En juillet, cette même commission s’était opposée à la publication d’un premier rapport de la mission – événement rarissime –, car il préconisait de remplacer le concours des enseignants par le master et de confier “aux autorités académiques ou aux établissements le soin de recruter sur la base d’un entretien professionnel les enseignants”. Une proposition alors rejetée par la commission et contre laquelle les syndicats d’enseignants et de parents d’élèves s’étaient immédiatement dressés, dénonçant une menace contre le statut des enseignants et pointant les prémisses d’un possible démantèlement du service public de l’éducation.
La version définitive du rapport préconise de réduire le poids des épreuves disciplinaires, de renforcer l’articulation entre le concours et la formation, de multiplier les stages obligatoires pour les étudiants admissibles et de mieux accompagner les enseignants débutants. La proposition relative au remplacement du concours a été supprimée. “Syndicats et opposition se sont arc-boutés pour des raisons politiques sur le maintien du concours tel qu’il existe aujourd’hui, regrette le député UMP du Doubs Jacques Grosperrin, président de la mission. Il est pourtant indispensable de le faire évoluer.”.
Calmer la grogne
Quand les défenseurs du concours fustigent le caractère arbitraire des entretiens professionnels et les difficultés des mutations géographiques qui, selon eux, en découleraient, Jacques Grosperrin répond : “C’est la même chose pour un médecin formé en milieu urbain qui interviendrait par la suite en milieu rural. Il est capable de s’adapter. Je souhaitais mieux prendre en considération la dimension pédagogique de l’enseignant dans son recrutement. Mais certains sont figés dans l’immobilisme et s’attachent à bloquer toute évolution…”
La mission présidée par Jacques Grosperrin a débuté ses travaux au printemps 2011 après que Nicolas Sarkozy eut reconnu les limites de la réforme de la mastérisation, qui a entraîné la suppression des IUFM. Une réforme à “remettre sur le chantier”, promettait le président de la République. Destinée à calmer la grogne du monde enseignant, la mission de Jacques Grosperrin était alors lancée. Mais ses propositions, attendues en juillet pour entrer en application en septembre, ne sont donc finalement rendues publiques qu’en toute fin de mandature... “Nos préconisations figureront en bonne place dans le projet de l’UMP en matière d’éducation pour la présidentielle”, veut croire Jacques Grosperrin.
Voir aussi Le député Jacques Grosperrin plaide toujours pour la suppression des concours enseignants, Le rapport Grosperrin, Un député propose la suppression des concours enseignants.
Aasta juulis, samas oli komisjon vastu avaldamisest esimese aruande missiooni - väga harv sündmus - sest ta kutsus asendada abi kapten õpetajate ja määrata "ametiasutustele või akadeemiliste institutsioonidega usaldatakse ülesanne tööle põhjal tööintervjuu õpetajad. " Kuigi ettepanek komisjoni poolt tagasi lükatud, mille vastu õpetajate ametiühingud ja vanemad olid kohe valmis denonsseeriva ähvardamist staatuse õpetajate ja juhtides ruumides võimalik lammutamine avalik teenus haridus. Velle...
One reason for the poor performance of Italian institutions in world league tables may be nepotism, it has been suggested. The practice has been blamed for a "brain drain" that has seen many of the country's best researchers move to the US or the UK after failing to progress at home because of their lack of connections. This is an open secret in Italy. The news magazine l'Espresso and newspaper La Repubblica have reported that in Rome's La Sapienza University, a third of teaching staff are closely related. Questions were raised after the wife, son and daughter of Luigi Frati, La Sapienza's chancellor, were hired by its medical faculty.
At the University of Bari in the southern region of Puglia, Lanfranco Massari, a professor of economics, has three sons and five grandchildren who are colleagues in the same department. And at the University of Palermo, Angelo Milone, a professor in the architectural faculty, works alongside his brother, son and daughter. Italy's universities are 10 times more likely than other places of work to employ two or more members of the same family, according to The Independent newspaper.
Of course, not all of this can be attributed to nepotism. But the predominance of family connections in Italy's academic institutions is revealed by a computer analysis by a researcher at the University of Chicago. Stefano Allesina, assistant professor in the department of ecology and evolution's Computation Institute, compared the frequency of last names among lecturers in a number of fields, including medicine, engineering and law. His findings were reported in a recent paper, "Measuring Nepotism through Shared Last Names: The Case of Italian Academia", published in the online journal PLoS ONE.
What's in a name?
Professor Allesina examined a public database created by the Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research that included the first and last name as well as other information on more than 61,000 tenured teachers from 94 institutions, along with their department and subdiscipline. He ran a simple analysis of last-name frequency in the database, testing whether certain names appeared more often than expected in a given field. He also programmed a computer to test 1 million random samples from the pool.
Of the 10,783 faculty members working in medicine, 7,471 distinct last names were found. But in the random test from the full pool, the paper states that Professor Allesina never observed "a lower number of distinct names out of the million drawings: the paucity of names is extremely unlikely to be observed at random, indicating a very high likelihood of nepotistic practices".
"It's very basic; anybody with a laptop can do this analysis," Professor Allesina said. "I found that in many disciplines there are [far] fewer names than you would expect to find at random, indicating a very...high probability of nepotistic hires."
He ran the analysis for 28 academic fields and found the highest rates of suggested nepotism were in industrial engineering, law, medicine, geography and pedagogy. Fields with the distribution of names closest to random - and thus with the lowest likelihood of nepotism - were linguistics, demography and psychology. Professor Allesina also looked at the geographic distribution of nepotism across Italy. His analysis unearthed a stark north-to-south gradient, with the probability of nepotism increasing as one moved south, peaking in Sicily. This mirrors a north-south divide in social indicators including infant mortality, organised crime and suicide rates.
"For an Italian, this is not that surprising," he said. "It is a narrative of two separate countries, where in the public sector we have more problems in the south."
He said that nepotism was a major factor in the "enormous" brain drain suffered by Italy. His report adds that the practice is seen in the country "as a cancer that has metastasized, invading many segments of society".
Barroso said cuts to research and development could have disastrous consequences for the European economy, despite growing pressure for tough austerity measures throughout the EU.
“We need fiscal consolidation, but smart fiscal consolidation…cutting spending in innovation and education would not be smart,” Barroso said.
Innovation Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn said Europe needed “growth, growth and more growth,” to escape the crisis. Geoghegan-Quinn added that the Commission is on target to have 3% of EU funding dedicated to research and development by 2020.
Barroso reflected concerns that Europe is falling behind in education and in innovation. One area of concern is higher education, where only 26% of the EU workforce has a degree. The Commission estimates that 35% of European jobs in 2020 will require higher education degrees, creating a skilled labor shortage.
Barroso also pointed out that Europe lacks “young” innovators such as those found in the United States. Over half of US entrepreneurs are younger than 30, while in Europe only 20% are younger.
“We need to do more, better and faster,” Barroso said.
Specifically, he called for the completion of the single market and the establishment of a community patent system, which would streamline the patent process for all member states.
“Frankly, after 30 years of discussion it is time to get community patent approved,” Barroso said.
Some however doubt the Commission’s ability to spur growth and innovation. Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair, Europe’s largest passenger airline, lobbed heavy criticism towards their innovation policy.
O’Leary told a group of entrepreneurs that he was “nervous they were brought to Brussels where the spark of innovation is dulled” and advised them to “get the hell out of Brussels”.
O’Leary pointed to his ongoing battles with the Commission over his low-cost no frills airline as a reason for reduced economic growth, accusing them and national governments of subsidizing higher-cost carriers.
“Low prices beat high prices every time, unless you’re the European Commission,” O’Leary said. He also offered his views on the current Eurozone crisis, saying that the key to solving it lies with innovation not a summit of political leaders in Brussels.
Covering primary, secondary and higher education on a global scale, the study aimed to find ways to improve the UN agency's policy and programming in order to better achieve its mandate to promote refugee education. According to the report, lack of financial resources and their inconsistency as well as a shortage of educational expertise both within UNHCR and among implementing partners, has limited progress on refugee education. One of its recommendations is for more higher education opportunities for refugees, since higher education plays a critical role in advancing both individual refugees and leadership in societies in protracted crises and in post-conflict reconstruction.
"In order for education to be a durable solution for refugees, it said, UNHCR should:
- Prioritise integrating refugees into national education systems, particularly in urban areas, working closely with education ministries and UNICEF to strengthen national systems for the benefit not only of refugees but also host communities.
- Seek additional opportunities for higher education for refugees, both scholarships and site-based programmes that use open and distance learning.
- Invest in sequential training for teachers that cultivates high quality skills.
Three conceptual approaches that guide the field of refugee education and education in emergencies were presented. The humanitarian approach, which the UNHCR was said to be following, views education as one component of a rapid response, providing protection to children.
The human rights approach emphasises education as a right to be realised and cultivated through education in any situation, including crises. It further defines education as an 'enabling right', providing "skills that people need to reach their full potential and to exercise their other rights, such as the right to life and health".
The third is the developmental approach, which takes a long-term view of future relevance, recognises education as a long-term investment for society and says lack of quality education in a crisis holds back development potential, even allowing "backward development". The study said universally, refugees who have completed secondary school voice a desire to attend university.
"Higher education for refugees is not a luxury. It is important both for individuals and for society in terms of rebuilding lives and fostering leadership in both protracted settings and post-conflict reconstruction," said the report.
A study of DAFI, the German acronym for the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative, a programme for Afghan refugees, demonstrated "a direct link between a refugee programme focused on tertiary education and national reconstruction".
"The study shows that refugees who had access to higher education moved back earlier in the repatriation process, with 70% taking up work as civil servants or as NGO managers, filling much-needed roles in a society in the process of rebuilding," said the report.
"Importantly, in 2008 approximately 6% of DAFI students were engaged in teacher training activities, assisting in the creation of a cadre of teachers to assist in rebuilding the education system.
"Opportunities for higher education for refugees, however, are severely limited."
UNHCR supports higher education for refugees predominantly through the DAFI programme, which provides scholarships for study at colleges and universities in host countries. Demand for the scholarships far outstrips their availability: UNHCR generally receives between 10 and 30 applications for each available scholarship. It said several higher education programmes for refugees have developed outside of UNHCR, including through the World University Service of Canada and the Windle Trust. More recently there has been growth in higher education opportunities that combine scholarships and distance education.
"Despite the new initiatives, higher education remains low on the agenda for most donors, perceived as a 'luxury' for an elite few, especially in contexts where access to primary and secondary education is not universal," the report added.
It said there was little evidence of tangible organisational commitment by UNHCR to guaranteeing the right to quality education for refugee children and young people. For example, the education unit at UNHCR headquarters was said to be shockingly small, with one senior education officer for overall coordination, policy advice and technical support to field offices, and one DAFI education officer to manage the UN agency's main higher education scholarship scheme.
By Jan Petter Myklebust. At least one in five higher education students should spend three months studying or training abroad by 2020, European Union member governments have agreed. Education ministers from the 27 member states last month adopted conclusions on the modernisation of higher education with a special emphasis on mobility.
They set 2020 as the target date by which an EU average of at least 20% of higher education graduates should have had a "period of higher education-related study or training (including work placement) abroad", representing a minimum of 15 European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) credits "or lasting a minimum of three months".
The EU has been wrestling with the issue of higher education modernisation for many years, linking it to employability and a strategy for growth and jobs. Study and training periods abroad, to encourage cross-border cooperation and improve the quality of education and training, are one of the priority areas on the agenda. The main message from the Brussels council of ministers is that further modernisation is urgently needed. Higher education in Europe has increased in volume but financing, curricula and governance structures have not followed suit. In the global economy, the EU can only compete by increased competence and capacity for innovation.
The key question is how Europe, with 4,000 universities and higher education institutions, 19 million students and 1.5 million members of staff, can contribute more to growth, employment, innovation and welfare. The Bologna process for creating a European Higher Education Area (EHEA) has contributed to increased mobility, ministers said, but more has to be done. This is why they set concrete goals for increased mobility before 2020, to be backed up by special monitoring and a report-back before the end of 2015.
"Learning mobility can help improve the overall quality of education, especially through closer cooperation between educational institutions," the declaration stated. It can also "help to reinforce a sense of European identity and citizenship".
Ministers highlighted the following steps to strengthen mobility:
- More systematic inclusion of mobility in curricula, ensuring efficient recognition of credits gained through the ECTS, the Diploma Supplement, quality assurance and the European Qualifications Framework.
- Elimination of barriers to switching institutions between bachelor and masters degrees and to cross-border cooperation and exchanges.
- Better access and employment conditions for students and teachers from non-European countries, including reducing administrative difficulties in obtaining visas.
- Ensuring quality assurance systems cover franchise systems adequately.
- Promoting higher education institutional cooperation.
A specific measure, previously discussed by the European Commission, of an Erasmus masters degree mobility loan guarantee scheme is not explicitly mentioned in either the general conclusion or the specific conclusion on mobility.
The Bologna process priorities state that mobility is important for "personal development and employability, it fosters respect for diversity and a capacity to deal with other cultures".
They go on to say that mobility encourages linguistic pluralism, underpinning the multilingual tradition of the EHEA, and increases cooperation and competition between higher education institutions.
"Therefore, mobility shall be the hallmark of the EHEA. We call upon each country to increase mobility, to ensure its high quality and to diversify its types and scope."
The communiqué from the 2009 conference of the 46 education ministers from the EHEA called for the 20% target to be met by 2020. Professor Ziga Turk, of the faculty of civil engineering at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, who chaired the 2010 high-level group on future academic networking in Europe, welcomed the conclusions.
He told University World News: "The communication revolution, with much learning [resulting] from literature or from peers on the internet as well as globalisation in general, demands a modernisation of higher education in Europe and more mobility to build a truly common knowledge area."
But Professor Jo Ritzen, a former education minister in three Dutch governments and president of Maastricht University from 2003-11, said the proposals were "too little, too late".
"There is only the beginning of an EHEA in a European landscape which is dominated by national university systems that have reached their limits in terms of inter-country mobility and cross-fertilisation," he told University World News.
"The commission hopes that the small (highly needed) steps in terms of Europe-wide accreditation and quality control are going to come to the rescue and indeed produce a 20% student mobility. This is very unlikely, if it is not aligned with an EHEA in which there is true competition for students and where the competitors are rewarded when they succeed."
Ritzen, author of A Chance for European Universities, said that countries with substantial net immigration of students were increasingly pressing for money to follow students.
"Countries that use the cohesion and structural funds for everything but their human capital are rewarded by having their students paid for by other countries, even though in the long run they are the net losers because of the ensuing brain drain."
He said a new version of Erasmus was needed, in which European finance was piloted for European students who study abroad within Europe and where cohesion and structural funds were used to create centres of excellence in the countries that now see large numbers of students leave.
By Lucienne Tessens, Claire Web and Kate White*. Women's participation in senior and decision-making positions in Australian universities is still low, despite the existence of equal employment opportunity legislation and affirmative action initiatives over the past 25 years, including the growing number of in-house women-only staff development programmes.
The clear evidence of a gender pay gap in universities, combined with the under-representation of senior academic and professional women, suggests continuing systemic and cultural barriers to women's progress within the higher education sector.
Women are still under-represented as academic staff (42.3% in 2009, up from 31.6% in 1994), but they continue to be the majority of general staff (62.9% in 2009, up from 56.8% in 1994). Women comprise only 19.1% of professors.
What are the development needs and support that senior women consider they require to effectively advance their careers?
We looked at two universities. University A is a Group of 8 (Go8) research-intensive university, while University B is a newer dual-sector university. At both universities the representation of senior women has increased significantly over the past 15 years, but women continue to be particularly under-represented as full professors (Level E), especially at the Go8 university.
Women-only programmes are one strategy used by Australian higher education institutions over the last two decades to address gender equity concerns, and are currently experiencing a revival in popularity. At University A a multi-dimensional in-house leadership programme for women was established in 1994 in response to the continuing under-representation of women in academic roles and at senior levels of university decision-making. Its dual focus is developing individual women and changing the organisational culture.
Each year the programme is attended by 30 academic and professional staff women who self-select into the junior or more senior programme. Alternative years are primarily attended by a cohort of women at higher education worker (HEW) levels three to seven and academic levels A to C; the other years are attended by women at HEW Levels seven to 10 and academic Levels C to D. A further programme was established several years ago to cater for the needs of senior women at HEW level nine and above and academic Level C and above. It brings together senior women to foster networks and debate in order to raise the profile of women in higher education.
University B has a leadership programme conducted annually since 2003. It targets women at academic levels B and C, general staff at levels seven to 9, and training and further education [TAFE] at levels senior educator and TAFE teacher four to five. The programme is designed to support and provide skill development for women who aspire to leadership roles and wish to further progress their careers.
We were told that these programmes are not accommodating the needs of the most senior women in the university. Moreover, we and those taking part in the programmes have been asked: 'What about the men?'
There is a perception at universities that we have 'moved on' and that women now enjoy the same opportunities as men. We are discovering that separating staff development activities along gender lines remains a controversial topic despite the clear evidence of the continuing low representation of women in senior positions.
Our results suggested several themes.
The first was the working conditions of and work pressures on the respondents. Excessive workloads were considered the most significant challenge, followed by high levels of administration, and may explain the discrepancy between the number of women who considered that a senior women's programme should be offered by the university and the smaller number who expressed interest in participating in such a programme.
The gendering of careers was a further theme, resonating with other research. Some considered that men received more support in their careers than women. Men were able to focus on their primary leadership role - or for academics focus on their research - while women were expected to take on multiple roles. The critical role of the manager and minimal resourcing were highlighted as issues.
The results clearly indicate that organisational cultures continue to challenge some senior women. They also suggest that the work environment is becoming more demanding and stressful and in turn impacts on whether or not women consider that they have the time - and energy - to undertake leadership development, even though this may be beneficial to career development.
Nevertheless, another strong theme was how universities could support career advancement by: restructuring roles to reflect workloads; creating opportunities and providing encouragement; supporting women through mentoring, shadowing and acting positions; encouraging relationships with the broader academic community; and restructuring the promotion process to remove perceived bias in appointments, provide clear advancement procedures, and ensure accountability.
Respondents identified key strategies for career advancement as peer support, supervisors, and networks which were underpinned by effective organisational skills and administrative support. However, many experienced lack of support that can, as others have observed, lead women to leave their institution. There was clear support for women-only leadership programmes and belief that a senior women's leadership programme was required to provide the knowledge and skills for leadership in the current tough working environment in the sector.
Respondents identified the main content areas for such a programme as: people management skills, political skills, personal skills, operational skills and career development skills such as networking. Interestingly, they did not consider the traditional workshop format used in women's leadership programmes to be an important component, but preferred targeted leadership development opportunities such as mentoring, peer networks, coaching and 360 degree feedback, and opportunities for shadowing and mentoring at another university.
In short, women felt challenged by the impact of excessive workloads and high levels of administration on their effectiveness; they needed peer support, supervisor support, and networks, underpinned by effective organisational skills and administrative support; and they highlighted the gendering of careers, especially academic careers, evident in male colleagues receiving more support, resources and recognition. However, their leadership development needs were quite similar.
Over 80% of respondents considered that a senior women's leadership programme would provide the knowledge and skills for leadership in the current tough working environment in the sector. However, rather than the traditional workshop format used in leadership programmes they wanted different kinds of content that were more focused on areas such as networking.
* Lucienne Tessens and Claire Web are based at the University of Western Australia in Perth, and Kate White is at the University of Ballarat in Ballarat, Australia.
* This is an edited version of the article "Senior Women in Higher Education Institutions: Perceived development needs and support", which appears in the current edition of The Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management. The article is republished with permission.
There are some obvious points to be made.
First, the crisis in Eurozone is not just a European crisis, but is also entwined with the global financial system. The outlook forecast in the media is that Eurozone cohesion could unravel fast and that austerity, high unemployment, social unrest, high borrowing costs and banking chaos are likely to stay. Clearly, the effects of such a crisis are worth worrying about - but are quite unpredictable.
Second, in Europe policy goals are likely to stay stable in the short term. The European Higher Education Area and European Research Area are bigger than the Eurozone and, therefore, the Eurozone crisis will not necessarily directly affect the vision of Europe 2020 as the world's most competitive knowledge economy.
It is no surprise to hear the European Commission's recent announcement of the plan to expand Erasmus and double the number of mobile students across Europe. For that, there will be a funding increase of around 70% compared to the current seven-year budget, bringing the aggregate to around EUR19 billion (US$25 billion) for the 2014-20 programme.
Furthermore, the European Commission on 30 November presented a package of measures to boost research, innovation and competitiveness especially in science and key technologies under the Horizon 2020 programme (2014-20), for which EUR80 billion (US$108 billion) will be invested. That said however, and third, patterns of mobility and of academic 'degree' and 'career' mobility within Europe will certainly be affected by financial burdens at both national and individual levels, especially in southern Europe countries.
There will also be the effects of immigration controls on the 'world reach' of Europe. The new immigration cap and the introduction of higher tuition fees in the UK from 2012 mean that the number of international students going to the UK from outside the EU is likely to drop, for instance. In the UK, the effect of higher tuition fees to be introduced next year is already visible in the latest Universities and Colleges Admissions Service figures showing a 15.1% fall in applications from UK-born students.
Autumn 2012 is when fees at many universities will rise to £9,000 (US$14,200) a year, and it is likely that the number of European student applications for UK university degree courses will drop overall as well. In contrast, the number of British students applying for European degree courses has increased since the announcement of the higher tuition fees at home. At the same time academics, especially from the countries hardest hit by the Eurozone crisis, or academics who find it difficult to develop academic careers on their home ground, will consider migration to other European countries where English is used at work.
In this regard, the UK higher education and research sector is likely to be an attractive destination for many European academics. As indicated in the recent Academic Cooperation Association's 'Mapping Mobility' study in June 2011, the UK, Norway and Switzerland have relatively high proportions of foreign, or foreign-born, academics.
Fourth, given the new patterns of academic degree- and career-mobility within the European higher education and research areas, the potential impact of the current Eurozone crisis on higher education, along with the further expansion of Erasmus mobility and the record rise in EU research funding, may also mean a new 'hierarchy' and a new 'concentration' of mobile talents within a more stratified European higher education system.
The European Higher Education Area consists of at least 6,000 institutions and more than 30 million students. Within the area, however, there seems to be a new stratification emerging as reflected in the world university rankings, and a new concentration of talents - given the patterns of transnational academic mobility. Linked with this is the fifth point: the continental European tradition of public funding for higher education is likely to be affected by neoliberal market principles. New public management restructuring processes have been going on for many years across Europe, to reform university governance and management structures, often resulting in mergers and corporatisation of public higher education institutions.
Furthermore, Denmark, Sweden and The Netherlands in the past few years started to charge full cost fees for international students from outside of the EU, and there is increasing pressure on national tuition fees as well - for example, in The Netherlands and Belgium, as Hans de Wit commented in University World News on 18th September 2011. On the other side of Atlantic, it has been already argued that student loans in America have been analogous to the real-estate bubble: students have been urged to invest in something they cannot afford and do not need. The situation is not so different in the UK now, and the higher tuition fees and increasing student loans may also become a big issue of social inequality in many other European countries in the near future.
Both the quality of and fair access to higher education could be seriously put at risk. Thus, current 'mobility' policies and the role of universities and higher education systems as economic as well as science and cultural innovation institutions framed by the European Higher Education Area and European Research Area, are being called into immediate question by the shifting European economic geography divided between the North and the South, and also by the impending political debate about the role of the 'West' and 'Europe' in the world as international political and economic relations are rapidly changing on a world basis.
It would perhaps be well worth revisiting some of the contemporary and fashionable policy truths: that the world is a knowledge economy; that we are concerned with creativity and innovation in higher education systems; that universities are best run on a business model; and that the job of the social sciences is to provide research for policy-makers.
Before we freeze around the proposition that social sciences, such as economics, can confidently predict the future, we might as well review the questions we are asking the social sciences to sort out and ask again whether we are seeing an overconfidence in 'management' as a creative and liberating social technology especially appropriate for universities and for simultaneously inspiring and controlling academics.
We are living calmly with questions to which it seems answers are known: that is, what is the purpose and use of higher education in the public sphere of Europe - which is now named an 'Innovation Union'? What is the purpose and use of higher education - in a world in which serious efforts are being made to invent the managerial concept of 'impact' and link it with university funding?
What kinds of knowledge are European universities expected to produce - within ideologies such as 'robust and relevant research'? What will count as 'profit' for universities - a link with Libya? Our thinking about global economic and political relations and universities may not have been of the highest quality in the last couple of decades.
* Dr Terri Kim is a lecturer in comparative higher education at Brunel University in West London. Previously, she was a visiting scholar at the IEC Collège de France in Paris, and the department of international relations at the London School of Economics. She worked as a Brain Korea contract professor at Seoul National University, and was also an OECD-CERI consultant, invited to write a position paper on the globalisation of higher education. Her current research focuses on transnational academic mobility-migration and new knowledge creation in universities: a comparative analysis.
By Jan Petter Myklebust. Three top Swedish institutions - Stockholm University, the Karolinska Institute and the Royal Institute of Technology-KTH - are discussing a merger which would create the largest university in Northern Europe.
Professor Kåre Bremer, rector of Stockholm University, confirmed that the talks could lead to a new university being organised in four scientific areas: medicine, technology, natural sciences, and humanities and social sciences. Under the plan the Karolinska Institute could cover medical sciences and KTH would focus on technology, while from 1 January Stockholm University would be reorganised into two main areas: natural sciences, and humanities and social sciences (including law), Bremer said.
"The present names will be kept as today, and the new university can be established without a demanding reorganisational process, in a timeframe that a new board will find suitable," he said.
"Geographically, the three units today are located close to each other, and already collaborate in a large number of projects, activities and by the use of scientific equipment."
A merger would create an élite institution responsible for 40% of Swedish research with 70,000 students, more than 6,000 staff and a budget of more than SEK9 billion (US$1.3 billion).
"The merger would mean that the international position of Stockholm and Sweden in higher education and research becomes visible to a much greater degree that today," Bremer said.
The merged institution would likely be able to compete for place in the top 25 of the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities.
Already, formal agreement has been reached on the establishment of a major life science project by the three collaborating partners and Uppsala University.
Peter Gudmundson, president of KTH, said: "We see a clear tendency throughout the world regarding the associations between medicine, technology and natural science becoming stronger.
"KTH sees amazing potential by coming closer to Stockholm University and the Karolinska Instititute in this joint effort. This is one of our most important efforts so far."
When he published the 2012 budget, Minister of Education Jan Björklund called for more university mergers in Sweden, and said these had to come from a bottom-up process in which the government would not interfere.
This autumn, Bremer ordered a feasibility report on the collaborative project to benchmark it against major university mergers elsewhere.
Tim Ekberg, managing director of Södertörn College and a previous senior officer at the education ministry, wrote the report after asking deans, pro-deans, heads of schools and administrative leaders for their views on "a more systematic collaboration between the three institutions".
Most said that a merger would be a natural and good continuation of a process already under way. But representatives from Karolinska were opposed to a merger, preferring to see increased cooperation with Karolinska remaining an independent élite medical university. See also Sweden: Minister says universities may merge.
China, Japan, South Korea and Singapore are investing more in higher education. Experts hope universities from this region will give top Western schools a run for their money. UK-based Times Higher Education World University Rankings lists five universities in Japan, four in Hong Kong, three each on the Chinese mainland and in South Korea, two in Singapore and one in Taiwan.
"Our top-200 list represents only about 1 percent of the world's universities, so to be in the 200 is in itself an excellent achievement," said Phil Baty, editor of Times Higher Education magazine, which has published the rankings for eight years.
"Asian nations are well ahead when it comes to literacy, numeracy and scientific competence among school-age children," Baty said. "This, combined with growing private and public investment in universities in Asia, alongside growing economic strength, may see the balance of power in higher education shift in the future."
Critics say the current ranking system betrays a bias toward the West.
"How can you compare Harvard with a university from a developing country?" said Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, vice-chancellor of Al Bukhary International University in Penang, Malaysia. "How do you judge a good university? "By the number of academic papers written in English? Do they promote better education or do they simply promote an elitist, Western system?"
Baty admitted that English-language journal citations tend to dominate, but said journals from other regions are included. "This year we examined more than 50 million citations to around 6 million articles published over five years, with journals drawn from the Thomson Reuters database."
Higher education has turned into a business in many parts of the world, Dzulkifli said. "They pay big money for academics. How can universities in the developing world compete in salary terms with the likes of Princeton? Universities are not football clubs based on a couple of stars."
With higher education now a multibillion-dollar business, especially in the United States and many countries in Europe, it's easy to see why universities want to appear on those lists. The higher you are ranked, the easier it is to market your university and its programs and to attract foreign students willing to pay high fees. In Australia, for example, education is now the country's third largest source of foreign money, with just over 500,000 fee-paying students as of August, according to government data.
Ignore the Joneses
Every year dozens of companies publish their lists of the world's top universities, compiling masses of data from the universities as they go. The most influential are the Times Higher Education World Top 400, the QS World University Rankings, and the US News & World Report World's Best Universities. One critic of the ranking system recently described them as "a high-stakes beauty contest".
Universities, especially those in developing countries, were told recently to avoid trying to keep up with the Joneses. The comment came at a forum organized by UNESCO, the Institutional Management of Higher Education and the World Bank.
"Instead of trying to conform to the prevailing monoculture approach to higher education by funneling scarce public funds to create flagship universities, governments should ignore rankings altogether," forum participants were told.
Sandro Calvani of the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok agrees.
"Asian universities manage knowledge on Asia better than the West and they do it in a way the West cannot see or does not wish to see," Calvani said. He is an education expert and director of the institute's ASEAN Regional Center of Excellence on Millennium Development Goals. In his view, many Western elite universities lack Asian expertise on sustainable development, global public good and human security concerns. "The Times and QS university rankings . . . do not take into consideration the relevant direct outreach work done in Asia by Asian universities to facilitate policy innovation and problem solving."
Apples and oranges?
A Malaysian academic who did not want to be identified said that comparing Asian universities with Harvard is neither relevant nor helpful. "Universities have their own, unique role to play within a society. Comparing them to universities from a different environment and political system is not fair."
The elite US research universities, Baty said, often enjoy very large treasuries and generous alumni donations. The latest data show Harvard's endowment in 2009 was about $26 billion, about the size of Panama's GDP.
"They also enjoy high levels of administrative and academic freedom, which is important to nurturing and protecting world-class universities," Baty said. "This keeps them highly competitive, able to attract the best academic staff with top salaries and to provide cutting-edge facilities."
Very few universities in developing countries "can ever afford to compete with the finances available to these super-elite universities, to avail of the world's who's who of intellectual talent, and to pick and choose from what is considered as cutting-edge research", Calvani wrote in a report.
"For... globally focused universities possessing similar resources and orientation, uniform rankings are probably useful," he said. "Indeed, arguing the relative merits of the scholarship at Cambridge, Massachusetts, versus Cambridge, England, is a fair debate, and even a fun pursuit."
Tan Eng Chye, deputy president for academic affairs and provost of the National University of Singapore, said the ranking system provides "useful composite indicators" of a university's performance, although "methodological constraints inherent in some rankings may favor some institutions over others."
Tan said, for example, that the Times ranking "gives significant weight to a university's reputation in teaching (15 percent) and research (18 percent), and this may favor older and more established universities - predominantly in Europe and the US - that are more internationally renowned."
However, he thinks Asian universities are at the most exciting phase of their development, and he ticked off his reasons.
"First, Asian countries are investing very heavily in higher education. Second, Asian universities are becoming very research-intensive. And third, Asia is rising rapidly in economic and global importance." Tan sees the future for Asian universities as very bright.
The National Association for College Admission Counseling proposed a ban this spring on the use of international recruiters because of its concern that unscrupulous agents exaggerate students’ English skills and even allow them to skip English tests and submit falsified applications.
The association said that paying recruiters introduces “an incentive for recruiters to ignore the student interest” and invites “complications involving misrepresentation, conflict of interest and fraud.” By July, the group had backed away from the ban, acknowledging a “lack of alternatives” for dispensing information about American higher education in many parts of the world.
Officials at Pittsburg (Kan.) State University and Missouri Southern State University said they use outside recruiting agencies on a limited basis and have taken measures to ensure the agencies they use are reputable. International recruiting has contributed to a sharp spike in the number of foreign students seeking an American education. A recent report by the Institute for International Education showed a 32 percent increase in the number of international students in the U.S. compared with a decade ago. Nearly a quarter of the students here for the 2010-11 academic year came from China. Many others hailed from India and South Korea.
But as American universities work to bring in ever-greater numbers of international students, some professors and admissions counselors are questioning the motives of the professionals who have helped attract so many foreign scholars to their campuses. Peggy Blumenthal, an executive vice president at the not-for-profit Institute of International Education, said recruiting agents sometimes get paid thousands of dollars per student and “have a very large incentive” to deliver students even though they may not be qualified to attend schools in the U.S.
MSSU uses one outside agency, in China, said Derek Skaggs, admissions director. He said the agency collects its fees from the student, and MSSU doesn’t pay anything. He said the university was careful to identify an agency that is honest. Darren Fullerton, MSSU vice president for student affairs, said the university also checks to ensure that the recruiting agency isn’t overextending promises.
Chuck Olcese, director of International Affairs at PSU, said he works with agencies in Germany, Vietnam and Bangladesh, which is a new arrangement.
Officials at those schools said they did not want to reveal the names of their recruiters, saying they have done a lot of work to identify reputable agencies and naming them would be the equivalent of giving away a trade secret. Olcese said PSU pays the agents on a per-student basis, typically 10 percent of the student’s tuition in the first semester. The cost of tuition for nonresidents at PSU is $14,166, according to the university. Olcese said the money is paid from Intensive English Program funds, not state funds. Tuition for students in the Intensive English Program is nearly $11,000 per year.
He said PSU has an arrangement with an agent the university has a good relationship with in India. PSU has set up its own recruiting office in Hyderabad, staffed by the agent. The agent is a graduate of the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla.
“That’s where you’d like to get with an agent in terms of trust,” Olcese said. That agent doesn’t collect fees for services.
College administrators who rely on recruiters are quick to defend them, saying they are more familiar with overseas customs and school systems. By using recruiters, Missouri State University leaders “can focus on developing and delivering curriculum instead of going out and recruiting students and developing individual sponsors,” said David Meinert, associate dean of the university’s business school. Recruiters are “able to deliver as an intermediary something that we would have trouble delivering.”
When Missouri State’s Springfield campus decided in 2007 to create an executive master’s of business administration degree program for visiting Chinese students, the school realized it needed a recruiter steeped in that country’s language, culture and educational practices.
The university hired the International Management Education Center in Hong Kong under a deal that paid recruiters $10,000 to $12,000 for each graduate student. The school kept the balance of student payments ranging from $15,000 to $22,000. MSU has 1,134 international students contributing $22.9 million to the local economy, according to the Association of International Educators.
But some professors question the program’s academic rigor, noting participants do not take the English proficiency tests usually required of international students and frequently show up unprepared. When the same doubts that arose in Missouri spread to China, some student sponsors — a term that refers to local governments, schools corporations and other Chinese institutions — said they wanted to withdraw from the program.
Although some schools eschew hiring recruiters in favor of building close relationships with international schools in targeted countries, at Missouri State, Meinert said, the school’s partner does not work directly with students or their families. Instead, it seeks deals with sponsors who then steer groups of students toward the program — and continue to offer support after enrollment.
“We’re not looking to find an individual, to go hunting for one student at a time,” Meinert said. “An agent’s relationship with a student ends when they get a check.” The Associated Press contributed to this article.