Higher Education Articles

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AUSTRALIA: System-wide change needed
Geoff Maslen

Australia needs a new education revolution, a new approach encompassing the whole of the education system because universities alone cannot solve the nation's educational problems, according to federal Education Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Speaking at the University of Melbourne, Gillard said Australia had to start again with a system-wide approach that would invest in the early years when social inequality was already entrenching itself. More ........

NEW ZEALAND: Election brings research funding increase. John Gerritsen*

Universities in New Zealand are looking forward to a $50 million (US$29 million) boost to their main research income as a result of the country's change of government. But other education impacts of the country's swing to the right were less clear as University World News went live. More ........

CANADA: Mental health and the international student
Philip Fine

An African student named Cylis had taken out a private loan in his home town to study in Canada. The loan interest may have been high but the payoff, he believed, was worth the financial risk. He would return with a degree and the family breadwinner would soon reach a higher rung of respectability and earning power back in his home country. That plan would not only fall flat, as was described at a recent conference looking at international students and mental health, but would offer a sobering case study of how universities need to be aware of the warning signs and vulnerabilities facing foreign students. More ........

SAUDI ARABIA: Giant expansion for all-women university. Tabitha Morgan

Work has begun on the construction of a new SR15 billion (US$4 billion) campus for Riyadh Women's University, the first university in Saudi Arabia exclusively for female students. The foundation stone of Princess Noura bint Abdulrahman University in Riyadh was laid last month by King Abdullah, whose involvement has created tension in the kingdom. More ........

SOUTH AFRICA: Funding not tackling the skills crisis
Karen MacGregor

Skills shortages have become a permanent political issue in South Africa and are constraining innovation and economic growth as well as undermining efficiency and service delivery, write University of Pretoria academics Roula Inglesi and Anastassios Pouris in an upcoming article in the South African Journal of Science. Based on a study of graduate trends, they propose the higher education funding formulas be revised and weightings introduced that give preferential support to priority disciplines. More ........

INDONESIA: Rara avis within higher education
David Jardine

Fasri Jalil, Director-General of Higher Education at Indonesia's Ministry of National Education, is leading a campaign to widen the country's university science base. Current science and technology undergraduate numbers are small and Fasri wants to increase them in an effort to catch-up with neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia. More ........

GERMANY: Internet services launched for research
Michael Gardner

Two new internet platforms have been opened in Germany for academics: scholarz.net was developed at the University of Würzburg and offers smart software for academic research, while perspectivia.net is an international publications platform for the humanities. More ........

The world’s top 1,000 business schools:

See our exclusive supplement for a report on the top business schools around the globe. More ........


GLOBAL: Europe and US behind in global R&D investment
Alan Osborn

Just how quickly the world's less developed economies are taking over the lion's share of global investment in research and development is made clear in the recently published Science Technology and Industry Outlook for 2008 from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. The OECD report broadly represents the world's leading industrial countries and shows the share of global R&D accounted for by the non-OECD countries rose from 11.7% in 1996 to a remarkable 18.4% in 2005. More ........

US: Graduate student shakes college guides system
Monica Dobie

Jordan Goldman, a 23-year-old from Staten Island, New York, talked his way into the wallet of a Park Avenue businessman over eggs one morning and is now on his way to taking a chunk out of the published college guides. Goldman's brainchild, www.unigo.com, was recently launched to give prospective American university students and their families a chance to read real college reviews free online as an alternative to the traditional college guides that have been the only source of information on US universities until now. More ........

AUSTRALIA: Earning a US business masters outside the US. Keith Nuthall

An appreciation of the value of globalisation has led to an Australian university offering the chance for business students to complete American and Australian masters degrees simultaneously. A first group of 18 students have just completed Swinburne University of Technology's Global Leadership Programme, which is operated with Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. More ........

FRANCE: Company to help artificial heart start beating

Jane Marshall
An artificial heart developed by French cardiac specialist Alain Carpentier, emeritus professor of the University of Paris-6, Pierre et Marie Curie, is to be marketed by Carmat SAS, an innovative start-up company launched last month. The prosthetic device, which is both anatomically and functionally similar to the human heart, should be ready for commercial production by 2013. More ........



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AUSTRALIA: Breaking shackles of anti-intellectualism

In a graduation address at the University of Melbourne earlier this month, federal Education Minister Julia Gillard spoke of the role education can play in changing people's lives.

We are here this evening to affirm the importance of education to our nation and our lives and to celebrate the achievements of 16 talented Australians who have just come up to the stage to receive their doctoral certificates. It's the highest honour this esteemed university can give. Surely there is nothing more dynamic than an environment dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge that combines a person desperate to learn with teachers and mentors driven to help. Education of this sort changes individual lives and has the capacity to change the life of a nation. More ........

BANGLADESH: University has big impact on public health. Mahdin Mahboob*

With a vision of a world where everyone enjoys the maximum potential of health, the James P Grant School of Public Health at BRAC University in Dhaka has made a significant mark in public health education in Bangladesh and in South Asia in general. More ........


AUSTRALIA: Postgraduate students prefer to stay home

Work in 1997 on Australian research postgraduate student mobility indicated that most students chose to remain at their current institution for a research degree rather than move elsewhere, and that they were unlikely to seek widely for information. In the latest edition of the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, Margaret Kiley and Andy Austin write that a new study aimed at determining, seven years later, whether there had been changes showed that student mobility was "virtually the same", with 61% of student respondents saying they were remaining at the same university to undertake a research masters or doctorate, 18% moving to a different university in the same state, and only 12% moving to a different university in a different state on completing their previous degree. More ........

US: Sloan survey shows online learning up 12%

The just-published 2008 Sloan Survey of Online Learning has revealed that enrolment rose by more than 12% over a year and that nearly four million students were studying at least one online course by late 2007. Staying the Course: Online education in the United States, 2008 surveyed more than 2,500 colleges and universities nationwide, is the sixth annual report on the state of online learning in American higher education, and was a collaborative effort between the Babson Survey Research Group, the College Board and the Sloan Consortium. More ........

AUSTRALIA: Internet changes rules for researchers

With social scientists increasingly using the internet for research and observation, new methodological guidelines need to be developed, argues Emma Beddows in the latest edition of the International Journal of Emerging Technologies and Society. Beddows, of Swinburne University of Technology, examines issues and concerns associated with internet-based research and calls for renewed university guidelines to tackle them. More ........

US: Academic Integrity in the 21st Century

In a new report Academic Integrity in the 21st Century: A teaching and learning imperative, Tricia Bertam Gallant, academic integrity coordinator for the University of California in San Diego "considers the issue of academic misconduct in the context of the complex forces currently straining the teaching and learning environment". It is the latest monograph of the Jossey-Bass series ASHE Higher Education Report, which provides analysis of tough higher education problems based on research of literature and institutional experiences. More ........

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UK: Newcastle excludes 50 foreign students for forgery

Newcastle University has excluded 50 foreign students it believes used forged certificates to enhance their applications, reports The Telegraph. Most are suspected of submitting bogus English qualifications to increase their chances of being accepted. The university said it believed other institutions could be affected and urged increased vigilance. More ........

TAIWAN: Universities open to mainland China students

Taiwanese authorities said last week that they were planning to allow students from mainland China to attend local universities, as ties between the once bitter rivals markedly improve, reports the Straits Times. The proposal came after Taipei and Beijing held historic talks on the island, during which they signed deals to forge closer economic ties and agreed to promote educational exchanges. More ........

US: Two populous states to slash university funding

In what appears a harbinger of things to come for higher education, governors of two of America's most populous states, California and New York, have rolled out plans that would dramatically reduce funding for colleges and universities - again - reports Inside Higher Ed. In the past two weeks, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Governor David Paterson of New York have both proposed midyear budget cuts that college officials say will cripple already strained higher education systems. More ........

US: Harvard looks to tighten its belt

Even the world's richest university is feeling the pinch from the economic downturn, reports the Boston Globe. Harvard's president, Drew Faust, said last week that the university was looking for ways to reduce spending across the campus, raising the spectre of cuts to programmes and compensation, as Harvard's endowment plummets. It was also assessing all aspects of its sweeping plan to expand across the Charles River in Allston, she said. More ........

US: Chinese-Americans 'model minority' myth debunked

Chinese Americans, one of the most highly educated groups in the nation, are confronted by a 'glass ceiling', unable to realise full occupational stature and success to match their efforts, concludes a new study from the University of Maryland, reports ScienceDaily. The returns on Chinese Americans' investment in education and 'sweat equity' are "generally lower than those in the general and non-Hispanic white population", says the report. On average Chinese American professionals in law and medicine earn 44% less than white counterparts. More ........

UK: Students poorly prepared for university

Students should be given more help at university amid fears they are "poorly prepared" for academic life, reports The Telegraph. A wide-ranging review published last week as part of a review of higher education policy by John Denham, the Skills Secretary, said some students needed more time with tutors and lecturers. More ........

UK: Exclusion zone sought for Oxford's animal lab

The University of Oxford is seeking a permanent exclusion zone around its animal research laboratory, which opened last week, reports The Independent. A temporary injunction already in place restricts people from demonstrating within a certain radius of its Biomedical Sciences Building but the university wants to make this permanent at a court hearing scheduled for next year. More ........

INDIA: Poor funding hits higher education enrolment

Poor funding and lack of quality and quantity of teachers have affected the enrolment of students in higher education in India, a recent report has said. The Ernst & Young-EDGE 2008 report on Globalising Higher Education in India found low levels of funding of higher education in India compared with other developing nations such as China, Brazil and Russia, reports Zee News. More ........

IRAN: American-born graduate student freed

Iranian authorities have released an American-born graduate student on bail after holding her in prison for nearly a month, an Amnesty International spokeswoman told CNN. Esha Momeni, 28, had been working on a project on the women's movement in Iran when she was arrested 15 October for an alleged traffic violation, according to California State University-Northridge and Change For Equality, an Iranian women's movement. She had been held in solitary confinement in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison. More ........

US: New president for Johns Hopkins a 'visionary'

As dean of the University of Toronto law school, Ronald J Daniels was at first criticised for having goals that were too elitist and ambitious, in essence for acting too much like an American law dean," reports the Baltimore Sun. So perhaps it is not surprising that he eventually migrated south, first to the University of Pennsylvania and now to Baltimore as the next president of the Johns Hopkins University. More ........

Charting New Terrain: Creating and maintaining a diversified tertiary education sector in Australia

The Martin Institute will present this conference at The Langham Hotel in Melbourne on 27 & 28 November. The conference will focus on the formation of a diverse tertiary education system in Australia with national and international speakers who will explore the challenges. There will be opportunity for discussion and exchange of ideas.

Speakers include:
* The Hon. John Dawkins AO, Chair, Australian Qualifications Framework Council
* Professor Frans van Vught - Policy Advisor on Higher Education to the President of the European Commission
* Mr Robin Shreeve, Principal of City Of Westminster College, UK
For registrations and further information, please see the conference website here. Registrations close on 19 November so register now!

Universities English standards debate sets off ‘perfect storm’.


Australian universities – already highly leveraged on overseas student income – confront a ‘perfect storm’ in the wake of an escalating debate over poor English standards among many of their Asian students.

Reputation is everything to universities and drives a virtuous circle of attracting the best staff, who attract grants and who attract the best students. But Central Queensland University – originally named in research that found over a third of former overseas students who applied for permanent residency in Australia weren’t competent in English – has drawn all domestic universities into what has been branded an “immigration racket” in the press.

Student RecruitmentCQU says it is being victimised for the success of its international student operations, instead claiming that every university does just as CQU does "only not as well". CQU has downtown campuses in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and the Gold Coast that concentrate in business management, information technology and accounting, courses in the areas of the country’s skills shortages and that count more points to permanent residency.

CQU spokesman, Mr Marc Barnbaum, told the Sydney Morning Herald: "We might have a few disgruntled students, but to take the whole institution as rogue … The sandstones [older universities] do the same thing only, we would argue, not as well."

And Central Queensland University Sydney International Campus Associate Director- Academic, Dr Alison Owens, has said international students can walk the walk without talking all the talk.

Their comments follow another high profile hunger strike – this time by 60 of CQU’s master's students in Melbourne, who claimed 56 had been failed and 122 made to sit a second exam to get their master's degree after they were tested on content they had not been taught.

The latest controversy follows headlines in early March when the BBC among others reported n the controversy and original research by Monash University academic Bob Birrell that a third of the new permanent residents tested as incompetent in English.

It’s headline was a mild: “Students' English skills attacked.” But in the US, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported the story with the headline “Academic Caliber of Foreign Students at Australian U.'s Debated”
Pakistan’s Daily Times reported that ‘Asians graduate in Australia despite bad English’, and China’s business newspaper, The Standard, reported that ‘Asians failed to make English study grade’.

As the Howard government has driven down non-research funding in the past decade as part of a conscious strategy to wean universities off the public purse, the universities have been forced to reshape themselves to win a sustainable slice of the global overseas student market.

They have been very successful. Almost 400,000 overseas students are enrolled in Australian education programs here and overseas, contributing an estimated $10 billion per annum to the national economy and sustaining and subsidising many domestic programs.

But the downward pressures of lowering public dollars per student and effective annual cuts under inadequate indexation arrangements dating from the last federal Labor government, have made universities so reliant upon overseas students that state auditors have been warning universities of the financial dangers of being so overly leveraged for years.

The lucrative income stream is well known to be vulnerable to external threats such as SARS and the Asian financial crisis, but has also been coping for a number of years with the maturation of its traditional source country markets. So they have turned to the emerging markets of China and India and elsewhere.

However now to everyone’s horror, the private and not so private warnings that students’ English was not up to the task of learning has been confirmed with the first empirical evidence of Birrell’s research. Birrell wrote in ‘People and Place’ in March that around a third of the former overseas students who were granted permanent residency and tested did not achieve the ‘competent’ band 6 standard.

Of those from South Korea 55.5 per cent did not meet the ‘competent’ band six. Of those from Thailand it was 50.9 per cent, Nepal 47.9 pc, Taiwan 47.4 pc, China 43.2 pc, Hong Kong 42.9 pc, Bangladesh 42 pc, Japan 36.8 pc, Vietnam 32.9 pc, Indonesia 32 pc, Sri Lanka 25 pc, Pakistan 24.8pc, Malaysia 23.5 pc, Singapore 17.8 pc and India 17.3 pc.

Rather they scored just 5 or 5.5 on the IELTS standard, a level that Birrell pointed out would have barred them from a visa application; admittance into most universities which require a 6 for those from offshore; and certainly not credible winning of a degree where the language of instruction was English.

Federal government and university authorities did their best to hold the line and played down the research. Federal Education Minister, Ms Julie Bishop, has rejected the research saying she has seen no evidence that substandard students with poor English are being passed by universities.

Likewise the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee has said most foreign students would be proficient in reading, writing and listening to English, and what has been instead highlighted is a deficiency in spoken language. This would not prevent students from completing a university course, the AVCC says.

But already the National Liaison Committee for Overseas Students in Australia has urged education institutions to increase their English language and welfare support.

NLC National convenor, Mr Eric Yenz Pang, warned the implications of Australian graduates being unable to speak good English upon return home was “bad” not just for graduates, but Australian universities themselves.
The qualification would lose value and Pang even warned that enrolment numbers would decline.

There are positive moves as the Federal Government has indicated it is considering tightening English standard requirements from a IELTS 5 to a 6.
But key observers have told Higher Ed Marketing that the problem is far more widespread – and deeper - than acknowledged.

One Australian academic who teaches and supervises students enrolled in the offshore Asian program of a highly reputable Australian university told HEM that the latest research was scratching the surface of the problem.
A typical workload for a supervisor of overseas students involved marking well over a hundred papers in barely comprehensible English in about a week, but the academic had encountered almost a score of cases of serious plagiarism.

Helping students improve their English, let alone going through the processes triggered by such findings made marking these papers a highly onerous exercise, the academic said.

Key observers say the debate will intensify – as indeed Federal and state authorities last week tried to shift responsibility to each other for regulation – and be renewed next year when the same research exercise is repeated.
It is a reasonable assumption that the problem – and the adverse publicity that marketers do not need or may indeed exploit – will not go away anytime soon.

Thousands more Asian students with substandard English are still working their way through the system as they complete their degrees over the next few years and will continue to be tested for their English under the research.
But publication of the research – which has been highly uncomfortable for universities and for which the researchers have been attacked – should prove beneficial in the medium to long run as rigor is restored to such a vital industry.

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