneurial spirit that the academy seeks to develop and send forth into Africa.



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Soros-backed university is reaccredited

A Budapest university threatened with being shut down after emerging as a high-profile target of government attacks on its founder, the financier George Soros, announced a bit of welcome news last Wednesday: it has been reaccredited for the next five years, writes Palko Karasz for The New York Times.


Universities body introduces two mandatory courses

Two courses – the history of the emergence of independent Bangladesh, and Bangla language and literature – have been included in all universities from this year, writes Rashid Al Ruhani for Bangla Tribune.


Think tank recommends higher education reform

Swiss universities need to be more efficient if they are to compete internationally, says think tank Avenir Suisse, which warns that regional aspirations have taken priority over excellence, threatening standards, writes Isobel Leybold-Johnson for


Little benefit from zero-fee policy – Universities

Universities say the government's zero-fee policy for new tertiary students has increased administration costs, but is having little impact on enrolments. Universities said their staff had spent extra time explaining the zero-fee scheme to students and some had also had to change their IT systems, reports John Gerritsen for RNZ News.


Trump is driving Indian tech students away

The number of Indian students enrolling for graduate-level programmes in computer science and engineering in the United States declined by 21%, or 18,590, in 2017 compared to the previous year, according to a recent report by the National Foundation for American Policy, a Virginia-based non-profit public policy research organisation. The report is based on data from the US Department of Homeland Security, writes Sushma U N for Quartz.


Graduates of Gaza universities demand jobs

A number of university graduates protested in front of the ministry of labour in Gaza last month, preventing Labour Minister Mamoun Abu Shahla from entering the building. They were demanding solutions to the unemployment crisis, writes Hana Salah for Al-Monitor.


AU$2.2bn funding cut 'a cap on opportunity for all'

Universal access to public services and improved educational opportunity hinge on the reversal of a AU$2.2 billion cut to universities, the chair of Universities Australia said in a speech last Wednesday, writes Paul Karp for The Guardian.


University faculty votes to recall Trump honorary degree

On a summer day in 1988, a black helicopter with the word ‘Trump’ on the side touched down on a baseball field at Lehigh University. Soon after, Donald Trump joined a vaunted fraternity that includes Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, writer William Buckley and poet Maya Angelou – all holders of honorary degrees from the university. Thirty years later, Lehigh faculty have an overwhelming message for its leaders: take Trump’s degree back, writes Cleve R Wootson Jr for The Washington Post.


Vice-chancellor refuses to resign over student killing

Meru University Vice Chancellor Japheth Magambo has downplayed calls for his resignation after the murder by police of student leader Evans Njoroge last Tuesday, writes Dennis Dibondo for The Star. Reports indicate that Njoroge was shot at close range by a police officer who chased him into a banana plantation.


Further talks agreed in dispute over staff pensions

University officials and the union representing university staff have agreed to hold further talks in a bid to end the strikes which have seen staff walk out of 61 universities in the United Kingdom because of planned changes to their pensions, writes Harry Cockburn for the Independent.


Hazing rates 'incredibly high' at universities – Study

New students in major Australian universities are subjected to violent hazing rituals, a report said last week, as its authors called for the practice to be criminalised to protect victims against injury or death, reports AFP.


Nationwide initiative to boost graduation numbers

With the goal of significantly increasing the number of graduates by the year 2025, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities has launched an unprecedented nationwide collaborative effort, writes Lois Elfman for Diverse.


Quebec universities launch 'world first' UNESCO chair

Quebec’s new UNESCO chair on the prevention of radicalisation and violent extremism is the first of its kind in the world, say members of three universities who launched the project recently in Sherbrooke, reports The Canadian Press.


Universities eye Hong Kong as stem cell research base

Four world-renowned universities are eyeing Hong Kong as a stronghold in Asia for developing cutting-edge stem cell research as the city’s financial chief is expected to announce incentives to make it easier for foreign research institutions to invest in innovation and technology locally, write Cannix Yau and Olga Wong for the South China Morning Post.


Most university students do not read for pleasure

A majority of university students in Japan do not read books for pleasure, an annual survey by the National Federation of University Co-operative Associations showed last week, reports JIJI.


Insurers eye universities to groom human capital

As Uganda prepares for minerals extraction, the demand for insurance professionals is expected to significantly increase, exerting a lot of pressure on the sector’s lean human capital, writes Edward Kayiwa for New Vision.


New higher education minister faces tough challenges

As the higher education sector grapples with phasing in free education for the poor and so-called missing middle students, Naledi Pandor has been appointed to the ministry's hot seat, writes Thando Kubheka for EWN.

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