Will China’s Silk Road initiative make it a global higher education leader?

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7 October 2018 Issue 523 Register to receive our free e-newspaper by email each week Advanced Search


Will China’s Silk Road initiative make it a global higher education leader?

   In Features, Yojana Sharma reports on the views of international academic experts that China’s New Silk Road initiative could alter the dynamics of global collaboration in higher education, with China taking possible advantage of a ‘vacuum’ left by the United States, which will have implications for partnerships in Europe and China. And Kalinga Seneviratne reports on the Singapore Education Minister Ong Ye Kung’s contention that the role of higher education is changing and the system of university ranking needs to evolve with the times.

   In Commentary, Ararat Osipian looks at why Russian President Vladimir’s Putin’s ambitious commitment to get at least five Russian universities into the top 100 in world university rankings is doomed to fail. Igor Chirikov and Evgeniia Shmeleva suggest a combination of approaches that Russian universities should adopt to reverse the worrisome trend of increasing dishonesty among students, while the ministry of science and higher education should make addressing this issue a top priority. Eric Fredua-Kwarteng and Samuel Kwaku Ofosu say the National Accreditation Board of Ghana needs massive capacity building to function effectively as a state-sponsored quality assurance agency and perform its vital role in improving higher education. And Kai Yu writes that acquisition activity in private higher education in China has recently reached record highs and the success of these acquisitions is likely to depend on the acquired universities meeting the ever-changing labour market needs.

   In our World Blog this week, Patrick Blessinger, Shai Reshef and Enakshi Sengupta say that paradigm shifts in higher education have meant that more people see affordable lifelong education as a moral imperative and more universities and states are seeking ways to make higher education more affordable, in some cases by making it tuition-fee free.

   In a continuation of our Special Report on the Publishing Crisis, Philip G Altbach and Hans de Wit reiterate the need for differentiation of institutions and in academic publishing, without which the knowledge distribution system will remain dysfunctional and ridden with inefficiencies and corruption.

   In another Special Report, Wachira Kigotho reports from the eLearning Africa conference in Rwanda on calls for African leaders to work towards ‘digital parity’, while Rodrigue Rwirahira writes about calls for African universities to adopt a brain-gain strategy, facilitated by e-learning programmes.

Brendan O’Malley – Managing Editor

NEWS – Our correspondents worldwide report


White House discussed unilateral ban on Chinese students

Brendan O'Malley

The Trump administration earlier this year considered banning Chinese nationals from studying in the United States, as part of a national security crackdown on industrial espionage, including intellectual property theft – but shelved the proposal, fearing damage to the economy and diplomatic relations.


Decline of international graduate enrolment quadruples

Brendan O'Malley

Between fall 2016 and fall 2017, first-time graduate enrolment of international students at universities in the United States fell by 3.7%, a quadrupling of the rate of decrease. Experts have linked the sharp fall with the Trump administration’s hardline visa and immigration policies and rising costs.


EU data laws puts China research collaborations at risk

Yojana Sharma

Universities in Europe sharing research data with institutions in China could be in breach of new European Union laws on data protection, legal experts said, a warning that could have an impact on Europe-China research collaborations, particularly in the medical field and artificial intelligence.


University cash crisis worsens as state cuts budgets

Gilbert Nganga

Kenya’s beleaguered public universities have been told to further tighten their belts after being slapped with a US$10 million budget cut that will worsen their cash woes, in austerity measures that are meant to avert a looming economic crisis.


Minister announces major campus political reforms

Anil Netto

Malaysia’s Education Minister Maszlee Malik last week announced major reforms to overturn laws barring students from campus political activities, lifting restrictions that allow students to hold campus elections only with the permission and oversight of university administrations.


University leaders urged to unite against populism

Michael Gardner

A former rector of the Vienna University of Economics and Business has made an emphatic appeal to university leaders to demonstrate solidarity in the face of "growing populism" and ensure that universities counter "issue diagnoses" that are fabricated or exaggerated with evidence and reward critical thought.


Protests as government shuts down Islamic HE institutions

Wagdy Sawahel

Student demonstrations erupted and two academics were arrested by Mauritanian police in the outcry following a government shutdown of two Islamic higher education institutions at the end of September, after their teaching licences were revoked due to alleged links with the main opposition Islamic political party and the Muslim Brotherhood.


Student death at sea highlights education crisis

Wagdy Sawahel

Thousands of students protested after a student was killed by the Moroccan navy during an illegal migration journey at sea, which has highlighted the ongoing emigration by young Moroccans in search of a better education and living standards in Europe.


Investigation into university governance criticised

Jan Petter Myklebust

The draft reforms of university governance and funding distributed by Sweden’s special investigator on higher education, Professor Pam Fredman, have come under heated criticism from academics and academics’ rights advocates, who say they will sideline academics and reduce university autonomy.


Lawyers and students share unhealthy weight concerns

Geoff Maslen

An obsession with their body weight and shape could be contributing to elevated stress levels among the nation’s lawyers and law students. A research study has found that both groups are far more concerned than the typical Australian about their weight and shape.



Why Putin’s 5-100 project is doomed to fail

Ararat Osipian

President Vladimir Putin’s ambition to get at least five Russian universities into the top 100 in global university rankings by 2020 looks set to fail miserably, judging by the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and lack of true university autonomy is behind the slow progress.


Does the university system encourage dishonesty?

Igor Chirikov and Evgeniia Shmeleva

Research shows students become more dishonest as they progress through higher education in Russia. Universities should be incentivised to develop policies and programmes against dishonesty and punish misdemeanours. The new Ministry of Science and Higher Education needs to make combatting academic dishonesty a top priority.


Accreditation lies at the heart of development

Eric Fredua-Kwarteng and Samuel Kwaku Ofosu

Accreditation performs a vital role in improving higher education, but it needs more resources and to be linked to government policy on development, making it strategically relevant as a tool of national planning.


The consolidation of Chinese private higher education

Kai Yu

Chinese private higher education faces a series of mergers and acquisitions – with the latter currently hitting record levels. To stand out, private institutions need to focus on career-oriented education as students seek qualifications that are in demand in the labour market.



The shifting paradigm of higher education

Patrick Blessinger, Shai Reshef and Enakshi Sengupta

A growing chorus of people now see affordable lifelong education as a moral imperative and more universities are seeking ways to make university more affordable for more of their students – in some cases, or even in some states, making it tuition-fee free.



Towards a sustainable knowledge distribution system

Philip G Altbach and Hans de Wit

Without recognition of the need for institutional and individual differentiation, the knowledge distribution system will continue to be dysfunctional and ridden with inefficiencies and growing corruption. There is need for differentiation in academic publishing too, with more attention given to diversity and inclusion.



Can Silk Road HE partnerships fill ‘vacuum’ left by US?

Yojana Sharma

Major changes in the global order will have implications for higher education partnerships in Europe and China, with China’s massive New Silk Road initiative playing a role that could even see China emerging as a global higher education leader, international academic experts say.


‘Rethink role of HE beyond rankings’, says minister

Kalinga Seneviratne

The role of higher education is changing, and the existing research-led university model and the system of university ranking and evaluation need to evolve with the times, Singapore’s Education Minister Ong Ye Kung told an international higher education conference recently.


Women are key to closing the talent gap, report finds

Jan Petter Myklebust

A better gender balance in the workforce and top management and more women recruited to the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – at universities is the key to Danish technological advancement, according to a new report by the Innovation Fund Denmark.


The eLearning Africa Conference, the largest in Africa on learning, training and technology, was held in Kigali, Rwanda from 26-28 September under the theme of “Uniting Africa”. The conference, which attracted hundreds of experts, focused on how technology can break down barriers, enabling Africans to share knowledge, learn and prepare for the future. University World News was there as a media partner.


Leaders urged to work towards digital knowledge parity

Wachira Kigotho

African leaders were urged to work towards 'digital parity' so as to enable the continent’s inhabitants to participate in and be represented as equals in both the digital and material worlds.


Call for urgent ‘e-volution’ of university libraries

Wachira Kigotho

Universities in Sub-Saharan Africa need to move away from the idea of libraries as buildings that stock books on dusty shelves to learning spaces that can facilitate access for students, academics and researchers to information at any time or place. For those libraries to attain cutting-edge status, however, they need to be properly funded.


Online MOOCs battle against traditional mindsets

Wachira Kigotho

The once glittering allure of massive open online courses (MOOCs), viewed as new learning vehicles to carry most of Africa’s youth to the frontiers of a university education, has dimmed.


E-learning boosts brain-gain and reduces costs

Rodrigue Rwirahira

Experts have called on African universities to immediately adopt the philosophy of brain-gain, facilitated by e-learning programmes, in a bid to reduce the cost of academic services and management, and invest more money in research and development.


Call to increase ICT research funding at universities

Rodrigue Rwirahira

Rwandan universities have called for extensive funding to research how information and communications technology (ICT), including mobile phones and the internet, could be leveraged to benefit ordinary users in various sectors.


Africa vs rest of world in lively digital revolution debate

Wachira Kigotho

“This house believes Africa has nothing to fear from a fourth industrial revolution and should seize the opportunity it represents,” was the motion of a highly contested debate at the 13th International Conference and Exhibition on ICT for Education, Training and Skills Development in Kigali, Rwanda, on 28 September.



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Radical open-access plan could end journal subscriptions

Research funders from France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and eight other European nations have unveiled a radical open-access initiative that could change the face of science publishing in two years – and which has instantly provoked protest from publishers, writes Holly Else for Nature.


Foreign students up 4.5% in French tertiary institutions

There are 343,400 foreign students in the French higher education system, signalling a growth of 4.5% since 2016, according to figures released by the ministry of education. The number of foreign students in tertiary education in France has grown 18% since 2012 and almost doubled between 2000 and 2017, the ministry document states, writes Claudia Civinini for The Pie News.


One-third of Brazilian universities deemed irregular

One in three universities in Brazil does not meet the legal requirements to be considered a ‘university’. According to the Brazilian constitution, private or public universities must have academic programmes, continuing studies offerings and scientific research – activities that rely on full-time faculty and solid graduate programmes, write Dante Ferrasoli and Estêvão Gamba for Folha De SPaulo.


China to help Africa with no political strings attached

Chinese Ambassador to Zambia Li Jie has said that China will continue helping Africa with no political strings attached to aid. Li said that no political strings includes non-interference in the internal affairs of those states. He was speaking in Lusaka during the 69th Chinese National Day, reports the Lusaka Times.


Military claims universities in plot to oust president

The Communist Party of the Philippines is allegedly trying to brainwash and incite students in various Metro Manila colleges and universities to rebel against the government through film-showing activities that depict the dark years of martial law under the Marcos dictatorship, according to the military, writes Michael Punongbavan for The Philippine Star.


10 universities in Mexico on verge of financial collapse

Ten of Mexico’s public universities are on the brink of collapse, staff and government officials have warned, a situation that can only be resolved with emergency funding of MXN4 billion (US$210 million), reports El Universal.


Teachers quit in droves for high paying Gulf posts

The prospect of earning the equivalent of five years’ salary in one year is luring South African teachers to classrooms in the Gulf, a university study has shown. But apart from the lure of higher earnings, teachers are being driven from South Africa by the high crime rate, religious intolerance, race-based policies, burgeoning class sizes and workloads and an ineffective curriculum, writes Suthentira Govender for the Sunday Times.


Scientist says ‘physics was invented and built by men’

A senior scientist has given what has been described as a “highly offensive” presentation about the role of women in physics. At a workshop organised by CERN, Professor Alessandro Strumia of Italy’s University of Pisa said that “physics was invented and built by men, it’s not by invitation”, writes Pallab Ghosh for the BBC News.


N Korean, German universities sign exchange agreement

Kim Il Sung University, North Korea’s most prestigious institution of higher learning, has established an exchange and cooperation relationship with Germany's Free University of Berlin in the field of humanities and sociology, reports Yonhap News.


Sweden cuts funding to Ugandan universities

The Swedish government is discontinuing funding research at public universities and redirecting its resources to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law. “The issue of funding universities is a matter of development of and for a country, and needs to be steered nationally,” said Per Lindgard, the Swedish ambassador to Uganda, writes Stephen Otage for the Daily Monitor.


Study into how to tap research to meet societal needs

The University of Malta is involved in a four-year multinational study that is exploring how best to embed a culture of responsible research and innovation and make this part of the governance and practice of research institutions, reports the Times of Malta.


Academics emphasise role of undergraduate research

Academics in Pakistan have expressed regret at the lack of emphasis on research at the undergraduate level in the country during a conference at Habib University, writes Zaina Qaseem for The Express Tribune.


CSIRO engaging Australians for energy research

With energy a hot topic in Australia, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is looking for a better way forward for providers and consumers. The CSIRO Energise app has been developed to allow individuals to contribute to national energy research in Australia, writes Asha McLean for ZD Net.


Philosophy new battleground in fight against colonialism

To study philosophy in South Africa today is to study a series of pronouncements from white, European men. Tony Shabangu, a philosophy lecturer and doctoral student at the University of Johannesburg, has read them all. But he’s looking for something new, writes Olivia Goldhill for Quartz.


‘Replace British attire with Indian dress’ – Minister

India’s Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar has appealed to universities across the country to replace their "British-inspired" convocation attire with traditional Indian clothes as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, reports the Press Trust of India.

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