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27 May 2018 Issue 507 Register to receive our free e-newspaper by email each week Advanced Search


Establishing a joint degree programme offers unique rewards and challenges

   In Commentary, Jessica Kling writes about the challenges and rewards of establishing a joint international undergraduate degree programme as the two universities involved – in Japan and the United States – jointly enrol their first cohort of students this year. Genevieve Barrons contends that the unwillingness of formal education systems to allow themselves to be ‘disrupted’ means millions of people, particularly refugees, will remain on the margins. Robert Ubell advises university leaders to look before they leap when it comes to launching international branch campuses as the reputational and financial risks are high. And Andrew Gunn and Priya Kapade wonder if other countries will follow the example of the UK government in addressing concerns about grade inflation at universities, as the phenomenon of rising grades seems to have gone global.

   In our World Blog this week, Kriengsak Chareonwongsak says universities in Asia are still placing too much emphasis on theoretical knowledge instead of striking a balance between theory and practice to make graduates more marketable to employers, but this is changing.

   In Features, Wagdy Sawahel outlines the findings of a report entitled Attacks on Medical Education, which explores the impact on medical education of armed conflict and civil disturbances in seven countries where conflicts are ongoing, while Maina Waruru reports on efforts to develop common standards for postgraduate training in East Africa.

Brendan O’Malley – Managing Editor

NEWS – Our correspondents worldwide report


UK is ready to pay to stay in EU’s research programmes

Brendan O’Malley

Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking full continued United Kingdom participation in the European Union’s next research and innovation programmes post Brexit – including the successor to Horizon 2020 and the Euratom Research and Training programme – which the UK would willingly pay for but would expect a leading role in return.


First foreign university expected to open this year

Ria Nurdiani

Indonesia will have at least one foreign university’s branch campus operating this year as the government finalises detailed regulations to allow them in as part of a drive to raise higher education performance. Other measures include funding some local universities’ bid to become ‘world-class’.


Russian universities are ‘poised to compete globally’

Nick Holdsworth

Russian universities are poised to emerge from decades of relative obscurity and become a new force in international higher education, experts in international ranking say at a QS global summit in Moscow on advancing university excellence.


Canadian deal promises turnaround for higher education

Kudzai Mashininga

Zimbabwe’s Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Ministry has sealed a US$5.2 billion coal-to-fuels deal with a Canadian investor that is set to benefit the higher education sector and the country in general.


Minister tells universities to stop academic inbreeding

Jan Petter Myklebust

The investigation by the Swedish Association of University Teachers and Researchers into academic inbreeding has intensified public debate, with numerous allegations surfacing of job announcements so specific in their requirements that all but the name of the preferred candidate is effectively given.


Call for postgraduate research students to be paid

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations has renewed its call for research students to be paid for their work, as the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures confirm that postgraduate students comprise the majority of human resources dedicated to research.


Scrapped tuition fees boost Germany’s popularity

Michael Gardner

The absence of tuition fees at most universities in Germany appears to be the chief aspect international students consider when choosing where to study, ahead of the quality of higher education offered. The key factor in funding their study period abroad is being allowed to work part-time.


States bypass Congress in battle to help hungry students

Goldie Blumenstyk, The Chronicle of Higher Education

An attempt to tighten up federal food-assistance benefits for students under current law has been voted down but the fact that it got that far suggests other potential reforms to help students deal with hunger and food insecurity aren’t going to go anywhere.


Lifeline handed to students left in the lurch by UT Tyler

Binod Ghimire

More than a dozen universities in the United States have extended scholarships to students from Nepal who were left in the lurch after the University of Texas at Tyler (UT Tyler) revoked full scholarships granted for their undergraduate programme.


Oxbridge is good value but teachers are less creative

Brendan O’Malley

Oxbridge students work harder, are more satisfied and get better value for money than other students but have less creative and original teaching, according to a new report on the student experience at the United Kingdom’s top two universities.


Morocco and Qatar in joint higher education initiatives

Wagdy Sawahel

Morocco and Qatar have unveiled a higher education cooperation plan that includes setting up a joint institution in the North African country’s capital Rabat and a cross-border campus of a Moroccan university in the Arab nation’s capital Doha, along with networking opportunities among universities to boost learning.


Mandatory electronic marking system draws mixed response

Ashraf Khaled

Egypt’s higher education authorities this month ordered all universities in the Middle Eastern country to apply electronic marking systems starting from the next academic year with the aim of saving time in the assessment process and ensuring fairness to students.



The case for evolving from dual to joint degrees

Jessica Kling

Joint undergraduate programmes – a single degree with one curriculum designed and offered collaboratively by two universities – across countries and cultures carry significant challenges, but, done well, they can offer students a truly immersive international experience.


Why displaced people are being failed by higher education

Genevieve Barrons

The unwillingness of formal education systems – even as they adopt the modes and language of ‘disruptive innovation’ – to allow themselves to be disrupted means millions of people, particularly displaced people, will remain on the margins.


Look before jumping into the branch campus business

Robert Ubell

In their rush to embrace the possibilities of globalisation, universities are often not doing enough of a risk assessment when it comes to launching branch campuses and can end up compromising academic freedom and risking their reputation as a result.


The university grade inflation debate is going global

Andrew Gunn and Priya Kapade

Grades are rising across the world amid concerns over grade inflation, but it is not in the interests of any single university to act alone to reduce its grade profile while its competitors’ profiles are rising, so a sector-wide approach may be the only solution.



Balancing theory with practice

Kriengsak Chareonwongsak

Universities in Asia continue to place too much emphasis on theoretical knowledge and their students miss out on the kind of practical hands-on experience that could increase their employability. However, there are some signs that attitudes are changing.



Dangerous questions: Why academic freedom matters

Scholars at Risk, the New-York based international network of institutions for protecting scholars and promoting academic freedom, and the University of Oslo, Norway, have jointly developed a free online course on how to use academic freedom to ask critical questions and contribute to a democratic society.



Medical education a focus of violence in conflicts

Wagdy Sawahel

As a result of armed and violent civil conflicts, direct and indirect incidents have targeted medical education's components including medical schools and faculties, teaching hospitals, libraries, professors and medical students across several countries located in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.


Towards a common standard for postgraduate training

Maina Waruru

A first-of-its-kind regional workshop intended to build capacity in the supervision of postgraduate studies was held last month in Kigali, Rwanda, as part of a broader process aimed at developing common standards for postgraduate training in the East African region and increasing the number of masters and PhD graduates.



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Disquiet over naming of new Salafist education minister

The naming of former academic Maszlee Malik as the new Malaysian education minister has provoked a strong reaction from critics and rights activists, many of whom point to his leanings to Salafist Islam, the version of Islam similar to the one practised in Saudi Arabia that has inspired a host of controversial laws, reports Free Malaysia Today.


Universities ready to absorb returning overseas students

Although the United States’ move to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal may have no impact on the educational status of Iranian students studying abroad, universities in Iran are completely ready to admit them if they decide to return, said Iran’s deputy minister for science, research and technology, reports Iran Front Page.


High hopes for impact of new student visa policy

The Dubai International Academic City is expecting an influx of universities looking to set up there once the new student visa extension policy is implemented by the end of this year, writes Sarwat Nasir for Khaleej Times.


New figures highlight Oxford’s glacial diversity reform

Oxford’s glacial progress in attracting students from diverse backgrounds has been revealed in figures showing that more than one in four of its colleges failed to admit a single black British student each year between 2015 and 2017, write Richard Adams and Caelainn Barr for The Guardian.


Employment a top priority for all tertiary institutions

Amid unemployment concerns, the University Grants Commission is set to instruct every higher education institution to ensure that at least 50% of those graduating get access to a job, self-employment or get to pursue higher education further, and that two-thirds of the students are engaged in ‘socially productive activities’ while studying, writes Anubhuti Vishnoi for The Economic Times.


Irish students paid to go home for abortion vote

At least six British universities offered Irish students bursaries to help them travel home to cast their vote in the 25 May referendum on the Eighth Amendment, which effectively bans abortion in Ireland, meaning that thousands of women have to travel to Britain every year to get an abortion, writes Maddy Mussen for The Tab.


New era of protest for historically black institutions

The campuses that served as incubators for the civil rights movement in the mid-20th century are experiencing something of a renaissance, with freshman enrolment up at 40% of the historically black colleges and universities, writes Maya Rhodan for Time.


Universities quietly collaborating with Facebook

A growing number of academics are working with the social media platform Facebook to build new products, but few want to talk about it. At the end of 2016, 16 universities entered into an agreement with Facebook to help the company quickly develop new technologies, writes Lindsay McKenzie for Inside Higher Ed.


Hong Kong universities call for clear research direction

New research funding arrangements for Hong Kong universities will help increase the city’s competitiveness, but the government has to come up with a research direction to prioritise resources, a Hong Kong university leader says, writes Sophie Hui for The Standard.


Universities in court over too many English degrees

A lobby group campaigning for better education in the Netherlands is taking Maastricht and Twente universities to court for offering too many degree courses in English, reports Dutch News.


Quebec universities receive funding boost

Quebec province’s university network is getting a CA$1.5 billion (US$1.2 billion) funding boost over the next six years plus the power to set their own tuition fee rates for foreign students, and in the future, rectors and senior staff will no longer get some of the existing free perks, as Quebec tightens the screws on abusive spending, writes Philip Authier for the Montreal Gazette.


Committee likely to end self-sponsored degree plan

It is expected that in less than a month a committee appointed by Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed will recommend the dissolution of Module II programmes in local public universities, taking on board recommendations from the inter-ministerial task force she appointed two weeks ago that has been looking into delivery of services in institutions of higher learning, writes Muiru Ngugi for Daily Nation.


Private HE institutions face ban on teaching in Russian

The Education and Science Ministry of Latvia is proposing to apply to private universities and colleges the same restrictions that apply to state higher education institutions, where students have to be taught in Latvian or any of the official languages of the European Union, which means that private institutions would not be permitted to teach their students in Russian, reports The Baltic Times.

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