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NEWSLETTERResearch universities, knowledge networks and emerging nations
In Africa Features, Nicola Jenvey investigates the growing problem of student debt in South Africa, and David Jobbins reports on a lecture by Wits Vice-chancellor Loyiso Nongxa explaining why the topography of higher education has not changed much since apartheid.
In World Blog, Curt Rice writes that Norway's decision to set up centres of excellence is being evaluated, and in Commentary David Stanfield and Daniel Lincoln cover a conference on the role of research universities in global knowledge networks, hosted by the OECD’s new Innovation, Higher Education and Research for Development (IHERD) programme and Boston College.
Danny Byrne, editor of TopUniversities.com, which publishes the QS World University Rankings, looks at what has been learned from the 2012 rankings season, and Christiane Gaehtgens argues that benchmarking can help improve university performance and governance in ways the rankings cannot. Brendan Gillon and Ian Henderson warn that academic freedom is under threat from the agendas of politicians and corporations.
In Global Features, Thierry Luescher-Mamashela describes a conference of universities around the world that have joined the new international consortium of SERU, the Student Experience in the Research University survey conducted in America, and Alison Moodie reads the tea leaves to discover what the outcome of the US presidential election will mean for students. Mariani Dewi looks at the slow but steady growth of foreign branch campuses in Malaysia, which is aiming to double international student numbers to 200,000 by 2020.
Karen MacGregor – Africa Editor
While quality assurance is developing rapidly in African higher education, it is still at a formative stage in many countries, and only 19 out of 55 states have a national quality agency, according to a report just published by the European University Association.
The Kenyan government has published a bill that seeks to introduce radical changes to higher education, establishing a Commission for University Education, to be vested with wide-ranging powers, as one of four new bodies running the sector in the country.
Burundi is working hard to recoup what it lost through a 12-year civil war, by rebuilding higher education. The small, crowded country is implementing a new higher education law and is planning to set up a science fund early next year.
The killing of more than 44 students in Nigeria, in two unrelated incidents in a two-week period, has jolted the federal government into action, with the president ordering security agencies to hunt down the killers. Those found guilty may be summarily executed to serve as an example.
An international scholar rescue network has intervened in the case of a professor who appeared in court on Thursday charged with “violence perpetrated by a civil servant in the course of his duties” under Article 101 of the Penal Law. The charge carries a possible punishment of five years’ imprisonment.
Zimbabwe’s public universities are reeling under a US$100 million government debt after the authorities failed to pay student support funds following the looting of diamond revenues.
BURKINA FASOJane Marshall
A row over disciplinary measures taken against 16 students – 14 of whom have been expelled – has been mounting at the University of Koudougou in Burkina Faso. Government intervention has failed to restore order, and last week saw more strikes and demonstrations by supporters of the students demanding that the severe punishments be cancelled.
The decision to demolish accommodation blocks at the University of Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD) of Dakar, Senegal’s leading university, has caused violent protests by students who demanded to be rehoused before they were moved out, saying they had nowhere to go and were not consulted about the move.
There is a pressing need for a transparent system of grants for students and academics to study abroad in order to raise quality in Algerian universities, which currently fail to meet international standards or the demands of the economy, a newspaper has revealed.
SOUTH AFRICANicola Jenvey
South Africa’s Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande recently revealed that graduates acquiring tertiary education with assistance from the government-funded National Student Financial Aid Scheme owe R13.4 billion (US$1.5 billion) in unpaid loans – and about 20% of them have not repaid a single cent.
SOUTH AFRICADavid Jobbins
Under apartheid Loyiso Nongxa would have needed special permission from the South African government to study at the then mainly whites-only University of the Witwatersrand. Now, illustrating the extent of the changes since democracy, he is the vice-chancellor.
Students in Democratic Republic of Congo blocked the gates of the University of Mbandaka for at least two weeks this month, demanding the resignation of the board of management. Meanwhile, student committees in institutions in Goma have been requiring freshers to pay charges for exemption from hazing.
NEWS: Our correspondents worldwide report
Australian vice-chancellors were shocked last week by the federal government’s unexpected decision to slash A$1 billion (US$1 billion) from higher education spending over the next five years. Hundreds of jobs are expected to be lost as universities revise their planned budgets, with research-intensive universities likely to be the most seriously affected.
Last-minute efforts are under way to rescue the European Union’s Erasmus student exchange programme, which has been threatened – along with other EU activities – by budget cuts ordered by the EU Council of Ministers.
Universities will not survive the next 10 to 15 years unless they radically overhaul their current business models, according to a challenging report released last week. The report claims that the current university model – a broad-based teaching and research institution with a large base of assets and back office – will prove unviable in all but a few cases.
Education Ministry officials have expressed concern over the large number of postgraduates in China, as students with masters and PhD degrees are finding it even harder than graduates with lower degrees to find employment in a sluggish jobs market.
UNITED KINGDOMDavid Jobbins
The UK government has got its sums wrong and could end up making no savings from increased tuition fees in England and Wales, an independent think-tank claimed last week.
Research universities from across the globe met from 8-10 October at the University of California, Berkeley, to discuss a first round of survey data on their students’ undergraduate experience. Institutions from Brazil, Britain, China, The Netherlands, Russia and South Africa have joined the new SERU International Consortium.
UNITED STATESAlison Moodie
Jobs, the economy and women’s rights have taken centre stage in the run-up to the US presidential election, with higher education barely mentioned in the debates. But the outcome of November’s vote could have a lasting impact on college students and their families.
Branch campuses of established Western universities can be major assets for emerging market higher education systems – but attracting these institutions is not easy, even for economically dynamic countries such as Malaysia. There are still only six branch campuses in this South East Asian country.
Centres of excellence have created the conditions for doing more and better research and have achieved international prominence. But what have they meant for the wider university community in countries such as Norway?
GLOBALDavid Stanfield and Daniel Lincoln
At a conference hosted by Boston College’s Center for International Higher Education and the OECD’s new Innovation, Higher Education and Research for Development (IHERD) programme, some 40 guests from around the world explored the role of research universities in global knowledge networks, and their future prospects in emerging countries.
All university ranking systems have weaknesses and none can hope to capture the full spectrum of university activity. But rankings are nonetheless an indispensable source of information for millions of prospective students and, used correctly, they can help make smarter decisions. When it comes to comparative information, more is more.
Benchmarking could help universities improve their governance, and international partnerships could work better than those between competing universities in the same country. However, more investment is needed in an international database that could help set benchmarking levels.
CANADABrendan Gillon and Ian Henderson
Universities need to balance academic freedom against public accountability, but the danger is that the dictates of societies and economies end up curbing institutions' independence.
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Scientists reacted with alarm to the manslaughter conviction of six earthquake experts in Italy for failing to give adequate warning of the 2009 earthquake in the city of L'Aquila that killed 308 people, writes Chris Wickham for Reuters.
The postgraduate system in the UK's universities is failing to produce the number of highly skilled staff needed by a modern economy, according to the Higher Education Commission, which says the system is geared towards attracting overseas students rather than training more UK students, reports Sean Coughlan for the BBC.
Colleges and universities are supposed to be bastions of unbridled inquiry and expression, but they probably do as much to repress free speech as any other institution in young people’s lives. In doing so, they discourage civic engagement at a time when debates over deficits and taxes should make young people pay more attention, not less, writes Greg Lukianoff for The New York Times.
In a message of defiance to the Taliban, authorities in Swat have decided to rename a government college after Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head after demanding education for girls, writes Saima Mohsin for CNN.
Foreign governments, most notably Germany, should help shoulder the cost of their citizens studying at Swiss universities, according to a report from higher education leaders, writes the NZZ am Sonntag.
Universities' current charitable model of governance will prevent them from taking advantage of the higher education boom in emerging economies, Minister of Universities and Science David Willetts has argued, writes David Matthews for Times Higher Education.
A leading University of Toronto researcher has been censured for self-plagiarism – and “severe abuse of the scientific publishing system” – after a software program revealed his group had been recycling text from previous studies, writes Margaret Munro for Postmedia News.
Israel is preparing a NIS300 million (US$77 million) investment in higher education for its minorities, writes Ben Hartman for The Jewish Chronicle. Under the programme, institutions will have to offer remedial Hebrew courses, translate their websites into Arabic and make special counselling available to Arab students, or risk losing funds.
The Mozambican Ministry of Education is reviewing its entire system for supporting students on higher education scholarships inside and outside the country, to see whether an increase in funds for the students is justified, reports AIM.
At least 1,000 university graduates stand to be fast-tracked to earn doctoral degrees annually as the government moves to bridge the ever-widening ratio of university students to qualified faculty members, writes David Mugwe for Business Daily.
The announcement by Kenya’s Commission for Higher Education that it plans to start ranking universities has elicited mixed reactions, write Edith Fortunate and Esther Mwangi for Daily Nation.
US state lawmakers increasingly want to tie public funding of higher education to colleges' performance. But yardsticks that reflect the differences between institutions and who they serve are hard to find. HCM Strategists and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are trying to fill that gap with a series of new research papers and issue briefs, writes Paul Fain for Inside Higher Ed.
The UK's top universities have warned they will need more public funding if they are to continue to compete with institutions around the world, reports the Press Association.
About a third of universities in the elite Russell Group have suffered a drop in their undergraduate intake this year, after government changes to the way institutions recruit students, write Sue Littlemore and Jeevan Vasagar for the Guardian.
President Lee Myung-bak said last week that South Korea will launch a graduate school on green growth at the country's top science and technology university, to help produce global talent to lead and develop the environment-friendly growth paradigm, reports Yonhap.
Medical schools focused on reducing South Africa’s health skills scarcity are not producing enough professionals, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said last Tuesday, reports Sapa.
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