Ten years of changes and challenges in higher education

Today University World News celebrates its 500th edition, a major landmark, by asking its correspondents and commentators around the world to focus on the most significant change or challenge facing their country or region in the 10 years since our first edition in October 2007, or the one that they think will have the most impact in the 10 years ahead.

The outcome is a unique Special Report highlighting some of the major changes and challenges in higher education worldwide.

Jane Knight says the bright future of higher education internationalisation rests on growing and sustaining collaboration, reciprocity and mutual benefits among nations, and shifting international student recruitment patterns are but one dimension of internationalisation. Also focusing on the global picture, Patrick Blessinger and Hans de Wit hail academic freedom as essential to democracy and highlight some of the new and complex threats to academic freedom, including from nationalist-populist trends, social media and fake news.

Our Asia editor, Yojana Sharma, explores the likely effect on higher education of dramatically declining birth rates in many countries in East and Southeast Asia, which are set to cause upheaval and fierce competition between universities. In contrast, our Africa editor, Sharon Dell, says rapid population growth in African countries, if the right policies are put in place, has the potential to power the ‘Africa rising’ narrative. And board member of University World News – Africa Goolam Mohamedbhai looks at shifts in the patterns of student mobility in Africa, with China investing more and increased regional mobility.

Our correspondent in the United States, Mary Beth Marklein, picked rising fees as the most significant challenge faced by US higher education in the past decade, saying “the economics of college is chipping away at the soul of US higher education”.

Geoff Maslen, founding editor and Australian correspondent, says the momentous decision by a Labor government in 2008 to lift federal restrictions on university enrolments opened the door to thousands of young Australians who may never have gained entry to a campus, but a federal conservative government is now responding by slashing university funding.

From Europe, Managing Editor Brendan O’Malley describes how the UK government’s 2010 decision to triple tuition fees could prove politically disastrous and has already played a decisive role in the battle for Brexit.

Jane Marshall, our correspondent in France, focuses on the past decade of university reforms under three successive French presidents, while our correspondent in Germany, Michael Gardner, looks at the country’s increasing popularity as a destination for international students which is threatened by the recent rise of the far-right in Germany’s politics, who want to see a U-turn in internationalisation.

Our correspondent in Greece, Makki Marseilles, is hopeful that universities can play a role in the recovery of Greece after the imposed austerity programme brought the country to its knees, with traumatic cuts in university funding and academics’ wages. And Jan Petter Myklebust, our Scandinavia correspondent, wonders if ongoing reforms in Nordic countries will change the Nordic model of higher education, which is characterised by high levels of public funding.

Our South American correspondent, María Elena Hurtado, highlights the free higher education policy introduced in Chile in recent years, which was instigated by massive protests by a vocal student movement.

We hope you will enjoy the issue and if you would like to support what we do, please tell your colleagues all about us and encourage them to sign up to our free weekly Global edition newsletter and fortnightly Africa edition.

Brendan O’Malley is chairman of Higher Education Web Publishing, publisher of University World News, and managing editor of University World News.