How can universities turn the tide on the ebbing of public trust in higher education?

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How can universities turn the tide on the ebbing of public trust in higher education?

   In our series on Pacific Rim higher education and research, Michael Schill expresses his concern that trust in higher education is eroding in some countries, including America, and he examines the reasons and proposes actions to counter the trust deficit.

   In Commentary, Anne Corbett suggests looking at the bigger picture when judging Europe’s Bologna Process 20 years down the line and she highlights some of the positives that came out of the recent ministerial conference in Paris. Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, Alexandra Whittington, April Koury and Helena Calle suggest that now is the time to rethink education and consider the options for preparing students and the workforce for an automated world that will require very different sets of skills. And Richard Holmes contends that the ranking of universities for teaching and learning is still very much unmapped territory despite attempts by ranking organisations to introduce teaching-oriented rankings, such as the latest THE Europe Teaching Rankings.

   In our World Blog, Ruwayshid Alruwaili writes that universities in Saudi Arabia are being called on to help move the country beyond its oil-based economy towards being more knowledge-based, and this requires a greater emphasis on university-industry links and research-related products.

   In Features, Wagdy Sawahel reports on a study on doctoral education in Sub-Saharan Africa that recommends an increase in the production rate of PhD graduates and in investment in doctoral education. Ararat Osipian writes that Russia’s Lomonosov Moscow State University has been dragged into a growing corruption scandal with its vice-dean of the law faculty, an expert on cybercrime and money laundering, detained on fraud allegations. And Munyaradzi Makoni reports on tributes paid by South African universities to the legacy of the late Nelson Mandela on Mandela Day on 18 May – the day that marked 100 years since the iconic statesman’s birth.

Brendan O’Malley – Managing Editor

NEWS – Our correspondents worldwide report


New data red tape could hamper international research

Yojana Sharma

China’s new regulations restricting the ‘export’ of scientific data and demanding that any research for publication in international journals must first be approved by a new, yet to be set up authority, are causing anxiety for researchers who work in collaboration with China.


UK slipping behind Australia in international education

The United Kingdom is likely to lose its position as the second most popular destination globally for international students and be overtaken by Australia, as a result of UK government policy, according to new research. It even suggests this may already have happened.


Call for government-led international education strategy

Brendan O'Malley

More can and should be done to uphold the international competitiveness of United Kingdom higher education, according to a new report from Universities UK International, which is calling for a government-led international education strategy to attract and retain talented international students.


International student and academic numbers are rising

Michael Gardner

Germany is increasingly being sought as a destination by international students and academics, with the 2020 target for international student recruitment reached two years early, says a recent report that also shows that the number of German students going abroad remains high.


Swedish grant to boost university’s postgraduate capacity

Maina Waruru

Postgraduate education in Ethiopia has received a massive boost following the recent signing of a US$22.5 million five-year agreement between the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and Ethiopia’s flagship university aimed at strengthening postgraduate programmes and enhancing local capacity.


Top universities demand better accreditation system

Eugene Vorotnikov

The 50 largest Russian universities have called on Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, to abolish the current system of state accreditation of universities and replace it with a system involving grading based on objective data and which is preventive rather than punitive, to improve quality.


Long overdue audit reveals yawning skills deficits

Tonderayi Mukeredzi

A recent audit has revealed that, despite a national literacy rate above 90%, Zimbabwe has an appalling deficit of skilled professionals, particularly in the engineering, sciences, technology and agricultural sectors.


Academics call for suspension of student protest cases

Shafigeh Shirazi

Some 120 academics from universities across Iran, including former legislators and cabinet members, last week called on President Hassan Rouhani to order the immediate suspension of judicial cases against more than 150 students who are still in detention for participating in protests that occurred in December 2017 and January this year.


Campus divisions run deep over job quota protests

Mushfique Wadud

A student has been suspended for Facebook postings in support of the movement demanding reform of the job quota system, a heated issue on campuses, and political pressure is increasing on academic teachers not to post statements, posing a threat to academic freedom.


Agriculture e-learning hub goes live

Maina Waruru

An e-learning hub for African universities mooted by the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2017 is now operational, offering more than 35 member universities from across Africa access to free content intended to enhance the teaching of agriculture.



Bologna 20 years on – Look at the bigger picture

Anne Corbett

European cooperation in higher education is fortunate to be a ‘low politics’ issue as it allows for greater opportunities for the sector to engage. The recent Bologna ministerial conference was such an opportunity and brought new collegial initiatives and an important commitment to academic freedom.


Education and employment and the response to automation

Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, Alexandra Whittington, April Koury and Helena Calle

If we’re to thrive in an automated world, we need to rethink education. Jobs and the skills required to do them will be different in the future. Now is the time to consider the options and opportunities and ensure we can make the most of them.


How should rankings assess teaching and learning?

Richard Holmes

A new ranking aims to rank teaching in Western European universities, but it raises a lot of questions about the indicators used and the subjectivity of student surveys. The ranking of universities for teaching and learning is still very much unmapped territory.



Under pressure to rethink universities’ third mission

Ruwayshid Alruwaili

Saudi universities are being called on to engage with business more and find practical applications for their research and help the country move towards being a knowledge-based economy. They could draw on examples from other countries to measure their success.



Turning the tide on ebbing trust in higher education

Michael Schill

Higher education has arguably never been more important to our citizens or to our society. Yet universities have become the epicentre for many social tensions and trust in higher education institutions is eroding in some countries. Why is this and what can be done?



The challenge of growing PhD graduate numbers

Wagdy Sawahel

Sub-Saharan African countries need to increase the production rate of PhD graduates and substantially improve investment in doctoral education, according to recommendations emerging from a six-country study examining the PhD landscape in the region. While there is little disagreement about the need for more PhDs in Africa, experts say caution is needed on the issue of how such expansion takes place.


University’s anti-corruption expert charged with fraud

Ararat Osipian

Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia’s flagship higher education institution, has been dragged into a growing corruption scandal, with its vice-dean of the law faculty, an expert on cybercrime and money laundering, detained on allegations of ‘especially large fraud’ involving the theft of US$650,000.


Universities play an active role in Mandela Day

Munyaradzi Makoni

University vice-chancellors paid tribute to the legacy of the late Nelson Mandela last week – on the day that marked 100 years since the iconic South African statesman’s birthday on 18 July 1918 – while students and staff embarked on a wide range of activities aimed at helping people in need.



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Universities ordered to act on sexual assault on campus

Australian universities have been told to improve the way they deal with sexual assault on campuses after a damning report found only 4% of students believed their university was doing enough to provide support for victims, writes Michael McGowan for The Guardian.


Demands for autonomy of universities

The joint declaration of the Fourth Stakeholders Consultative Dialogue on Higher Education in Pakistan: Challenges and Opportunities, has demanded ensuring autonomy of universities, strengthening the role of civil society, working groups and the media for transparent, merit-based appointments in the higher education sector, writes Rasheed Khalid for The News.


Students using sex work to pay for university – Study

Some 4% of students are turning to sex work at university, new research shows, revealing that higher education is tough on the finances – that’s why students have a reputation of living on a diet of potatoes and two-minute noodles, reports Newshub.


Facebook insists it’s not poaching academia for AI goals

Facebook has in recent months amped up a push to bring in professors from top-notch universities to work on long-term artificial intelligence (AI) research part time, but the company says it views universities as partners rather than competitors to poach top talent from, writes Nat Levy for Geekwire.


14% of students are foreigners, says minister

Jordan’s Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Adel Al-Taweesi has said that 14% of students at his country’s universities are foreigners, reports the Middle East Monitor.


Free-trade agreements an opportunity for universities

Free-trade agreements linking Australia to Southeast Asia, Latin America and the European Union will help break Australia’s reliance on international students from China, but they could also pave the way for increased competition from foreign universities on local soil, writes Gabriele Suder for the Australian Financial Review.


AI courses in high demand at Dutch universities

Dutch universities are seeing significant growth in the number of students who want to study artificial intelligence (AI) in the coming academic year. At some educational institutions, the number of applications doubled compared to the current academic year, writes Janene Pieters for NL Times.


Merger leads to country’s first technological university

Ireland is set to get its first ever technological university after a merger between the Dublin Institute of Technology and institutes of technology in Tallaght and Blanchardstown, reports The Journal.


Nobel economist slams European universities, work ethic

Nobel Prize-winning economist Bengt Holmström would like to see European universities become more disciplined in their approach to academia while making sure students graduate at a younger age, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor said in a recent feature interview with Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, writes Tom Turula for Nordic Business Insider.


Professors for Peace oppose constitution amendment move

Several university presidents and hundreds of professors and scholars from various universities have expressed their opposition to amending the 1987 Constitution through a constituent assembly, calling for a more participatory process for its supporters and critics alike, writes Jhesset O Enano for the Philippine Daily Inquirer.


University scraps titles, no more Mr, Ms or Mrs

South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand has taken a decision not to use titles such as Mr‚ Ms or Mrs to reflect a student’s designation in university correspondence and on its student systems, in order to reduce distress for transgender students, writes Prega Govender for Times Live.


Universities outsource mental health services

Amid mounting concern over student suicides, some universities in the United Kingdom have found a surprising solution to their long mental health waiting lists – they are reducing or outsourcing their counselling services in a move apparently designed to shift the burden on to the National Health Service, writes Liz Lightfoot for The Guardian.


University removes statue of slave-owning founder

Florida State University students will soon say goodbye to a familiar face – a prominent statue of one of the university’s slave-owning founders will be relocated from the institution’s front gates, the university’s president John Thrasher announced last week, write Maya Eliahou and Christina Zdanowicz for CNN.


Students paint over mural of poem by Rudyard Kipling

Students at the University of Manchester have painted over a mural of a poem by Rudyard Kipling, arguing that the writer “dehumanised people of colour”, writes Frances Perraudin for The Guardian.


Drive for special number plates for alumni – Minister

Malaysia’s education ministry has agreed with the transport ministry to sell special number plates to alumni of public universities as a way to raise additional funds for universities, according to Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik, write Rashvinjeet S Bedi and Rebecca Rajaendram for The Star.

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