Universities must improve how they communicate their worth to the public.

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26 August 2018 Issue 517 Register to receive our free e-newspaper by email each week Advanced Search


Universities must improve how they communicate their worth to the public

   In Commentary, Ian Jacobs contends that recent evidence shows there are few more worthwhile investments in Australia today than higher education, but universities have failed to communicate this to the public and this is contributing to a climate of criticism. Futao Huang suggests that a policy shift by the Chinese government from quantitative expansion of internationally collaborative programmes to a focus on quality is one of the main reasons for the government’s closure of more than 200 such programmes and five institutions. Philip G Altbach and Ellen Hazelkorn write that the race is on to establish a global teaching ranking as assessing teaching and learning is seen as central to determining the quality of higher education, but using current methodologies to produce comparative data is foolhardy at best. And Mia Perry and Deepa Pullanikkatil suggest some “necessary” changes to the traditional methodologies of collaboration between the Global North and South.

   In our World Blog this week, William Leonard suggests that the many smaller US colleges that admit students who are not ready for higher education and often drop out after their first year, should reduce their enrolment to achieve sustainability.

   In Science Scene, Brendan O'Malley highlights new research showing that social media ‘bots’ and Russian ‘trolls’ have been spreading disinformation about vaccines, disrupting science communication and posing a threat to public health.

   In Features, Yojana Sharma explains why overseas scholars who comment on sensitive topics regarding China are grappling with a dilemma of self-censorship. Brendan O’Malley outlines a report which says the University of California system is nearing a ‘tipping point’ where it cannot continue to grow with California’s population and labour needs without seeking new revenues and state reinvestment. And Sharon Dell reports from a conference in South Africa on the challenges facing the implementation of work-integrated learning in the country.

Brendan O’Malley – Managing Editor

NEWS – Our correspondents worldwide report


Call for sweeping changes in tertiary education system

Geoff Maslen

The Australian government should assume responsibility for all tertiary education and training while the differences in funding between universities and technical colleges should be abolished, a new report says. The radical proposals are among a sweeping set of recommendations by the multinational professional service company, KPMG.


Visa rules reformed to attract more foreign students

John Gerritsen

All international students in higher education in New Zealand will be eligible for three-year work visas under reforms of post-study work rights, aimed at attracting more enrolments and stamping out abuse by unscrupulous employers who have been misusing employer-assisted visas to trap students in underpaid work.


Revamp of university regulatory body faces opposition

Shuriah Niazi

The Indian government's move to replace the higher education regulator, the University Grants Commission, with a new body to improve quality and allow institutions more autonomy faces opposition in parliament and criticism that it would increase government control and politicisation of education.


China, US lead on gains in ARWU university ranking

Brendan O'Malley

China and the United States are the biggest gainers in the latest Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), with respectively six and four more universities in the top 500, but there is no movement at the very top with Harvard University leading for the 16th year running.


Global network to boost HE capacity and PhD numbers

Primarashni Gower

A higher education network that entails American and South African universities working together will strengthen various aspects of the South African higher education system, including the expansion of the PhD graduate pipeline.


One person arrested in masters-for-money scandal

Wagdy Sawahel

A person has been arrested and a senior member of Transparency Maroc has been suspended from the association in the wake of allegations that students were being asked to pay over US$4,000 to guarantee a place on a university masters course in Morocco.


Marked progress in students taking less time to graduate

Michael Gardner

More students in Germany are obtaining degrees within a reasonable time than in the early years of the Bologna reforms, with traditional universities making the most marked progress, particularly in mathematics, education science and civil and environmental engineering departments, a new survey shows.


New masters to boost machine intelligence talent pool

Esther Nakkazi

A new African masters in machine intelligence funded by Google and Facebook seeks to create a community of machine intelligence practitioners in Africa to reduce the technology gap, build Africa’s economies and ultimately promote better governance.


President suspends vice-chancellor over Grace Mugabe PhD

Kudzai Mashininga

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa has suspended University of Zimbabwe Vice-chancellor Professor Levi Nyagura for allegedly awarding former first lady Grace Mugabe a doctor of philosophy degree ‘corruptly’ in 2014.


Rectors support campaign for deported student’s appeal

Jan Petter Myklebust

University leaders have rallied to support Professor Anne Husebekk, rector of the University of Tromsø in Norway, who has been criticised for organising a campaign to raise funds for an appeal against a decision to reject a student’s residence visa application.



Universities – The creators of the new wealth of nations

Ian Jacobs

Universities make an enormous contribution to the economic and social wealth of nations through education and research, but have failed to communicate their value clearly to the public and that is contributing to the current climate of criticism.


What do the international HE programme closures mean?

Futao Huang

Why did the Chinese government recently terminate more than 200 internationally collaborative academic programmes and five internationally collaborative institutions and what does this mean for overseas institutions looking to partner with China?


Why the Bologna Process works for higher education

Anne Corbett

The Bologna Process has made progress because of the nature of its structure, stakeholders and members, including the European Commission, and an emphasis on support over sanctions. Due to resource issues, the commission holds the power of life and death over the Bologna Process.


Can we measure education quality in global rankings?

Philip G Altbach and Ellen Hazelkorn

The race is on to establish a global teaching ranking, but experience shows that without due care the choice of ranking indicators can lead to unintended consequences. Currently, it is just not possible to adequately assess education quality for purposes of international comparisons.


Towards a global hub of collaborative research

Thomas Ekman Jørgensen

Brexit could prove an interesting test case for research-intensive countries outside the European Union that wish to contribute to the region’s research programme, showing if and how the balancing act between contribution and influence can be reached.


A new approach to global research partnerships

Mia Perry and Deepa Pullanikkatil

Changes to the traditional methodologies of collaboration between the Global North and South are necessary. That means engaging with communities in ways that allow them to contribute their traditional knowledge and co-design the research agenda.



Admitting students who later drop out is harmful

William Leonard

Too many colleges in the United States are tuition-fee dependent and admit students who are not ready for higher education, many of whom require remedial support and drop out after their first year. The solution is counter intuitive: they need to reduce their enrolment to achieve sustainability.



Russian trolls stoke public discord on vaccine science

Brendan O'Malley

Twitter bots and Russian trolls have spread disinformation and pushed the public to question the science behind vaccine campaigns – and in some cases the messages were sent from accounts used to interfere in the 2016 United States presidential election, a new study reveals.



Overseas China scholars face self-censorship dilemma

Yojana Sharma

As China combines internal censorship and a crackdown in its Xinjiang region, with aggressive verbal attacks and informal pressure on overseas academics, the self-censorship dilemma is becoming acute for overseas scholars who comment on China’s human rights, Tibet, Taiwan independence and other sensitive topics.


University of California nears funding tipping point

Brendan O’Malley

After years of declining funding and rising enrolment, the University of California system is nearing a ‘tipping point’ where it cannot continue to grow with California’s population and labour needs without seeking new revenues and state reinvestment, according to a new report.


Making work-integrated learning actually work

Sharon Dell

Work-integrated learning in the higher education space may be considered a 'silver bullet' when it comes to effectively combating societal inequality by enhancing graduate employability, but when it comes to its implementation, the concept continues to be the subject of some wrangling among stakeholders.



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Universities advertise ‘women-only’ roles in gender push

A growing number of Australian universities are advertising ‘female-only’ roles in a bid to encourage women to apply for historically male-dominated jobs, writes Alice Murphy for Daily Mail Australia.


UK universities criticised for pursuit of Egyptian links

In a letter signed by more than 200 prominent academics, leading British universities have been accused of turning a blind eye to human rights abuses in Egypt, including unanswered questions about the abduction and murder of Cambridge PhD student Giulio Regeni, in pursuit of opening campuses under the country’s authoritarian regime, writes Ben Quinn for The Guardian.


Challenges of creating world-class universities in China

The obsession with internationalisation in China had resulted in priority being given to overseas scholars and graduates and has diminished graduates of many top domestic universities to second- or third-class status, writes Jia Song for Inside Higher Ed.


Universities back call to end technical education gap

Universities UK has responded positively to a new report from the Higher Education Policy Institute calling on universities to reverse the collapse in technical education in England, reports FENews.


Universities push to lure students from ‘risky markets’

Major universities are outsourcing background checks to a small start-up firm in a bid to crack down on fraud and misrepresentation in the booming international student market as they push into ‘riskier’ regions. The firm has been swamped with interest from universities keen to lure students from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Ghana and western Africa, writes Michael Koziol for The Canberra Times.


Minister steps in to resolve funding problems

Universities South Africa says that it is pleased with the steps taken by Higher Education and Training Minister Naledi Pandor in an attempt to resolve the problems which the National Student Financial Aid Scheme has been battling with, writes Michael Pedro for EyeWitness News.


Universities ordered to ban junk food on campus

The University Grants Commission has issued a notice to vice-chancellors of all universities directing them to ban junk food on college premises. This comes as a reminder of the advisory issued in November 2016 for banning junk food in colleges to “set new standards for healthy food and reduce obesity levels in young learners”, reports ANI.


Row over effectiveness of provincial universities

Suggestions to close down universities in provinces and to improve the way higher education centres are run in big cities across Vietnam are causing controversy, reports Viet Nam News.


President pledges support to RUFORUM

Malawi’s President Professor Peter Mutharika, ‘champion for higher education in Africa’, has pledged to support the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) activities in advancing broader investment in higher education with a focus on science and technology, writes Manasse Nyirenda-Mana for Nyasa Times.


Amazon expands Alexa Fund Fellowship

American electronic commerce and cloud computing company Amazon has expanded its Alexa Fund Fellowship, a programme designed to fund and support researchers and universities working on voice technology, from four universities to 18, including its hometown institution, the University of Washington, reports Nat Levy for GeekWire.


Universities recognised for cyber security research

Three universities in the United Kingdom have been recognised as ‘Academic Centres of Excellence in Cyber Security Research’, highlighting the breadth of cyber security skills that are being developed in the UK, writes Neil Tyler for New Electronics.


Universities ready to roll with cannabis legalisation

The legalisation of cannabis is around the corner and, as universities get underway in the coming weeks, New Brunswick universities in Canada say they’re prepared to roll with it, but students will not be allowed to grow cannabis in residence or smoke on campus property, writes Sarah Morin for CBC News.

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