Is higher education being used as a bargaining chip as the UK exits the EU?

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11 November 2018 Issue 528 Register to receive our free e-newspaper by email each week Advanced Search


Is higher education being used as a bargaining chip as the UK exits the EU?

   In Commentary, Anne Corbett says the United Kingdom government is preparing to treat higher education as a sweetener for free trade deals post-Brexit. Roberto Rodríguez-Gómez writes that the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement maintains the status quo for now where higher education is concerned but that may change with the inauguration of Mexico’s new left-wing president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and US President Donald Trump’s approach to migration. Ben Daniel asks why universities continue to under-resource, and undermine the value of, research methodology programmes when they clearly have a critical role to play in enhancing the quality of postgraduate education. And Tia Loukkola of the European University Association says university rankings are inherently able to tell only part of a much wider story and this has not changed over the years.

   In our World Blog this week, Grace Karram Stephenson says the diplomatic conflict between Canada and Saudi Arabia shows how vulnerable student mobility is to changing politics, as Saudi students scramble to find alternative destination countries after their government told them to leave Canada.

   In our series on Transformative Leadership, published in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, Lennart Levi and Bo Rothstein encourage universities to shoulder their role as key agents of change and ensure students have the right skills to be able to implement the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

   In Features, Wachira Kigotho reports on the emergence of a new school of thought that challenges the rise of academic capitalism and the rabid marketisation of university programmes in East Africa. Stephen Coan reports on a seminar on decolonising the curriculum led by an Australian professor of education research and held at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa.

Brendan O’Malley – Managing Editor

NEWS – Our correspondents worldwide report


Plan S for open access is far too risky, say researchers

Brendan O'Malley

More than 700 researchers from across Europe have signed an open letter criticising Plan S, a European plan for open access that is supported by the European Union and some national funding agencies. The researchers say the plan is “unfair for the scientists involved and is too risky for science in general”.


International historian bows to right-wing pressure

Shuriah Niazi

Ramachandra Guha, the internationally renowned historian, who is a strong critic of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has reversed a decision to accept a teaching offer at Ahmedabad University after coming under pressure from right-wing group Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad.


Protesters demand more resources for public universities

María Elena Hurtado

Several thousand higher education students, teachers and administrative personnel plus trade unionists recently staged marches in Colombia’s largest cities asking for more resources for public universities, better conditions for student loans and more money for the agency responsible for science, technology and innovation.


Medical school scandal – Rejected students given a place

Suvendrini Kakuchi

Professor Yukiko Hayashi, the newly appointed head of Tokyo Medical University, which has been tainted by a gender discrimination scandal, has agreed to accept students who had passed the entrance exam last year but were told they had not earned a place.


MPs demand target for international student growth

Brendan O'Malley

An All-Party Parliamentary Group has called on the government to set a clear and ambitious growth target for international student recruitment and offer a two-year post-study work visa to help make study in the United Kingdom more attractive.


Row over MEPs’ ‘Europe first’ stance on research funding

Jan Petter Myklebust and Brendan O'Malley

Fourteen European university networks have voiced joint concern over manoeuvring in the European Parliament which they say is “undermining the aims” of the next Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon Europe, including a push for a ‘Europe first’ approach to research funding.


After campus rapes, a national plan to tackle scourge

Edwin Naidu

In the aftermath of close to 50 incidents of rape and sexual violence on South Africa’s campuses, the country’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, will launch a national strategic plan to tackle gender-based violence.


Could divided Congress compromise on higher education?

Eric Kelderman, The Chronicle of Higher Education

Following the United States mid-term elections in which Democrats won control of the House of Representatives but not the Senate, what are the areas legislators from both parties could focus on if they really wanted to work together to rewrite the Higher Education Act?


Enhancing university partnerships in soft power drive

Wagdy Sawahel

Japan is reaching out to build partnerships with African universities – a move seen as part of a broader strategy of higher education diplomacy or 'soft power' aimed at building regional alliances and partnerships to serve the country’s cultural and economic agendas.


Early-career researchers in new German collaboration

Geoff Maslen

Early-career researchers from 30 Australian universities will partner with their German counterparts on 71 different projects under a joint Australia-Germany research cooperation scheme, via which Australia leverages more funds than it does through the United States and the United Kingdom.


Harness science for growth, African leaders are told

Joy Ndovi

Africa's success relies on its capability to harness its demographic dividend by equipping its youth with the technological and innovative skills which, in the longer term, will be a catalyst for economic growth, a recent African Union gathering of 10 heads of state heard.



From sharing common values to free trade bargaining chip

Anne Corbett

Higher education is becoming a bargaining chip as the United Kingdom considers its future outside the European Union. The British government’s proposal to treat it as a sweetener for free trade deals is an idea that is likely to persist whatever Brexit deal is agreed.


NAFTA renegotiation signals little change for HE so far

Roberto Rodríguez-Gómez

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement appears to maintain the status quo for now where higher education is concerned, but things could change with the inauguration of Mexico’s new left-wing president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and US President Donald Trump’s approach to migration.


The need for innovation in research methodology

Ben Daniel

Providing high-quality research methodology programmes in higher education is a global concern. Despite their critical role in enhancing the quality of postgraduate education, institutions of higher education continue to under-resource and undermine the value of research methodology programmes.


The making of university rankings – Has anything changed?

Tia Loukkola

Despite the growth in rankings and some changes to methodology, fundamentally nothing has really changed over the years in terms of ensuring they better depict the quality of universities and their activities. Rankings are inherently able to tell only a part of a much wider story.



Future still uncertain for Saudi students in Canada

Grace Karram Stephenson

Saudi students in Canada are still scrambling to find an alternative destination country after the Saudi government told all students to leave the country over a tweet about women’s rights activists. The situation shows how vulnerable international mobility now is to changing politics.



Universities must lead on Sustainable Development Goals

Lennart Levi and Bo Rothstein

Universities have a crucial role to play in preparing the leaders of the future, ensuring they have the right critical-ethical skills and systems-thinking approach to be able to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and transform the world for the better.



The dangerous rise of neo-liberal universities

Wachira Kigotho

A new school of thought is emerging in East Africa which challenges the rise of the academic capitalism inspired by rabid marketisation of university programmes and challenges the idea of the current university system as an effective vehicle for social and economic development.


Decolonisation – Towards a more 'convivial' notion of HE

Stephen Coan

“When I went to school I had to divorce myself from my African identity. It was irrelevant – I had to relearn everything. That was my experience at school – it was even more so when I came to university.” This observation from a South African student poignantly illustrated the North-South divide lying at the heart of a seminar on decolonising the curriculum, held at the University of Johannesburg.



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No bail-out for failing universities, warns regulator

United Kingdom universities facing bankruptcy will not be bailed out by the taxpayer, the head of the universities’ regulator has warned. Sir Michael Barber, chair of the Office for Students, told leaders in the higher education sector that they cannot assume the watchdog will step in to save them from collapse, writes Richard Vaughn for i News.


US universities reconsider ties with Saudi Arabia

Colleges and universities in the United States have received more than US$350 million from the government of Saudi Arabia over the past 10 years. But some of these institutions are reconsidering their ties with the government following the killing of Saudi journalist and writer Jamal Khashoggi, reports VOA.


Academics unite against Brazil attack on universities

Over 100 international academics have reacted to social media reports that more than 20 universities in Brazil have been invaded by military police in recent days, with teaching materials confiscated on ideological grounds, reports The Guardian.


UK university divests from firms supplying Israel army

In the first move of its kind, a United Kingdom university has divested from companies that supply military equipment to the Israeli army following a student campaign. The University of Leeds recently made the decision to divest from three companies which were found to be complicit in the violation of Palestinian human rights, reports the Middle East Monitor.


Students say decision to make tuition free is not enough

Despite Liberian President George Weah’s recent announcement of tuition-free education at public universities and colleges in Liberia, students are making additional demands. Some students said although they welcome the free tuition, there are many other challenges facing them, including transport to and from their institutions, writes Edwin Genoway for Front Page Africa.


Conference boycotted over treatment of ex-rector

Four foreign professors have refused to attend an international conference at the University of Sialkot in Pakistan over the ‘poor treatment’ meted out to former Punjab University vice-chancellor Professor Dr Mujahid Kamran, reports the Daily Times.


PM hopes Japanese universities will open in Malaysia

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has expressed hope that Japanese universities will open branches in Malaysia to enable Malaysian students to not only be exposed to Japan’s education system, but also to learn its culture, reports Bernama.


Time to consider applicants’ all-round achievements

Universities should take the lead in looking at students’ all-round achievements, not just their exam scores, when considering applicants, said former Hong Kong financial secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung at a recent forum on education, writes Paul Stapleton for the South China Morning Post.


Minister addresses students’ decolonisation call

South Africa’s Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor convened a one-day meeting in Boksburg last week to discuss advancing transformation in the sector after the South African Union of Students reiterated its call for the decolonisation of higher education in the country, reports Radio 702.


Harvard professors mentor indigent students

The Dubai-based Harvard Business School Club of the Gulf Cooperation Council recently organised a week-long programme that catered exclusively to underprivileged students who are the first in their families to attend college, writes Saman Haziq for Khaleej Times.


Universities call time on handwriting

Rising numbers of students in the United Kingdom are doing their exams on computers, rather than having to complete handwritten papers, in a move that could spell the death of the pen-and-paper test, write Sian Griffiths and Julie Henry for The Sunday Times.


Mysterious object in space might be alien – Researchers

It’s been dubbed a comet, an asteroid and a new class of interstellar object. Now, a paper from Harvard astronomers suggests one more possibility for the mysterious object in space nicknamed ‘Oumuamua’: alien probe, writes Brett Molina for USA Today.

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