ISSN 1756-297XIssue No: 0073 26 April 2009
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Expansion of higher education in Afghanistan is underway to create jobs and produce skills for key sectors. See the NEWS section.

A European Commission expert scientific committee has concluded that use of primates in biomedical research should continue. See the Business section.

Universities in France have been disrupted for more than 10 weeks now, as students and academics have mobilised against neo-liberal higher education reforms. See our FEATURE section.


A global view of the key issues confronting higher education

Reports from the Frontier is the first in a planned series of electronic books to be published by University World News. The initial volume comprises eight chapters that range from the impact of the global financial crisis on universities, declining funding, and the Bologna process, to women in higher education, international rankings and e-learning.

The 337-page e-book includes an index listing the chapters and article headings, and is available as a special offer to University World News readers. To see the contents page and to order your copy click here

In countries around the world, higher education has been affected by the global economic downturn. This week’s Special Report looks at how universities are faring. (Illustration: iStock)

SPECIAL REPORT: Universities confront global crisis

Nothing is certain about the effects of the worldwide economic meltdown on universities. Some nations, notably America, China, France, Germany and India, have vowed to provide more money for higher education as a way of boosting economic recovery whereas others seem to be waiting to see how the crisis unfolds even further before offering their universities more support – or reducing what they are already providing.

What is clear, however, is that wherever they are, universities are feeling the impact – whether through losses on investments, the declining value of their endowments, budget shortfalls or students facing severe financial difficulties. Yet, as the first article in this special report on higher education and the global economic collapse points out, universities can act as the powerhouses of a national economy. That fact has still to be grasped by many governments, as our writers explain.

GLOBAL: Higher education confers huge economic benefits
Geoff Maslen
At a time when nations around the world are confronting the worst global recession in 75 years, news that the return on investment in higher education is massive and can generate an astonishing economic rate of return far in excess of other investments will be welcomed by universities everywhere. Authors of a report prepared by the multinational accounting firm KPMG, and released last week, say that after examining a range of global research on the economic payoff of the education and research functions of universities, they conservatively estimate the real rates of return for university training at 15% or more and 20%-40% for public university research.
Full report on the University World News site

US: Grim times continue for higher education
Leah Germain
Despite the promises made by the new Obama administration, the impact of America’s collapsing economy continues to rattle the nation’s higher education institutions. From the Ivy League universities to little-known colleges, falling revenues and the declining value of endowments have resulted in staff redundancies, cancellations of new building works and even cuts in enrolment numbers. San Jose State University, one of 23 campuses in the California State University system, was forced to deny admission to more than 4,000 qualified applicants this year because of that state's own budget crisis.
Full report on the University World News site

UK: A budget setback for the sector
Diane Spencer
Last week’s budget delivered by Alistair Darling, Chancellor of the Exchequer, was a profound disappointment for British higher education. The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills faces cuts of £400 million (US$583 million) with no change to plans to restrict student places just when applications have risen by 8.8%. Earlier the government announced cuts of 5,000 in the number of funded student places in England for 2009-10.
Full report on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: Vice-chancellors buoyed by budget hopes
Geoff Maslen
Australia’s 38 public universities lost an estimated A$800 million (US$568 million) last year as a result of the global financial meltdown. With the nation now officially immersed in a recession and higher education institutions facing the prospect of an even more serious decline in revenues, vice-chancellors are looking to the federal government and next month’s budget for a substantial boost in spending.
Full report on the University World News site

SOUTH AFRICA: Universities steady in global crisis
Karen MacGregor
A big increase in state funding is helping South African higher education to weather the global financial and economic storm. But universities are bracing themselves for knocks later in the year if student debt rises and donor funding drops by an anticipated 20%. “It’s a case of steady as she goes,” says Professor Patrick Fitzgerald, Deputy Vice-chancellor (finance) at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. “But we are on high alert and are worried about how the crisis will affect us.”
Full report on the University World News site

GERMANY: Uncertainty about economic crisis
Michael Gardner
The impact of the economic crisis on Germany has been difficult to assess. The federal government launched two massive programmes to boost business over the last few months with the second also targeting education and infrastructure which could benefit higher education – to a degree. Overall, however, the mood is one of vague apprehension while among students, scepticism is growing that government measures could bypass their immediate needs altogether.
Full report on the University World News site

CANADA: Is the brain gain going down the drain?
Philip Fine
A year and a half ago, Canada was celebrating a reversal of the perpetual brain drain it had felt for decades. Thanks mostly to a few key government investments in the late 1990s, most of the last decade saw hundreds of formerly wayward Canadian academics repatriated, doctoral students staying put and a significant rise in permit applications for US academics planning to work in Canada. Now, with the global economic crisis, there is talk of that brain gain going back down the drain.
Full report on the University World News site

GREECE: Education only way out of the crisis
Makki Marseilles
Greek universities have yet to feel the full effects of the Great Global Recession, with no sign of staff redundancies or closures of schools or departments. But they do stand to benefit considerably from a change of government should George Papandreou take over as President after the general elections, now expected to coincide with the European elections on 7 June. As leader of the official opposition Panhellenic Soc ialist Party, Papandreou is tipped to win the election and has promised that “investing in education is the only way out of the crisis”.
Full report on the University World News site

RUSSIA: Guaranteed loans help students survive
Nick Holdsworth
Russian university students will be helped to weather the economic downturn through state support for study loans, Education Minister Andrei Fursenko has pledged. Although one state-backed loan scheme ‘Credo’ – heavily used in the past by top Russian universities – had collapsed after the bank through which funds were channeled went bankrupt, students needing financial help to enter higher education should not be left to suffer, Fursenko said.
Full report on the University World News site

BOTSWANA: Meltdown impacts on new universities
A special correspondent
Since the 1970s, Botswana’s economy has rested heavily on diamonds and mining, cattle and tourism. Now the country has been severely affected by the world economic recession and the crunch has resulted in some mines closing and others stockpiling, reduced tourism, threatened exports to the European Union and a decline in government revenue.
Full report on the University World News site

GLOBAL: Downturn brings ethics into focus
Emma Jackson
As the global recession deepens and major accounting scandals are seen as a cause, business and accounting lecturers are looking to instil a sense of ethics in their students. Critics have argued this lack of education led to scandals such as Bernard Madoff’s $65 billion Ponzi scheme in the US and the Satyam Computer Services scandal in India where its CEO admitted to falsifying accounts.
Full report on the University World News site

NEWS: Our correspondents worldwide report

AFGHANISTAN: Rebuilding an education-starved country
Wagdy Sawahel
The Afghanistan government and the international community have agreed to expand the nation’s higher education sector to create jobs and meet projected requirements for skills in key sectors, such as mining, construction and engineering as well as agriculture. This was announced at a UN-backed international conference on Afghanistan held in The Hague on 31 March.
Full report on the University World News site

EUROPE: Future of masters programmes
A Bologna master ‘template’ for masters degrees is developing across Europe, albeit in three distinctive forms of course provision: taught masters with a strong professional development application, a research-intensive masters which functions as a pre-doctoral degree, and courses delivered to learners returning to education from the workplace.
Full report on the University World News site

US: Education secretary signs deal with China
American Secretary of Education Arne Duncan met with a delegation of senior Chinese education officials in Washington on 16 April to sign a joint statement on exchange and cooperation in higher education. The delegation was led by Madame Liu Yandong, the highest ranking woman in the Chinese government and the only female member of the Politburo and the State Council.
Full report on the University World News site


CHINA: Retired professor attacked
Jonathan Travis*
On 4 April, a retired professor from Shandong University was brutally beaten by five unidentified men, Human Rights In China has reported. Sun Wenguang, 75, was attacked as he returned from paying respects to the memory of the late Zhao Ziyang, former General Secretary of the Communist Party who visited students on Tiananmen Square during the 1989 democracy movement, and of Zhang Zhixin, a dissident killed during the Cultural Revolution.
More Academic Freedom reports on the University World News site


EUROPE: Animal testing still needed says science panel
Alan Osborn
An expert scientific committee advising the European Commission has concluded that, based on today’s scientific evidence, the use of non–human primates such as chimpanzees and baboons in basic and applied biomedical research should be continued.
Full report on the University World News site

US: Creating green aviation fuels
Mark Rowe
A coalition of higher education researchers and air industry experts is developing greener aviation fuels, helping reduce CO2 emissions.
Full report on the University World News site

CZECH REPUBLIC: EU must double hi-tech investment
Alan Osborn
The European Union held its first European Future Technologies Conference in Prague last week. But its message belied some frustration: the 27 member countries are not doing enough to promote research, especially in hi-tech areas such as information technology and communications.
Full report on the University World News site


FRANCE: Universities exploding in anger
John C Mullen*
For more than 10 weeks now, French universities have been disrupted by strikes, mass meetings, demonstrations and occupations as a daily occurrence in an unheard-of wave of protest by university staff and students against President Nicolas Sarkozy’s neoliberal reforms of higher education. A dozen mass demonstrations with tens of thousands of people have been held, motorway tollbooths have been occupied and university council meetings invaded. Parallel university lectures, in streets, shopping centres or on trams have been used to help popularise the movement that shows no sign of stopping.
Full report on the University World News site


From Jean-Pierre Nioche
Congratulation on your article, FRANCE: Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité - but not yet. I am afraid, though, that the French concepts of "égalité" and "Grandes Ecoles" are not well understood.
Full letter on the University World News site


US: Higher learning, greater good
In a just-published book, titled Higher Learning, Greater Good: The private and social benefits of higher education, education economist Walter W McMahon describes the significant social and private benefits of tertiary study. While a college education has long been acknowledged as essential for personal success and economic growth, “the measurable value of its non-monetary benefits has until now been poorly understood”, a Johns Hopkins University Press release points out.
More on the University World News site

UNI-LATERAL: Off-beat university stories

US: Mystery donor keeps giving to women-run colleges
The mystery college donor has struck again – this time at Binghamton University in New York, whose financial aid office phone started ringing off the hook as word of an anonymous $6 million contribution spread across campus – writes Justin Pope for The Associated Press. The recipient colleges seem to have almost nothing in common except this: so far, all are led by women.
More on the University World News site

US: Playboy ranks top party schools
Playboy magazine executives say they used a series of mathematical equations to rank America’s top party schools, hoping to take a more scientific approach by looking at statistics such as the number of nursing majors, gallons of beer consumed and the amount of open study rooms available for, well, “late night studying”, writes Kimberly Miller for the Palm Beach Post.
More on the University World News site


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TURKEY: Academics among scores charged over ‘coup plot’
Leading academics are among eight people recently charged in connection with an alleged plot to topple the Turkish government, reports BBC News. Professor Mehmet Haberal, the rector of Baskent University in Ankara, was among those detained. Some 142 people have already been charged over the ‘Ergenekon’ plot, allegedly meant to stoke unrest and provoke the army into launching a coup.
More on the University World News site

MIDDLE EAST: Boom in higher education in the Gulf
As Israel’s higher education system struggles with endless funding crises and crippling strikes, those of many of her neighbours are racing ahead at lightning speed, comments Alisa Rubin Peled in the Jerusalem Post. For the first time, regional governments are directing their oil and natural gas revenues to building up their higher education sectors quickly by bringing in the best of the American universities, the world's leading brand name.
More on the University World News site

BANGLADESH: Population growth driving up HE demand
To catch up with India’s level of education Bangladesh will need an additional 674 universities and 84,113 professors by 2025, according to Professor Halimur R Khan, writing in the Daily Star. Even just coping with current population expansion will require a massive increase in capacity.
More on the University World News site

INDIA: Free-flowing alcohol behind rise of ragging
The free flow of wine and alcohol and its consumption on campus are behind the rise in incidents of ragging, according to the Supreme Court-appointed RK Raghvan committee, reports The committee made the disclosure in a report submitted to the Supreme Court last week.
More on the University World News site

IRELAND: State pays €700,000 to teach Irish overseas
Universities across the globe are being grant-aided by the government to get more people speaking Irish, reports Brian McDonald in the Independent. From Poland to the Czech Republic and across the Atlantic to North America, tertiary institutions are receiving a total of €700,000 this year to promote Irish.
More on the University World News site

UK: Overseas interest in British degrees intensifies
The number of students studying UK degrees delivered overseas has rocketed, writes Hannah Fearn for Times Higher Education. According to data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, in 2007-08 there were almost 200,000 ‘offshore students’ studying for UK degrees.
More on the University World News site

UK: Rush to apply to new universities
With the recession putting pressure on the jobs market, record numbers are seeking places in institutions in England and Scotland. The Million+ group of new universities is reporting that applications have risen between 6% and 37%, according to BBC News.
More on the University World News site

US: Public universities predict hefty tuition hikes
Budget-strapped public universities are predicting significant tuition increases at a time when private universities are doing everything to maintain or even lower tuition rates during the recession, experts say, writes Jeanette Der Bedrosian in USA Today.
More on the University World News site

US: More meaningful accreditation
Sylvia Manning has heard all the complaints about accreditation before – heck, she thought a lot of them herself during her nearly 40 years as a college administrator – writes Doug Lederman for Inside Higher Ed. Colleges find the process to be a mere obligation because it focuses on minimum standards and too often produces little of value to help the institutions improve. Critics who want more higher education accountability question whether accreditation is rigorous and transparent enough. Potential educational innovators say the process is inflexible and discourages creative approaches.
More on the University World News site

US: Scientists, supporters rally for animal research
Led by a professor whose car was set on fire last month in an anonymous attack, more than 400 University of California, Los Angeles, scientists and their supporters rallied on campus last Wednesday to defend research using animals and to protest the violent tactics of some opponents, write Larry Gordon and Raja Abdulrahim for the Los Angeles Times. At almost the same time, about 40 critics of animal research demonstrated just across the boulevard, and the two groups briefly traded slogans before marching to different UCLA plazas. Police reported no violence and no arrests.
More on the University World News site

PHILIPPINES: National science complex a strategic investment
The appropriation of necessary funds to complete the infrastructure requirements of the National Science Complex and to operate and maintain it properly will be viewed as one of the key strategic investments made by the Philippine government and the Arroyo administration for higher education in the first decade of the 21st century, writes Caesar Saloma in the Philippine Star.
More on the University World News site
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