ByJandhyala BG Tilak. The Universities for Research and Innovation Bill 2012, introduced in the Indian national parliament in May, aims to create high-quality research and innovation universities, or world-class universities.
These universities are to focus on research and development, to aspire to attain the pinnacle of knowledge in a particular area through innovation in design, and to produce research that will eliminate deprivation by bridging linkages between research institutions and industry. The bill provides for the setting up of new universities by the union government or by private bodies – domestic or foreign – and for the classification of some existing institutions as research and innovation universities.
Viewed as a major component of the India Excellence Initiative, these universities are expected to boost the quality and standards of higher education in the country. It is also hoped that at least some of them will figure in the top 100 or 200 universities in the global rankings – currently there are no Indian institutions in the top 200. With a high degree of autonomy guaranteed, it is hoped that many private and foreign ‘promoters’ will make huge investments and set up strong universities, and thereby contribute to the currently meagre base of research and development investment and help to build a knowledge society.
See also Trade in higher education: The role of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).
But the UK lost its second place behind the US for the number of universities in the Top 500 to China – if universities in Hong Kong and Taiwan are included.
Five Chinese universities appeared for the first time, giving China, Hong Kong and Taiwan an aggregate of 42 universities in the Top 500, ahead of the UK with 38 universities. However, no Chinese university is ranked among the Top 100.
More than 1,200 universities are actually ranked by ARWU every year and the best 500 are published.
Largely because of the ARWU’s methodology, the ranking displays a high degree of stability at the top. The Top 10 universities remain unchanged from 2011: Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Berkeley, Cambridge, Caltech, Princeton, Columbia, Chicago and Oxford.
Lower down the rankings, the University of Tokyo returns to the Top 20 in 20th place, as the leading Asian university.
ETH Zurich (23) is the leading university in continental Europe, followed by Paris-Sud (37) and Pierre and Marie Curie (42) in France.
Technion-Israel Institute of Technology (78) and the Weizmann Institute of Science (93) enter the Top 100 for the first time, to join the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (53).
The University of Western Australia appears (96) in the Top 100 for the first time, bringing the number of Top 100 universities in Australia to five.
With the exception of Cambridge and ETH Zurich, US universities dominate the ARWU listings of best five universities in each ranked field and subject.
The annual global ranking claims to be the most trustworthy of the international league tables. ARWU uses six objective indicators, including the number of alumni and staff with Nobel prizes and Fields medals, and a web of citation data.
ARWU has been presenting the top 500 universities annually since 2003, based on a set of objective indicators and third-party data.
Complete lists and detailed methodologies can be found on the Academic Ranking of World Universities website.
The report, released last week, recommends that Canada increase the number of foreign students from 240,000 in 2011 to 450,000 by 2022. The government-appointed panel led by Amit Chakma, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Western Ontario, also laid out a blueprint for how the federal government ought to support universities in their recruitment efforts.
What makes this report a change in direction from Canada’s current approach to foreign students is twofold. First, because post-secondary education is a provincial responsibility, the federal government typically avoids such discussions. In fact, in 2006 then-Treasury Board chair John Baird, who is now Minister of Foreign Affairs, pushed to remove the federal government from all involvement in higher education aside from research.
Second, the fact that the report was presented to Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade, rather than the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, illustrates how foreign students are now considered a key piece of Canada’s global economic strategy, rather than an issue for universities to handle.
Benefits of international students
The report, International Education: A Key Driver of Canada’s Future Prosperity, argues that not only do Canadian universities and domestic students benefit from a large international student population, but so does Canada as a whole.
“Attracting the best international students will ensure that the world sees Canada as the place to be for top talent, global partnerships and business opportunities,” Chakma said, while presenting the report in Halifax on 15 August.
According to the report, international students who choose to stay boost the economy by adding to Canada’s human capital. (Chakma himself falls into this category, having moved to Canada from his native Bangladesh to pursue a masters degree in chemical engineering from the University of British Columbia.)
Moreover, those who return to their birth country become ambassadors to Canada, important sources of business ties and goodwill between countries. Finally, the report argues that drawing students and researchers from a larger pool is only going to attract better talent and improve the quality of universities.
In the past, international students were primarily considered a source of revenue for universities. Having argued the wider benefits to Canada as a whole, the report makes the case for more federal government involvement in international recruitment. Recommendations include creating a Council on International Education and Research to advise government, providing funds for scholarship programmes and developing a national brand to promote education. The report has been welcomed by the university community, which has long called for a national approach to foreign student recruitment.
“Canada must brand itself as a partner of choice in higher education and research,” wrote Stephen Toope, president of the University of British Columbia and the chair of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, in a July 2012 paper.
He singled out Asian students and researchers, in particular, as the people Canada needs to recruit. Organising recruitment efforts on a provincial basis is confusing to potential students, University of Alberta President Indira Samarasekera told the Globe and Mail. “Students don’t necessarily want to go to California or Massachusetts; they want to go the United States. We need to do the same for Canada.”
Boost to the economy
Another report, commissioned by the federal government and published in May, provides insight into why the government is viewing international students as an economic boon. The report estimated that international students spent $8 billion in 2010, up from $6.5 billion in 2008.
“Overall, the total amount that international students spend in Canada is greater than our export of unwrought aluminium ($6 billion), and even greater than our export of helicopters, airplanes and spacecraft ($6.9 billion) to all other countries,” stated the report, written by consultant Roslyn Kunin.
If education is considered an export, its value is striking compared to traditional exports to particular countries. Education accounts for 44% of exports to Saudi Arabia, 28% to India and 19% to Korea.
A new look at fees
Both this report and last week’s panel recommendations suggest that universities shouldn’t necessarily hit foreign students with the highest possible tuition fees. Recognising that foreign students bring more to Canada than just the dollars they spend during their education, these reports urge government to create scholarship programmes and re-examine the practice of differential tuition. But because most universities in Canada are publicly funded, increasing foreign students and lowering their tuition fees could be a sensitive political issue. Many Canadians consider access to post-secondary education a right.
Questions have been raised about whether increasing international students takes away seats from domestic students. For example, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty attracted criticism during the last election when he proposed a scholarship programme specifically for foreign students.
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