The purpose of this digital publication (formerly the VU International News & Reviews) is to identify relevant data-driven reports on any aspect of the international dimension of higher education and research. It gives a brief description of the reports, with a link to where it can be found. The Aurora Brief Reviews is done with specific attention for the perspective of societally engaged research universities within the Aurora Universities Network.
Kees Kouwenaar, editor
All reviews published in the ABR – as well as those published in issues of its predecessor “VU International News & Reviews” – are stored in this section of the Aurora website. The ABR archive will be gradually filled with earlier reviews in 2020 and can be searched by date of the review as well as by suggested and free text search. Recipients of the ABR are free to forward it to possibly interested colleagues, who can subscribe for free. If you no longer wish to receive the ABR, you can always unsubscribe.
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Study in Britain – Not Likely
Study.eu, a portal where students can find out what to study and where conducted a survey among 2500 students from EU countries who had shown interest to study in the UK. The survey was conducted between June 23rd and 28th of this year. The main question was how a rise in UK tuition fees for EU nationals – announced by the UK government – would impact the attractiveness of British universities. If the government raises the tuition to ‘international’ level, 84% of the prospective students say they will most ‘definitely not’ study in the UK. If the tuition fees are raised with a much more modest 25%, answers such as ‘much less likely’ and ‘definitely not’ already add up to 64% of students. To what alternative would these students turn? According to the survey, no less than 49% would then consider studying in the Netherlands, followed by Germany (36%) and France (19%).
Community Engagement in European HE
At the request of the European Commission, Thomas Farnell has analysed trends, practices and policies on community engagement in HE in Europe. Farnell is member of NESET, a network of external experts used by the European Commission on the social dimension of education and training.
The report is based on extensive literature analysis, most of which seem to be qualitative and argumentative. This report offers a good overview of current thinking on community engagement in higher education – with interesting and appealing examples – rather than a robust insight into how often it occurs, where, and how much more than before.
A good source for university leaders, academics and administrators who want to develop their own depth of knowledge and thinking of the subject. But less informative on how much it is on the rise in European higher education and research.
Mental Health & COVID-19
The US-based Healthy Minds Network, which runs the Healthy Minds Study (HMS), in collaboration with the American College Health Association, developed a new set of survey items related to students’ experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic. The new survey items focus on students’ attitudes, concerns, preventive behaviours, and their perceived supportiveness of colleges and universities related to COVID-19. These items were fielded to random samples of college students on participating campuses across the United States between March and May 2020. The resulting report “The Impact Of Covid-19 On College Student Well-Being” still, of course, reflects the early stage of the pandemic in the USA. Financial stress, discrimination – but also a supportive attitude from campus and professors – and more difficult access to mental health care stand out among the survey results.
What a Few Courses Can Bring
Two scholars from the Community College Research Center at Columbia University analysed what it does to students at 4-year Colleges if they take supplementary courses at a Community College. What is the impact on the likelihood of obtaining a college degree and on labour market outcomes? Census data show that about 20% of students at 4-year Colleges do this and 8 % obtain credit.
Using student data from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002, they find in their working paper “Does Taking Does Taking a Few Courses at a Community College Improve the Baccalaureate, STEM, and Labor Market Outcomes of Four-Year College Students?” that students who took Community College courses on the side obtained more credits (in STEM fields), graduated with better grades and had better employment outcomes than students who did not take such supplementary courses. The paper contains indications that enrolment in supplementary classes at a Community College may particularly benefit low-socioeconomic and female students in the US.
When we try to ‘translate’ this to a European setting – without Community Colleges – one might suspect that STEM courses outside the degree programme and focused on core STEM skills may add to the success of a diverse student population.
China’s Influence on Dutch Education
The Clingendael Institute has published a report on China’s influence on Dutch education: “China’s invloed op onderwijs in Nederland: een verkenning” (in Dutch, unfortunately). The authors conclude that China indeed makes efforts to influence higher education and research in the Netherlands – they saw no signs of this in secondary education.
China’s political influence mainly takes shape in self-censorship by academics, administrators and students – as well as among academic publishers. Self-censorship can be seen in opinions that are (not) expressed and in research topics that are (not) chosen. The report looks at interference through the Confucius Institutes as well as through other channels and is based on desk research and confidential interviews.
Note From the Editor: Corona and Competences
The Corona pandemic underlines the need to improve our toolkit and language to integrate transversal competences into our curricula. How so?
Corona has forced all of our universities to move education online – and to move to the assessment of student learning through digital means.
If the digital assessment of subject-related knowledge and skills already has its particular challenges (proctoring, data protection, students with special needs), digital assessments of “more vague” general academic or (inter)personal competences are even more difficult. One complication is that assessment of how students develop these skills often needs to be ongoing (formative assessment) rather than through end-of-term exams. But the underlying challenge is that general academic competence (like critical thinking or information analysis) and personal competences (like working with others and effective communication to different target groups) still rely on the implicit knowledge and convictions of the assessing teachers.
To make an assessment – and development – of transversal skills effective in the online education of the post-Corona new normal, we will need to be better at articulating the learning outcomes in general academic and personal competences. This is what Aurora aims for with its Aurora Competence Framework.
COVID-19 and Student Mobility: European Perspective on Impact
EAIE has conducted and published a survey on ‘Coping with COVID-19: International higher education in Europe’. Comparing it to the NAFSA survey gives interesting insights in priorities in Europe and America, captured well in Bill Clinton’s election slogan “It’s the economy, stupid!”.
The first focus of the survey is on what institutions did and how they communicate. The second focus – the impact on mobility streams – is qualitative in nature: it shows the response in terms of “none”, “some”, “considerable” and “much”. Responses in terms of the proportions and absolute numbers of decrease would have allowed comparison of the impact across countries – even though those numbers would have been assessments rather than measurements at this stage. Also, we must note that a survey undertaken between February 19 and March 6 can’t reflect the pandemic nature of COVID-19: the results still mainly show China and Italy as the places of infection and infliction.
Perhaps the survey is most remarkable for what it does not mention: the vast and fast transition in all universities towards on-line education and its probable impact on the future of international education and international university collaboration. Given the Pandemic, EAIE makes this publication also available to non-members.
COVID-19: Astonishing number of analyses
With the astonishing number of analyses and forecasts that have already been published on the supposed COVID-19 impact on international higher education, it is easy to lose track. Thankfully, the German Academic Exchange Service DAAD has published a comprehensive overview of the current state of COVID-19 research and expertise in the field of international higher education.
It has ordered its webpages in *) Surveys of students, scientists and university administrations, and *) Further publications and forecasts. Quacquarelli Symonds heads the list with various surveys, webinars and other publications, followed by StudyPortals.
All in all, the DAAD page offers a fairly comprehensive overview of who is writing what on COVID-19 in international higher education.
COVID-19 and Student Mobility: American Perspective on Impact
NAFSA has conducted and published its NAFSA Financial Impact Survey, based on a survey between April 7 and 14 among senior international education officials at (mainly) American HE institutions. The title already gives away the difference in focus between EAIE and NAFSA. The NAFSA publication estimates current losses in revenue at almost 1 000 million dollar and adds an estimated 638 million dollar in extra expenses (financial support due to the pandemic). Projections into the future lead to an overall estimate of 3 000 million dollar loss for the Fall 2020 semester. The impact on employment is expressed in reduced staff budget. Almost 67% of responding universities estimate staff budget reductions between $ 50 000 and $ 500 000 dollars. A small group of nearly 6% expects staff budget reductions between half a million and two million dollars.
Like with the EAIE survey, there is no mention – in terms of estimated costs or expected revenues (and employment) – of the rapid and massive increase of on-line education and on-line recruitment as a result of the pandemic.
Drop-out Rates of International Students in Germany
In the 2020 – 1 issue of the Handbook Internationalisation of Higher Education, Marita McGrory has published an interesting article on International Students’ Success in Germany. Her analysis shows that contrary to the still prevailing assumption in Germany, international students’ study success is reasonably comparable to that of German students, particularly when you zoom in on the students in the Diplom-courses. In a private conversation with your editor, Marita poses that international students may well already outperform Germans if we zoom in on the Master’s courses.
The article can be seen in the same vein as an earlier report by Jan Kercher from DAAD. That report, Academic success and drop-out among international students in Germany and other major host countries, does still show higher drop out rates for international students compared to Germans. However, it also already indicates that international drop-out rates are declining (= improving). Kercher puts this in the context that in other countries (the USA, Australia, the Netherlands) international students generally perform better than domestic students. So he argues – and Marita McGrory strongly concurs – that the weaker performance of international students in Germany is not a given, but something that can be must be and is already being seen to be improving.
Counting Perceptions in Partnerships
Around the time of the announcement of the second batch of European University Alliances, it may make sense to look back at the survey report “Mapping of European Transnational Collaborative Partnerships in Higher Education”.
The survey was undertaken as part of the process to create the first Call for European University Alliances: the analysis of present institutional collaboration was intended to help the Commission formulate what needed to be strengthened and added to the fabric of transnational cooperation in higher education and research.
The survey was sent to some 500 partnerships from the Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 programme – with about 30% response. Whether this covers the field adequately is an open question: Why only E+ and H2020 partnerships? Are there no transnational institutional partnerships without EU-funding? Yes, there are!
Furthermore, the H2020 programmes were focused on Widening Access: linking universities with more substantial and weaker research eminence. What does that mean for bias and skewing of the data?
The report looks at the three missions of higher education institutions. While the first two: Education and Research, would seem uncontested in any paradigm or debate, the narrowing down of the “third mission” of the university to “innovation” could be called into question.
But the most important caveat to be expressed on the conclusions of the report is that it is counting how many people report perceptions which remained undefined.
The survey questions seem to have been mostly qualitative: “Does it cover the whole institution”, “does it cover all three (!) missions”, “is there enough money”. Do these concepts mean the same thing for all respondents – or all colleagues of these respondents in their university? How many “desired answers” will have been given when asking about the importance of EU-funded collaboration in an EU-sponsored survey?
The survey would have gained in importance if it would have asked for more substantial data:
- What proportion of your education (in terms of students, credits, graduates) is given in collaborative arrangements, and how did this change through the supported activities?
- What is the correlation between extra costs of collaborative education (or research) and the additional benefits of the collaboration (in terms of higher learning outcomes, lower attrition rates, higher lifetime yields for graduates and society)?
Nevertheless, the survey contains a wealth of impressions and allows to estimate how prominent these are in Europe.
Study Species – Study Males
eLIFE, a non-profit organisation aiming to help scientists accelerate discovery through a platform for research communication that encourages and recognises the most responsible behaviours in science, has published an article by researchers from Northwestern University in the US on A 10-year follow-up study of sex inclusion in the biological sciences.
To assess the impact of the US NIS policy – started in 2016 – to the historical overrepresentation of male subjects in biomedical research, they conducted a bibliometric analysis across nine biological disciplines for papers published in 34 journals in 2019 and compared results with those of a similar study in 2009. The authors report that although there is a significant increase in the proportion of studies that included both sexes across all nine disciplines, in eight of the nine, there was no change in the proportion that included data analysed by sex.
Only a few studies explained why they included one sex or didn’t conduct sex-based analyses. Those that did relied on misconceptions surrounding the hormonal variability of females. Together, these data demonstrate that while sex-inclusive research practices are more commonplace, there are still gaps in analyses and reporting of data by sex in many biological disciplines.
MOOCs and COVID-19
Class Central, a US-based search engine, discovery platform, and review site for massive open online courses (MOOCs), has made an overview of MOOCs with a focus on the COVID-19 pandemic. By the end of April, it showed 30+ free online courses and conferences about Coronavirus with course providers like John Hopkins, the WHO, the London School of Tropical Hygiene and Medicine. Not all courses are from Anglo-American universities: the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana offers four courses, and in China, Tsinghua and Xi’an Jiaotong are on the list.
Mapping (International) Education
The European Commission has published a report on “Mapping the state of Graduate Tracking Policies and Practices in the EU Member States and EEA Countries”. The report is based on an analysis of existing graduate mapping systems and a survey among higher education institutions. Twenty-three of the 31 countries reviewed (all Aurora countries but Iceland) have system-level graduate tracking, although five of these cover either higher education or vocational education graduates only. All in all, the report identifies no less than 123 separate tracking systems in 29 countries, so more than four on average per country.
As the report states: ‘tracking graduates can provide crucial intelligence about the quality of learning …’. This is an understatement: Current attempts to define education outcome are abysmal and most of ‘quality assurance’ in higher education focuses on the process without worrying about outcome and impact. Longitudinal and comparative tracking of graduates is probably key to any assessment of the quality of higher (and vocational) education.
The report did not check if tracking systems also look at international educational experience. This seems a missed opportunity. As asking about education allows for analysis of the correlation (or even causation) between education and lifetime gainful employment, health and well-being, so would asking about international educational experience allow studying its impact on graduate’s further life.
Student Support in the COVID-19 Era
The Hope Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple University in Philadelphia has published a report on “Real College During the Pandemic”, examining the impact of COVID-19 on the security of students’ basic needs, as well as multiple indicators of their well-being, including employment, academic engagement, and mental health.
The data come from an electronic survey completed between Mid-March and Mid-April by 38,602 students attending 54 colleges and universities in 26 states in the US, including 39 two-year colleges and 15 four-year colleges and universities. The report shows that of the students with a job alongside their studies, 1/3rd lost that job and another 1/3rd was in fear of losing it. 63% of students at 4-year colleges reported they couldn’t focus on their studies because of the pandemic.
The exact data may be different across the various countries in Europe – and indeed, things are still evolving rapidly. But it seems clear that the pandemic has had a significant impact on the students’ well-being and may be expected to have such an impact for some time to come.
This begs the question – for each and every university – what they should be doing differently and what they should be doing more to help students cope with this impact on COVID-19 on their economic, social and mental situation.
An excellent topic for learning from each other among universities with a similar vision and mission.
From Academia to the Workforce
The American Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities (APLU) has published the report “From Academia to the Workforce” (with Executive Summary) by Pat Crawford and Wendy Fink on critical growth areas for students today.
The report is based on a survey directed to 31 land-grant universities yielding in total over 11 000 valid responses from alumni (42%), employers (24%), students (22%) and faculty (12%). The respondents were asked to rate skills in importance, in student preparedness, and in the extent to which non-educational activities contributed to their development. The targeted skills stem from an earlier 2011 survey, in which 11 skills came out as most relevant from a broader range of 42 – because of the gap between importance and prevalence.
Unfortunately, these 11 skills (like “understand your position”, “cope with conflict”, understand decisions”, “ask good questions”) do not seem to correlate self-evidently with either the Big Five (or Six) Personality Traits or the Great Eight Competencies, nor with the 16 general academic and personal competencies in the AAUC VALUE Rubrics. Interesting differences in perception between groups of respondents: “Dealing with conflict” shows up as a skill that all stakeholders think is underdeveloped. Faculty see the most significant gap in communication skills, whereas alumni and students see/ expect the gap to be in the skill to build professional relationships.
The analysis of the gap between required and existing skills is an exciting feature. The report’s value is furthermore in the extensive literature overview of employability skills. This literature overview seems less focused on the American situation than the survey. But that may be unavoidable given the identity of the Association.
COVID-19 has Impact on Higher Education
The International Association of Universities has conducted and published its IAU Global Survey Report on “The Impact of Covid-19 on Higher Education Around the World”. This follows similar survey reports by the EAIE, IIE and the ESN.
The report shows that many universities had to stop on-campus education and switch to online provision, had to communicate this to students, and saw/expected an impact on enrolment of international but also domestic students.
IAU’s survey suffers from the same – may be inevitable – weaknesses as the other similar reports:
- the representativeness of the sample (less than 5% response with a bias to Europe and Africa);
- data that seem quantitative, but are based on counting qualitative estimates of respondents who may have quite different understandings of what they mean by ‘major disruption on campus’ or ‘communication infrastructure in place’?;
- aiming for a moving target, as the pandemic was still in rapid – and regionally different stages of development during the survey;
- a focus on educational process characteristics, as the whole sector is weakness measuring the impact of education on graduates over more extended periods of their life.
So all in all, surveys like these show more what people are thinking about the situation than offering data that can be compared or added up to one another.
Nevertheless, it is really good that these surveys are conducted, and it is even better than IAU will do a second and third survey in October 2020 and 2021. Let’s hope they will set these follow up survey up in such a way that the results can be compared over time. Just asking new questions about the new situation would bring less comparability to the results.
Research in Europe: More Excellence than Relevance?
The report shows that the EU is strong in Green Transition (Climate and Bioeconomy) R&I, but has fewer world-leading AI firms than the US or China. In R&D investment, the EU is lagging significantly behind the US, Japan and Korea – and behind its own target of 3% of GDP. This is primarily due to lagging private R&D investments; public R&D investment in the EU (0.72% GDP) is second only to Korea (0,83%) and ahead of the US (0,66%), Japan (0.63%) and China(0.49%).
The report still sees the EU as a global leader in scientific excellence with 23% of the world’s 10% most highly-cited publications – behind the US with 26%. Without Brexit, the EU and the UK together would trump the US (no pun intended) with 29,5% of the worlds 10% most highly cited publications.
Disconcerting is the uneven distribution of research and innovation across Europe: 10% of the EU’s regions account for 50% of all R&D investment. The report has a strong focus on the green transition and the SDGs. It shows how the 17 SDGs which makes the question “What SDG are you researching in?” so much less important than “How may your research (eventually) contribute to the achievement to sustainable development?”.
Proactive Pathfinders in Duisburg-Essen and Amsterdam
The European Innovation Council (EIC) Pathfinder Pilot has selected 35 projects set to develop cutting-edge technologies to receive a total of €114 million following the latest round of applications for funding. The funding comes from Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation programme.
Among the 35 selected projects is one from the Universität Duisburg Essen (Technische Chemie) and one from VU Amsterdam (Computer Science: prof. Frank van Harmelen).
Note From the Editor: Give me a break
More square meters per working spot are being made at the office to accommodate the corona safety policy. Also, there is increasing pressure to reduce traffic for sustainability reasons.
With both spouses working and through-the-roof housing prices in densely populated areas, many of us prefer to work close to the university.
Working at home is only part of the solution. Not all of us have ideal working conditions at home (space, kids bandwidth). The majority of us benefit from the small talk at the coffee machine or someone next room to say “This just happened to me!!!”.
Why not create local branch offices in places where several of your university’s staff – academic and support – happen to live? Why not a VU office space in cities like Utrecht, Haarlem, or Voorschoten? Close by enough to walk to or go by bike. And who knows, the next step might be some facilities for commuting students as well.
COVID-19 and Student Mobility: Europe
The ERASMUS Student Network has published a report on “The Impact of COVID-19 on Student Exchanges in Europe”. With a survey run from 19-30 March (so five weeks later than the IIE survey below), ESN collected over 21000 responses from students from 125 countries – in Europe and beyond. However, the majority of the response – over 81% – came from students from the EU 27 and the majority of the remainder came from countries participating in the ERASMUS+ programme. In that period (second half of March), still, 2/3rds of students indicated that their study abroad could continue. More than 1/3rd of students reported problems with the return home; other frequently reported problems concerned accommodation and daily necessities. Significant numbers of students from China and Italy reported discrimination.
Like the IIE report below, this report mainly testifies of the rapid development of COVID-19 into a pandemic. Discrimination against students from ‘source countries’ seems to have disappeared as the virus became a pandemic (disregarding the odd Narcissistic politician) and the proportions of students less-effected by COVID-19 probably having changed dramatically since March 30th.
We are all groping through the mist. We have little or no robust data to rely on with this pandemic. The timeline in the ESN report seems to reflect this adequately.
COVID-19 and Student Mobility: US and China
The Institute of International Education has surveyed the “COVID-19 Effects on US Higher Education Campuses: Academic Student Mobility to and from China”. IIE intends this to be the first of a series of studies of the impact of the pandemic on international student mobility and institutional responses. If anything, the reaction from 234 HE institutions (in 43 US states) shows how fast the pandemic has been spreading and how quickly data become obsolete. The survey was administered 13-16 February, when COVID-19 was still something that people believed would never reach the USA. Small wonder that the response shows that a tiny fraction of 0,4% of Chinese students in the US was affected by travel restrictions. The report does also show that the impact on shifting from on-campus to on-line education was significant already in February and that many US universities also offered other ways to Chinese students to cope with the situation.
How Sustainable Is Your University?
Times Higher Education (THE) has recently released the Impact ranking 2020, which aims at evaluating the contribution of 766 participating institutions from 85 countries worldwide to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDG’s). The ranking is based on a score calculated for four SDG’s per university: the three SDG’s on which the university scores highest, and the overarching rating related to SDG 17. For every SDG, Times Higher looks at indicators regarding students, staff, research output, financial data and university policy.
The focus on university policy makes this ranking categorically different from other more traditional rankings, which focuses predominantly on research output, excellence and reputation. This allows universities to highlight their societal connection, impact and mission activities, which offers better visibility also to younger and less well-funded universities. The SDG-ranking is in part based on data submitted by the universities themselves. In 2020, 776 universities participated – against 450 in 2019.
Five of the Aurora Network member universities took part in the 2020 Impact ranking: the University of Iceland, the University of Aberdeen, the University of East Anglia, the Universitat Rovira i Virgili and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Two of these rank in the SDG top-100: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam ranks 39, and the University of Aberdeen ranks 73 out of 766 participating universities. Both went down compared to 2019, from 16 for Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and from 31 for the University of Aberdeen, which may be explained by the growth in participation.
Aurora universities show a broad scope of expertise across the various SDG’s: the top 3 SDG scores of every Aurora university are distributed among 10 out of the 17 SDG’s (see figure). Figure – Top 3 of SDG’s per Aurora University related to their scores and results of THE Impact ranking 2020
Knowledge Counts – But Not for Everything
The result quite clearly showed that the selective-admission cohort outperformed the lottery-cohort in study results – although there was no significant difference in time to degree or drop-out. The outperformance was actually more significant in the follow-up study at Master’s level than it already was at Bachelor’s level: selection based on a mix of knowledge, understanding, ability and attitude works; and it works better as the studies go on.
Ms Schreurs – also analysed the added cost – inevitable in a Dutch context – for Maastricht university of the selective admission process. She found that the extra cost was € 139 000 for the cohort of 286 selective admitted students. But this was more than countered by the cost reduction of fewer repeat exams and other benefits resulting from the higher performance of these students: no less than € 207 000 for that same group of 286 students.
One thing Ms Schreurs apparently didn’t look at: Was the selective cohort more or less inclusive (including underrepresented groups) than the lottery-based group? Given the same success rate and time-to-degree, this is relevant if we want medical doctors from all segments of our society.
Impressions of Online Education: Dutch Students
The Dutch Student Union LSVB has published a report: “Onderwijs op Afstand” (in Dutch) on how Dutch students perceive and rate the move to online education as a result of COVID-19. Following the less desirable practice in social sciences, the LSVB – noting that its sample was not random and that the study is exploratory – nonetheless feels free to draw general conclusions from its survey.
Accessibility of academic teachers and freedom to organise your time and facilities are rated most positive in the survey. But bandwidth issues, social interaction and less effective instruction are among the issues seen as problematic by more of the responding students.
Rules and Processes for Horizon Europe
The European Commission has published its “Implementation Strategy for Horizon Europe (HEU)”, providing the framework for the rules and processes of the EU’s new research funding scheme. The main implementation objectives are maximising impacts, ensuring transparency and simplification, fostering synergies, and easing access.
The HEU will continue the H2020 one-stop-shop Funding & Tenders Portal. Its rules will become the standard for other funding programmes as well. The Commission aims to define required impacts of research as specifically as possible at Call level (a group of topics); required outcomes will be defined at a specific topic level. As the Model Grant Agreement and Implementation Strategy details are not published yet we do not know whether societal relevance Key Impact Pathways will be measured continuously (for intermediary programme adjustments) or only after a strategic planning period, nor whether societal actors will be involved in the evaluation and results from the interpretation of these Key Impact Pathways.
Elsevier Coronavirus Research Hub
Elsevier has set up a freely available Elsevier Coronavirus Research Hub which includes a biomedical database, scientific and clinical content, COVID-19-specific datasets, a biomedically-focused text mining solution and several research collaboration tools. The Hub also gives free access to Embase, ClinicalKey, Mendeley, Mendeley Data, the Pure COVID-19 Research Collaboration Center, SSRN and Elsevier Text Mining (MedScan). Access will be available through October 28, 2020.
COVID-19 and Traffic Congestion
The Brookings Institution, a non-profit public policy organization based in Washington, DC, has analysed the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on traffic congestion in the US. In an article by Adie Tomer and Lara Fishbane, they show the stunningly steep dive that traffic took in comparison to the more gradual decrease in the 2008 economic crisis. Every metropolitan area in the USA experienced a traffic decline of at least 53% since the beginning of March.
To understand why driving fell across the country—and to help predict why and where driving may increase – they ran a regression to control for several distinct metropolitan variables. This showed that reduction in driving correlated with *) Metropolitan authorities issuing stay-at-home policies, *) employment in knowledge-intensive industries, and *) Democratic voting patterns.
C19 HE Challenges and Responses
The International Association of Universities IAU has set up COVID-19 Resources Pages on its website. It has sections with documents related to *) Recommendations, *) Impact Monitoring, *) Distance Education, *) Global News, and *) Calls and Webinars. Very little of the documents can be seen as evidence-based, but that can hardly be expected only months after the outbreak of the pandemic. The Resources Pages – and the resources pages of others like UNESCO, ACE and many others to which they link – provide a rich overview of what universities and HE stakeholders are doing and thinking in the face of the crisis. Hopefully, we will later also see robust studies into what interventions worked better or less well.
Consultation: Climate Adaptation
The European Commission has started a public consultation on the EU strategy on adaptation to climate change. The strategy will focus on:
- encouraging investment in eco-friendly solutions
- climate-proofing the economy
- making key infrastructure more resilient
- adding climate factors to risk management practice
- stepping up prevention & preparedness.
The consultation will be open from May 12 to June 30, 2020.
Note From the Editor: Give me a break
We’re all running from videoconference to videoconference these days. We’re noting with some surprise that we actually can have effective meetings and discussions online and we’re even experimenting with break out sessions and other forms of interactivity. We´re saying to each other that actually, video-meetings can be more efficient than meeting in a room.
But we also note that these videoconferences are draining our energy – they are tiring us out more than physical meetings. In fact, this should teach us that the ‘ineffective’ parts of the meetings do have a function and it should teach us not to run from one meeting to another.
I propose that an hour’s meeting should be forbidden to last more than 50 minutes. We need our university management to decree that there has to be 10 minutes (OK, 5 minutes) break in every hour of meetings. If the meeting lasts more than an hour, we’ll call it “convenience break”.
That will allow us not only to fetch fresh coffee or tea – or attend to other calls of nature – it will also help us to mentally digest what happened in the past session and prepare for what will happen in the next. Who knows, it may reduce the chance that overburdened executives shoot down your proposal simply because they felt bad about something that happened in the previous hour!
Study Abroad: It Has to Hurt!
Studying abroad doesn’t always bring students the cross-cultural (or intercultural) competencies that we expect them to get. Agnieszka Chwialkowska from West Georgia University analysed on “Maximising Cross-Cultural Learning from Exchange Study Abroad Programmes” and reported on these findings in the Journal of Studies in International Education. She developed a model of relationships between aspects of study abroad programmes and development of cross-cultural learning. She tested the model on 700 students participating in study abroad programmes, using logistic regression analysis. The analysis shows that study abroad brings more cross-cultural development if students share accommodation and courses with students from other cultures and participate in local community engagement activities. It also shows that these factors make the students feel less comfortable.
The study shows solid statistical robustness, with the clear predictive value of the model. It would be great if we could see enough increase in such quantitative analyses of study abroad and cross-cultural development that a meta-study could offer more generalisable conclusions. Still, the main conclusions stand that study abroad brings more personal and cross-cultural development if students are challenged to get out of their comfort zone.
OECD TALIS 2018: Analysing the Teaching Profession
Based on the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey TALIS 2018, OECD director for Education & Skills Andreas Schleicher has published a thorough 73 pages of TALIS 2018 Insights and Interpretations. The document looks at a wide variety of aspects of the teaching profession and what makes for good teachers. It looks at societal appreciation (financially and otherwise), level of education, professional development, levels of responsibility & autonomy, and the time actually spent on teaching. This offers a unique opportunity to study correlations between the overall performance of the education system and these various characteristics analysed in TALIS 2018. Interesting to note that the Czech teachers are above OECD average in everything except salary and in some countries that score well in PISA, teachers have lower HE levels – but high autonomy and responsibility (Iceland, Denmark, Netherlands).
Mannheim Corona Study – and Less Robust Surveys
The “German Internet Panel” (GIP) is a long-term study at the Mannheim University School of Social Sciences, collecting survey data on individual attitudes and preferences relevant to political and economic decision-making processes. With robust statistical methods, a panel of over 4 000 participants and continuous monthly surveys from 2012 onwards, it provides a sound empirical foundation of the scientific research supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG).
With the current Corona crisis, the GIP research infrastructure has been quickly adapted to yield reliable quantitative data on the impact of the Corona crisis on daily life in Germany. The Mannheim Corona Study uses the methodology of the German Internet Panel to study the effects of the pandemic, using daily data gathered from a high-quality sample of the general population in Germany. Its 1 April: 12 Days Corona Study (Blom et al. (2020)) provides robust quantitative data (in German) on daily real-life social encounters and on Germans’ opinion on current and potential additional government measures to cope with the crisis – and many others. A good example of matching the need for robust methodology with the need for quick answers to today’s questions.
As it happens, the Strata Education Network also has started conducting weekly “nationally representative” surveys (among 1000 respondents) to track how COVID-19 impacts Americans’ lives, their work, and their needs for education and training. As befitting the home of the “Education Industry” the survey focuses primarily on whether Americans still see the need for education and feel they can still afford to pay for it.
NB: As the Mannheim statistics lead professor explained to your editor, for really representative surveys a number of exactly 1000 respondents is extremely unlikely and Strata’ +/- 3% standard margin of error is a signal that Strata has not calculated the correct estimate-specific margin of error. Red flags for unreliable methodology.
ERC Advanced Grants: Four for Aurora Partners
On March 31st, the European Commission announced the 185 winners of an ERC Advanced Grant in the 2019 competitive Call.
Congratulations to Roland Wester from Innsbruck, Jeroen Aerts and Gijs Wuite from VU, and Andrew Jordan from UEA. There may be other ERC Advanced Grant winners within these Aurora universities but possibly hidden by their primary scientific affiliation with e.g. the Max Planck Gesellschaft in Germany or the CNRS in France.
Across the board, we see that compared to the 2018 ERC Advanced Grants, the five top countries have stayed the same, but Germany has replaced Brexiting UK in 1st place and Switzerland pushed the Netherlands down to 5th place. With the total number of grants down from 222 to 185, the overall success rate decreased from ~10.8% to ~9.8% – in itself a significant decrease of almost 10%. One should look back some more years to see if changes are really trends or fluctuations.
2M€ for European University Alliances from H2020
Contribution by Pim de Boer, Aurora liaison officer Brussels
The H2020 work programme 2018-2020 for Science and Society shows that the European Commission will provide a lump sum grants of about 2 million euro for research and innovation (R&I) activities to each European University alliance approved in the first two Erasmus pilot calls. The activities need to be related to:
- Development of a common R&I agenda and action plan;
- Strengthening of human capital, enabling balanced brain circulation and gender balance;
- Sharing of research infrastructures and other resources;
- Reinforcement of cooperation with non-academic actors;
- Mainstreaming of comprehensive Open Science practices;
- Involvement of citizens, civil society and public/cities authorities in R&I;
- Exploration of joint structures across the European Universities.
Approved European University alliances are required to propose an institutional transformation agenda, tailored to the universities involved, and implement R&I actions in pilots or studies. They are also requested to find additional funding for the implementation of the actions. The resulting models should contribute to future synergies between Horizon Europe and Erasmus+ programmes.
COVID-19 and SDGs
Although not an evidence-based report, the report Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity published by the UN last month does deserve attention also at universities. While so many pointers are in the direction of a free-for-all and collapse of international collaboration, it is important to note that institutions like the United Nations – and the European Union for that matter – carry on with working for the common good.
The report calls for international collaboration, first in the immediate fight to curb the pandemic, but also look beyond immediate health concerns to the global impact on the social and economic conditions of the people on our plant as well as the way in which COVID-19 is connected to the various sustainable development goals.
Note From the Editor: Digitization making universities obsolete?
This note was written before the Corona crisis – but still may have some relevance for those of us looking beyond the current crisis and its impact of digitization.
Digitization of education in public universities falls short – by a long way – of what experts say is minimally necessary for such universities. Universities digitize much too slow – according to these experts – to avoid becoming obsolete in the very near future.
But while student enrolment in private online courses is still growing – although at a flattened curve – on-campus enrolment has also still been growing almost anywhere. So how realistic is the Doomsday scenario exclaiming that universities – in digitisation – need to ‘shape up or ship out’?
The reason why traditional on-campus higher education is still holding its own may be found in the value proposition of on-campus education, which is more complex than digitisation advocates seem to realise:
- Provision of subject-related knowledge & skills? Online education may be as good as on-campus, once the parts of the practical skills can be captured in Apps.
- Development of general academic competencies? No reason why it couldn’t be done online – but how much online education is actually developed for those competencies?
- Development of personal and social skills? Same thing: it could be done online, but there isn’t much around yet.
- Forming a network and learning how to engage in networks? That is something achieved through on-campus education still so much better than through online communities! Young people are very apt at maintaining online networks and contacts, but they still value the friendships formed in college beyond those formed through social media.
- And then, finally, there is the ‘seal of selection’: having obtained a degree of an esteemed university has much greater social and economic value than any certificate from an online course.
Student Mobility & Climate Change
In the Journal of Cleaner Production, Robin Shields from the University of Bath reports on a study on the environmental impacts of international student mobility. The article “The sustainability of international higher education: student mobility and global climate change” combines several datasets to build a model of greenhouse gas emissions associated with international student mobility. The study suggests that while emission per student decreases because more mobility is regional, total emissions increase due to growth in mobility numbers and this increase is faster than overall global emissions increases.
Migration resulting from Mobility: Poland
In an article in Studies in Higher Education (Routledge), Pawel Bryla from Lodz University reports on statistical analyses to find determinants of migration among students with international mobility experience. In his article on International student mobility and subsequent migration: the case of Poland he on his survey with 2450 completed questionnaires. His statistical analysis shows that male graduates from programmes in education are less likely to migrate, whereas studying STEM subject increases that likelihood. Also, the acquisition of foreign language skill and extracurricular activities while abroad enhance migration likelihood. A student who goes abroad for their PhD is even more likely to stay abroad – which makes sense as we note that a PhD usually takes at least three years. It would be useful to have many more statistical analyses on the impact of study abroad on further life choices of graduates.
Mentoring Through the Glass Ceiling
The American National Bureau on Economic Research has published the report of mentoring on the academic careers of female assistant professors in Economics in the US. The article: Can Mentoring Help Female Assistant Professors in Economics reports on a randomised controlled trial with six cohorts of female academic economists with and without a workshop intervention. The trial ran with biannual workshops from 2004 to 2014, within a total of 205 participants selected randomly from pools of (in total 368) eligible applicants. In the workshops, the young economists were mentored by senior female economists and all participants were followed in their career up to 2018 (so from four to fourteen years).
The purpose was to see if the workshop helped to get tenure. It did: the probability of tenure was 14.5% higher than for the control group, tenure at top schools was higher than 57%. Participants in the mentoring workshops also did better in publications and in securing research grants.
US Prison Education without Building Blocks
In a study sponsored by Lumina, the American Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center conducted and published a study “Laying the Groundwork” on how states can improve access to continued education for people in the criminal justice system. There is solid evidence that lack of education is one of the key obstacles against successful re-integration after prison – education in prison correlates with a 43 % reduction in recidivism in the US. The report identifies four building blocks required to generate success in education for prisoners: *) Such education must be funded, *) it must be offered, *) the – often existing – formal obstacles must be removed, and *) there must be incentives and stimuli for prisoners to take part.
Based on surveys among the correctional agencies in 50 US states, the report shows that in 10 states, not one single block is in place, while there is not one single state that has all four blocks. Only two states – Minnesota and Maine – have three blocks out of four in place. Twelve states have two blocks and 26 have only one. The report shows in detail which states provide for which kind of building block and how they go about it. Interesting document for comparison: the UK Ministry of Justice report on “Preventing victims by changing lives” of 2018, also showing cost-effective reductions in recidivism and rises in employment for ex-convicts through education.
Skills in Europe – Czech Lead
Cedefop has released its 2020 European Skills Index. The index compares countries in how well they *) develop, *) activate, and *) match skills systematically in their system, against a perfect score of 100 in each aspect as well as the total score. The Czech Republic leads the pack with 77/100, mainly because they score 91/100 in skills matching.
Evaluating Research – the Dutch Way
The Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU), together with the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) has published the Strategy Evaluation Protocol 2021-2027 (SEP). The SEP is designed as a tool for research units to define their own strategy and objectives, and self-assess their progress in that light. It is up to the research units to choose the most relevant indicators for research quality and relevance from the SEP toolkit. The three core criteria of the Strategy Evaluation Protocol are research quality, societal relevance and viability of the research. Open science, PhD-policies, Academic (integrity) culture, and Talent/diversity policies are cross-cutting themes that need to be addressed by all
units. The protocol (in English with a summary in Dutch) covers the assessment process, the role of institutional leadership, the tasks of the research units, and the activities of the external assessment committee in the assessment process. Annexed to the document are a suggested time table, an explanation on Strategy, a sample Terms of Reference for an assessment committee, and a suggested table of contents for a self-evaluation report. The final Annex gives a list and visual overview of the possible indicators, showing clear resemblance to the earlier Standard Evaluation protocol visual. The language of the document continuously is in terms of suggestions, samples and other indicators of the non-prescriptive nature of the approach. VU’s Karen van Oudenhoven – well-known to Auroreans – was part of the team that produced the SEP 2021-2027.
EIC Pilot Grants: Three for Aurora Partners
On March 12th, the European Commission announced the latest results of the European Innovation Council pilot. In total 107 projects will receive EU support of M€ 344: 63 research projects and 44 projects to develop and scale up innovations in the market. Of the research institutions involved in the 63 projects, three are a member of the Aurora network or the Aurora Alliance: Napoli with motor decoding and sensation restoration for amputees, Innsbruck with switchable magneto-plasmonic contrast agents (whatever that may be), and Palacky with Specto-Temporal Metrology. Congratulations to all three – how great to get some positive news in these troubling times!
Corona Research Freely Accessible
Sage publishers have opened a free microsite with its medical, social, and behavioural science articles related to the Corona COVID-19 virus. It features articles on public health care, cancer therapy during the COVID-19 epidemic, challenges for dental & oral medicine, but also various articles focusing on aspects of living, working and education during a pandemic as well as its effects on national and international infrastructures. In contains very recent articles (March 2020) but also gives access to much older publications.
Research on Corona and Universities ??
The Journal of Risk and Financial Management published an article on “Risk Management of COVID-19 by Universities in China”. Although it is laudable to make an effort to publish on COVID-19 and universities on such short notice, the result, unfortunately, demonstrates the challenges to complete serious research so quickly after the start of the pandemic. The article is no more than a collection of examples of various initiatives that by and in universities: using alums, focusing medical research, providing psychological assistance, teaching on-line to reduce travel and enhance social distancing – examples that we see everywhere. No attempt to give any perspective on which kind of activities occur more frequently under what conditions. No attempt to assess impact relative to the mode of intervention or actor – or any other parameter. An interesting Newspaper article or Blog that most of us could write – sometimes a bit too reverent to Chinese official policy – but nothing close to a research paper that deserves publication in a serious research Journal.
Note from the Editor: No Competition – For Now
One of the core notions behind the foundation of Aurora in 2016 was that universities tend to be so competitive within their national university system, that this prevents a mutual learning process: they won’t share their struggles and weaknesses.
Being by nature and upbringing a positive person, believing that most people tend to the good and social, I wonder if the heart-breaking COVID-19 crisis might serve to overcome national competitiveness between universities. Do universities overcome natural distrust to one another and join forces to overcome the crisis together?
I thought I saw some positive signs when I learned that for example, Dutch university presidents had increased their regular meetings by factor 12: from once every six weeks to twice a week.
But I have to admit that there are signs to the contrary as well. When two Dutch universities announced they would remain closed until after the Summer, they apparently didn’t feel the need to liaise and consult with the others. And when England announced that the final A-level exams where postponed, asking universities not to jump towards admitting new cohorts only without A-levels but wait for a national policy, some of them ignored that plea and started to admit feverishly – while more obliging universities watched gritting their teeth. I welcome comments from my readers on signs of either increased inter-university solidarity or continued competitive gaming.
COVID-19 Immune for Travel Bans?
A group of 16 researchers from the US, Italy and China applied a global meta-population disease transmission model to assess the impact of the travel restrictions on the spread of the virus. They published the results last March 6th in a Science article The effect of travel restrictions on the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Their results show that the travel bans delayed the spread of the disease within mainland China with no more than 3 to 5 days and globally with probably 2 to 3 weeks. According to the authors, severe travel restrictions (cancelling 90% of travel) will only modestly slow down the spread, while much more can be expected from local transmission-reduction interventions.
International Student Mobility: Boost in Research
In an article in the Journal of Studies in International Education (I-23), authors from universities in Denmark and Turkey report on their “Review of Research on International Student Mobility: Science Mapping the Existing Knowledge Base”. The authors make an argued choice for a bibliometric analysis – not looking at content themselves, but using quantitative analyses of how much is published, by whom, where and what co-citation analysis and co-wording analysis yields. Based on their analysis of Web of Science, they conclude an exponential growth in the number of research publications on International Student Mobility since 2005. Most of the growth in publications is by authors from regions where ´degree mobility´ is much more important than ‘credit mobility’: basically the Anglophone countries that lead as hosts and the Asian countries from which the students migrate. The authors do not note this potential bias in research findings towards degree mobility, which makes sense as they have chosen a bibliometric rather than content analysis approach. But it is interesting to see that “study abroad” as a concept related more to credit mobility seems much smaller than “international students”.
Bibliometric analyses like this give interesting insight into what topics of research are popular with whom; it doesn’t really answer the question how productive research is to demonstrate (positive or negative) impact on the phenomenon of International Student Mobility.
EU Artificial Intelligence: Promote & Regulate
Last February, the European Commission published a White Paper on Artificial Intelligence – a European Approach to Excellence and Trust. The purpose of the document is to set out the policy options that promote European leadership in AI technology whilst addressing risks of decreasing decision transparency and equity. The Commission aims to achieve both through a combination of investments and rules. As investments, the Commission aims to set up together with national and private parties centres of excellence and will use Horizon Europe as a funding mechanism. It will support network of universities to offer world-class AI Masters programmes. It also proposes actions with private partners, specifically with SMEs, again using Horizon Europe as one of the funding mechanisms. The White Paper identifies the scope for a future European regulatory framework on AI intelligence.
EU Consultation on Climate Action
The European Commission has opened a public consultation on the European Climate Pact: Commission’s European Green Deal as the new growth strategy for an EU economy that is sustainable, cleaner, safer and healthier. The Commission sees public engagement as critical to instil a new climate culture, awareness and motivation for climate action, bringing together citizens, industry, civil society and authorities at all levels. The consultation is open from 4 March until 27 May 2020. People and organizations can contribute to this consultation by filling in the online questionnaire. For organizations, the Commission asks that they register in the Transparency Register – which Aurora has done.
Among the currently open public consultations with the European Commission, there is also one on the Gender pay gap.
European Semester Reports
The Commission has published its country reports for the 2020 European Semester. Research & Innovation is one of many topics on which the Commission did or did not issue recommendations to national governments at earlier stages. A quick scan through the executive summaries on R&I recommendations shows that the Commission sees progress in national R&I policies in Austria, Germany, Italy, France and the UK and sees little or no progress in Spain. For the other countries, R&I didn’t make it to the executive summary.
Global Innovation Index 2019
In February 2020, the EUA has published its EUA Public Funding Observatory Report 2019/20, a rich source of information building up since 2008. It consists of an overall report and country sheets. The overall report – when zooming in on Aurora countries – shows that the University of Iceland is on the right side of things in all respects: over 20% long term HE investment growth (after an initial decline), more HE investment growth than GDP growth, more growth in funding than in students. At the other extreme is Spain: over 20% long term decrease in HE funding, decreasing HE funding while GDP is growing, much steeper decline in funding than in students. But also Italian universities are on the bad side of things, while for Czech universities things are improving after they took a hit in the first years after the 2008 crisis.
Fun fact: Aurora is roughly the same size as the Austrian University sector: in students, staff and overall budget.
Reaching a Hand to Secondary School Students: It works
American Institutes for Research recently published a summary of the their studies into Early College High Schools. The initiative is rooted in the work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who first invested in setting up these schools in 2002. The schools were aimed at enabling students for underrepresented and disadvantaged groups in the USA get into college. The report is useful because from the outset it highlights that barriers to attending higher education are not simply financial. Studies we have undertaken in the U.K. show that simply helping students level up financially don’t impact positively on degree outcomes for students from the target groups and this report sets out three causes of lower progression rates to higher education for the students from low income backgrounds and also for students of colour; firstly, there are cultural barriers around academic success, secondly students from these groups may not be well prepared the types of assessment they meet in college, and finally there are some financial barriers.
The study bases its findings on high-reliability randomized controlled trials (of a type being considered for some interventions to widen participation in the U.K.) and follow up studies have also been undertaken. The evidence shows that the initiative is highly successful at enabling students from the target groups to be successful in higher education.
The recommendations are largely at educational policy level and as such there may be little that individual Higher Education Institutions can take from the study, but there are some useful insights for all those working in high schools and interested in enabling students from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds achieve their potential in Higher Education.
Research through Gender Lens
Elsevier has published a report this month on “The Research Journey through a Gender Lense”. The report examines research participation, career progression and perceptions across the European Union and 15 countries globally in 26 subject areas, using data analysis and expert interviews. It found that in the countries reviewed and the EU28, the proportion of women authors has risen from 29% in 1999-2003 to 38% in 2014-18. Interesting to see that in the Netherlands and Germany the share of women is below the EU28 average while Spain and France are doing (slightly) better – with the UK almost on the same footing as EU28.
Men have longer publication lists – but less so as first authors. Women have a harder time to continue their publishing rate throughout their career. Elsevier also looked at the reasons researchers give for the unbalance. Among man and women alike, some feel it has to do with different attitudes and levels of ambition, others attribute it to (subconscious) bias.
Staff Mobility Improves Teaching
Earlier in 2019 (April) Frontiers, the interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, published an article “Learning to Teach in the Field” on the positive impact of international staff mobility on the participating academics’ teaching philosophies and classroom strategies. The study focuses on a specific form of joint international student and staff mobility: the ‘study tour’ consisting of visits to places that are specifically relevant to the course of study, rather than going to a university in another country and give and take lectures there.
The article is based on interviews with 5 academics who run/ran such three-week study tours. All academics indicated that it is hard work – harder even than anticipated – but that the rewards are not only in the deep impact on the students, but also on their self-perceived quality of classroom teaching upon return.
A thought that came to me reading the article: Organising a study tour may be rewarding, but is intensely time-consuming for academics with an acute lack of time. Might it be an option to make “organise an international study tour” an assignment in a training course of academics to enhance their teaching competence – training courses to teach in universities are becoming more and more standard practice.
Using Study Abroad to turn Diversity into an Asset
Frontiers, the interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, last November 2019 published an article on Study Abroad of 1st generation Latinx students in Costa Rica. Although it is a qualitative case study, it is interesting – particularly when we look at it through European lenses. It shows how study abroad by underrepresented minority students to a culture that they are familiar with, have all kinds of specific beneficial effects.
Do we have many examples in Europe where we use (short-time) study abroad to cater to the specific needs of underrepresented and underprivileged parts of our student populations? Not that I know of. Do we use such programmes to engage with the tensions between dominant and underprivileged groups in our student population – which reflect such tensions in our wider communities? I know of a former programme that sent small groups of students to Israel and the Palestine territories – a life-changing event for the students, who had a mixed background of Jewish and Arab background-students as well as students who were unfamiliar with both backgrounds. I think it was discontinued because the number of students involved counted more heavily than the impact it had on each of them – more is the pity.
If any reader knows of examples: using study abroad to engage with cultural tensions on Campus, please let me know and send me any reports that may exist on them.
Women’s Salaries at Public Medical Schools
Women who chair clinical departments at public medical schools make 88 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make, or about $63,600 to $80,000 less per year, even when controlling for factors such as productivity, according to a new study in JAMA Internal Medicine. “These women are at the top of their game,” co-author Eleni Linos, professor of dermatology at Stanford University, said in a statement. “Gender pay gaps are often blamed on women’s personal choices to reduce work hours or leave the workforce, household responsibilities, childcare or suboptimal negotiation skills. This study challenges these traditional explanations because our sample of medical department leaders have navigated these complex challenges and broken through the ‘glass ceiling.’” Linos and colleagues looked at public salary information for dozens of schools and 550 chairs, about one-sixth of whom were women.
Note from the Editor: Mad or sad: it matters?
In a recent conversation with international colleagues, we compared cultures in university in terms of the divide between the academics and Faculties versus the presidency and support staff. It started with a a 20-year old anecdote of mine when I discovered that professors, when speaking about the university, mean “them” rather than “us”. Academics tend to mistrust the central services set up to support them. One of my friends recognised the situation – the other one not at all. Exploring our universities’ cultures we found the reason: in the university with mistrusted services, these services found that the president would be “sad” is the academics didn’t like the support, but “really mad” if the services wouldn’t bow at the president’s bidding. In the university with the well-appreciated services, on the contrary, the president would get “really mad” at signals of service dissatisfaction among academics, while only “sad” if services to the president’s office suffered under the priority for the academic clients.
This, of course, is mere an N=1 (or N=2) example, but it is still interesting, isn’t it?
Interested readers can approach me for a copy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
International Students: Bleeders? Feeders!
Universities UK International has published a report “International Graduate Outcomes 2019”, based on the responses of over 16 000 international and EU students from 58 UK universities who graduate between January 2011 and July 2016. Respondents come from a wide variety of countries, with the US and China being the biggest with only 7% and 6% respectively.
International alumni like their universities and their studies and feel it helps their labour market value – what else is new?
But more interesting: around 85% feel they now earn average or above; 80% would recommend study in the UK. Of those planning to go on in research, 77% would seek collaboration with UK researchers. Of those on a professional track, 81% plans to develop or maintain professional links and 77% will prefer to do business with the UK over other countries.
International Students: Bleeders? Feeders!
The Coimbra Group (CG) has recently released the Guidelines for Coimbra Group Universities on Safety Protocols for Mobility, which aim to share experiences and best practices among Coimbra Group Universities for ensuring safety during international mobility. However, these guidelines, universal in nature, prove helpful also to other European security-conscious universities. The guidelines define stakeholders, procedures and a communication plan to clarify the roles, duties and responsibilities of stakeholders involved in international mobility and raise awareness of the importance of risk assessment and pre-mobility preparation. The Guidebook is divided into 7 chapters, each of them addressing issues such as crisis communication, safety and security, dealing with emergencies and health issues, and they showcase relevant examples and case studies of various CG Universities.
Implicit and Explicit Bias in France
In Nature Human Behaviour, French and Canadian researchers report on a study on “Committees with implicit biases promote fewer women when they do not believe gender bias exists”.
In their two-year study into the implicit and explicit gender beliefs of French committees selecting top researchers in France, they analysed the selection behaviour and implicit/explicit assumptions of 414 committee members of 40 committees in two consecutive years; they found a significant difference between year 1 and year 2 in how many more man than women were selected.
The selection was for top research positions, with all applicants having an extremely high H-index and the choice was on qualitative and subjective criteria like “originality”.
Committee members were informed of the bias study and implicit belief that science is naturally more a male thing. This was tested in the “Implicit Association Test”; explicit theories – that female underrepresentation was due to external or rather personal factors – was tested in a survey. None of this was repeated in the second year, so committee members were much less aware that French authorities were concerned about underrepresentation.
Statistical analysis showed that committee members who see science as a male thing and feel that female underrepresentation is caused by a personal factor (lack of ability or motivation) selected significantly fewer women in the second year.
Analysing Learning Analytics
Contribution by Theo Bakker, Learning Analytic specialist Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
The JISC publication on Learning Analytics in Higher Education (2016) describes 11 case studies on the use of predictive models and early warning systems in higher education. These cases – all from Anglo-Saxon countries – are a snapshot of learning analytics initiatives worldwide. They provide evidence for the validity of predictive models, effective interventions, and additional advantages of a more data-driven approach to higher education.
JISC states Learning Analytics will contribute to the quality of teaching, improved retention rates, actionable insights for student counselling or tutoring, and adaptive learning. Most evidence given is on improvements in retention rates and timely support. The claim learning analytics has been perceived positively by students is based on limited support.
It would be interesting to know what the long term effects in these cases have been, and if the learning analytics service JISC has launched recently will give similar results.
Note: Information Is So Overrated
Having been forced to scale down the Aurora Brief Reviews for a couple of months, I intended to also drop the Editorial Notes for a while. But this “note” really forced itself on me.
After having searched in vain for an evaluation report on Erasmus Mundus (2009-2013), I sent an email to the European Commission (directorate EAC) asking for help – and I got it. They sent me the report, with executive summary and annexes as PDFs and I am grateful for that. But what to this about this sentence in the email?
In the revision of the websites at the beginning of Erasmus+ and subsequent revisions of the Education website, a number of older documents have been “retired” from our pages, as Commission web policy is to favour news & communication over information.
Information is not important, ‘communicating news’ is important. I highlight this not to blame the administrators at the European Commission – I leave that to others, whether they are called Donald, Boris or Thierry.
Apparently the pressure of ‘new social media’ is so overwhelming, that even serious and solid administrations feel compelled to focus on a creating news business and forget to keep real information available to that – dwindling – a group of people who like a fact-base to what they do.
Having read through the evaluation report of Erasmus Mundus (2009 – 2013), I’ll confess I wasn’t impressed. The report states it is a mix of qualitative and quantitative data, but in fact, the quantitative parts are few and far between – mostly counting numbers of people with a specific opinion.
Interested readers can approach me for a copy at email@example.com.
Would you like more interaction with Dutch students?
Dutch student associations have published the results of a survey among international students in the Netherlands. In this “Annual International Student Survey 2019” (the second of its kind) they note that international students still have a hard time integrating with Dutch students.
This hardly comes as a surprise. Ever since the start of massive student mobility (1987, Erasmus), those active in the field have noticed that domestic students – all over Europe and globally – tend to stick together and are not too eager and hospitable towards international students. Even less when they need to speak in another language. There is a whole body of knowledge – published and in the grey literature – about the fact and what has been tried to improve the situation. The whole “buddy” concept stems from this issue. It is a pity that the Dutch report simply gives the results of this one-year survey and does not even put it in the context with the same survey of the previous year. “How is the situation developing from last year and before?” “How is the situation in other parts of the world compare to where we are?” These are very basic questions one needs to ask when writing about anything that one would like to see improved. A missed opportunity, in spite of the nice-looking visuals.
Macron Extends La Grande Fosse
On June 26th, the European Commission published the results of the first Call for European Universities Alliances. For non-European readers – and possibly a few Europeans: The Call for proposals for European Universities (formerly known as the “Macron Initiative” aims for the emergence by 2021 of 24-32 ‘European Universities’ as *) flagships of a internationally competitive European Education Area, *) high quality education and research, *) multilingualism, *) seamlessly recognized student mobility, *) strong links in the teaching-research-knowledge transfer chain.
In this first round, 17 Consortia saw their proposal approved – out of 54 applications. A quick view at distribution shows – no surprise – that Western Europe (!!only three from the UK -> Brexit scare!!) is overrepresented in memberships and Central-Easter is underrepresented.
This may present a tough problem to the Commission for the second Call: if they allow the unbalance to persist, there will be a legitimate outcry. But if they try to correct the balance, it will distort the level playing field between the two Calls.
Prepared To Host Refugee Scholars
Contribution by Marinus Kool, VU Amsterdam
The Erasmus+ funded project Supporting University Communities pathways for Refugee migrants (SUCRE, 2016 – 2018) has been completed with the publication of 3 reports concerning access to higher education for refugee students and refugee scholars and a number of training modules on legal, health and psycho social support. The report Institutional Support to Refugee Scholars was developed by Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (lead) and the University of Cologne in Germany. Three surveys directed (mainly) at universities in North-West Europe were conducted amongst refugee scholars, their academic mentors and university officers dealing with scholars, while also a limited number of respondents was interviewed. The report contains a large number of respondents’ quotes from 60 universities, 67 scholars and 39 academic mentors. The report shows that most universities are willing and almost always well prepared to host scholars. More attention is required for scholars’ job-perspectives after a hosting period, and a lot more attention is required for the needs of their families concerning language, social integration and psych-social support. The report offers a rich mine of good practice cases from what seems a sample of engaged universities in (mainly) North-West Europe.
Pell In Prison
The US National Conference of State Legislatures has published a report on “Correction by Degrees: Postsecondary Programs in Prisons”.
The conclusion that prison education programmes offer social and economic benefits for the incarcerated individuals, but also for the society and community to which they will eventually return, is well-founded in a solid evidence base.
In 2017, over 622 000 people were released from prison, with a likelihood of not find a job of 27% against a nation-wide average unemployment rate of less than 4%. Former inmates with who leave prison with some form of postsecondary education have a 10% better chance of finding a job than without it. Postsecondary education reduces the likelihood of falling back into crime by between 43% and 72%, which constitutes a saving in law enforcement of almost $370 million a year.
The report can be seen as part of an advocacy campaign for the Pell grants for inmates. These Pell grants were available to them from the start in 1972 until 1994, when inmates were excluded in a “tough on crime” approach, but this was remedied with the 2016 Second Chance Pell programme.
A Stroke of Education
In a study on the correlation between Socioeconomic status and risk of cardiovascular disease in 20 low-income, middle-income, and high-income countries, a team of scholars led by Annika Rosengren from Gothenburg explored the association between education & household wealth and cardiovascular disease & mortality. They did this to assess which marker is the stronger predictor of outcomes and examined whether any differences in cardiovascular disease by socioeconomic status parallel differences in risk factor levels or differences in management.
They conducted a large-scale cohort study with more than 150 000 participants between 35 and 70, from close to 700 communities in 20 countries, following them for about 7.5 years.
They found that major cardiovascular events were more common among those with low levels of education in all types of the country studied, but much more so in low-income countries. This is not due to a higher risk profile, but simply to poorer health care. Sometimes intuitively logical truths need to be supported by solid research.
US: Women Half the College-Educated Workforce
The Pew Research Center has published an analysis of US government data on its website showing that in 2019 women will reach the milestone of gender parity in the college-educated workforce.
This milestone matters because educational attainment is highly correlated with income. As the website informs us, “U.S. women may be far from parity in many facets of society – particularly in top positions in business and government – but they are making inroads in the upper echelon of the labor market.
The growing number of college-educated women in the labor force translates into greater earning potential for women overall and could eventually contribute to the narrowing of the gender wage gap.”
Education Ranking That Reeks of…
Times Higher Education has added another stone to its collar of Rankings – but anything but a gem.
The THE Europe Teaching Ranking shows how satisfied students are with their own university – by definition not comparing with other universities. To present this as a ranking of universities that are “best in education” may cause confusion and unwarranted conclusion to say the least.
It is nice to see 4 Aurora universities in the top 100, of which two in the top 50 – but it really doesn’t say anything.
Belgium, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have not a single university represented in the list. Poor education quality? Within the Netherlands, 5 out of the 13 research universities have made it to the list of 300 universities in the reeking ranking. Does that make these 5 better in educational quality than Delft, Wageningen, Utrecht, Leiden? Or rather does it mean that the communications’ staff of the ranked 5 have been more alert and resourceful in assuring enough and good enough response from their universities?
Holistic Admission Benefits The Rich?
Looking at other factors than the SAT or ACT score actually benefits affluent white kids more than students from underrepresented minorities. Or that is at least the first impression from an analysis of how admission to selective American colleges would change if they would look at standard test scores excluding other factors. Researchers from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce report on their “thought experiment” on “SAT only admissions: How would it change college campuses” how they recalculated who would and would not be admitted to the 200 most selective colleges in the US if admissions would be based solely on SAT test scores.
They found that no less than 53% of students actually enrolled would not qualify based on an objective test score only – and of these, also 53% come from more affluent backgrounds. The positive impact of ‘other considerations’ on admission is significantly bigger for affluent white students than for affluent students from other backgrounds – and generally more positive than for any student with lower socio-economic backgrounds.
So would more exclusive reliance on objective tests be the answer? The report shows things are not that easy: A test-based admission only would cause shifts, but not an improvement in terms of inclusion of less affluent students nor of students from underrepresented minorities.
SAT: Scholastic Aptitude Test
ACT: test by the American College Testing organization.
OECD: How HE Systems Perform
The OECD has published “Benchmarking Higher Education System Performance”, 644 pages with results of a review carried out in 2017-18 across all OECD countries, with four countries electing to be subject to a deeper exercise: Estonia, Belgium (Flemish), the Netherlands and Norway. Because the report mixes more general information across the OECD with more refined data and analyses in those four countries, the meaning and use of the data sometimes gets obscured.
- higher education still pays off, on average bachelor’s graduates in the OECD earn one-third more, and master’s graduates close to two-thirds more, than those with upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education.
- higher education graduates also tend to report more favourable social and health outcomes than those without a higher education qualification.
- nearly one-third of higher education graduates have poorer information processing skills that might be expected of graduates at this level.
- Higher education spending per student is increasing rapidly, with households paying about one-fifth of the costs.
- access and success for students from less-represented backgrounds is a persistent challenge, as is the issue of drop out and time-to-degree.
One interesting table shows the proportion of researchers working in Industry. Of the Aurora, countries, Sweden and the Netherlands have the highest proportion of researchers in the private sector, with also France, Germany and Flemish Belgium above OECD average. In the other countries, the private sector is a less – sometimes much less – important place for researchers.
Spain beat Germany, France below Par
The European Commission has published its 2019 Digital Economy and Society Index, with various thematic reports on issues like Human Capital – Digital Inclusion and Skills; The EU ICT Sector and its R&D Performance; and Research and Innovation: ICT projects in Horizon 2020 Digital.
Across the Board, the EU countries are improving their digital performance, but still, need to up their game to meet the international competition. Within the EU, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Denmark perform best (where is Norway? – Norway is not in the EU J). Of the countries with an Aurora member university, only France scores below the EU average – and Spain scores higher than Germany!
Zooming in on the Netherlands, it is interesting to see that where it scores top three overall performance, it’s the weakest score is on Human Capital (education!!).
Note From the Editor: La Grande Fosse
When I was young, there was one album in the “Asterix & Obelix” series with that name of ‘the big divide’. It was a satirical comment on the sharp division in French society of that day and age – which might actually with hindsight seem just a little crack in the floor compared to what we see today in many countries.
The big divide between ‘us’ and ‘them’ in national, nationalist, populist politics is seen and lamented by many but addressed by very few. From the perspective of people with decreasing trust in institutions and increasing faith in (digital) hearsay, alternative facts and post-factual truths, universities and academic clearly belong in the enemy camp. With the exception of those academics who feel that their expertise in, e.g. legal philosophy gives them authority in physical geography, urban economy, remote sensing and other disciplines underlying the climate change studies.
Having had that off my chest, my question still remains: “How can universities and academics engage in meaningful ways with people who seem to have lost faith in rationality and an evidence-based approach?” When higher levels of education across the population demonstrably do not lead to increased belief in rationality and an evidence-based approach, how can we maintain the illusion that more education is the solution?
We need to dig deeper – and actually listen more carefully to people who seem to have lost faith in rationality (except when they need surgery).
EU China HE links Growing – Not so Much
It is not hard to find articles on the growing importance of China as a new powerhouse in the field of Higher Education & Research. How is that reflected in the development of collaborative links between European and Chinese universities?
Most articles and reports analyse the situation and developments from a policy or political perspective. It is not so easy to find numbers on collaboration between Chinese and European universities. An ERASMUS+ fact sheet from March 2018 sheds some light. It shows that while China dominates the region’s cooperation with the EU under Erasmus+, there is no sign of strong growth over recent years.
In student mobility, the number of projects has remained stable, and the numbers of mobile students have actually gone down significantly from 2015 to 2017: 939-> 666 to Europe and 519-> 476 to China. Joint Master’s degrees involving China have gone up from 2(2014) to 11 (2017), but JM scholarships for Chinese students have come down significantly from around 2000 annual scholarships between 2007 and 2013 to around 1500 since the year 2014. In the Jean Monet action too, the EU-Chinese links are fairly weak.
Why Do We Need European Universities?
Based on a contribution by Sandra Hasanefendic, VU Amsterdam
In May, the European Commission issued a Study on the impact of Erasmus+ Higher Education Partnerships and Knowledge Alliances, looking at their effect on the modernisation of higher education systems in Europe. The study is qualitative: surveys, interviews, case studies and desk research.
The report indicates that both for Strategic Partnerships and Knowledge Alliances, the main focus was on curricula development and teaching & learning approaches. Noteworthy is that policy-levels seem little touched by the outcomes of the projects. According to the report, this is less due to lack of effort from those responsible for the projects and more because of lack of interest from the policy level, in turn, because of lack of alignment with current university and country strategies.
In this way, the report implicitly underlines the vast difference between the existing Erasmus+ projects and the new Call for Proposals for European Universities Networks.
DOES ERASMUS+ have Impact? Yes!
Contribution by Floris Korbee, VU Amsterdam
The European Commission has commissioned a study among 77,000 participants to assess the impact of Erasmus+ mobility on students, staff and higher education institutions.
It’s interesting in the Erasmus+ higher education impact study to see that for both students and staff, an Erasmus(+) experience has a positive impact on their careers. Students often discover what they want to do in the future, find their first job quicker than others and are happier with their jobs. They often work abroad (23%), and almost half of them in the country where they stayed during their Erasmus(+) period. Higher education staff mainly participate in Erasmus+ to develop their career. Reasons for taking part are primarily related to collaboration and networking (93%), the development of field knowledge (93%) and the opportunity to experience different learning and teaching methods (89%).
Erasmus(+) also has a high impact on their graduates’ personal development, social engagement, intercultural openness and academic development. It is not uncommon that they find a partner with a different nationality than their own (23%), more than half of them during their Erasmus(+) mobility. Higher education staff improve their intercultural understanding and competencies, their transversal and social skills, also compared to participants in other mobility programmes.
Higher education institutions find Erasmus(+) essential for their strategies and to improve their international competitiveness and the quality of their programmes. Many higher education institutions report a constant over-demand for student and staff mobility under Erasmus+.
LESS EDUCATION IN US PRISONS
Ithaka SR, a not-for-profit organisation in the US dedicated to helping academic and cultural communities serve the public good, has published a report “Unbarring Access: A Landscape Review of Postsecondary Education in Prison and Its Pedagogical Supports”. The report shows that while the number of people in US prisons is rising, the proportion who enrol in postsecondary education programs while in prison have decreased. Making this not only bad for them but also society because post-secondary qualifications are becoming more and more essential to get a job and employment is key to reducing recidivism.
Retaining Gender Inequity
InsideHigherEd on May 28 published a report on gender inequity in professorial salaries at the University of Oregon.
The case of one female professor – highest in research indicators and seniority but only fourth in salary – is used to delve a bit deeper in the reasons for gender inequity in faculty salaries. It shows that it pays off to say “pay up or I’ll leave” – at least if you’re a man. Male evaluators of these requests are more negative towards female than male applicants – both when reviewing written applications and in assessing videotaped interviews. In addition, female applicants negotiated less skilfully before a male panel.
Access to Internships?
Scholars from the University of Wisconsin-Madison published a Working Paper on “Problematizing College Internships: Exploring Issues with Access, Program Design, and Developmental Outcomes in three U.S. Colleges” on Access & Success specifically for internships as a part of a university degree programme.
They surveyed over 1100 students and set up a focus group of 57 of the surveyed students. Their first aim was to set up a model for statistically sound research into internships as a contribution to HE learning outcomes, using inductive thematic analysis, chi-square, and hierarchical linear modelling.
For the analysis of the Focus group transcripts, they used MaxQDA software looking for barriers to internships, program features, and program format and their impacts on student outcomes. However, they also feel confident to articulate some tentative hypotheses on access to internships, if only as a basis for further research. They found that internships participation not only correlates with the type of academic programme (which is not surprising) but also with race, institution and enrolment status. Job obligations and course workload were found to be the most significant barriers to an internship.
In conclusion, they urge not only the HE Institutions, but also employers to recognise that internships may be a positive transformative experience for students, but also bear the risk of becoming a vehicle for reproducing inequality.
Some MOre Equal Than Others?
In a study on How Gender and Race Stereotypes Impact the Advancement of Scholars in STEM, researchers from i.a. Florida International University examined professors’ biased evaluations of physics and biology post-doctoral candidates.
From the abstract:
Using a fully-crossed, between-subjects experimental design, biology and physics professors (n = 251) from eight large, public, U.S. research universities were asked to read one of eight identical curriculum vitae (CVs) depicting a hypothetical doctoral graduate applying for a post-doctoral position in their field, and rate them for competence, hirability, and likeability. The candidate’s name on the CV was used to manipulate race (Asian, Black, Latinx, and White) and gender (female or male), with all other aspects of the CV held constant across conditions. Faculty in physics exhibited a gender bias favouring the male candidates as more competent and more hireable than the otherwise identical female candidates.
Further, physics faculty rated Asian and White candidates as more competent and hireable than Black and Latinx candidates, while those in biology rated Asian candidates as more competent and hirable than Black candidates, and as more hireable than Latinx candidates. An interaction between candidate gender and race emerged for those in physics, whereby Black women and Latinx women and men candidates were rated the lowest in hirability compared to all others. Women were rated more likeable than male candidates across departments.
Big Deals with Big Five
The European Universities Association has published a 2nd “Big Deals Survey Report”, as a follow up to their 1st such survey in April 2018 (reviewed in VU IN&R 111).
Input from 31 consortia forms the basis of this report. 30 European countries negotiate on behalf of the university sector and other higher education and research organisations, including research institutes and hospitals. The survey exclusively focused on periodical Big Deals with five large publishers. The report notes that the trend towards immediate Open Access publication is accelerating, also pushed by Plan S and cOAlition S. It also signals “Publish and Read” agreements as a new type of contract between publishers and consortia, including both fees to publish and read.
OECD Skills Outlook 2019
The OECD has published its “Skills Outlook 2019” (thriving in a digital world). Among the core messages of the report is that coping with digitalisation requires not only digital skills but also general meta-cognitive (or academic) skills and socio-emotional (or personal) skills. Another core message that the facilitation of skills development at school, in the workplace and at home should be seen – and furthered – as a continuum.
Zooming in, we see that Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden are ahead of other countries in their exposure to digitalisation.
Looking at countries with Aurora member and Aurora-EUN consortium universities, we see a general confirmation of the relative strength in digitalisation from the North to the South of Europe
2020 Target Achieved in 2018 for Higher Ed
Last April, Eurostat published data showing that in 2018, the threshold target line of 40% of the age group having completed higher education in Europe. Women do significantly better than men (45,8% women against 35,7 for men), but the overall average is now 40,7% of the population aged 30-34 having completed tertiary education. In 2002, this proportion was still below 25%.
Of the Aurora countries, Sweden is the only one over 50%. The Netherlands, the UK, Belgium, and France are above 45%. Spain is just over 40% while Germany only around 35% – well below the EU average, which may in part be due to their excellent Dual Learning system.
In the same 16 years, the proportion of early leavers of education & training decreased from about 17% to 10,6%.
America second – in Science?
Contribution by Pim de Boer
In May 2019, the Task Force on American Innovation (TFAI) published a benchmark report and advice on a commitment to increase federal investments in scientific research and education. TFAI is a non-partisan alliance of leading American companies and business associations, research university associations, and scientific societies. The report: “Second Place America? Increasing Challenges to U.S. Scientific Leadership” points out that during the past decade the USA has been lagging and is no longer the first in research investments like computers and nanotechnology sciences, research publications, filing patents and attraction of foreign students and talents. Other countries like China and for some aspects, South Korea, India or the European Union have taken over first place. The advice is to have a national strategy to address these issues, increase the federal research budget, introduce dedicated top talent programmes and stimulate the intersectoral collaboration.
Italy Bigger than China – in Holland
Nuffic has published its 2018-19 report on “Incoming Student Mobility in Dutch Higher Education”. The increase of international students in Dutch Universities and Universities of Applied Science continues with 11,5% against 10,5% the year before; with international Bachelor´s students at research universities outnumbering their peers at applied science institutions for the first time. Master’s have a much more international classroom: almost one in four students is international at Masters at research universities.
At Bachelor’s level, a bit more than one in four of programmes are taught in English (28%); at Master’s level, this is no less than three out of four (76%).
Although the share of Germans among international students has decreased from over 45% to now about 26%, the German student cohort is still five times bigger than either Italians or Chinese, equalling a mid-sized Dutch university with 22584 students.
Interesting enough, Italian students for the first time have replaced Chinese students as the second largest cohort (4814 Italians against 4547 Chinese). Are the Italians simply growing to like Dutch HE a better – or is this an early impact of Brexit?
Although VU has seen a considerable increase in its international student population, still 10 of the 13 research universities in the Netherlands have a higher proportion of international students: only Utrecht and Nijmegen fall behind. Again, work ahead for them and VU.
Roadmap for Access, Inclusion, Diversity, Equity
Review by Helena Gillespie, Academic Director Widening Participation at UEA and CPC member of Diversity Abroad for their New Orleans conference, March 2020.
Diversity Abroad is a US-based organisation devoted to enabling students from disadvantaged or underrepresented backgrounds work and study abroad, and they have just published their new ‘Roadmap to inclusion, diversity and equity’. The report is of interest to study abroad teams, university leadership and academics who work in universities where diversity is a priority.
The roadmap focusses on three areas:
- Strategy and Communications
- Academics and Student Success
It can be used as an evaluation tool for a university or to dip into for information. It is interesting that strategy and communications are linked in the roadmap. Sometimes universities find it hard to develop meaningful and effective communications channels with students, and the document addresses some of those issues. It is useful that barriers to student success caused by administrative and organisational issues are also explicitly discussed in the context of diversity, inclusion and equity, and it is evident that the issues are not all financial. Professional development and evaluation strategies also feature as does a useful glossary.
Diversity Abroad is interested in working with Aurora universities, and Helena Gillespie (Academic Director of Widening Participation at UEA) is part of the committee organising their next conference, in New Orleans in March 2020 https://conference.diversitynetwork.org/
Women in the Academy – 2 x UI
Last month, the American National Academy of Sciences published the list of its newly elected Members and Foreign Associates and proudly announced a historically high number of women elected. One hundred new members were announced, of which 40% are women. Also, 25 Foreign Associates were added to the list. Among these, there is one from the University of Iceland: Kári Stefánsson, and one from the University of Innsbruck: Rainer Blatt.
Ranking of Research Impact
In April, Times Higher Education published the second – more extensive version of – its SDG-based “University Impact Rankings 2019”, which received numerous of mixed reactions.
On the positive side, it is good news that a prominent ranking organisation like THE takes the SDGs so seriously. And it is gratifying to see that no less than 4 Aurora universities rank among the top 20% of the universities listed: Gothenburg (6th), Vrije Universiteit (sharing 16th place), Aberdeen (sharing 31st), and Bergen (53rd), and the University of Iceland also ranked in the list.
On a more critical note, we must acknowledge that only 450 universities are in this ranking. Self-reported data forms a strong fundament of the ranking. Putting more value on strategy documents (paper is patient) and diversity indicators within the university than on metrics that indicate the real impact of research on these Sustainable Development Goals (used in the Aurora SDG Bibliometrics). Also, the University Impact Rankings are to date still based on a small selection of the SDGs, with remaining problems in the underlying search queries and – perennial with most rankings – a lot of obscurity in why some factors are weighted more heavily than others.
But let us look at the part of the glass that is already full.
Anxiety Disorder on Campus
The Berkeley Institute for the Future of Young Americans has published preliminary findings of a study analyzing data on anxiety disorder rates for young adults (18-26): Anxiety Disorder on College Campuses: The New Epidemic, together with data on various risk factors associated with anxiety disorder and the patterns of healthcare use and spending related to anxiety disorder. Their goal was to explore the national historical trends in anxiety disorder on college campuses and to better understand how the University of California system fits into these trends. Their data show that the increase in anxiety at UC Berkeley (from 6.3% to 15.4%) was significantly steeper than the national average (from 10 to 20%). Anxiety increase was most significant for Black students (180%), followed by Latino and Asian/Pacific (150%). Anxiety grows as students proceed through College.
What R&I Achievements?
The European Commission’s DG R&I has published a Transport R&I Achievements report 2018, the second of such report, focusing on the four objectives of clean, competitive, connected and responsible transport. It is a sector analysis of the research and innovation projects funded under FP7 and H2020. The report gives a lot of information on these projects – e.g. on the proportion of the projects and budget per goal. But it lacks a strategic evaluative analysis: was the impact of the funded projects on addressing and resolving the problems, bigger or smaller than expected at the start. Or if that is too soon to tell, are the expectations looking back at this stage more or less optimistic than at the outset of FP7 or H2020?
Without an attempt to address these – admittedly tricky – questions, the report may contain much information but provide less meaning than one would have hoped.
Robust CO2 Offsetting
Although somewhat older, the analysis “Offsetting in the Aviation Sector” by Elizabeth Zelljadt is still highly useful for Universities that mean business with compensation for the international travel that remains after they have created near-perfection videoconference facilities at their Campuses.
The report looks in detail at how various airlines a) calculate the number of CORSIA (Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation) units that need to be compensated and b) the offset project types, credits, and entities involved. Resulting in a compelling overview of how several carriers are doing in practice.
Note: Successful Human Culture – Part II
Last ABR, I argued that looking at our gathering/hunting ancestors is not the best way to imagine how human behaviours can or should be today or tomorrow. In this issue, I try to connect this with our decreasing competence in having meaningful conversations and collaboration with people who think very differently than we do:
The perennial debate between “competition” and “collaboration”, between “liberté” and “égalité”, between “market” and “common good” is simply a debate between two competing beliefs about what helps best to maintain our thriving culture as human beings.
Politics can either be in a deadlocked fight between these two beliefs, in a “winner takes all” mentality or a pluralistic effort to strike a balance between these views, to create a space for both of them to flourish in friendly competition rather than in deadly war.
I am a believer in the ‘collaboration” paradigm. But I am also a firm believer – although I sometimes have to remind myself – in the pluralistic paradigm that allows for competition as well as collaboration. The paradigm that requires us to try to understand what people in the other paradigm believe, instead of trying to convince them that they are wrong or simply not bother to talk with them.
German Mobility Facts & Figures
For the third year on a row, the DAAD and the German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW) have published “Wissenschaft Weltoffen Kompakt” with facts & figures on international mobility of students and academics. The publication – like in 2017 and 2018 – is a prequel to the main edition of “Wissenschaft weltoffen” which contains comprehensive data and facts on the internationalisation of study and research in Germany and is expected in July. The 2019 full publication will focus on motives and experiences of international students in Germany. The 2019 publication shows ca 282 000 foreign degrees in Germany (against e.g. 85 000 foreign degree students in the Netherlands), but steadily rising since 2009. Most popular study programmes are Engineering (almost 50%)and Law, Social Science & Economics (over 25%). As proportion of all students, international students are most prevalent in Berlin, Saxony, and Brandenburg (all over 13%), but sharpest increase in numbers was in Bavaria, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and Thuringia. The clear mix of eastern and western parts of Germany.
Also interesting – and maybe a cause of concern – is the graph showing that the numbers of German students studying abroad has stopped growing and has proportionally been declining since 2009.
German Universities Shrinking – Or Not?
The Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration has published a report with infographics on “How Germany’s shrinking universities attract and retain international students”. The title may be seen as misleading given what is said in the documents and infographics: 41 out of 263 universities see declining domestic enrolment; out of these, 26 (10% of the total) are seeking compensation through international recruitment – mostly universities that are less well known internationally. With no fee differentiation between EU and non-EU students, this might trigger a renewal of the discussion on costs and benefits of international students for the German society, economy and tax payers. A study commissioned by the DAAD on The Financial Impact of Cross-border Student Mobility on the Economy of the Host Country showed that even in the (almost) tuition free German context, international students have a positive net impact on the host country’s economy and finance (reviewed in VU IN&R 22, February 2014). Let us see if a renewed discussion – if it ensues – will use such evidence-based reports.
Universities: Go Make Up For BREXIT!!!
The UK government has published a new “International Education Strategy” under the motto “Education is Great”. Explicitly mentioning Brexit as context, the UK aims to grow the number of international students studying in the UK from the current 460.000 to 600.000 by the year 2030 – raising its value to 30 million pounds a year. It will appoint an International Education Champion and set up a 5 million pound “Education is GREAT Challenge fund” and other measures to improve the climate for foreign students. But about the visa-regulations that was so bitterly attacked by British universities, it only speaks of “considering where the visa process could be improved”.
It is interesting to compare the optimistic tone of the UK government document with OECD data which show that the UK has been rather stable in their share of international student recruitment – although UK universities are recognised to be fierce and active recruiters.
TUNING, BOLOGNA, ERASMUS
Robert Wagenaar, the Godfather of the Tuning initiative, has published a magnum opus called Reform! TUNING the Modernisation Process of Higher Education in Europe. A Blueprint for Student-Centred Learning. In over 500 pages, he discusses and analyses the developments in European Higher Education with “Bologna”, “ERASMUS & ECTS” and “Tuning” as key factors. He sees “Tuning” as the child of wedlock between “ECTS” and “Bologna” and concludes that while ECTS and Tuning have become norm-setting globally, “Bologna” cannot be seen as a tremendous success.
To nuance that vision, one might argue at both Tuning and Bologna have come to mean so many different things to so many different actors, that a clear attribution of observable changes in HE to either of these becomes debatable. One might also argue that ECTS is not that much more than a new wrapping to the much older credit system in American higher education and that ECTS is the vehicle through which US credits have conquered the world.
Nevertheless, the book contains a wealth of information and insights from an expert who played a significant role in shaping the developments he describes.
Debunking Free Speech Threats in US Universities
PEN America, the largest member of the international PEN network, has published its “Chasm in the Classroom” report on “Campus free speech in a divided America”. It details an array of free speech infringements of campus from authorities or individuals. It claims to show that the Trump administration assertion that free speech infringements on Campus come mainly/only from the left has no firm basis in facts.
But the PEN America report itself is hardly as strong on facts as one would have hoped. No data on the balance between right-wing and left-wing infringements of free speech – although it does show the total number of incidents has been rising from 194 in 2015 through 257 in 2017 to 280 in 2018.
Where the report does show some quantitative data – on students feeling that hateful speech can justify a violent response – the authors are quick to point out that the sample is small and not random and that other studies show contrary results.
All in all a missed opportunity to strengthen the evidence base of hot debate, that shows signs of flaring up in European countries as well. The annexe with US state regulations on free speech safeguards on university campuses is useful and underpins comments that Trump´s executive order on Campus free speech adds nothing to existing state regulations.
Euro-Student on Parental Education
Review by Sanne Boomsma, VUA, Aurora working group Inclusive Internationalization
In an earlier edition of the Aurora Brief Reviews (ABR 4), findings from the Eurostudent.eu VI report on the aspect of international experience for HE students was discussed.
This report also contains a wealth of data on issues related to diversity, access and success. An interesting feature of the project is the database, which allows you to make comparisons between various countries. Unfortunately, from the Aurora countries, there is no data available for Belgium, England and Scotland.
An interesting example of the data available is the education level of students’ parents, which shows that students in HE in France are more commonly from a highly educated background, while the students from Iceland and Sweden are from more diverse backgrounds in terms in parents’ education. Iceland has the largest share of students without higher education background (46.2%), while Norway has the lowest (20.6%).
With its broad range of data, the database can be of interest to a wide range of policy topics. Specifically for the Aurora working group on Inclusive Internationalization, other interesting data that may affect the likeliness of students participating in study abroad include parental financial status, health impairment (by type and severity of limitations), migration background, age and time spent on jobs. The limitation in the usability of the data obviously is the fact that these are national data, not necessarily representative of individual universities’ student populations. However, being able to compare countries gives a wonderful insight in the Aurora partner universities’ general contexts.
Education Still Pays of in the US
In a short Infographic, the US Department of Education shows – once again and in spite of student debt concerns – that university education continues to pay off in the US. More education means less likely to be underemployed. Not a new insight, but it is essential to keep looking critically for the evidence-base also of what commonly is thought.
Private Higher Education?
The Programme for Research on Private Higher Education PROPHE is a global network to building knowledge about private higher education, without any wish to either represent or promote private higher education. It is coordinated by prof.em. Daniel Levy from SUNY, Albany.
Its website contains substantial data on private HE enrolment relative to enrolment in public institutions. As PROPHE itself acknowledges, the definition of ‘private higher education’ is by no means without its problems and complications. To give just one example: the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is a private legal entity, but a full part of the public system in the Netherlands: it is listed in the law, it is funded like any public university and submitted to exactly the same rules for quality assurance on educational programmes.
In spite of this caveat to draw too quick conclusions from the PROPHE data, it is an important source for statistics. Moreover, when used to analyse changes over time, the differences between HE systems in their definitions of private and public higher education become less of an obstacle.
ERC Advanced Grants: Aurora, Italy, Spain
In the list of principal investigators of awarded ERC Advanced Grants in 2018, no less than 11 researchers at Aurora universities of which five at UGA, three grantees at VU, and one each at UDE, Gothenburg, and Bergen. More information on the 9 Aurora awardees is provided on the Aurora website. If we look at the ERC Advanced grants per country – zooming in at scores of 10 and above – we note that (contrary maybe too broad assumptions) Spain and Italy have consistently more ERC Advanced Grant awardees than any of the Nordic countries, of which only Sweden in some years reaches the 10 awardees benchmark. Much less surprising will be the fact that the UK firmly leads the pack followed by German and France and then Switzerland and the Netherlands.
Sociology: Publish Ever More
In an article in Sociological Science on “How Much Do You Have to Publish to Get a Job in a Top Sociology Department?”, John Robert Warren from the University of Minnesota shows that new assistant professors in sociology nowadays have to already have published about twice as much as their counterparts in the 1990ies had to. Trends for promotion to associate professor are not as dramatic but are still remarkable. How come? Money and the way things are organized, Dr Warren says.
To a layman like myself, the graph seems to indicate at least the possibility of some stabilization over recent years. But this possibility is not really treated at any length in the article.
Just for the fun of it: comic singer-songwriter Tom Lehrer once wrote a song about Sociology.
Robust CO2 Offsetting
In Nature of February, an article by German, Dutch and Swedish researchers analyse current schemes and practices in offsetting schemes for aviation emissions. Aviation CO2 emissions are estimated to grow by 360° between 2000 and 2050. The authors show that the global scheme adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation will only compensate for the emissions increase if robust criteria for the eligibility of offset credits are adopted. Use of offset credits from already implemented projects, will not yield notable additional reductions, nor will it offer incentives for new investments. They recommend allowing only new projects that meet robust criteria for real and additional emission reduction.
Note from the Editor: Human Culture – Part 1
Every now and then, we see some article argues about food, or male-female relations, or breastfeeding, migration, where the writer argues that we need to stick with or return to the behaviour of our ancestors when they were hunters/gatherers. For some reason, it is never the behaviour of early farmers or the pre-hominids that still went on all fours. These arguments always faintly irritate me, so I thought I should take some time to wonder why.
I think it has to do with how culture in its broadest meaning has utterly changed mankind. I may need more than one ‘note’ to explain myself.
Through ‘culture’ in its broadest sense, mankind has freed itself from the Darwinist law of natural selection. Through culture, i.e. through things like ‘technology’, ‘economy’, ‘society’ and ‘governance’, we are able to adapt to changes in our environment without necessarily having to adapt physically. Physical or psychological traits that make us humans less competitive than other species to survive and thrive in our habitat, can be compensated by the fruits of technology, of society, of the economy, of governance.
Questions like “how do other mammals behave? ” or “how did our ancestors behave” when they were still hunter/gatherers?” are no longer relevant if we want to find out what “good” or “successful” behaviour is in our present days.
“Good” or “successful” behaviour for the human race in its cultural phase is behaviour that maintains the resilience of the culture (technology, society, economy, governance) that allows us to thrive even with traits that are less competitive from a natural evolutionary perspective.
ERASMUS Students and Brexit
Last Tuesday, March 19th, the European Council adopted a regulation to safeguard that Erasmus+ participants from EU-27 and the UK who have already started their stay abroad before Brexit, are allowed to complete their stay and will not lose their academic credits or be obliged to repeat their academic semester or year. This decision pertains to a proposal (see also ABR 03) drafted by the European Commission in January and approved by the European Parliament on March 13th.
Iranian Students´ Integration in Western Europe
This month, the Dutch government has decided to screen students and scholars from Iran. Because of security concerns specifically in high tech areas of science. In this context, it seems relevant to point to a study from 2017 on “Colonized subjects and their emigration experiences. The case of Iranian students and their integration strategies in Western Europe”. The article in Migration Studies 6.1, provides an analysis of Iranian students’ emigration decisions and their chosen integration strategies into their new host societies (Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden) through the concepts of ‘colonial mentality’ and ‘Anglo-conformity’. As an exception to the data-based reports in the ABR, the qualitative study is reviewed here because it helps to see Iranian students in Western Europe in a broader light than just that of security risks. The study suggests that emigration is the last step in a lengthy process.
Cherchez la Femme – aux Rectorat
On occasion of International Women’s Day, the EUA presented last March 8 the data from its membership on female leadership in universities.
It shows that Universities are still male-dominated institutions. In 2019, 14% of rectors in 46 countries with EUA members are female, compared to 86% being male. The situation varies across countries as the proportion of female rectors is above the average in 16 countries, and below in eight countries. Notably, 22 countries currently do not have any female rectors. Of the Aurora member universities, presently Gothenburg and Vrije Universiteit have a female chief executive officer (22%).
We must note of course that the EUA membership does not necessarily reflect the situation for all universities in Europe.
Harsh Climate For Female Economists
The American Economic Association commissioned a survey among its members last April 2018, on how inclusive or discriminatory the professional climate for economists is in the United States. Although the full report will be published early Summer 2019, the AEA Professional Climate Survey: Main Findings are already out on the AEA website.
The survey among over 45.000 eligible respondents yielded 9.223 responses (ca 20%). Another 4073 partial responses will be included in the final report.
In general terms, the report shows that gender is a much more important factor in perceived discrimination and other forms of undesirable behaviour than ethnicity. To take out just a few of the more salient pieces of information: No less than 22% of female respondents report some form of #MeToo related incidents, with about one in 14 – 16 of the women having to undergo retaliation threats for not complying with romantic requests and actually having to fence of physical harassment, respectively.
“Is diversity a source of richness”? is a question that considerably more women (82%) than men (59%) subscribe to. The difference is, even more, striking with 51% of men and only 16% of women subscribing to the question “Are women respected as economists?”
Trump’s Academic Freedom
Last Thursday, March 21st, President Trump signed an Executive Order to safeguard freedom of speech, particularly by conservative students. Although the measure merely repeats rules already in force, it may give cause to examine the issue also in terms of reports published.
Last December 2018, Susan Ramlo at the University of Akron, Ohio, published an analysis of what people on campus mean by ‘academic freedom’. Using the Q methodology – designed to study people’s “subjectivity” – she found consensus, distinguishing statements, and rich descriptions of five unique speech on campus viewpoints: Idealistic, Social Justice, Speech Crisis, Sage on the Stage, and Fox News (?!).
What You Know or Who You Know
The EUA has published an extensive and well-designed study on “The Role of Universities in Regional Innovation Ecosystems”. It reports on a qualitative analysis of the transformation of the role of universities in their regional innovation system. Qualitative, but based on quantitative desk research (using Regional Competitiveness Index data), on a considered and balanced choice of nine universities, and using an extensive sample of 136 interviews with 173 key individuals.
The report, written by Dr Sybille Reichert who has university experience in Switzerland, France and Germany, finds seven paradigm shifts in the conception and organisation of innovation:
- From linear to iterative
- From closed to open
- From technology-driven to challenge-driven
- From individual to collaborative, interdisciplinary
- From spontaneous to systematic
- From exchange to co-creation
- From innovation projects to innovation cultures.
An analogy with the human brain presents itself, where it is no longer only the ‘grey matter’ that is seen as crucial, but equally the white threads (axions) that serve to connect different parts of the brain.
Schooling and Gender Gap
The World Bank has published a Policy Research Working Paper “More than Schooling” on gender differences in the labour market about measurable skill levels.
Using the extensive database from the World Bank’s Skills Toward Employment and Productivity (STEP) program, the paper examines how schooling cognitive and non-cognitive skills are rewarded for men and women in the labour market. The study affirms that schooling, especially post-secondary schooling, and cognitive skills are important for increasing earnings for both men and women, but they are especially important for women. Across a sample of 8 of the 13 middle-income countries in the study, both genders have positive returns to non-cognitive skills, in particular to openness and risk-taking. Women are also rewarded for emotional stability, conscientiousness, and extraversion, while men are not.
The Fundamental Challenge of ERC
On March 15 – an ominous date for those who know their Classics – the European Research Council has published the ERC’s 2018 Annual Report.
In the top host institutions, we find 8 UK universities, 5 Dutch, 4 Israeli and 3 Swiss – noting that in France and Germany, entities as the NCSR, Max Planck and Helmholz hide individual host universities.
The fact that there are no Aurora universities in the list may be an indication of lower top academic excellence – but may also be an indication of the focus of the ERC on curiosity-driven research over challenge-driven research. The ERC councils are still organised by discipline and are challenged to assess strong multi- or transdisciplinary proposals.
Update European University Funding
The EUA published its Public Funding Observatory Report 2018 with up-to-date information on 33 different higher education systems across Europe. The EUA monitors this subject since 2008. It shows that since the financial crisis of 2008, the gap between countries that main or increase HE funding and those that have cut budgets is getting wider. The interactive chart shows that Norway, Sweden, Germany, and Flanders show significant growth in public funding, Iceland, the Netherlands and France more modest growth, while in Scotland (less) and England (more) universities suffered a decline in public funding.
Digital Economy Skills
The Business-Higher Education Forum, an American membership organisation of Fortune 500 CEOs, college and university presidents, has commissioned a report on “The new foundational skills of the digital economy”. By analysing over 150 million job postings since 2007, the research identified 14 skills seen as foundational for the digital economy. The 14 skills converge into three groups: Human skills, Digital skills, and Business skills. These skills are relevant not just for ‘digital’ jobs, but in the wider economy as well.
Note: Ratio, Science and Scholars?
The talk about fake news and alternative facts has died down somewhat, but the phenomenon is still very much around us. Even in academia, I fear. At a recent meeting in the Netherlands, I was shocked by the level of absurdity of arguments used by respected scholars to attack the Plan S which aims to boost open access to scholarly publications.
“Your proposal sketches a new situation different from the present one. Therefore it is contradictory with reality, and therefore it is impossible.”
“What you propose is a change from the present situation. Any change will lead to a period of uncertainty, and this is bad.”
Or even: “I realise now that some of my concerns have in the meantime been met, but I formed by objections when I didn’t know you would solve them – now I stick to the objections and will remain against.”
We are all human and are prone to react – at least in part – from our emotions. But I would have thought that researchers would at least acknowledge the gap between the methodological standards of argumentation and analysis in their research and their much lower standards of reasoning when their direct interests are at stake.
Working Class Heroes – Not Welcome in HE?
NEON, a UK organisation supporting widening access to higher education, has published a report on “Working Class Heroes” to improve understanding access to higher education for white students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. It shows that over 50% of universities admit less than 5% of white students from the low participation neighbourhoods (LPN), or conversely, that relatively few universities take the lion’s share of the UK’s widening access aspirations. Most LPN students attend “post-1992” universities, and many universities are still less than ambitious in formulating targets related to white students from LPN in their Access and Participation Plans. According to the report, neither the University of East Anglia nor the University of Aberdeen are in the top 10 with most LPN acceptances. Aberdeen is – for some reason – not in the list at all. UEA has 310 of LPN acceptances (8% of total acceptances). The highest acceptance proportion in the UK is from Teesside (28%) while Oxford and Cambridge have 3% and 25 respectively.
Refugees in HE – Who Cares?
Eurydice has published a report on Integrating Asylum Seekers and Refugees into Higher Education in Europe. The report looks at national policies and measures of this substantial group: of the 2.6 million refugees arriving in Europe in 2015 and 2016, about half were in the age group 18-34: typically associated with higher education.
The report shows that Germany stands out as the most eloquent and comprehensive in the policy response to refugees and Higher Education; other countries do either nothing or have isolated measures on specific aspects like language, funding or guidance. Recognition of qualifications is a significant challenge, in spite of the special provisions for refugees in the Lisbon Recognition Convention. We may note that among Aurora countries, England and the Netherlands stand out among nations that do not refer explicitly to asylum seekers or refugees in national documents related to Higher Education.
Refugees in German Higher Education
As a follow up to the first INTEGRA report (discussed in VU IN&R 108 of March 2018), the DAAD has published a second INTEGRA Report on “Study Preparation and Transition into Regular Degree Programmes”. The report analyses statistical data to establish the impact of preparatory measures for the 10404 refugee students who participated in the INTEGRA programme together with answers to an online survey among 5846 students (of which 1580 responded).
Although the report contains a wealth of data, the information would have become more meaningful if it would have included more comparisons:
- How are these refugee students doing in contrast to German students and is this gradually getting better – or worse?
- How are refugee students in Germany (supported by the Integra programme) doing in comparison to refugee students in other European countries (with other or (no) support programmes)?
STEM Field Less Diverse
In the article “Does STEM Stand Out? Examining Racial/Ethnic Gaps in Persistence Across Postsecondary Fields” in “Educational Researchers” researchers from the University of Texas and Florida International University investigate whether Black and Latina/o youth who begin college as STEM majors are more likely to either switch fields or drop out than their White peers. Based on comprehensive national data, they find that Black? Latinx students are indeed more likely to discontinue their STEM studies than White students and that this effect is stronger than in other fields of study like business, social sciences, or humanities. The authors hope that their research will add to the understanding of why STEM fields stand apart in losing minority students.
LOWER GRANTS FOR FEMALE PI’S
In the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers from i.a. Northwestern University has analysed first-time research National Institute of Health grants awards to Principal Investigators according to their gender.
By controlling various indicators of academic quality, the study found sex differences in the size of NIH funds awarded to the comparable first-time female and male PIs, even at top research institutions. For first-time PIs across all grant types and institutions, women received a median of $1265 vs $165 721 for men.
Although the authors did make serious controlling efforts, they also signal limitations, e.g. because they couldn’t also analyse the non-awarded proposals. As they say, further study of the institutions where inequalities were lowest may provide insight into the reasons for sex imbalances in grant amounts awarded during formative career stages.
Diversity: It’s the Culture, Stupid
The UCLA HE Research Institute has published its 2016-17 “Undergraduate Teaching Faculty Survey”, the 10th in a series of triennial reports since 1989. The report – with over 20 000 responses from faculty in close to 150 HE institutions – is a rich source of data and gives insights in various dimensions of perceived inequality between teachers by ethnicity and gender.
One of the interesting messages to take from the report is perceived discrimination is more in the culture and less in policies and regulations: the feeling among teachers from a diverse background that diversity is promoted and that they are treated fairly by the organisation, is much less negative than their perception of discrimination as a source of stress. They feel that they need to work much harder to get the same appreciation and recognition as their white male peers. Apparently, the implicit culture is more impactful than the formal structures and policies.
One other interesting insight is that almost all categories of teaching staff in the majority feel underprepared to handle diversity tensions in class, but white teachers do so less than others. Which begs the question if they’re better prepared or less aware of the issue.
LAGGING DUTCH R&D INVESTMENTS
The European Commission has published its 2019 European Semester Country reports assessing whether imbalances or excessive imbalances exist in the country, by looking at factors such as sustainability of external accounts, savings and investment balances, effective exchange rates, export market shares, cost and non-cost competitiveness, productivity, private and public debt, housing prices, credit flows, financial systems and unemployment.
The report on the Netherlands notes that while the research and development investment intensity rose to over 2%, it is still well below the 2.5% national target and the level of top performers. Improving society’s innovation capacity also requires investments to support education in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
NB the critical remarks on the Dutch R&D levels are mirrored by the OECD’s Main Science and Technology Indicators, which also allows a specific graphic representation of R&D intensity in countries of Aurora universities – or any other selection of countries or groups of countries.
The other country reports are also interesting. The report on France for instance, says that Public and private investments need to prioritise actions to strengthen research and innovation, facilitate the energy and climate transition, improve skills, tackle unemployment, and adapt to the future of work, as well as to respond to inequalities within the country.
Student Loan Sharks
Offered by Anna Klas, Aurora communication officer
ABR readers may expect data-based reports in writing; time has come to add a data-based report in a video. Moreover, a hilariously funny report at that.
Netflix Comedian Hasan Minhaj’s satirical show “Patriot act” conveys fact-based controversial topics relevant to millennials and earlier generations. Last February his topic was Student Loans. In between the jokes, Minhaj shows how the government’s decision to take out the banks as middlemen in the Student Loan system backfired. As the Department of Education was unable to manage the enormous student loans – $1.5 trillion – they started using ‘loan services’ which by and large have proven to be more like loan sharks. Spend a short half hour having fun and end up being as well informed about the student loan crisis in the US as you would from any thick report.
Anyone in Europe complaining about the bureaucratic inefficiencies of public student loan systems might want to think twice before arguing in favour of privatisation.
Preparing for Brexit
The European Universities Association has published a note on “Brexit: How universities can prepare for a no-deal scenario”. Although it contains a lot of “common sense” it is a useful overview helping stakeholders not to forget important aspects of a No Deal Brexit relating to People, Cooperation, Data, and Trade aspects on university cooperation.
Note: Metrics for Study Success at Your University
At the 2019 AIEA conference, I attended an interesting session on metrics; metrics of study success, the impact of Study Abroad of these metrics, and the correlation of that impact with specific student characteristics.
What are your university ’s metrics for study success?
Probably time to degree, the likelihood of completion, and the grade point average (GPA)? Maybe your university also aspires to have metrics on the GPA delta, showing the development from grades at the start and towards the end of studies?
Wouldn’t it be great to also have self-reported satisfaction scores, not only up to graduation but even in hindsight in 5, 10, 15 or more years after graduation?
What is the impact of Study Abroad on these metrics? Contrary to common belief, research indicates that Study Abroad doesn’t lengthen but shorten time to degree, increases the likelihood of completion, and leads to a higher GPA at graduation. How does that work for your university?
Also, how does that work out for different groups? Again, research indicates that Study Abroad has an even more positive impact on students from groups that generally struggle more in higher education. All more reason to address the fact that these students statistically have a far lower chance of gaining international education experience. How inclusive is internationalisation at your university?
Norway on Top
Eurostudent.eu, a project to collate comparable data on the social dimension of European higher education, has a tremendous wealth of relevant data for policymakers interested in the international dimension of higher education.
In the Eurostudent VI (2016-18) Synopsis of Indicators, we can see that already 20% of students benefit from some international experience as part of their HE studies across Europe. Looking at countries with Aurora member universities, with see Norway leading with a staggering 35%. France (29%) and the Netherlands (26%) follow and also Sweden (23%), and Iceland (22%) are above average – Germany equals it. The UK and Belgium are not covered. Seeing the Scandinavian countries high up is not surprising – France so close to the top three might surprise some of us.
Foreign Students Stay and Pay
Last month, Nuffic published its “Internationalisering in Beeld” with loads of data on internationalisation in the whole education sector in the Netherlands. The publication, unfortunately, is only in Dutch, but the underlying data are available in English at Nuffic’s Facts and Figures webpages. One of the topics is the stay rate of international students after graduation. Nuffic demonstrates that the overall stay rate five years after graduation is still 25% across the board, higher for non-EEA (39%) than for EEA graduates (18%). It also shows that these staying graduates adapt to the labour market: they tend to remain less during the recession and more in high demand sectors. The overall contribution to the Dutch public purse is at least 1640 million euro per year.
Interesting fact about secondary education: of the 653 schools for general secondary education in the Netherlands, no less than 120 (almost one in five) offer bilingual programmes.
The Dutch Centraal Plan Bureau has published a separate analysis of the Stay rate of foreign PhD graduates in the Netherlands. They find that ten years after graduation, 32 per cent of foreign PhD graduates still live in the Netherlands, with even higher stay rates for women, PhDs from less developed countries, and those in technical subjects. These stay rates are less than in the US where these may be up to 62%. The authors of the CPB report offer as possible explanations the difference in size of the country and the research system, but also differences in migration laws and labour marker characteristics.
The authors do not attempt to estimate the contribution that staying PhDs make to the Dutch society or economy. For PhDs, it might be more relevant to determine their contribution to research, innovation & development than just the tax they pay.
How diverse is US higher Education?
The American Council on Education has published an extensive web-based report on Population Trends and Educational Attainment. Based on Census data it looks at the components of U.S. population growth and the subpopulations at the forefront of the nation’s rising educational attainment. Situating students and graduates within the broader U.S. population provides a baseline for assessing changes and disparities in racial and ethnic groups’ rates of postsecondary enrolment, completion, and attainment.
The publication gives a wealth of graphically represented data on educational attainment, minority-serving institutions and how students finance their graduate education.
It would be interesting to compare educational attainment for diverse groups also in Europe, but this might falter that both definitional problems and constitutional/privacy restrictions.
Oxbridge Least Diverse
An article in The Lancet reports on Gender and ethnic diversity in leading public health universities. Analysis of staff composition at leading public health and social sciences universities in the US and the UK show persistent gaps in gender and ethnicity –, particularly in senior positions.
Interesting to note: Oxford and Cambridge in the UK are shown to have the most potent combination of white male dominance plus overall white faculty dominance. Other UK top schools like UCL and LSHTM have a white female preponderance, while schools like Chapel Hill, UC Berkeley and the University of Washington stand out in their white male dominance.
The Pen Mightier Than The Pad??
The Educational Psychology Review has published the results of a study aiming to replicate the earlier findings (Mueller and Oppenheimer 2014) that taking lecture notes by hand was superior to taking notes on a digital device like a laptop keyboard. Their study: “How Much Mightier Is the Pen than the Keyboard for Note-Taking? A Replication and Extension of Mueller and Oppenheimer (2014)”. The extension consisted of inclusion of groups who took notes using eWriters and who did not take notes. They report that while some trends suggested longhand superiority, performance did not consistently differ between any groups, including a group who did not take notes at all. Group differences were further decreased after students studied their notes. They do report that meta-analysis of test performance reveals small effects favouring longhand, but also that these are statistically non-significant. Thus, they conclude that presenting one method of taking notes as is superior seems premature
Support Integration – Study Success
The ‘Driving towards a Degree’ initiative has published its 2019 Report on The Evolution Of Planning And Advising In Higher Education. The report has two parts, one on the institutional perspective and one on that of the suppliers of students support services.
Their main conclusion is that institutions with integrated student supports, through clear lines of responsibility and secure communications channels between stakeholders, as a whole, demonstrate higher rates of retention and completion. The study is based on data from 3300 stakeholders in 1100 HE institutions.
Future Of Education & Jobs
Building on data from earlier publications (Education at a Glance, Trends Shaping Education) the OECD and the UK-based “Education and Employment” have attempted “Envisioning the Future of Education and Jobs”.
For the key trends/issues, they identify Globalisation (and Migration), Environmental issues, Digitalisation, Changing work, Lifelong learning and Societal coherence, they have visualised dominant trends with graphs that speak to the imagination.
The publication is the top layer, with lots of data hidden underneath. Without these other data, it may serve best as a source for context Powerpoint sheets showing that the presenter can put her/his talk into the broader perspective of global trends. Not without value. Interesting to know, for example, that among students in Aurora countries, Swedes spend by far the most time online: close to 40 hours a week. Dutch and Icelandic students are also above the OECD average of almost 30 hours per week; Belgians are below. French, German, Norwegian and British students are not covered in the survey for some reason.
Humanities Pays Off
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has published an analysis of “The economic benefit and costs of a Liberal Arts education”. The paper reviews existing research on the economic benefits and costs of a liberal arts education both to individuals and to society at large.
They first analysed to what extent higher education helped graduates to earn more than their parents did before them. Secondly, they analysed to what extent this effect is different for Liberal Arts graduates than in other fields. They show that the available evidence does not support the hypothesis that a Liberal Arts education is a poor investment compared to pre-professional programmes – and certainly not compared to no higher education at all. The graphs also show – not surprisingly maybe – that student/staff ratio in US institutions is highest in private non-religious institutions and lowest in public institutions.
60% Graduate in 8 Years
In a Supplemental Feature Signature Report on the completion rates for the Fall 2010 cohort at American Universities and Colleges, the US National Student Clearinghouse Research Center shows that the national total completion rate for the fall 2010 cohort has increased a further 5.6 percentage points, from 54.8 per cent at the end of six years to 60.4 per cent at the end of eight years. Asian students show the highest completion rates (71,5% after eight years).
R&D Spending in Humanities
According to “Humanities Indicators”, a project of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, research spending in the Humanities grew by almost 10% in 2017, reaching nearly 500 million $, the highest since 2007 when these data were recorded for the first time.
This may be a small consolation for researchers in the Humanities considering that research spending on the Humanities is minute compared to research spending on Health, Engineering and Bio/medical sciences, other domains that less well-endowed like math, physics, and social sciences.
Words that Yield Grants
In the Journal of Language and Social Psychology, a study is published on “What Words are Worth: National Science Foundation Grant Abstracts Indicate Award Funding”. In an analysis of over 7.4 million words covering 19,569 proposals, the author presents evidence that the writing style of NSF grant abstracts corresponds to the amount of money received for the award. Grant abstracts that are longer than the average abstract contain fewer common words and are written with more verbal certainty receive more money from the NSF (approximately $372 per one-word increase).
Hiring and Firing Academics
The College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) have published a report on the “Impact of the Economic Recession on Student Enrollment and Faculty Composition in U.S. Higher Education: 2003-2018”. Zooming in on the Faculty Composition part, we see an interesting difference between public and private institutions’ responses to the recession. While public institutions decrease the number of faculties – and the student/staff ratio – most private institutions were much less affected and recovered relatively quickly.
VU Holding It’s Own?
The Association of Universities in the Netherlands has published data on student enrolment in Dutch research-intensive universities, showing an all-time high of 291.277 students in 2018. Their data also show that in absolute numbers, VU seems to have overcome the dip (from over 25000 in 2011 to barely over 22000 in 2016) and is back to about the level of 2010 (ca 24500). However, given the overall growth from about 240000 to over 290000 in the sector, VU’s share in Dutch research university’s students shows a steady decline:
2010: 10,1% 2011: 10,3% 2012: 9,8% 2013: 9,5%
2014: 9,3% 2015: 8,9% 2016: 8,4% 2017: 8,2% 2018: 8,4%.
With the result that VU sank from being the fourth largest university in 2011 to being 6th now. VU did manage to hold more than its own in international students: while the global student population in all research universities was 4.3 times higher in 2017 than in 2005, for VU these numbers were 5.1 times higher – with the biggest growth since 2012.
Note From The Editor: Steering a Ship or Fleet
Higher Education Institutions, like other organisations, can be compared to either a ship or a fleet of ships. The ‘ship’ model applies to centralised institutions, with centralised services and clear and strict protocols for the core functions of teaching, research and outreach. The ‘fleet’ model applies to more decentralised institutions, with much more independent schools, faculties, institutes and centres. These two models are very different in how they can be steered: a captain can give direct orders, but a Commodore needs to issue instructions to the ship’s captains and respect their autonomy.
NB except in stormy weather or dangerous waters, captains should not be on the bridge issuing orders, but leave that to their chief officer while they walk leisurely over the ship to observe the state of the craft and the mood of the crew – but that is a different issue.
Back to the captain vs the Commodore: it makes a difference if the HEI leader steers directly or indirectly. So what happens when a university is centralised and decentralised at the same time? If the services are highly centralised and the core functions of teaching and research are decentralised? Does it mean that the university leaders need to act both as captain and as Commodore at the same time? Can this hybrid concept explain some of the tensions between decentralised Faculties and centralised services?
I welcome comments to these questions and will gladly publish them in my next issue of the Newsletter.
Erasmus students Safe on March 29
The European Commission has proposed a Regulation to safeguard that the Erasmus+ students from and in the UK don’t need to worry about the completion of their period of study or internship abroad under the Erasmus programme in the academic year 2018-’19. At the moment of withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union, there will be almost 14.000 EU-27 learners (students and trainees in higher education and vocational education and training, youth learners, educational staff) in the United Kingdom, and around 7.000 United Kingdom learners in EU-27. The proposed Regulation aims to ensure the partial continuation of the Erasmus+ programme.
The Regulation will only apply in case the No Deal scenario materialises.
Erasmus Report 2017
The European Commission has published its 2017 report of the Erasmus+ programme, showing i.a. that the application has allowed over 400.000 students and staff members to gain international experience in 2016/17. Besides the Key Action 1 mobility successes, the report also shows that it makes increasing sense to apply for a KA2 Strategic Partnership: with decreasing applications and rising numbers of grants, the success rate has gone up from about 17% in the early years to 27% in 2016/17. Let’s hope this trend continues!
Corrigendum Erasmus+ 2019
The European Commission has published a “Corrigendum to the 2019 Erasmus+ Programme Guide”.
Apart from technical changes in the Erasmus Mundus rules and some added references to formal documents, two significant changes are made to the regulations for the new “European Universities Networks” scheme. Initially, only HE institutions with an Erasmus+ charter could be full consortium partners – and the eligibility on non-HEI entities as either full or associated partners was unclear. That has been addressed: “Any other public/private organisation active in the field of education and training, research and innovation or in the world of work established in an EU Member State or another Programme Country” is also eligible as participating organisation.
The second change is that the – already fairly broad – bandwidth of budget allocation to Staff, Travel and Individual support costs of 60% of the proposed budget have been further amplified: no budgetary limits. Equipment (5%), Other expenses (5%) and Indirect costs (7%) remain with fixed caps.
More attacks on Higher Education
Already in October 2018, Scholars at Risk has published the 2018 Free to Think report: Report of the Scholars at Risk Academic Freedom Monitoring Project. The VU International News & reviews (issue 123) reported on it.
But a comparison of the 2018 data with those of the years before gives cause for concern. It seems to show that after a very bad 2015, attacks on higher education dropped but or back on the rise again: More killings and disappearances, more prosecution have risen again close to 300 incidents overall.
Students for Free Expression???
FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, in the US has published a new survey report on “What Students Think” about i.a. freedom of expression on American campuses. FIRE is dedicated to protecting freedom of speech and expression; religious liberty and freedom of association; freedom of conscience; and due process and legal equality on campus.
The report – the third of its kind – finds that almost all (96%) students are strong advocates of freedom of speech, but only when discussing it as a general principle. When expression becomes intolerant, hurtful or offensive, more than half the students (57%) feel that HE Institutions should be able to restrict student expression of political views that are hurtful or offensive to certain students.
The report also looks at students’ opinions on current controversial issues on American campuses.
Foreign Born = More HE
The OECD has published a short and visual overview of the correlation between country of birth and HE attainment in OECD countries: How do the educational attainment and labour market outcomes of foreign-born adults compare to their native-born peers?
We may not be surprised that countries like New Zealand, Australia, and Canada – with skills-oriented migration policies – show higher tertiary attainment for foreign-born than native-borns. But it is also true for countries like Ireland and Portugal and – with marginal differences – for some of the Nordic countries. By contrast, Aurora countries like the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany have a foreign-born population with lower than average HE attainment – as does the US. This reflects, of course, the unskilled migrant workers’ policies dating back to the ‘60ies and’70ies of the last century.
The OECD publication also shows that in most countries, both employment rates and earnings are lower for foreign-born adults. Among the exceptions are France, Belgium, Germany and the USA.
Support for High Skilled Immigration
According to a survey report by the Pew Research Center, the majority of US public supports high-skilled immigration, almost 80% of US adults look favourably on immigration of skilled people, a percentage that roughly matches or is exceeded by Sweden, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and Australia. Even among the people who want to restrict immigration, there is still strong support for immigration of high skilled people. Underlining of the argument of British universities against (then home secretary) Theresa May, who applied rigorous migration restrictions also to students. The report also shows, that the proportion of highly skilled among immigrants is highest in Canada (65%), Australia (63%) and the UK (49%), but much lower in Italy (14%), Greece and Germany (both 22%).
Last November, cOALITION S, the group of national research funding organisations that joined forces to boost Open Access and Open Science, published its “Guidance” document showing which approaches to Open Access do and do not comply with their Plan S. “permanent open access with proper attribution of authorship” is the fundamental principle. In a recent consultation meeting in the Netherlands, there were interesting showcases of Open Access in practice – as well as emotional rather than rational attacks on the Plan S. SciPost is one interesting example, focusing on Physics. It positions itself as a purely online open portal, managed by scientists, using editor-solicited and contributed reviews, high standard referring and allowing seamless comment on all existing literature. The Open Library of Humanities is another example, catering to the specific conditions of Humanities research, with less external grants, which makes a Library Partnership Subsidy model more appropriate. It is home to currently 24 Journals, ranging from Architecture through Phonology to Quaker studies.
African Research Strengths
African Minds, open access, a not-for-profit publisher in South Africa, has published a report on “The Next Generation of Scientists in Africa”. The report, by academics from Oxford, Johannesburg and a South African governmental research centre, focuses on the current and future position of early career scientists against the backdrop of the positive development of Sub Saharan research it sees since about 2005.
Bibliometric research by the CWTS in Leiden shows that the research output of the region rose from about 15.000 research publications in 2005 to more than 54.000 in 2016. The report also looks at citation impact as a proxy of research quality.
The principal focus of the report is more on the impact of the general trends on the young researchers. It argues that the positive developments in research output and quality may not be attributed to government policies, that the continent is – if anything – as dependent as before on external research funders and that the legacy of weak institutions, brain drain and the lack of support structures continues.
All in all a thoroughly fact-based analysis of research in Africa is presented.
ERC: More Diverse Access
The European Research Council has published its External Communication Strategy 2019. In it, it explains how it aims to achieve a more diverse pool of applicants to ERC grants: with more applications from EU countries still lagging behind in ERC participation, more applications from bright minds from outside Europe, and more female applications. On Brexit, the ERC says that it is involved in efforts to ensure preparedness for all potential outcomes of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU and will endeavour to provide timely information about the implications for current grantees and for future applicants.
$780 Per Book, > 5.000 Books Per Library
Ithaka, an American not-for-profit organisation helping the academic community use digital technologies, has published its 2019 report on Library Acquisition Patterns in American HE institutions. NB, it focuses on the acquisition: bookend e-book purchases, not on subscriptions: journals and repositories. For this, it looked at library acquisitions in 124 American HE institutions and used a sample of 51 institutions for a trends analysis. Average spending was about 3,61 million dollar per university, yielding 4,750 print books and 345 e-books – and average about $ 780 per book. Most of this is for series and other ongoing expenditures. Most of the money is spent on Humanities (>42%) and Social Sciences (32), underlining the different importance of Journals vs Books for Science vs SSH. University Presses (mainly Oxford and Cambridge) account for 23,6% of the printed book market.
Excellence is Extraordinary
Based on policy texts and debates, quantitative data from research funding bodies, desk research and interviews, it concludes that Dutch policy to foster research excellence has on the whole been effective. But there were also unintended side effects, like the cost (in time, money, energy and motivation) of the competitive resource allocation and the neglect of other core tasks of the university. It offers some suggestions to address these issues – as a contribution to the discussion rather than with the ambition to provide the golden bullet. An interesting study was offering comparative insights to those in other countries interested in science policy at national and regional level.
Auditors on H2020
From ACA (Academic Cooperation Association): European Court of Auditors’ special report on Horizon 2020
In a recently published special report, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) has assessed the simplification measures taken by the European Commission (EC), to see to what extent such measures have proved effective in reducing the administrative burden of Horizon 2020 beneficiaries and if they mirrored the evaluations and feedback proposed by the stakeholders. To answer this question, the ECA has surveyed the programme’s beneficiaries.
An online survey was sent in February 2018 to 32.918 contacts from 20.797 organisations which were granted Horizon 2020 funding. The survey covered the period from the start of the programme in 2014 to January 2018 and comprised 59 questions. Drawing from the 3.598 replies received, ECA noted that, overall, most of the simplification measures taken by the EC have been effective in reducing the administrative burden for Horizon 2020 beneficiaries, although not all actions produced the desired result and there is still room for improvement. As reported by the respondents, there is a widespread need for more user-friendly guidance and tools as well as for further testing of the appropriateness and usability of new funding schemes.
Are Presidents Worth It??
In The Review of Higher Education, scholars from i.a. Florida State University has analysed the correlation between how much the university president earns and how well the university does in revenue both from the public and private sources. Using administrative salary data from The Chronicle of Higher Education, their study “Presidential Compensation and Institutional Revenues” implemented ordinary least squares regression with fixed effects and temporally adjusted outcome variables while controlling for institutional and state attributes. They found no evidence of a relationship between presidential compensation and revenue generation from increased fundraising or state appropriations. People familiar with statistics know we like to see an upwardly inclined “cigar” in scatter plots for the correlation between presidential income and public and private income. But here the conclusion is obvious “
Note: Young Researcher, Doubt Thyself
Much is going on with regard to Doctoral Education as well as providing for post-doctoral fellows, taken together as ‘young career researchers’. Listening to some excellent presentations at a EUA-CDE workshop at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam last month, I was reminded of the proverbial statement by prof. Ulrich Teichler that the chief purpose of study abroad was “to discover that your professor may be wrong”. Very wise and still pertinent words.
In analogy to that Teichler statement, we may argue that a key component of the training of doctoral students may be to take them one step further: one of the key objectives of doctoral education should be that they discover that they themselves may be wrong.
What do I mean by this? With the increasing prominence of problem-oriented multidisciplinary research, and with the ongoing process of internationalisation of our doctoral cohorts, it seems key to me that these young researchers learn to question and even mistrust the rock-solid validity of the paradigm in which they grew up. Natural science researchers will need to see the relevance of the humanities and social science. Humanities and social science researchers can’t get by with either ignoring the positive science paradigm or make a hopeless effort to mimic it. Researchers in the ‘Western’ science paradigm need to understand that they can learn from Asian and African approaches to understanding reality.
In other words, let’s take Socrates’ ‘know thyself’ one step further and make ‘doubt thyself’ a cornerstone of doctoral education.
Benefits of Education in Prison
The Vera Institute of Justice has published a report on Investing in Futures: Economic and Fiscal Benefits of Postsecondary Education in Prison.
The report shows that among incarcerated people in federal and state prisons in the US, 64 percent are academically eligible to enroll in a postsecondary education program, meaning they have a high school diploma of equivalent. But 58% of people in prison do not complete an education programme, and those how do, get a high school diploma or equivalent. The main obstacle is the cap of 12000 imprisoned students that can be funded under the Second Chance Bell Program. Lifting that cap would open education for almost half a million more imprisoned people. The report estimates that getting an education in prison raises the likelihood of later employment with 10%. They show that it would not only improve peoples´ lives, but also bring scarce skills to the labour market while reducing tax expenses for the prison system by almost 370 million dollars a year.
Fair Is Default, Says Erac
The European Research Area and Innovation Committee (ERAC) has published a set of recommendations on Open Science and Innovation in the European Research Area.
Among the nine recommendations, most prominent is the notion that FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) must be the default for all research output. Other recommendations address the need to change the way researchers are assessed and rewarded, to incorporate FAIR and open science into the legal Intellectual Property framework, and the crucial importance of more involvement and buy-in of citizens in science.
60 New Proof of Concept Grants – Two in Aurora
Last month, the ERC awarded 60 new Proof-of-Concept grants, which provide top-up funding to earlier EU-funded frontier research allowing them explore the commercial or innovation potential of the results. As usual, most grants (13) go to UK researchers – possibly the last time with a looming No Deal Brexit. One may note that Italy and Spain are tied on the second place with 9 grants each, followed by the Netherlands (7), Israel and Germany (both 5), and France (4).
Two proof-of-concept awardees are connected to member universities of Aurora – incidentally in related fields: Tom Grossmann (organic chemistry) from VU and Vincent Artero (biochemistry) from SolHyCat, which is a collaborative research of various institutions, among which UGA.
Proof-of-Concept grants signal a) societal relevance of b) excellent research: “’t is a consummation, devoutly to be wished”.
Better Teacher, Lower Grades
What is the link between the students’ evaluation of their teachers and how much the learn? In an article in Frontiers in Psychology: “Do the best teachers get the best ratings?” an analysis is made of studies on this topic in general and two controlled case studies in particular. The authors distinguish between learning in the rated course and learning after the rated course; they show that in two controlled situations (10 000 US Air Force students and 1200 management students at Bocconi University in Italy), there was a positive link between (high) student ratings and more learning during the course, but negative link between (high) student ratings and learning in subsequent courses.
The authors do not recommend abandoning teacher ratings; they do recommend that student ratings should be combined with more “coaching” for teachers from expert teachers, and with steps to measure deep knowledge by examining teacher contribution to knowledge in a fair and objective way after students have completed a professor’s course.
PhDs For Science and Society
The EUA’s Council for Doctoral Education (EUA-CDE) has published its “Doctoral Education in Europe Today: approaches and institutional structures”. This is the result of a survey among doctoral universities in Europe between November 2017 and February 2018. The responses from 311 universities cover about 40% of the doctoral candidates in the 32 countries covered – with highest coverages in Flanders, Iceland and in the Nordic countries. The publication is useful because it shows what doctoral universities are most concerned with: funding, ethics, and attracting international PhD candidates. It is interesting that ‘career development’ is not among the top three list of priorities, given the great and increasing number of PhD graduates ending up outside the world of (academic or industrial) research.
The report is also valuable because it gives a structures overview of a large variety of topics of concern surrounding ‘doctoral education’. This is – regardless of the content of the survey – relevant for any university interested in making itself a better and more attractive place for young career researchers.
EUA Looks For More Peers
The European Universities Association still has some open places for participation in their 2019 Learning & Teaching Thematic Groups.
The purpose of this EUA initiative is to provide a platform for discussion and exploration of practices and lessons learnt in organising and implementing learning and teaching in European universities. The groups will focus on themes like Student assessment, Curriculum design, Evidence/based approaches to teaching, and Internationalisation in teaching & learning. It is one of the signs that more and more universities are becoming more serious about teaching and see it (maybe less than before) as something that detracts academics from research.
Deadline for applications is 30 January 2019.
Common African Quality
In the HAQAA initiative (Harmonisation of African Higher Education Quality Assurance and Accreditation) a publication is now available on African Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Higher Education ( ASG-QA).
The document identifies 13 standards for internal quality assurance, 7 standards for external quality assurance, and 9 standards for the internal quality assurance of the QA agencies. When looking at them in some detail, most resonate with common sense. But bringing them together in one comprehensive Handbook offers opportunities for more standardisation among universities in Africa and may help the argument of advocates for Quality Assurance in the various universities and HE systems of the continent.
Dutch Vet: Not Appreciated at Home
Cedefop has published an Opinion Survey on Vocational Education and Training in Europe: Netherlands, based on data collected in the Cedefop European public opinion survey on vocational education and training done in 2016.
The survey shows that far more people in the Netherlands have a negative opinion of VET than on average in the EU: 41% against 23%. This is all the more surprising as both CEDEFOP itself and the OECD regard the Dutch VET system among the best in the world. According to the CEDEFOP data, in Europe only France and Hungary show an even more negative image of VET. Of the countries in which Aurora universities are located, the UK shows the most positive perception, followed by Germany. It may be a coincidence, but both these countries have always seen VET as post-secondary education rather than the vocational form of upper secondary education. In Belgium, the image of VET is even worse than in the Netherlands.
Hard Skills Down, Soft Skills Up
Cengage, an American education and technology company, has published a short visual report on a survey they did among over 650 employers and over 1500 students on the expected impact of technology on the job market.
The report: The People Factor found that students are very concerned that IT will do away with the jobs they may be looking for after graduation, but that these concerns decrease significantly as students graduate and enter the workforce. This aligns with the view of employers that easily-automated skills are going down in their appreciation, but the human skills like Communication, Listening, Critical thinking and Interpersonal skills are actually appreciated more than before by HR directors.
Impact of EUNs On Research?
The EC’s Joint Research Council has published a policy report “Mapping of European Transnational Collaborative Partnerships in Higher Education”. It is part of a series aimed to provide evidence-based scientific support to the European policymaking process and has been based on an online survey among over 500 existing partnerships, of which 169 responded (30%).
The survey shows that most of the embedded (or structural mobility) occurs at Master’s level and also that most of the collaboration occurs below the institutional level. Deepening transnational collaboration between universities is often hampered by administrative and legal obstacles and many respondents hope that the new ‘European Universities Networks’ initiative may help to address these issues – i.a. through a ‘European Statute’.
European R&D Creeping Up
In a recently published factsheet/newsrelease, Eurostat shows that R&D expenditure in the EU has increased marginally to 2.07% in 2017 (up 0,03% from 2016). But the lag behind the United States (2,76% in 2015), Japan (3,28% in 2015) and South Korea (4,22% in 2015).
Within the EU, Sweden, Austria, Denmark and Germany do best with over 3%, while Finland, Belgium and France are also above 2%, as are Norway and Iceland. Below that bar are the Netherlands (marginally) and the UK (considerably).
Green Guide For Universities
The International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU) has published a Green for Universities, suggesting pathways towards more sustainable universities. The publications takes on a wide variety of aspects: Sustainable Campus Operations, Buildings, Laboratories, Purchases, transport, Communications and others. For each of these, it looks at challenges, gives an overview of hurdles and solutions, and provides cases and tips.
With the list of aspects it takes on, it is clear that IARU did not address the issues of the extent to which the academic content of university activities should become more focused on Sustainability and the SDGs. This may be understandable in view of academic freedom. But the sustainability focus of education and research is an issue that cannot and should not be evaded. Nonetheless, the Green Guide for Universities is an important first step and valuable for other universities aspiring to societal relevance as well.
Note: Shared Aspirations in Research
In the Aurora Universities Network, both the vice rectors education and the vice rectors research have started to meet as a group to discuss shared concerns and/or aspirations as a basis to learn from and with each other. Let me use this platform to express some of the shared aspirations which I see developing in the VR research group and which we may see developing in the near future:
- To make our universities a really outstanding environment for early research professionals (PhD and post-doc, where they have a really outstanding start of their career
- To enhance the focus on – and appreciation for – research in our universities that is truly contributing to resolve major societal challenges (globally or locally): the Sustainable Development Goals.
- To help our researchers to be as successful as possible in competitive external research funding, whether national, European on private.
- To make our universities leaders in Open Science
- To make our universities standing out in the number and quality of world class research infrastructure – whether physical or virtual.
How good is good enough in admission?
The American Council of Graduate Schools has published a report on “Master’s Admissions, Transparency, Guidance and Training” as the result of a year’s process with regional focus groups, surveys among graduate schools and Master’s programmes, and a capstone colloquium last October.
Key objective of the exercise was to create a stronger and more widely shared evidence base about:
– What is success in Master’s programmes
– Which elements are used in selection for Master’s programmes, and
– How good are these in practice
The report shows that critical and analytical thinking (two of the VALUE Rubrics) are most generally seen as key and that recommendation letters (in spite of well-known problems) are still widely used to assess a wide range of cognitive and non-cognitive competencies.
The report recommends greater transparency in the admission process, better support for both academics and administrators to do their job in admissions as well as possible, build better tools to evaluate non-cognitive competencies, and increase research into promising or best practices in Master’s admission in the US.
The report offers good insight in the distinction between (all) what students have to be good at for admission and which tools can be used to find out if (individual) students are. It does not really address the issue of “how good students have to”. Using progressive performance descriptors with a boundary between ‘good enough’ and ‘not good enough’ performance would have been a powerful addition to the report.
Graduates with Disabilities – Shun the Netherlands
In the Open Access journal Social Inclusion, an article was published on “Mind the Gap Between Higher Education and the Labour Market for Students with a Disability in the Netherlands”. It starts from the observation that HE graduates with a disability have about half the chance of getting a job in the Netherlands compared to graduates without disabilities. Based on a series of interviews with students, HE institutions and other stakeholders, it gives a broad description of all the things that are wrong in society and prevent these graduates to have equal opportunities.
The article gives us the interesting information that no less than 30% of all students report self-perceived disability – against less than 15% for their age group peers outside higher education – but fails to note this as remarkable.
The article has an interesting link to underlying Eurostat data on the employability perspective of people with and without disability in Europe. The gap in employability for people with and without disabilities shows remarkable differences between “Aurora countries”: Iceland has a big gap, but still good opportunities for employees with disabilities. The Netherlands has a huge gap and could learn a lot from e.g. Sweden.
Parliament Wants European SAR Scheme
The European Parliament has adopted last November a Recommendation on Defense of Academic Freedom with a special focus on the EU’s external action.
It recommends the Council, the Commission and other EU institutions to highlight academic freedom in all aspects of the EU’s external policies and activities and to demonstrate active support for students and academics who are at risk through infringements of academic freedom. The Recommendation is not limited to the outside world, but also recommends that Academic Freedom be part of the Copenhagen criteria for future accession to the EU and specifically mentions the attack on academic freedom with CEU in Hungary. It calls for new initiatives to enhance Academic Freedom in existing programs like H2020 and Erasmus+.
In addition, it calls for new EU-funded program actions to support the placement of at risk academics, student researchers and full degree students with international protection status in European higher education and research institutions.
We Want Mazzucato
The European Commission has published an Analysis Report of the Responses to the “Mission-Oriented Research & Innovation in the European Union” by Mariana Mazzucato. The report shows broad support among the various stakeholders for the Mazzucato criteria and implementation aspects and slightly less for the citizen involvement (see also the Statement on Citizen Involvement in research agenda setting). The report visualizes the frequency of themes in the missions proposed, with Digitilisation (13%), Health & Wellbeing (10%) and Social & economic transformation (10%) gaining the two-digit scores. Missions more directly related to global warming and global climate change received much less priority from the stakeholders!
Credentials That Get You A Job
Northeastern University’s Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy has published the result of a survey among 750 HR leaders on the future of educational credentials and their value in the work place: Educational Credentials come of Age.
They found that the value of educational credentials in getting a job is increasing in the US labour market, and that employers seed a need for more and higher levels of education among their work force. They also found that skills-based hiring is on the rise – although still modestly: 23% of employers do it and another 39% are seriously considering it.
If developments in higher education and employment in the US foreshadow what may be happening in Europe as well, this report gives important information to educational policy strategists also at European universities that take preparation of their graduates for the labour seriously.
More Masters, More Online
The Urban Institute, a Washington-based think-tank on economic and social policy, has published an analysis on “The Rise of the Master’s Degrees” which outlines recent trends in master’s degree enrolment. It shows that the number of Master´s programmes has significantly grown, although the exact definition of what is a distinct Master´s programme is a bit unclear.
It also shows that the proportion of Black and Hispanic students has almost doubled. Master´s programmes are becoming more diverse – in terms of subject area as well as in focus and online Master’s programmes are on the rise: more than one in five are online and more than one in two have some distance components. The report also shows that increases in tuition have been sharper in Master’s than in undergraduate education in the US. The average net price for tuition and fees increased 79 percent for full time master’s students from 1996 to 2016 (compared with a 47 percent increase for full-time bachelor’s students).
What Students Do, Feel, And Like
The US National Center for Educational Statistics published a report this month on “Graduation rates for selected cohorts 2009-14” linking also to financial aid and admission data.
The data show that overall about 60% of students complete their Bachelor’s in 6 years or less; completion is less for students with a federal (Pell) loan, much less for students in Community Colleges, and higher for students in the more prestigious four-year private (not for profit) institutions.
These data might be seen in context with the fact that admission to prestigious institutions is based on tests that predict poorly for study access, but are mainly a reflection of previous advantage or disadvantage in background.
Grey, Black-White, Nijkamp?
In Science and Public Policy, an interesting study on “Organisational responses to alleged scientific misconduct: Sensemaking, sensegiving, and sensehiding” has been published. The authors have analysed four cases of “questionable research practices”: two each in Norway and the Netherlands, one clear-cut case and one less clear.
The purpose was to analyse and reflect on how the universities involved respond to such accidents. They have made an interesting framework that distinguishes between sense making (what happened and how should we understand this), sense giving (what can we learn from it and how can we do better in future) and sense hiding (let’s try to play it down and focus on controlling and minimising damage for the university.
The article way evoke particular interest at the Vrije Universiteit as one of the cases involved a highly prominent VU researcher Peter Nijkamp (named in the article). In that specific case, VU installed no less than 4 ad hoc committees, but could not prevent that the national committee for research integrity found fault with most of the conclusions of the VU committees – much more in favour of the prominent VU researcher. So a case in point of the study’s conclusion that universities tend to focus rather more on damage control than on future prevention and employer’s responsibility. An interesting article, although it should have been edited by someone a bit more proficient in English.
Candidates For ERC Scientific Council
An independent Identification Committee set up by the European Commission has begun the search for potential candidates for membership of the Scientific Council of the European Research Council (ERC). Nominations are accepted until 14 January 2019.
Members of the ERC Scientific Council are appointed by the Commission on the basis of recommendations of the Identification Committee. The Committee is now directly asking the main representative organisations of the European research community through consultation letters for nominations of suitable candidates. However, it also welcomes nominations from other organisations representing European research.
Research Capacity in Western Balkans
The University of Barcelona has published a report on harnessing the potential of research capacity in the Western Balkans. The methodology consisted of analysis of Scopus; a questionnaire among academics and leaders of universities and research units in the region; and a number of on-site interviews. As the report itself states, this makes it a collection of opinions. But in view of the response (1382 respondents from 70 HE institutions) and the convergence of opinions, it does allow some credibility for the findings.
These findings are that there is not enough research funding (around 0.5% of GDP against the 2.04% EU average), research governance, infrastructure and administration are weak, and academics see themselves foremost as teachers, with research as an unpaid side activity.
One crucial question left unaddressed in the study: what can and should be done about this at the level of the European Union; and what should/must be left to the national governments – whether they are up to the task or not?
How Many PhD’s?
The National Science Foundation in the US has published an analysis of Doctorate Recipients from US Universities in 2017, showing a slight dip to slightly below 55 000 PhD degrees conferred in 2017. The long term has been steeply upwards from less than 10 000 in 1958 to more than 55 000 in 2016. 2017 might be a temporary dip, like were seen before in 1969, 1998, and 2008.
The report looks at fields, interstate and international mobility, backgrounds of students and tries to identify trends. It is interesting to put this report against the earlier OECD overview of New doctoral graduates per thousand population aged 25-34 which gives the number of new PhD degrees per 1000 inhabitants. With a US population about 328 million this number would be close to 6 per 1000 in the US. Against this, the EU countries compare thinly with an EU average of less than 1,4 per 1000. Of the ´Aurora´ counties, Germany (~2,2), the Netherlands (~2,0), the UK (~1,9), Sweden (~1,6), and Belgium (~ 1,5) are above the EU average, France is below (~1,2). Norway and Iceland are not listed.
Unesco 2019 Education Report
UNESCO has published its 2019 Global Education Monitoring report with a special focus on migration and displacement in connection to education. Although the main focus is on involuntary migration and displacement (one in eight people on the planet has moved either within the country or internationally), the report has a special chapter on the mobility of students and professionals. One of the key messages is that recognition (for academic and professional purposes) is essential to maximize both individual and societal value of migrants.
Another key message is that internationalisation in higher education is getting more and more diverse, but employability remains a key driver of student mobility; this was shown i.a. when stricter visa regulations in the UK immediately were followed by massive reorientation of Indian students towards Australia.
5 Billion AI Investment in Europe
Following its earlier report on Artificial Intelligence: A European Perspective, the European Commission has now published its plans to increase investments in Artificial Intelligence under the research and innovation framework programme Horizon 2020 to EUR 1.5 billion in the period 2018-2020, constituting a 70% increase compared to 2014-2017. Under the next multi-annual financial framework, the Commission has proposed to dedicate at least EUR 1 billion per year from Horizon Europe and the Digital Europe Programme to AI.
The European Commission notes that countries like France, Finland, Sweden, the UK and Germany have targeted AI strategies in place. Other countries like Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Ireland and Norway include Artificial Intelligence related actions in a broader digitalization strategy.
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia and Spain are in the process of developing strategies.
In 2019, the Commission will bring together the stakeholders initially including the robotics and big data PPPs but later expanding to other involved parties, in order to develop a common strategic research and innovation agenda for AI.
Note: Values In University Education
Societally engaged research universities want their students to find out how they see their role – as university graduate in their field – in society. This also implies that they find out how the see society – as it is and as they would like it to be.
But is educational vision and mission this really value-free? Is it politically neutral? Does it allow students to develop the conviction that life is a rat-race, with survival of the fittest and with a view that ‘serving society’ is stupid and something for losers?
If my university – or my network of universities – chooses that such a rat-race philosophy does not fit with their vision on the university’s contribution to society, Should they tell students with this outlook to go find another university? Would it then be OK if some universities (including mine) choose “Value for Society” as their philosophy, whilst other universities adopt the “Choose for Number One” philosophy for how they educate their students?
Maybe these are a bit farfetched questions, because the choices are rarely that black and white. But still, it remain a nagging thought that value-driven education may pose some difficult questions.
Measuring Impact of Internationalisation
In the 4th issue of “Internationalisation of Higher Education”, Uwe Brandenburg has published an article on “Indicators for Measuring Internationalisation”. The article seems to be a follow up to an earlier article from 2015, by Uwe Brandenburg and Lisa Laeber.
The article is useful because of its sharp distinction between internationalisation (as a process to become as international as you want to be) and internationality (as a statement of how international you are at a point in time.
It is also useful because of the distinction between inputs, outputs and impacts. In reversed order: what you hope to achieve, what you need to produce to achieve it, and what you need to do to get there.
What is interesting is that the IMPI toolbox which he refers to as a way forward to a more output/impact-focused approach to international education & research, actually has a very strong focus on input and activity indicators and is much weaker in output-indicators, let alone impact indicators.
What Makes Students Move in Europe
Although already publishes some time ago, it still makes sense to review the JRC report Student mobility in tertiary education: institutional factors and regional attractiveness. The report analyses the mobility movements to European countries for both degree-seeking students and credit-seeking students.
It attests that degree mobility is much bigger in Europe than credit mobility: about 10% of students are international degree-seeking students while only 1,1% are credit-seeking. It notes that part of the explanation may be that there are much more non-European degree-seeking students than credit-seeking, but it seems to ignore the factor that degree-seeking students stay for much longer periods than credit-seekers.
The report also notes the institution is more important than the region, although credit students tend to favour urban institutions much less than degree-seekers.
One very remarkable omission: there appear to be no data on degree-seeking students in the Netherlands. With 122 000 international students in the Netherlands (2016-17), this seems a big omission. The University Maastricht with almost 9 000 international students should figure in the top 10 in Europe (on place 7) but is nowhere to be seen.
French Tuition Fees for non-EU
It sees its current position – 4th in hosting degree seeking students and 1st in the non-English parts of the world – increasingly challenged by other countries like Germany, Russia, China, Canada and others.
As new players adopt aggressive strategies with local offices, campaigns, scholarship programmes and lowering visa obstacles during and after studies, France feels it has to follow suit to improve its growth rate, which currently lags significantly behind the major players and upstarts. Its strategy aims to lower visa obstacles, increase the number of educational offerings for non-native speakers of French, aided by a communications campaign. Noteworthy: it will allow French universities to introduce tuition fees for non-EU students of € 2770 at Bachelor’s level and € 3770 at Master’s and Doctoral level – while simultaneously tripling the number of scholarships available for international degree-seeking students (particularly from Africa).
The Positive Impact of EMI
Does teaching and learning suffer if students and/or teachers are non-native speakers in a programme taught in English? This politically sensitive questions is the topic of research of Folkert de Jong In his PhD dissertation at Groningen University. His study on English as a Medium of Instruction in Higher Education in a cross-national context found a weak correlation between the starting level in English and the number of credits obtained in his group of 137 students.
More importantly, he found no impact of the fact the programme was taught – and studied – with English as a foreign language on the academic performance.
This follows an earlier study showing that working in a foreign language only weakens the mother tongue when students completely forgo using their modern tongue.
Climate Neutral in 2050
Last month, the European Commission adopted a strategic long-term vision in which is calls for a climate neutral Europe by 2050. The strategy document, A Clean Planet for All, highlights a European vision for a modern, competitive, prosperous and climate-neutral economy, indicates pathways for the transition to a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions economy, and provides a European enabling framework for the long term transition.
IT: What Students Do, Feel and Like
Educause, a US based NGO focused on Higher Education and Information Technology, has published its 2018 ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology. The report is the 15th of its kind, based on responses from 64 000 students from 130 HE institutions 114 in the US). The study gives insight in the experience, behaviour and preference of undergraduate students. The report gives special attention to students who in one way or another belong to a less represented or less advantaged group in Higher Education – it finds that such students feel more dependent on their smartphone, tablet or laptop than white male students do. It also shows that students with physical or learning disability tend to rate their university’s awareness of their needs as ‘poor’. Also remarkable: a majority of students prefers a form of ‘blended’ learning.
Aurora Congratulates 4 ERC Consolidators Grantees
Last month, the European Commission published the list of 291 mid-career researchers who won an ERC Consolidator grant, worth 573 million euro this year. Among the winners are Sara Bals and Wendy Löwen from the University of Antwerp, Florent Brenguier from the university Grenoble Alpes, Saket Saurabh from the University of Bergen.
Why is Math cheaper than English?
The National Bureau of Economic Research published a Working Paper “Why is Match cheaper than English? Understanding Cost Differences In Higher Education”. The study is based on data from the National Study of Instructional Cost and Productivity from the University of Delaware (the Delaware Cost Study), which has collected program-level data since 1998 from over 700 higher education institutions and some 22,000 programs in the US. The study shows that Engineering programmes are (109%) more expensive than English programmes, but Math programmes are 20% less expensive.
Part of the explanation is the difference in class size and faculty pay, though in some fields IT helps to offset higher salaries. Also, it shows that online instruction is associated with a modest reduction in cost per student, but only for undergraduate instruction.
With a list of the top 150 universities and another 100 ´challengers´ making up a total of 250 universities, it is unclear what the difference in actual employability is between graduates from e.g. No 100, No 200 and No 250 – or No 350 or 450 for that matter. This difference in actual employability may in fact be statistically insignificant, for all we know. With lists like these, change patterns may be more relevant and interesting than individual rankings. The analysis by Emerging shows that US and UK universities still figure prominently in the list, but are suffering significant decline. Similarly, but at a lower level, French universities suffer a declining reputation, while German universities fare better through the years. The analysis also shows that companies attach increasing importance to ‘soft skills’.
As the methodology paragraph is rather weak, we don´t know if the data are based on opinions of recruiters and HR managers only. It would help if these qualitative data could be compared with data on time to employment, starting and later earnings, and satisfaction with work over the years.
Note from the Editor: Between Dream and Deed
University leaders are often faced with a paradox concerning the societal relevance and impact of their university. The paradox is that in discussions at conferences, meetings with external stakeholders and reflective sessions of future strategy documents, they are – truly and fully – committed to the notion of higher education & research as a common good.
But on the other hand, in their day-to-day decisions, they are always tempted to be ruled by those principles and practices of a professional, efficient and effective organisation in a competitive environment. They succumb to the temptation more than they care to admit. And these practices are often indistinguishable from those in a for-profit provider of education as a private commodity. It reminds one of the famous lines of a Dutch poet:
“… between Dream and Deed
Laws are in our way – and practical objections”.
Still: White, Short, & to Europe
IIE has produced the 2018 version of its annual Open Doors report, with loads of data and infographs on both international students in the US and study abroad of American students. Zooming in on the second, the data show that although the proportion of minority students abroad is growing (from 18% in 2006/07 to 29% in 2016/17) the vast majority of students is still white.
More than half of them (54%) go to Europe, and Latin America (16%) and Asia (12%) following at a huge distance. Only 2% go for a full year while two out of three go for eight weeks or less (often in the Summer). Within Europe, the UK (12%), Italy (9%) and Spain (9%) are by far the most popular. China now hosts a similar number to France, Germany and Ireland. The intense efforts of IIE in Generation Study Abroad to increase the numbers seems to yield some result: they show a 2% increase of American students abroad since 2015/16.
Digital Gender Divide
The OECD has published a 151 page report on “Bridging the Digital Gender Divide: Include, Upskill, Innovate”. The report was made at the request of the Australian government and serves to support discussion on the equitable participation of women in the digital economy.
The report assesses the returns (by estimating individual level wage regressions) for cognitive as well as non-cognitive skills using data from PIAAC (Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies). It investigates whether these returns to skills differ between industries that are digital intensive, as compared to those were less digitally transformed. By focusing on differences, it aims to support policies to the gender wage gap and support disadvantaged groups to overcome challenges of the digital transformation.
Key messages: Women are less likely (26%) to have a smartphone, their internet gap is 11%, and the gender gap really starts around the age of 15. The digital gender is a problem for all, as more gender diversity in the digital workplace leads to wider technological breadth and more economical value.
Interestingly, the report uses a task-based approach to skills, which allows a more integrated approach analysis of how a mix of subject-related, general cognitive and personal skills help individuals to succeed in work – and life.
Female Chairs: It Works
Princeton PhD candidate Andrew Langan studies and reports on Female Managers and Gender Disparities: The Case of Academic Department Chairs. He studied the effect of female managers on workforce composition, the gender pay gap, productivity, and promotion in the context of academic departments. Using quantitative analysis of chair holders’ data from 418 department chairs from 1974 to the present, he found that having more female department chairs reduce gender gaps in publications as well in tenure for assistant professors and also shrink the gender pay gap.
After a woman replaces a man as chair, earnings rise for both men and women. While they flatten out for men after around two years at three or four percent above baseline, for women the rise is between five and six percent, closing the gender wage gap by about four log points in the latter years after a chair transition.
Separate & Unequal by Test
The Center on Education and the Workforce of Georgetown University in Washington DC had published a report on “Our Separate & Unequal Public Colleges”. The report shows that although Black and Latino students are gaining access to higher education more in proportion to their share of the population, Black and Latino students are still only half as likely to complete a college degree as white students. This difference in study success strongly correlates with the kind of HE institutions they go to. White students are far more likely to go to four year public colleges, while Black and Latino students tend more to go to open-access types of public institutions, where they will end up with an Associate Degree at the most.
The authors put their finger at the admission selection, which is primarily based on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). They show that a) Black and Latinos score lower on the SAT but b) higher or lower SAT has little or no predictive value on College study success. So the erroneous assumption that a high SAT score matters, keeps out Black and Latino students from the more selective colleges where they would – if admitted – do equally well as their peers.
Less Students, More Online
The Institute of Educational Sciences of the National Center for Educational Statistics in the US has published “Enrollment and Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2017” (preliminary data). It shows that about 85% of students in the US are undergraduate (more than in Europe?) and 55% are female.
Inside HigherEd compared the data with last year and shows an interesting trend with regard to online courses: whereas overall enrolment went down to slightly, enrolment in online course went up. The report also shows that – in spite of the for profit perception of US higher education – the vast majority of students enrol in public institutions: Of the ca 3 76 million first time students in 2017, over 3 million went to public institutions, half a million to non-profit and less than a quarter to for-profits.
Study Plumbs Sources of Students‘ Pain
Contributed by Elísabet Brynjarsdóttir, Aurora student president
With a growing focus on students‘ mental health on campus and how it can have a negative effect on their higher education, universities have been offering a growing variety of mental health services to provide support. A new study, Text Mining Mental Health Reports for Issues Impacting Today’s College Students: Qualitative Study was recently published in the journal JMIR Mental Health. The study finds that many students are not taking advantage of campus services regarding mental health problems. Researchers recommend universities to focus on helping students to develop coping skills before they experience a traumatizing event, instead of primarily focusing on the post-experience treatment as this could potentially influence how students seek support. The researchers studied 165 academic and news articles from 2010 to 2015 on college mental health. They found that common contributing factors to students‘ mental-health challenges were race, violence and sexual assault. The study also noted that most universities have been focusing more on „rapid-access“ services resulting in a void when students need follow-up care.
The researchers have offered a solution to this, involving a more proactive approach to mental health which could lead to a better higher education experience for students. They also suggested that universities rely on mobile apps to help distribute information and resources to students.
Auditors on H2020
The European Court of Auditors has published a ‘special report’ on the simplification measures in Horizon 2020. The report is named after its main conclusion: “The majority of simplification measures brought to Horizon 2020 have made life easier for beneficiaries, but opportunities to improve still exist”.
The report notes that the Common Support Structure (CSC) was a major contribution to simplification, as were the improvements to the Participant Portal and the introduction of electronic signatures. The Research Enquiry Service still may improve. Simplification of rules on staff costs didn’t really work well yet. Among the recommendations to the Commission are better testing of lump sums, more use of two-stage proposals, and improved audit quality.
Excellence is Neoliberal??
In “Higher Education” (2018, 76), researchers from the Radboud University in Nijmegen have published an article on the influence of the concepts of “internationalisation” and “excellence” on the recruitment and selection of young researchers. In their article Selecting early-career researchers: the influence of discourses of internationalisation and excellence on formal and applied selection criteria in academia, they find that a majority of selection committee members consent with university-level notions of that the university should attract “excellent” young researchers and that international experience is a factor in this search for excellence.
They don’t like these words “internationalisation” and “excellence”: ‘Excellence has also become a ‘holy grail’, a norm or standard that all higher-education institutions should supposedly strive for.’ Apparently they see – without giving much substance to this assertion – “internationalisation” and “excellence” as expressions of a neoliberal approach to higher education & research and to universities. As they see a neoliberal approach to universities as negative, they apparently also see “internationalisation” and even “excellence” as belonging-to-neoliberalism-and therefore-bad.
What did they do? They analysed documents at one university, in two faculties: natural sciences and social sciences.
What did they find: selection committees attach value to “excellence” and to “international experience” as an indicator of excellence.
What did they conclude: the ‘neoliberal’ preference for “international experience” and “excellence” impacts the way universities recruit and select young researchers. As they see “excellence” as apparently something else than ´talented´, they fear that talented researchers may not be recruited because of the search for excellence.
Note from the Editor: Reproducing Globalisation Dichotomy
A former Dutch minister of Education (Jos van Kemenade) said that Higher Education may be seen as the mechanism through the elite reproduces itself (NB reproduces itself – not clones itself, so there is gradual evolution).
In his time, we still had elite HE. Now with mass higher education and 50% of the age group participating, this definition may need reformulation. Globalisation has brought to many of our societies a (growing) divide between the perceived winners and losers of globalisation. Those who see themselves as losers – or at least not benefitting from – globalisation tend to have little faith in over political system and are wont to try out ‘outspoke outsiders’ in the ballot box – however alternative their facts. University communities don´t realise enough that those perceived losers have an equal lack of faith in their precious universities. So maybe a modern version of Van Kemenade´s provocative definition would be that HE is the mechanism through which the globalisation beneficiaries reproduce their section of society. Such reproduction without the variety of influx from and effective communication with all of society may lead – and arguably is leading – to dangerous inbreeding.
ERASMUS+ 2019 Guide
Last month, the European Commission published its long awaited Erasmus+ Programme Guide 2019. The waiting has been particularly keen for all those planning to get involved in “Macron”. The programme shows the final decision on the name “European Universities” (not European Universities Alliances) and they have been brought together with the “Knowledge Alliances” under one part of the programme.
Most salient (but already leaked) details: the link with research is as weak as many feared (but consortia are invited to make it stronger) and the penalty for lack of (geographical) balance has increased to max. 15% of the score. No less than 60% of the budget may be used on ‘staff costs’, so the fear that a significant part of the money would have to be spent on student grants has also proved to be unfounded.
Access in Irish Universities
By Helena Gillespie, University of East Anglia
In Alternative admissions schemes for young people with disabilities and from socioeconomic backgrounds, Dr Nic Fhlannchadha reviews the approach to contextual university admissions used in the Republic of Ireland. The scheme has two elements, the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) and the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR). The Republic of Ireland was recently commended by the European Union for its efforts in this area.
The report offers a description and analysis of the impact of the two schemes on admissions to higher education in the country. Data shows incremental numbers of students have been helped by the schemes since 2010 and the report now describes the initiative as mainstream. Students with a range of disabilities including specific learning difficulties, autistic spectrum disorders and students with mental health conditions have been supported by DARE. The measures of socioeconomic barriers to access to higher education are based on factors such as in income and eligibility for social security benefits.
While such schemes are undoubtedly beneficial, universities and policy makers need to remember that access to higher education does not deliver social mobility in itself. Universities need to continue to address their attention to ensuring students are successful in gaining a good degree and getting a good job, commensurate this their potential. In this area, in the U.K. and beyond, there is still much to be done.
Academic Freedom 2018: 294 Attacks in 47 Countries
Scholars at Risk has published its Free to Think 2018, the fourth annual report in Scholars at Risk’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project. The report shows and analyses 294 reported attacks on higher education communities in 47 countries, from September 1, 2017, to August 31, 2018.
The Academic Freedom monitoring project painstakingly documents each and every attack with date, place and nature of the attack. The report contains a list of attacks per country, but refrains from counting incidents per country. It does single out a few countries in its recommendations: China, Iran, Turkey, and also the US, where it warns about limits to freedom of speech on campus.
Migrants Unskilled? Not
Following the earlier “Catching Up” report on the closing of the educational gap between migrants’ children and the domestic-born school population (VU IN&R 117), the OECD has now published a report “Skills on the Move” examining the fact-base of the perception that non-Western migrants are lowly educated and want to stay unemployed – on state support.
The report shows that one-third of those foreign-born in OECD countries have higher education qualifications and less than 25% have only primary education or lower. Most immigrants have jobs – at comparable rates as domestic workers; but over-qualification is much more prevalent among immigrants. Interestingly, the Aurora countries show a relatively large gap in literacy and numeracy between domestics and immigrants (the UK less than the others). The same applies to the difference between domestics and immigrants in problem-solving proficiency, although that gap is smaller across the OECD countries.
The report looks at many other aspects in detail and is a rich source of comparative information on a highly relevant and contentious subject.
Students’ Mental Health
A report by the American Psychiatric Association shows that between 2007 and 2017, the rate of treatment and diagnosis for mental health problems among students almost doubled from 19% to 34%. The report suggests that the rise is in part because more students have these problems and in part to the fact that fewer are reluctant to come forward with such issues.
The study drew on ten years of data from the Healthy Minds Study, an annual Web-based survey, with a sample comprising 155,026 students from 196 campuses.
On cloud nine? PhD student satisfaction in decline
By Sandra Hasanefendic, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
The new Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES) shows increasingly dissatisfied PhD students, more so as they move through their degree.
The Postgraduate Research Experience Survey encompassed responses from 16,747 students from 66 universities (63 from the UK). The report shows that while 91 per cent of respondents in their first year felt that their degree was worthwhile, this declined to 80 per cent for fourth-year students, meaning that one in every five felt their degree was not worthwhile. PhDs in Mathematics were significantly more satisfied with their studies than their counterparts in Engineering.
Reasons for dissatisfaction were mainly related to the departmental research culture. Roughly 40 per cent of all respondents felt that their departments were not stimulating a vibrant research environment nor encouraging research or teaching activity, and most felt that there was no real engagement with their scientific community. More specifically, PhDs felt that their departments or faculties were not providing sufficient opportunities for involvement in the broader research community. Many also complained that their institutions did not offer adequate teaching opportunities: Only 46 per cent of survey respondents indicated that they have taught during their PhD programmes. The disappointment was also expressed over current training options especially career training, where only 27 per cent of PhDs claimed to have received training on career options, and less than 50 per cent training related to transferable skills. Only 10 per cent claimed to have taken part in an internship program.
At the same time, the survey showed high satisfaction with supervision and general acquisition of research skills.
The report has a predominant focus on the UK. It would be beneficial to conduct this survey in other parts of Europe where doctoral education provision is changing. Such a European study should also look at the correlation between social factors (loneliness, social exclusion, depression), and (lack of) departmental, faculty or university efforts to make the research environment more pleasant, positive, career skills oriented and overall scientifically
T&L Trends in European HE
Last month, the European Universities Association (EUA) published its 2018 Trends report on Teaching and Learning in the European HE Area. The publication looks at institutional and national strategies for teaching & learning in HE, at study programmes and teaching methodologies, and precisely at teaching staff. To note some of the salient points:
- international cooperation seems to be a driving force for innovation of teaching & learning (more than national strategies);
- ‘learning outcomes’ are becoming more pervasive as cornerstones of curriculum design and implementation – but how SMART these are is less clear;
- the innovation of teaching & learning requires that enthusiasm of individual academics is met by leadership support and endorsement;
- the notion that teaching skills don’t come automatically with research competence is gaining ground, but not yet everywhere: only half the institutions have a system for teaching quality in place and only a third require academics to take courses in teaching in higher education.
GRE Gets Low Grade
In a study in the Open Access platform PLOSone, Sandra Petersen from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and colleagues report on their analysis of the predictive value of the GRE in STEM doctoral programmes at four major state flagship universities. GRE gets a poor grade – in predicting drop out/retention as well as in time to degree.
They found that GRE Verbal (GRE V) and GRE Quantitative (GRE Q) scores were similar for women who completed STEM PhD degrees and those who left programs. Remarkably, GRE scores were significantly higher for men who went than counterparts who completed STEM PhD degrees. Men in the lower quartiles of GRE V or Q scores finished degrees more often than those in the highest quartile.
Also, the message that the GRE has less predictive value that some may think is convincing and important; two observations are in order:
- ETS never stops underlining that the GRE should be used as one on several indicators in any admission process, and
- the analysis – when looked at in detail – allows conclusions about (lacking) predictive value of the GRE in the relatively narrow bandwidth of those students who were admitted in the first place. It sheds no light on the (possibly much higher) predictive value of the GRE between above and below 500 as a score.
The Order of Citations
Jeffrey Stevens e.a. from Nebraska in his article in the Psychonomic Bulletin & Review shows that “Order Matters: Alphabetizing in-text citations biases citation rates”: Whether the citations in a scholarly publication ordered by name of the first order, or by year of publication, or otherwise, has an impact on how much attention these citations get.
They found that surnames earlier in the alphabet were cited more often than those later in the alphabet when journals ordered citations alphabetically compared. They suggest that journals using alphabetically ordered citations switch to chronological ordering to minimize this arbitrary alphabetical citation bias.
EUA University Efficiency Hub
The EUA has integrated previous and new information systems into one ‘University Efficiency Hub’. This allows university practitioners and policymakers across Europe to share knowledge and hands-on experience on efficiency, effectiveness and value for money in the field of higher education.
The Efficiency Framework page provides an interactive overview of national and regional policy measures and framework conditions for supporting the efficiency and effectiveness of universities. The Good Practices pages offers the option to add good practices and the Evaluate yourself page offers an on line test for universities to test how well they support efficiency internally. It incorporates the EUA Funding Observatory and University Autonomy scorecard.
How America Pays for College
Sallie Mae has published a report and infographic on how American families fund the college education of their children. It shows that across the board, US families spent an average of $ 26 458 on college. Almost half of that came from the families themselves; the rest came from a combination of scholarships & grants and borrowing.
Remarkably, the report does not contain a definition or description of what is meant by ´the college cost´. We may assume that it is a combination of tuition fees and cost of living as a student – but it is not clear. Holding to that assumption, we may note that in the Netherlands a full year of studies – for non-EU students who pay full cost tuition – may easily reach up to € 25 000, or more than $ 28 500. Given the general impression of the cost of higher education in the US, this is counterintuitive. The most probable explanation is that Community College in the US is much less expensive and does cater to a large proportion of the College population.
Sallie Mae is the privatised for-profit bank that initially started as the public SLMA: Student Loan Marketing Association.
Chinese Generals and Foreign Universities
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has published an online analysis of how the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is expanding its research collaboration with universities outside of China. Since 2007, the PLA has sponsored more than 2,500 military scientists and engineers to study abroad and has developed relationships with researchers and institutions across the globe.
This collaboration is highest in the (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the US and UK (the “Five Eyes” countries) and Germany and Singapore. The report warns that relevant Chinese scientist not always declare their affiliation with the PLA when travelling to overseas partners and both the universities and the national governments concerned should be aware of the security considerations.
Note from the Editor: Europe’s Universities Divide
At a lobbying meeting in Brussels, we noted that the European Parliament is showing signs of a “Europe First” tendency is handling the proposal for the new Framework Programme Horizon Europe. It also shows a tendency to want to address the continuing divide between geographical areas in Europe with stronger and less strong research infrastructure.
It may not come as a surprise, but still as a disappointment that the associations of research universities in Europe unite in their outcry against ‘abusing’ research funding to create a more balanced research landscape.
Compare these two positions – both stated in the meeting:
- “Look at the time when the Framework Programme required geographical spread. Remember that research proposals had to contain at least one token university from the South or East and remember how this was usually only a token participation and a nuisance for the strong research universities in the consortium”.
- “Look at the (fortunately slowly increasing) number of stronger research institutions and groups in the South and East that are now full partners or even coordinators of excellent research projects. Look back at their history and you will see that many started as (token) partners in research projects in these earlier Framework Programmes.”
Both statements may be factually correct. But they reflect a different normative position. A different view of the responsibility of already strong research universities for balanced research scenery in Europe. Engaged research universities should not content themselves with saying: “Yes, we want a balanced research scene – but it is not our responsibility”.
They should say: “Yes, we want a balanced research scene – and it is (also, not exclusively) the responsibility of engaged research universities like us to do something about it.
Female Articles Read by Students, not by Professors
In The Journal of Altmetrics, Mike Thelwall of the University of Wolverhampton shows in “Does Female-authored Research have More Educational Impact than Male-authored Research?” that in a selection of 100 Scopus subject categories, students are more likely to read articles by female authors – who are more often also engaged in teaching besides research.
By contrast, these female-authored articles are less popular among professors and other senior academics. Thelwall used Mendeley to analyse student and faculty readers from Spain, Turkey, the UK, the USA and India. Indian students did not prefer the female-authored articles; Indian and Turkish academics had no clear preference for the male-authored articles.
Back to College
“California Competes” has published a report Back to College on the need to improve the education of the four million adults in California (about 20% of that population) who did get some college credits, but no a college degree. Helping more of these to get a degree, could boost their individual prosperity, sustain the state’s innovation economy by meeting workforce demands, and form civically engaged, cohesive communities – the report argues.
The report is the first of a series on adults and higher education in California. The report looks at financial, personal and institutional obstacles for these adults to return to College to complete their degree.
This report primarily used data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) five-year estimates for 2016. The authors explain their choice of five-year estimates because these give more reliability by using a larger sample averaged over five years of data collection. They argues that this is especially important when disaggregating data by multiple categories, such as educational attainment, race/ethnicity, and gender.
In “Developing Next Generation of Innovators: Teaching Entrepreneurial Mindset Elements across Disciplines”, published in ScieDu press’ International Journal of Higher Education, educational researchers from two American universities explore the explicit or implicit engagement of faculty members across the curriculum in teaching the entrepreneurial mindset. Quoting from their abstract:
“We begin by defining entrepreneurship on a spectrum, recognizing the contextual nature and psychological development associated with entrepreneurial thinking. We developed a self-report survey containing a combination of quantitative and qualitative items to determine faculty member knowledge of entrepreneurship and their engagement in teaching elements of the entrepreneurial mindset. We surveyed the faculty at a primarily teaching university in the western United States. Sixty-four faculty members (~20%) with representation from across the disciplines completed our survey. We found constrained knowledge of entrepreneurship, indications of teaching elements of the entrepreneurial mindset, and approaches to assignments that were limited in scope for fostering entrepreneurial thinking. The implications of our research are a need for professional development to enhance faculty members’ knowledge of entrepreneurial thinking and support for instructional and content choices that could enhance student development of an entrepreneurial mindset.”
Their study doesn’t add – or aim to add – to the quantitative evidence base on entrepreneurship as part of the curriculum in Higher Education, but report on their action research. For universities wishes to strengthen the entrepreneurial character of their own curriculum this will provide possible new and exciting perspectives.
Who Makes the Grade?
Researchers from Duke University undertook a meta-analysis or 36 research studies to analyse how grading done by students themselves relates to grading by the teacher. This is relevant because both through online education and large classes we see an increase of dependence on student grading. In their article “Who Makes the Grade? Research Comparing Self, Peer and Instructor Grades in College” they report that students tend to grade themselves 0.41 standard deviation higher than their teachers would – and this effect gets stronger after the first Bachelor’s year. They found – besides that fact that students grade their peers less optimistically than they grade themselves – that training in grading, lowering the stakes on the grade, and having more frequent tests helps to decrease the grade inflation when students are in charge. Useful reading in contexts where student grading can’t be avoided.
Doctoral Education for the Knowledge Society
At first glance, a common reader might not appreciate “Doctoral Education for the Knowledge Society – Convergence or Divergence in National Approaches?” by Jung Cheol Shin, Barbara M. Kehm and Glen A. Jones (Editors). (S)he might find this book about doctoral education systems across continental European, Anglo American and East Asia territories, a mere collection of chapters exploring similarities and differences between systems and concluding on a common trend towards convergence. However, upon a closer look lies the gem. Namely, the book illustrates what causes convergence and how each doctoral system dealt with it in its own unique way.
Prominent higher education researchers such as Lars Geschwind, Pedro Teixeira, Glen. A. Jones, Futao Huang, Jung Cheol Shin and many others, explore how external pressures and labor market turbulences (Germany, Canada, Switzerland), performance based accountability regimes (UK) , governmental policies to follow international trends and rankings (Sweden, China, Taiwan, South Korea), national policies for impact (China), institutional changes (US), and the need for broader PhD competences that go beyond academic skills (Switzerland, Australia, Taiwan) all contributed to structuring and standardisation of doctoral education. Despite the obvious similarity in structuring doctoral education, the chapters show an array of varied causes for this structuring. They also testify of the differences in means and measures to achieve more structure. Bottom line, we are witnessing increasing changes in doctoral education, or better yet, emerging forms of doctoral education training as hybrid forms of national, international and global interference. I wonder where these emerging and hybrid form of doctoral education are heading and how and whether they undermine or reinforce traditional doctoral education elements.
3.5 EU Monitor 2018
Among the things it shows:
- With currently of the age group in Higher education 39.9% the EU is very close to its target of 40%, although males and immigrants lag behind somewhat
- Do immigrant children feel at home at school? In the Netherlands ( >70%), Germany (>60%) and the UK (just under 60%) this is above the EU average of 58%. Sweden and Belgium hover around 50%, but in France less than 30% of immigrant children feel they belong at school.
- The employability bonus of HE is highest – looking at Aurora countries – in Germany, the Netherlands, followed closely together by Sweden and the UK and then by Belgium. France again scores significantly lower and below EU average.
- Conversely, Germany scores below average for ‘work experience during HE’, which may well be because their strong and high level practical training (Berufsausbildung) is not counted under higher education.
- Which students have most opportunity for an international experience? Among Aurora countries, the Netherlands stands out with 23,2% of the cohort, followed at a distance by Germany (17,8%), France (16,1%) and Sweden (14,4%). There are no mobility data for Belgium, but these are bound to exceed the deep low for the UK: a bare 4,1% of the cohort attains an international experience. Will that improve with Brexit?
Prepare for Test? Yes, you can
Scholars from Georgia State and Clemson University in the USA have constructed and tested a functional model of factors that help prepare for the SAT: The Scholastic Aptitude Test operated by the College Board. In their article “Preparing for High-Stakes Admissions Tests: A Moderation Mediation Analysis” in International Research in Higher Education their analysis concerning almost 2000 US high school students shows that early start of test preparation, a balance between group and individual tutoring and using official SAT test material helped to achieve better scores. But also the socioeconomic status and the discipline in doing homework (surprise surprise) correlates with better scores.
The article offers further building blocks in the continuing discussion whether ‘aptitude’ tests (designed to test innate ability) should and could be designed to defy impact of preparation.
EU New Funding Portal
The European Commission has open a new Portal for all Funding & tender opportunities. The new portal is the single entry point (the Single Electronic Data Interchange Area) for participants and experts in funding programmes and procurements managed by the European Commission and other EU bodies. It explains the difference between Calls for Proposals and Calls for Tenders and shows how to create an account within the system. According to the Austrian ERA Portal, the current Participant Portal will disappear by the end of this year 2018.
Parental Income & Capital ~student debt
The National Bureau of Economic Research in the US has published a sophisticated study “The role of parental wealth and income in financing children’s college attendance and its consequences”, calculating the correlation and causation between parental income and parental wealth on the one hand and college attendance and college debt on the other. There is a body of research showing a link between parental housing wealth and college attendance, but the authors claim to be the first to look at college attendance and success, college quality and post college debt for the students and the parents in one integrated study.
The found that parental income correlates more strongly with college attendance, but that parental wealth correlates more strongly with college success.
They also found that that parental support for college students leads to limited decrease of student indebtedness, but to substantially higher (mortgage) debts with the parents.
In this manner, the study adds to the evidence-base of what is generally assumed: steep rises in the cost of higher education in the US come at a price!
Selection? Rank? Engagement!!
Challenge Success, a non-profit affiliate of Stanford’s Graduate School of Education promoting student well-being and engagement with learning, has published a report “A ‘Fit’ over Rankings” in which they show why college engagement matters more than selectivity.
The paper is a review and analysis of research literature on three related topics:
- How are rankings made and how well do they correlate with institutional quality?
- How well does college selectivity predict study success and success in life and work?
- How well – by contrast – does student engagement predict success during and study?
The critique of the Rankings is not new: too much emphasis on single and dubious factors (US N&R builds for over 25% on graduation rates), trust in unreliable ‘reputation’ factors (another 22,5%), lack of transparency in the methodology and suspicion of fabricated changes to attract media coverage, reliance on input and process indicators and total lack of educational outcome and impact factors.
Neither is the demonstration that ‘selective institutions’ do not provide their alumni with more learning, better jobs or income, more well-being or more fond memories of their student days than less or non-selective institutions. Already in 2014, a Gallup-Purdue-Lumina survey showed that ‘this one inspiring professor’ and ‘that wonderful extracurricular activity’ make a more lasting impact than the selectivity or rank of the HE institution.
What is new – at least for me – is the research presented showing that the students’ engagement with their study programme does have a strong predictive value for how much they will profit from their study in the rest of their lives. And this is influenced by the efforts the HE institution makes to achieve that student engagement.
In addition, bringing together literature review on Ranking and Selectivity with that on Student Engagement, makes this publication valuable for academics, leaders and administrators that take education to heart.
Note from the Editor: Asterix and US Graduate Enrolment
It was the year 2018. All of US Graduate Education was suffering a severe decline in international enrolment. Increasing international competition, improving higher education in Asia and a fierce anti-foreigner climate had made itself felt throughout the country. All Graduate schools were suffering.
All? No, there was one graduate school – of Engineering and Applied Sciences that was bravely holding out against the trend and were actually reversing it.
How? By using their magic potion! The magic potion of which the ingredients are secret, but we know it contains:
- A distinction between what you are looking at (transcripts, test scores) and what you are looking for (how good they are in the subject, in English and in general academic competence) with applicants
- An expression of what student students need to know, understand and be able to do for successful entry in the graduate class: the Learning Incomes of the programme.
- A formulation of a ‘desired student profile’ which helped to attract fitting students and distract unfitting ones.
Using this magic potion with the successive Master’s programmes, they managed to increase graduate enrolment by no less than 25%. Only Assistant Dean of Graduate Education Chris Coonor did get portions of the magic potion: he had fallen in the caldron when it was made already six years earlier at a conference of NAGAP: National Association of Graduate Admission Professionals.
Where is this graduate school with its magic potion? It is the School of Engineering and Applied Science of the University at Buffalo, part of the State University of New York system.
Note from the Editor: Privacy * Lawyers = Nightmare
In the Netherlands – and presumably in all EU Member States – the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is being converted into national legislation. It is a very good thing that the privacy invasion by Molochs like Facebook and Google and their cronies are countered by the government (the closing down of Cambridge Analytics is a mere hick-up, I’m afraid). And it is a good thing this is done at the European level. But – there really is a big but.
What we see now is regulation which is creating huge difficulties for education institutions and probably a lot of other public and semi-public institutions to do their jobs – while we may doubt if it keeps the Molochs at bay for more than a brief instance.
At my university, simply logging in to my account will become complicated – to protect my privacy against myself, thank you very much.
At my university – and probably many others – you can’t use student data to help improve their study success, because you didn’t explicitly state exactly which use you were going to make of it when you asked for the data.
At my wife’s primary school, if you will be teaching a child next year, you can’t have access to their data now, nor if you’re a remedial teacher or in any other indirect role working with/for that child.
It is very easy to blame “Europe” or more generally the legislator. Without claiming to be an expert on this particular GDPR, I’m pretty sure that it is easy, but wrong to do so. Usually, the legislators are pretty generic in the requirements. It is the LOCAL LAWYERS AND ADMINISTRATORS to worship the “better safe than sorry” principle – as well as the “keep my workload low” principle. They tend to say: “We collect these data for this one specific purpose and will not allow access for other uses”.
If we could only convince them to be more generic!
Don’t tell the students: “We collect information on your scores only to calculate your grades and not for anything else”.
Why not tell the students:
“The purpose of the information we collect from you is to provide the best possible education to you and all students. So we will use – and ask your consent – in our effort to provide you and other students the best education and to continuously look for ways to improve that education. We will not share your information in a way that can be traced to you with any organisation or person outside the university; we will not share any information – even untraceable to you – with any organisation or person, except to public or non-profit organisations for clearly defined purposes in line with our goal of optimising education.”
This would probably need a more legal wording, but I hope the message is clear.
Use of privacy-sensitive information in education is much too important to leave it to lawyers or administrators. Privacy * Lawyers = Nightmare
Honestly, We Don’t Know
The Boston College Center for International Higher Education published a report Higher Education Management Training schemes in the Field of Development Cooperation.
While it provides a useful overview and description of the various programmes – funded by multiple donors – which aim to assist managers, administrators and leaders of universities in developing countries to improve the way they do their jobs, the report has to acknowledge limited results on their crucial 3rd research question: one question on the impact and effectiveness of these programmes.
Most programmes don’t cater for post-intervention assessment of change. Where Nuffic is one of the few managers of such programmes that does some post programme assessment, also Nuffic – I happen to know – has no mechanism to compare “before intervention” with “after intervention” data; let alone “with intervention” and “without intervention”. Part of the mixed and reduced societal credit of capacity development programmes is due to this extreme weakness in demonstrating the effectiveness and the report would have been stronger if it had pointed that out more clearly – contractors allowing, of course.
Under-enrolled, More Drop-Out, Fewer Role-Models
The Race and Equity Center of the University of Southern California has published an analysis of how public HE institutions in the US are doing in equity for Black undergraduate students.
In the report Black Students at Public Colleges and Universities they looked at overall representational equity, gender equity, completion equity and Black-student-to-Black-staff ration. They found Blacks constitute 14,6% of the age group, but only 9,8% of undergraduates and that completion rates for Blacks are considerably lower than for all undergraduates: 39,4% ßà 50,6%. For every Black faculty member, there are 42 students and 40 HE institutions in the report have no full-time Black instructors at all. Gender equity among black students is relatively balanced.
The report scores institutions and states according to the standard academic scoring in the US, from A to F with a numerical translation from 4 to 0. The country average is 2,02, or a weak C. Unfortunately, there are no historical data in the report: we can’t see which states are closing the gap and where it is even widening.
Tenure Words & Metrics
3.2 Altmetrics, Assessment, Research
Juan Pablo Alperin from Simon Fraser University in Canada has led research on How significant are the public dimensions of faculty work in review, promotion, and tenure documents?.
Analysing review, tenure and promotion documents from a representative sample of 129 Canadian and American universities, they did find terms and concepts related to public and community are mentioned in a large portion of documents, but mostly in ways that relate to service—an undervalued aspect of academic careers. They did, however, find significant mentions of traditional research outputs and citation-based metrics which reward faculty work targeted to academics and mostly disregard the public dimensions. They conclude that institutions that want to live up to their public mission need to work towards systemic change in how faculty work is assessed and incentivized.
Research Integrity Code
The Dutch national associations of Higher Education and Research institutions have joined forces to publish (in Dutch but also English) a “Code of Conduct for Research Integrity”.
Like elsewhere, also the Netherlands research community has had its incidents with shady or downright faulty research integrity and the ever-increasing pressure to ‘publish-or-perish’ is also felt here.
The Code articulates Principles, Standards for good research practice, Institutions’ duty of care, as well as measures and sanctions in cases of non-compliance. The Code is binding by virtue of self-regulation and has been adopted by all the platform organisations of institutions for higher education and research – and these institutions themselves. Private organisations involved in research are invited to join.
Widening Research Access
Last May, the European Commission published the report “Spreading Excellence & Widening Participation in Horizon 2020”. The report shows that although participation in H2020 from countries in e.g. the Baltic and Eastern and South-eastern Europe has somewhat improved, it is still significantly lower than from traditionally successful countries in H2020. Some of these EU-13 countries, like Cyprus, Estonia and Slovenia actually now do better than the overall average of the so-called EU-15 countries. But this means that other weaker countries are actually lagging behind even further.
The Dutch Merchant
The OECD has published the report of its assessment on “Supporting Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Higher Education in the Netherlands”. The 162 pages report was the result of the HEInnovate review of the Netherlands, conducted by the OECD together with the European Commission.
Overall, the report is fairly positive about the Netherlands and what they call “valorisation”. Many HE institutions are offering a rich variety of entrepreneurship education activities. Valorisation takes many forms and efforts are made to have a common set of indicators on how it creates societal and economic impact (and how much). Of course, recommendations for further improvements are being offered.
It was based on selected case studies, a background report and kick-off workshop, a number of site visits and a leadership survey – ending with a draft report and final workshop. For a qualitative approach a fairly robust approach, particularly because it is used for all HEInnovate country studies and provides a basis for comparative analysis.
Binding Study Advice: No Impact
Researchers from the Amsterdam Center for Learning Analytics (ACLA) have published a study on “The Consequences of Academic Dismissal on Academic Success”. ACLA had a non-profit set-up and was founded by researchers from the Vrije Universiteit.
The study has analysed the impact of the “Binding Study Advice” that allows Dutch universities to dismiss students who fail to acquire the set minimum proportion of first year’s study points (often 45 out of 60 for a full year). Contrary to earlier studies, the researchers looked where the dismissed students went – to similar programmes elsewhere or other applications within their university.
It concludes that there are no significant differences in study success between students who just made the minimum threshold (escaping the dismissal) and those who just failed – and had to leave. The latter choose the same programme elsewhere (43,4%) or a similar programme in the same university 41,9%). After that switch, they show similar retention rates and time to degree as those who escaped dismissal. Consequently, they conclude that the “Binding Study Advice” adds no effectiveness to the Dutch HE system, except maybe by inducing the dismissed students to extra an effort.
Ranking the Reputation Gap
The 2019 version of the Times Higher Ranking is out. Some things change, and some things stay the same. What remains the same is the massive impact of “reputation” on the rankings and the unclarity of the methodology used. What also stays the same is very funny outliers like the Babol Noshirvani University of Technology being the absolute world leader in field weighted citations. Based on which tricks is a question that no doubt is researched now by many across the world.
Some changes in individual placings – let us underline that these are usually statistically irrelevant but scrutinised in board rooms.
Across the Board, Aurora universities don’t do badly in terms of their field weighted citations scores. Most see a slight improvement in their absolute scores, but also in how they compare to other domestic research universities: moving up a bit (or more than a bit: East Anglia and Aberdeen) or being stable. The University of Iceland might want to have a look at their slight dip in citation scores which seems to be more than such a one year’s incident.
Let’s compare the reputation based overall Times Higher Ranking with the “rank in a country” based on citation metrics only:
UDE: 23 <-> 5 UGA: 10 ßà 7 UAberdeen: 22 <-> 14 UAntwerp: 4 <->5 UiB: 2 <-> 1 UEA: 29 ßà 9 UGothenburg: 7 <-> 2 UI: 1 <-> 1
VUA: 10 <-> 6
All Aurora universities have a national reputation gap, except Iceland and Antwerp!
Note from the Editor: Values to celebrate or to aspire
At this year’s EAIE conference, a lot of attention was given to the EAIE values that have been articulated over de past years and are now celebrated – at the conference and in other places. The EAIE values: Collaborative, Inspiring, Inclusive, Excellent – are indeed beautiful and vital measures. But they made me think a bit about how values as these to work in daily life:
- Are your organisational values the things that as an organisation you’ll always explain that you are already doing: “look how collaborative, inspiring, inclusive, excellent we are”?
- Are they the mirrors to keep you well aware that there is always room for improvement: “We say (and believe) we are collaborative, inspiring, inclusive, excellent, but let’s keep checking if we are always living up to our expectations”.
- Or are your organisational values your aspirations, your beacons in the distance: “We know we’re not nearly as collaborative, inspiring, inclusive or excellent as we want to be. That is why we call these are values because they set our goals of what we want to become.”
I am a devoted EAIE member – and have been since its foundation in 1989. I hope, and I want to believe that our EAIE values are a combination of option 2 and 3, rather than an expression of choice 1.
Do International Students like Confucius?
Two researchers from Shandong University in Jinan, China, have looked at how international students in China experience the Confucius-based Chinese educational culture and how that correlates with i.a. their own cultural background. Their article on “Traditional Chinese Views on Education as Perceived by International Students in China: International Student Attitudes and Understandings” in the Journal of Studies in International Education reports on the findings based on a survey among 458 students from 80 countries, 10 of whom were also interviewed.
Confucianism has a strong focus on secular ethics, morality, and the cultivation of a civilized individual who in turn contributes to the establishment of a civilized society. Chinese Confucius based educational culture strongly emphasizes learning through transmission and memorization, with high respect for and deference to the teacher. The study found that most students look favourably at the underlying general concepts and philosophical notions of Confucianism, but less so at the rigorous hierarchical position and role of the teacher.
The study is critical not only because of its findings on the specific case of international students in China, but also and more because it seriously studies cultural and philosophical diversity in an internationalised educational setting without taking the Western approach to higher education as a given.
Why Study in Norway?
In JSIE (online first) Jannecke Wiers-Jenssen report on her analysis of Why an Increasing Number of International Students Choose Norway. The research design baffles me.
The first research question is on the impact of international trends, national policies and institutional strategies on actual incoming mobility. The research design for this question is to analyse documents on these trends, policies and strategies. Period! Explaining the correlation between A and B by looking only at A? It would have made more sense to position the document analysis as part of the contextual positioning of the Survey as the real core of the research project.
The second question: students reasons to choose Norway, has a more sound approach: a survey among all (> 8000) foreign students in Norway, of whom 3216 responded. The main findings seem to make sense: although the cost of living is high, students get free higher education in a safe country, which will increase their career opportunities. The question remains what this kind of research adds to what international student marketers and recruiters know very well already.
What Do You Mean – Global?
In JSIE (online first), three scholars from Plymouth University report on their study on Global Citizenship and Cross-Cultural Competency: Student and Expert Understandings of Internationalization Terminology. Everybody stresses that global citizenship and cross-cultural competency are key learning outcomes of higher education today. But what do we mean – and what do students understand these concepts to mean. This is what they set out to find out, by comparing the results of a broad survey among almost 500 first year Plymouth students with the results of expert interviews. They found that students tend to have mixed understandings of these concepts and that these also differ from what the experts say. Not surprising and no disaster for beginning students to have imperfect knowledge of the things they need to know, understand and be able to do at the end of their learning process. But nonetheless, a vital piece of information to get them there and in that sense a very useful and evidence/based part of the research. As the authors acknowledge, the sample of one university is too small to generalise so repeat studies in other places – with the same method – would be welcome.
Could the JSIE editorial board find a way to promote repeat studies that help overcome sample size problems?
As an afterthought: it would have been nice if the authors had known (or shown knowledge of) the Heighten suite developed by ETS, which consists of validated tests of “Civic Competency & Engagement” and “Intercultural Competency and Diversity” together with three core competencies. Comparing student perceptions with the concepts and definitions underlying these standardised and validated tests would add to the comparability of the data.
German Science Council: Internationalise
In July, the German Science Council (Wissenschaftsrat) published its Recommendations on the Internationalisation of Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences (in German, but with an Executive Summary in English). Basically, it recommends “more”: more international visibility of the German HE&R system, more Europe, more mobility of students & staff, more internationalisation at home – to highlight just a few. Also: more awareness of the political and legal intricacies of international cooperation in the new and evolving geopolitical scene, with development of advisory and training capacity for this at the central German level.
Appreciating words also for the European Universities Network initiative (“Macron”), but as one of several potentially good developments.
How International is Irish HE?
In The Internationalisation of Irish Higher Education, Marie Clark, Linda Hui Yang and David Harmon explored the extent to which Irish tertiary education institutions have become internationalised and the range of strategies and approaches developed to attract and retain international students. The study, a study commissioned by the Irish Higher Education Authority, combines survey data with the views of directors of international offices, faculty and students, and looks at a range of different perspectives, such as curriculum, teaching and learning, and provision of support for international students.
It seems a bit bent on giving good news where – in addition to the undeniable success in international recruitment – it speaks of “success in outward mobility” when in fact it can show no more than the European average. Any assessment of this kind should compare actual achievements against a) the prior situation, b) the goals and ambitions that were set, and c) achievements elsewhere. Showing achievements and progress without these comparisons make nice reading but give little insight.
EAIE Barometer: It Might Freeze or Thaw
At the 30th EAIE conference, 12-14 September in Geneva, the second edition of the EAIE Barometer was presented. The Barometer provides an overview and analysis of the opinions among International Education professionals about what we try to achieve in internationalisation and how this is impacted by our internal and external environment. We can’t blame the researchers for the skewness of their data – it is with the uneven balance of responses they get from different parts of Europe and they don’t hide it.
What is missing, is an attempt to track what we are achieving. Mobility, preparing for a global world and quality of education are still the most prominent goals.
But what do we mean by that and how do we know how successful we are? What definitions of “intercultural competence” or “employability” or “quality of education”? What measurements of these key targets?
Those aren’t easy questions, but I would like the EAIE Barometer to make at least an attempt to survey how international educators are trying to come to grips with it.
Why Study in China?
Scholars from Tsinghua University in Beijing and UCLA have delved into the motivations for international students choosing China as their destination. They report in JSIE in their article “The Emergence of a Regional Education Hub: Rationales of International Students’ Choice of China as the Study Destination”. In their theoretical framework, they put the reversed mobility trend to China and other new hubs in the context of the Dependency theory – and of the cracks it is showing. It is a pity that they fail to acknowledge the much broader origin of this Dependency theory than just in the field of (international) education and ignore the work of Prebisch and Singer as the founders of the Dependency theory.
They do create an interesting framework in which pull-push factors at macro-level are combined with more individual micro-level motivations to choose a study abroad destination. From their analysis of a survey among 1674 international students in Beijing – one of the telling results is not mentioned in their conclusions: they indicate that perceived quality and modest cost of education, but they leave out that this does not apply to the almost 30 % of students from Europe and North America.
So: interesting and relevant, but with some flaws. The main conclusion stands: China is growing in importance and an international education hub, in particular for the non-Western world.
China’s Clout in Academia
Two reports have appeared on the influence of China’s political structures on the work of academics: One, A Preliminary Study of PRC Political Influence and Interference Activities in American Higher Education and the other Repressive Experiences among Chinese Scholars:
New Evidence from Survey Data. The study on influence in the US is published by the Woodrow Wilson Center for International scholars; the study on China scholars both from China and from elsewhere by Princeton.
The Wilson study – based on 100 interviews in the US – concludes that the concerns about Chinese influence are sometimes overblown, but still warranted and based on actual interference by Chinese diplomats. The Princeton study shows that although ‘only’ 9% of scholars were questioned or detained for a short time, 26% met with denied access to data and 67% feel some kind of pressure to tread cautiously on their ‘sensitive’ research ground.
A Seat at the Table
From InsideHigherEd, September 21
A Study by the National Campus Leadership Council shows that student leaders who meet with college and university administrators regularly and have a voice on governing boards feel much more effective. or its survey, NCLC focused only on student government presidents, asking more than 200 of them at a range of institutions whether their institutions valued their views, whether they felt prepared to handle their roles and whether they could speak or vote during governing board sessions, among other questions. The study is linked to the Student Voice Index, an interactive tool of NCLC tool illustrating how students and institutional leaders work together to address students’ needs for a better campus and community.
Learning Still Counts Most
In the Journal of Studies in International Education, Ravichandran Ammigan and Elspeth Jones report in Improving the Student Experience: Learning From a Comparative Study of International Student Satisfaction on their quantitative analysis of how international students’ satisfaction with services regarding arrival, living, learning and support services correlate with their overall university experience. The study looked at 45 000 international students from 96 institutions in the UK, USA and Australia. All four factors contribute, but the ‘learning’ is most influential – it would have been worrying if the non-educational factors had proved to be more influential, as the authors themselves remark.
Mens Sana ..
A study in the Journal of American College Health (there ís a journal devoted to research on this topic) reports on the impact of programmes in physical activity as electives of required parts of the curriculum. The analysis in the article: Differences in University Students’ Motivation Between a Required and an Elective Physical Activity Education Policy suggests that having a required PAE (physical activity education) policy allows for more students with lower self-determined forms of motivation to be reached in comparison to the elective PAE policy.
Holistic Admission Works
In a study on Multiple Measures Placement, researchers from the Center for the Analysis of Post-Secondary Readiness show that multiple measurement placement in Community Colleges works better than reliance on one single placement determinator. The study looked at 13 000 students at seven New York community colleges. It found that in Math, multiple measurement placement led to a 7% increase in admission – and a 3% increase in study completion of that group. In English, the increase in admission was as much as a 35% and the increase in completion was 13% higher than with single measurement admission.
Accept Accounting Practices
Simplification of funding and accounting rules for EU-funded research is high on everyone’s agenda. To help this improve, the European Universities Association has published a set of recommendations based on a detailed survey of differing national practices in universities’ accounting for their spending of public funds.
“Accept accounting practices of universities that are accepted by national authorities also for EU funding”, that is the basic recommendation.
Not a superfluous recommendation: only 12% of respondents to their survey said they could use institutional practices without restrictions. The EUA found that extension of acceptance to all cost types and improved acceptance of hiring rules are on the top of the wish list.
New England Costs!!
The Institute for College Access & Success has published its annual Student Debt and the Class of …2017. It shows that the average debt of graduating College students in the US has only increased slightly further to $ 28 650 (from $ 28 300 a year before). 65 per cent of graduates have a debt, which ranges from $18.850 (in Utah) to $38.500 (in Connecticut). Utah students are well place in the amount but also in the likelihood of a debt: 38 percent (Utah) against as much as 74 percent in New Hampshire. In 18 states, the average debt was more than $30,000.
Note from the Editor: Irreplaceable
I am irreplaceable.
I want to be irreplaceable.
I want to believe that I am irreplaceable.
I want others to believe I am irreplaceable.
But the graveyard is full of irreplaceable people.
And I hope and wish that at least some of things that I did – or to which I contributed – will not stop when I am no longer there.
So how can I reconcile this fervent grasp for irreplaceability with
this knowledge that I am replaceable
and this hope that I will indeed be replaced?
Looking forward to some advice – from readers who do and readers who completely don’t recognise this train of thought.
Humanities: the Poor Cousin
Based on data from the US National Science Foundation, Humanities Indicators (a project of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences) has published a web-based overview of the research funding of Humanities against other academic domains: Research and Development Expenditures at Colleges and Universities. The website visualises both the modest degree to which research can rely on public funds and the back tail position Humanities has in the scramble for research funding. In most segments of academic research, federal funding covers from almost well over half of the research funding – even more when state funding is added. For the Humanities. Federal and state funding makes up for barely 15% of funding, which is of course much lower in real money than other sectors anyway.
The data provided do beg a question about the funding by the academic institution itself, which is two thirds for Humanities and up or over one third for other sectors: how much of the money provided by the academic institution itself is originally public (taxpayers) money and how much is from business or has a non-profit origin?
Denmark: Only Students Who Stay
The Danish government has attracted wide interest with its plans to limit study place for international students in programmes with lower retention scores: students staying in Denmark after graduation. Their complaint that “4 out of 10 leave the country” is remarkable in the light of the earlier study by i.a. CIMO and DAAD on “The Financial Impact of Cross-Border Mobility on the Host Country” (discussed in this Newsletter in February 2014). That study calculates considerable financial gains for the host country if less than 7 out of 10 leave the country after graduation.
The Danish government may have a point in zooming in on study programmes with significantly lower ‘binding’ results than others. But it should also be aware that studies calculating financial gains from international students generally don’t take into account what economic ties – and financial gains – stem from international graduates who leave, but set up business with the host country.
The impression remains that the Danish government is lending its ear to the populist wave that is still flowing over our academic pastures – making them less and less pastoral and idyllic.
Returning Spanish Academics
A recent publication in European Journal of Higher Education underscored negative effects of international mobility of returning academics. While international mobility is frequently labelled as positive for academic´s career there is less understanding of its negative consequences and long term effects when a mobile researcher returns to their home country after an extended period abroad.
The exploratory article “The impact of international mobility as experienced by Spanish academics” was based on 30 semi-structured interviews of Spanish academics who undertook a research stay abroad at a leading and top research institution and returned to their home country. Besides narrating positive experiences in terms of their knowledge and career, academics reported feeling horribly unbalanced upon the return to their home institutions.
They pointed out the difficulties in coming back to an under developed research culture where scientific activity hardly existed. They felt frustrated that there were no proper research facilities and no will on the part of the management to incorporate their new ideas in the current research workflow.
These findings were embedded within the framework of Spanish higher education system as rigid and closed, however they do highlight that the benefits of international experiences of returning academics seem to be conditioned by the development level of the scientific system as well as by the way institutions receive them. Authors urge for more research to validate these findings.
How Chinese Students Adapt Abroad
Educational researchers from Petersburg and Edinburgh have done a comparative study into the personality traits among Chinese students that predict their adaptive capabilities when studying in different countries. The study “The Adaptive Capabilities of Chinese Students Studying In Chinese, British and Russian Universities” involved 224 Chinese 1st year students, studying in China (96), Russia (100), and the UK (28).
Using an adapted Rogers-Dymond Personality questionnaire, they found that irrespective of the country, “openness” and “agreeableness” predicted adaptation to university education. For students in Russia and China, “research potential” also correlated with adaptiveness, whereas for Chinese students in the UK, “neuroticism”, “extraversion” and “conscientiousness” were more relevant. The scholars provide no potential explanation for these differences – like for instance the notion that UK university might demand higher levels of self-expression and individualism.
It’s The Divorce, Stupid
Three researchers from Iowa State University have used the data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 for a quantitative analysis of the correlation between parental divorce and parental educational expectations for their children and the graduate success: enrolment and completion of graduate studies: Parental Divorce, Social Capital, and Postbaccalaurate Educational Attainment Among Young Adults.
They tested the hypotheses that children from divorced parents (by now 40% of the age group) would have lower rates of graduate success and that this would at least in part be caused by lower parental expectations. They found, however, that divorced parents had no lower educational expectations for their children on post baccalaureate education – but that these divorcees children indeed have a 29% lower chance of completing a graduate degree (for the Bachelor’s the effect is even stronger: 44%). The study doesn’t claim to give the final answer on the impact of parental divorce on graduate attainment, or on the explanation for that impact. As they say; more work is needed.
Tuition Support: Who Benefits?
Researchers from the Institute for Higher Education Policy have analyzed two state “free-college” programmes in the US: Tennessee Promise and New York’s Excelsior Scholarship. Based on a calculation of full education cost and the “affordability threshold of dependent and independent students from low and high income backgrounds, they conclude in separate documents for the Tennessee Promise and the New York’s Excelsior Scholarship and a summary that these programmes may be designed to improve access to higher education for low income students, but in fact are more beneficial to students middle and high income backgrounds.
Study Debt Worse With For-Profits
Not all opinion pieces in the New York Times are anonymous and about the White House. Ben Miller, senior director for post-secondary education at the Center for American Progress, wrote a NYT article on the fact that “The Student Debt is Worse than we Thought”. National Center for Education Statistics show that the typical student borrower will take out $6,600 in a single year, averaging $22,000 in debt at graduation.
American HE institutions are kept accountable by government for the student debts defaults of their students; this is normally assessed three years after the students leave the institution. But Miller shows that the 10% default rate of defaulting students after three years actually increases sharply in later years to almost 16% after 5 years. The proportion of HE institutions with high student default rates increases even more sharply from 2.1% after 3 years to 13.1% after 5 years.
The for-profit HE institutions do worst, also when looking at the 5 year period – climbing to a student debt default rate of almost 1 out of 4. Leaving American tax payers to pay the for-profit dividends.
Mental Health & Suicide in US Colleges
Scholars from Harvard Medical School assessed mental health diagnoses and suicidality among over 67.000 students from 108 HE institutions. The report “The prevalence and predictors of mental health diagnoses and suicide among U.S. college students, published in Depression and Anxiety, explains the findings:
- A greater likelihood of suicide attempts and MH diagnoses had stress as its core cause;
- Bisexual students were more likely to report MH diagnoses and suicidality, compared to heterosexual and gay/lesbian students. The same applied to transgenders compared to females.
- Racial/ethnic minority students were generally less likely to report MH diagnoses relative to Whites, although the likelihood for suicidality was mixed.
“The high rate of multiple stress exposures among the U.S. college population and the high impacts of stress on MH and suicidality point to an urgent need for service utilization strategies, especially among racial/ethnic, sexual, or gender minorities. Campuses must consider student experiences to mitigate stress during this developmental period.”
Student Analytics & Privacy
Since the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has come into force, universities like many other non-profit institutions have been confronted with severe limitations to gather the data they need to improve what they do – in our case teach.
The problem is not that the European and national legislation forbids it, but that in-house lawyers tend to be overcautious and restrictive in the formulation of the goals of data gathering – and you can’t use them for anything you haven´t declared at the outset.
Now the Student Analytics specialist at VU has produced a Code of Practice (in Dutch, English version online soon) of Student Analytics – properly endorsed by the VU leadership – which gives a much broader definition of the purposes for which the data may be used: basically everything which helps to improve our education. A very laudable initiative. VU has also produce a translation of the Code of Practice into English so that other universities can profit from it as well and will put on their website shortly.
Why Doctoral Students Drop Out
Who Are the Doctoral Students Who Drop Out? That is the title of an article in the International Journal of Higher Education. The researchers analysed factors associated with doctoral completion among 1509 doctoral candidates in two Francophone Belgian universities.
They found that four factors (marital status, master grade, research field and funding) are directly associated with dropout rate when all factors are considered jointly in the same model. Furthermore, results indicate that some of these factors, such as the marital status and gender, interact. In addition, we found that an accumulation of risk factors leads to a massive increase in dropout rates. Finally, a time course analysis revealed that the highest dropout rate occurs during the first two years and is related to the absence of funding or scholarship. The results, limits and futures perspectives are discussed.
The OECD has published a factsheet on “Students’ Numeracy Skills and Practices” which confirms a strong link between practice and performance. Looking at the distribution of numerical practice among students in countries with an Aurora university, we see that more than 60% of German and French students show intensive numerical practice, over 50% of Swedish and Norwegian students, over 40% of Flemish and Dutch students and just about 40% of English students.
Social Science Replicability
A group of scholars with Colin Camerer from CalTech as corresponding author, report on an analysis of the replicability of social science experiments and if peers could predict the predictable.
The article “Evaluating the replicability of social science experiments in Nature and Science between 2010 and 2015” reports on the replication of 21 systematically selected experimental studies in social science, with replication samples that were substantially larger than the original. They found a significant effect in the same direction as the original study for 62% of the studies, and the effect size of the replications is on average about 50% of the original effect size.
More interestingly and explained in the Supplementary Information, they investigated the predictive power of peers both through a survey and through a market model in which peers could put their money of the likelihood of replicability. As it turned out, peers have a pretty shrewd idea about which social science experiments are less likely to yield replicable results.
Note From The Editor: Democracy isn´t easy
We are witnessing – in many countries across the world – how people and peoples are struggling with the concept of democracy. The notion that it is more about respecting minority views is losing out to the idea of ‘winner takes all’ – and all is fair in love and politics, including hacking. But democracy is a tough nut to crack in our comfortable and enlightened higher education environment as well.
I am not talking primarily about the governance of universities – different HE systems have different governance systems for their universities, although academics sometimes find it hard to accept that the voters will give them less money than they want.
I am thinking more about associations like EAIE: the European Association for International Education, which is holding its annual conference this week in Geneva, Switzerland.
Associations like EAIE, with thousands of members, have a hard time keeping larger parts of their membership involved and keep their feeling of ownership, of shared responsibility up to par. Associations like EAIE rely heavily on an inner circle of maybe 200 really active members, and an inner-inner circle of the (elected) Board and the (appointed) bureau.
How easy is it to think “we run – no – we áre this association” and how thin is the line between that feeling and the notion of Hillary’s “deplorables” that led to her and our loss in the 2016 election.
Democracy is a tough game and muddy work; but if history has told us anything, it is that any alternative almost always leads to much worse situations.
Where Libraries Buy Books
Ithaka SR, a non-profit set up to help academic and cultural communities serve the public good, has published the preliminary findings of an analysis of Library Acquisition Patterns – the full report is expected this Fall.
They started the project to look a bit deeper into the apparent trend of decreasing library purchases, which was based primarily on data from traditional vendors.
They found that Amazon.com has between 2005 and 2017 grown to become the second larger vendor for the 54 HE institutions in the analysis, with over 25% of all academic book purchases by university libraries done with Amazon.
Students Feel Lower Than Age Group
In it´s 2018 Student Academic Experience Survey, the UK based Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) provides loads of statistical data on what students’ opinions are in UK universities. The survey, based on 14 046 respondents to a survey among 70 000 students, gives interesting data on student satisfaction with teachers, courses, campus and costs and distinguishes by the profile of the students as well as their university. It does seem to take the opinions of the students too readily as an indicator of the real situation.
If students at Oxford are more satisfied with their value for money and course quality than in redbrick universities, does that mean the education is indeed so much better – or also a bit because they are so happy and proud to have been admitted to Oxford? The question is hard to answered, but should at least be asked.
The report is too rich and varied to summarize, but we can highlight two issues of interest:
- well-being among students in the UK is (considerably) lower than in the whole age group – and it is going down further.
- Most students feel that international students bring added value to their experience in terms of world view, global sensitivity, and global network. A minority of a quarter or less feel the internationals slow them down, take away teacher’s attention or lower the quality.
Here again, it must be noted that the survey reports perceptions, not hard data.
Excellent, Sustainable & Global Kiwis
The New Zealand government has over the Summer published its 2018 – 2030 International Education Strategy. The title is also shown in Maori language: HE RAUTAKI MĀTAURANGA A AO.
Its three goals are to Strengthen New Zealand Higher Education to:
- Provide an excellent education and student experience and strengthens the foundation for
- Sustainable growth of the New Zealand economy as well as
- Graduating cohort of globally competent alumni.
New Zealand wants 25% of graduates to have an international experience by 2020, achieve international student satisfaction rates of 92-95% by 2025 and 94-97% by 2030.
It wants the economic value of the education sector to reach AUS $ 6 billion (almost 4 billion euro) by 2025 – the figure for 2017 was 4.4 billion Aus $.
Benchmarks for students’ quality perception, international alumni success and overall reputation still need to be developed. The same applies to ‘global citizens’, but the explicit mention of these goals, plus the promise to develop benchmarks for them, is already promising.
Global Innovation Index 2018
Last July, the Global Innovation Index 2018 was published. The 430 page book has a major focus on energy and the energy transition, with the role of innovation in that process.
In addition, the global ranking overview shows 8 European countries in the global top 10, with only the Singapore and the US on place 4 and 5. The list is led by Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden. China has now progressed to rank 17 among the most innovative countries.
All Aurora countries are in the top 25. Next to the huge report, there is an infograph.
Teaching to Write Research Reports
Scholars from the University of Minnesota have addressed the issue of Lab Reports in their article “Development of a Uniform Approach to Writing and Grading of Laboratory Reports in Horticultural Science Courses”, published in the Journal of Curriculum and Teaching. They show that teachers often do a poor job in telling students how to write a lab report and also deviate from official learning outcomes as well as each other in grading lab reports.
The authors have developed a grading rubric based on information from the lecturers themselves, reviewed by curriculum experts. They report that in a trial, students indicated that use of the same rubric in other Horticultural Science courses would demystify the process of conducting research and communicating it effectively in laboratory reports.
This seems relevant to a far wider range of contexts than horticulture in North American universities.
Why Tablets in Class Don’t Work
Two psychologists from Rutgers University report in their article “Dividing attention in the classroom reduces exam performance” in Educational Psychology on their experiment on how use of smartphones and tablets impact student performance. They aimed to find a possible causal relation in the earlier demonstrated correlation between the use of such tools in class and poorer exam performance. They explain that divided attention impacts in three ways: *) if you look at your smartphone, you don’t hear the professor, 8) when you switch from the one to the other, you miss both, and *) the fact that you divide your attention weakens your retention on both.
Student Life in Europe and The USA
The German Centre for studies on Higher Education and Research has published a report on “Social and Economic Conditions of Student Life in Europe”. The report is the synopsis of indicators of EUROSTUDENT VI: 2016-2018, a project funded by the EU through Erasmus+ and co-sponsored by the German and Dutch education ministers. Eurostudent is a comparative data collection and analysis effort for students in the 28 EU member states and the report presents the findings of the 6th round – the first report dates from 1997. Key topics in the EUROSTUDENT VI are *) International student mobility and *) Access to higher education – as well as the interplay between them.
It takes some scrolling – to page 24 and then further down for the next chapters – until we get a glimpse of the findings. Some of them rather obvious (most students are young) and others more interesting. The report is much too rich to summarise; I will focus here on international mobility with just one remark on housing.
The report shows that Scandinavian and German students stand the biggest chance of a Study Abroad experience (10% or more). ICT students are least likely to go abroad. It confirms once again that students who are the first in their family to study are also less likely to go abroad. Most students use programmes like ERASMUS+. Money and separation from dear ones are the most prominent obstacles; again these weigh more heavily on first generation students.
On housing: Accommodation may take between over 45% (Denmark, France) to less than 30% (Lithuania, Slovakia) of the students’ budget, with major variations also within-country.
Also in this period, the Chronicle of Higher Education has published a 27-page report, based on a panel discussion they organised, on “The Student Life Cycle” and how to improve the student experience.
In the panel, senior managers of universities in the US came together to discuss how the university can improve its interactions with its students to make their experiences contribute to both study success and a lasting positive bond with the university.
It looks at what is menat by “Student Life Cycle”, to what extent the relationship between (increasingly diverse) students and university need rethinking, how to break down the silos between the various administrative services, and how to use data both effectively and ethically.
Although the report contains expert opinions rather than data and data analysis, it may serve others to trigger and focus their own thinking on the topic.
One observation: the panel and report are US-based only. It would be interesting to repeat it in e.g. a European context.
Practical pRevention of Plagiarism
John Dawes from the University of South Australia noted that plagiarism is endemic among students (with an estimate of 60% in the US), but also that the educational no-cheating experts and subject specialist academics don’t really speak the same language. To help address this, he published a concise 17 page list of 14 recommendations “Practical prevention of Plagiarism for University faculty & management – 14 tactics” on the SSRN-platform.
Some of them are simple and maybe obvious to some: “If you make ‘originality’ a formal criterion, you can always use that to downgrade papers that look suspiciously like content found on the internet.” Others require some savviness with digital learning platforms: require students to work in shareable documents, where they know their professor can see their work-in-progress.
Anyway, it seems like a useful checking list: even if the majority of your faculty already applies most tactics, it might help to bring straggling minority on board as well.
In a comprehensive tome of 13 chapters, Denis Hyams-Ssekasi (Bolton) and Elizabeth Caldwell (Huddersfield) have collected a wealth of knowledge on “Experiential Learning for Entrepreneurship”.
The book brings together a range of perspectives on experiential learning from around the world and provides case studies illustrating initiatives where experiential learning has been used for developing entrepreneurship. However, it also looks at (experiential) entrepreneurship education from a philosophical and intercultural pedagogical perspective and has chapters on such diverse angles as i.a. assessment, simulation/gaming, student experience, incubators, and stakeholder input.
Fixed or Developed Interest? It Matters?
In a study currently in press at “Psychological Science”, Paul O’Keefe from Yale and two Stanford colleagues report on a series of related studies into beliefs about passionate interests and their impact on students. They set up experiments to find out if it matters whether you believe that your passionate interests are already ‘in your genes’, just waiting to be discovered – or rather that you are able to develop passionate interests in a wide range of topics, if you set your mind to it.
Three of the experiments tested students’ openness to new interests in correlation with their beliefs about fixed or developed interests, one on how this basic belief correlates with the motivation (or kick) students expect to get from their interest, and the fifth on students’ resilience to carry on even if their interest was requiring an effort and offered frustration.
They did indeed find such correlation and their bottom line is that teachers should be weary to tell students “Find your passion”. Telling them “Develop your passion and be prepared to work on it” may offer a better contribution to student success.
The authors sketch in interesting parallel with love relationships: if you expect that finding the true love means heaven for the rest of your days, you’re probably also more likely to give up when the going gets tougher.
Congrats To 13 Aurora ERC Starting Grantees
The European Commission has published the list of ERC Starting grants awarded in the 2018 Call.
From the EC notification:
Why is the world so green? What can we eat to prevent dementia? Are our eyes really the windows to our personalities? 403 talented early career researchers have been awarded European Research Council grants to answer such questions. Scientists will benefit from EUR 603 million in total and up to EUR 1.5 million each, to create their own research teams and conduct pioneering projects. The grants, are part of the ‘excellent science’ pillar of the EU’s current Research and Innovation programme, Horizon 2020.
Going through the list of 403 awards, we see that Germany (76), the UK (67), the Netherlands (46), and France (37) account for 226 or more than 56% of the total.
Looking for Aurora grantees, we congratulate Neil Howard and Vanessa Joosen (Antwerp), Piero Poli (University Grenoble Alpes), Wouter Halfwerk, Eva-Maria Merz and Annelies Vredeveldt (VU Amsterdam), Randi Bertelsen and Scott Bremer (University of Bergen), Emma Börgeson, Adam Shehata, and Hiroki Shibuya (University of Gothenburg), Thomas Fitzgerald (University of East Anglia). No less than 13 ERC starting grants at 6 Aurora universities.
Who Stays in Chemestry Research
A study commissioned by the US National Bureau of Economic Research surveyed Chemistry graduates for their preferred career and location after obtaining their doctoral degree. They found that foreign students are generally more interested in academic careers than U.S. students, even when controlling for ability and comparing students from similar subfields and programs. And they found that foreign students prefer academic positions in the US over those abroad. So they conclude that the US is not doing too bad a job in retaining talented foreign graduates for postdoc positions.
Note From the Editor: Finding “Good”Internationalisation Drivers
In the Summer issue of EAIE’s Forum magazine, there is a noteworthy article by Daniela Crăcium looking at the correlation between a) share of international students, b) whether a country has a HE-internationalisation strategy, and c) its overall level of development. She is calling for more analysis of what happens in internationalisation from national perspective and I would heartily support that. I would suggest it needs to be taken one step further.
Research on internationalisation of Higher Education needs to move from an endless collection of singular case studies with a qualitative method based on convenience sampling ( = collecting stories of people you know).
There are data to be collected on forms on HE internationalisation (whether you see them as “good” internationalisation or not so much), like number of foreign students, joint degrees or number of international co-publications.
There are data to be collected on issues that may be hypothesised to impact HE internationalisation, like national policy or overall economic development or policy/resources at university level.
These can be analysed for correlations – that needs statistical skills that I will never possess, but they are out there.
Let’s have a go at a) forms of internationalisation and (further down) at b) hypothesised impacting factors:
- Number, proportion and growth of incoming exchange/credit students
- Number, proportion and growth of outgoing exchange/credit students
- Number, proportion and growth of incoming degree students
- Number, proportion and growth of joint/double degrees (the proportion will stay minute for the foreseeable future in most settings)
- Number, proportion and growth of alumni with international careers (inside academia or out)
- Number, proportion and growth of international scholarly co-publications – and we can throw in international joint patents for good measure
- Number, proportion and growth of international PhD candidates – and academic staff at junior, mid-level and professorial level
- Proportion and growth of international research funding
Hypothesised impacting factors
Now for the hypothesised impacting factors – a modest first try, there are probably many more:
- Supra-institutional (provincial, national, supranational) HE internationalisation strategies, policies, programmes, resources
- Overall level of economic and educational development (thank you Daniela)
- National quality of education, in terms of proportions of the adult population with secondary, bachelor’s and graduate qualifications
- National quality of education, in terms of HE graduate employment, time to first (self) employment, life time earning advantage, life time satisfaction
- Institutional HE internationalisation strategies, policies, programmes, resources
- Professional development on International Education as a separate branch of university administration
Much of these data are out there; the OECD uses them for the Education at a Glance. It is waiting for good quantitative analysts!
Clearing the Hurdle
At the Summer Institute on Inclusive and Innovative Internationalisation organised by Boston College and World Education Services, one of the papers presented had its focus on Study Abroad at Community Colleges. Like in Europe, study abroad is still often seen as an exclusive privilege for the happy few. In her paper on “The Relationship between institution-level Factors and Community College Study Abroad”, Melissa Whatley from the University of Georgia looked for institution-level predictors for Study Abroad at Community Colleges – definitely the less exclusive part of American Higher Education.
The study is well in line with the observation that studies abroad opportunities are less available for students from underrepresented minorities, although they tend to profit even more if they go – when properly guided. The study uses the annual Open Doors survey by IIE and the US government´s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) to explore the relationship between study abroad participation and institutional characteristics corresponding to four categories: student body characteristics, institutional charges to students, location, and instructional characteristics. She found that at urban institutions and those with larger numbers of non-resident students, Study Abroad was more prevalent than elsewhere.
What this means and how this could be explained – or addressed – is still unclear. But it’s good to see such a methodologically robust study in a section of Higher Education that deserves more attention from international educators.
Ontario’s Internationalisation Strategy
The ministry of advanced education and skills of Ontario province published its international postsecondary education strategy 2018: “Educating Global Citizens”.
Ontario expects to see the proportion of international students rise from the current 15% to 20% by 2022. They put considerable weight on balanced growth with a focus on the STEM fields and PhD candidates. The students engage in the whole range of HE institutions and pay sufficient attention to Francophone education. Also, it wants to better serve the 86% of domestic students to seek a study abroad experience. Moreover, the ministry aims to retain international graduates for the Canadian economy.
Among the specific policy, interventions are measures to create optimal transparency on tuition fees for international students and enhance a consistently high level of international students support services across the Higher Education institutions in Ontario.
Eu’s Triple Food Mission
As a follow-up to the report “Catching Up? Intergenerational Mobility and Children of Immigrants” (2017), the OECD has published “Catching Up? Country Studies on Intergenerational Mobility and Children of Immigrants”. It contains country studies on Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden, but also regional reports on the European Union and North America (the US and Canada).
The seven-country chapters show that intergenerational mobility outcomes among the children of immigrants vary significantly, but in all countries considered, children of low-educated immigrants on average tend to fare better than their parents.
In general, immigrants children in the US and Canada do better in school than those in Europe. In France, Sweden, the Netherlands and Canada, girls do better in education than boys; the report suggests that this also have to do with more discrimination against immigrant boys. Although girls do better in school, this does not translate in employment perspectives.
EU’s Triple Food Mission
The European Commission has published the report of the EC Food 2030 independent expert group: “Recipe for Change: An agenda for a climate-smart and sustainable food system for a healthy Europe”.
The report sets four priorities: Nutrition for sustainable and healthy diets, Climate smart and environmentally sustainable food systems, Circularity and resource efficiency of food systems, and Innovation and empowerment of communities. It relates these to the SDGs 2, 15 and 17. It breaks the overall agenda of the report’s title into three separate missions: on the improvement of dietary patterns and healthy lifestyles, on a resources mart food system, and on a inclusive governance system for the food chain that is trusted by the population.
Digital Humanities Revindicated
InsideHigherEd has an interesting article by Lindsay MacKenzie (July 9th) on Digital Humanities for Social Good in the US.
She highlights several examples where scholars in the humanities use digital technologies to produce fast and appealing data on relevant issues. One case concerned the separation of immigrant children from their parents and consisted of a quick mapping of where these children resided. However, the broader message is that there are numerous groups of scholars in the US that follow the same path of using digital technology to make fast and relevant data supported contributions to essential debates. Thus responding to criticisms that Digital Humanities is ‘anti-Humanistic’, ‘poor value for money’, or ‘interpretively inert’.
SDGS and Universities
The Global University Network for Innovation GUNI has published its international conference report “Sustainable Development Goals: Actors and Implementation” focusing on the role of knowledge, research and higher education in the implementation of the SDGs.
Although the report – a collection of summaries of the conference presentations – doesn’t add much to the evidence base on the topics addressed, GUNI as a platform for universities that are committed to the SDGs as overarching narrative for their education, research and service to society seems important enough to be mentioned in the issue of the VU IN&R.
Note From the Editor: Language, Narratives, Myths
As part of the Mastermind Europe project, I have delved a bit into the rich mines of language competencies that are the “Common European Framework of Reference (for languages)” and the similar framework of the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages. I found two eye-openers worth sharing:
- The European framework makes a distinction that was new for me between the ability to use language when speaking to a person or a group and the ability to engage in conversation with a person or a group: “spoken presentation” vs “spoken interaction”.
- The American framework labels language proficiency as “interpretive” (reading and listening), “presentational” (writing and speaking to others), and “interpersonal”. But this “interpersonal” is both oral (conversation) and written. Using social media is a form of written conversation.
Spoken interaction and written interpersonal language competence: makes sense, but it had never occurred to me.
In the Netherlands and elsewhere, a debate is waging about pros and cons of degree programmes taught in English. I feel this is part of the nationalist-populist backlash of our times; in an earlier note, I argued that we should count the number of degree programmes that are only existing because there are enough international students to keep the programme afloat.
But I was drawn to a recurring argument that programmes taught in English lead to weaker proficiency in our native Dutch language. Googling on the topic I found
- Very little research on the impact of second language acquisition on first language proficiency
- Some tentative conclusion that it may lead to first language attrition under certain circumstances;
- And a clear description of these circumstances: the first language does suffer if *) the second language really becomes the dominant language and the first one is hardly used anymore and *) the acquisition of the first language was stopped before the end of puberty.
In other words: if our Dutch students would completely stop speaking and learning Dutch halfway secondary school and from then on only speak and listen to English, then the opponents of English taught degree programmes would have a point with the native language argument. But they don´t, so they don´t. Case closed.
New Recruitment Paradigm in The US
World Education Services has published a survey report “Navigating a New Paradigm for International Student Recruitment”. The purpose of the survey was to gather evidence-based insights in order to better understand how the shifts in the recruitment domain since the election of Donald Trump are affecting the recruitment of international students at U.S. institutions. The WES research team surveyed more than 270 higher education professionals in January and February 2018.
The report confirms the overall downward trend, but also shows that some institutions (28%) still manage to keep the numbers up and growing. The most cited negative factors are ´hostile climate’ (71%), study visa issues (60%), and post-graduation work visa concerns (52%). Besides the clearly more hostile climate to international students, American universities also need to face increased competition while their high and rising tuition fees and general costs of study aren´t helping them.
Remarkably, two responses to the downward trend stand out as slightly less than logical:
- Shift of recruitment resources to cheaper, but not necessarily more effective channels (i.e. social media and domestic travel rather than international)
- Focus on Latin America and the Caribbean, although the prospect to attract self-paying students from that region are low.
The report ends with a number of recommendations, which may also be useful in another context than the USA of Donald Trump. Among these are a diverse recruitment strategy, a welcoming environment and support resources for international students, the involvement of alumni and addressing financial concerns – also when you can’t actually give money.
What Makes Them Stay In Canada?
The Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) has published the results of two surveys on drivers for international students to stay and work in Canada: “Retaining International Students in Canada Post-Graduation: Understanding the Motivations and Drivers of the Decision to Stay”. The rationale for the surveys was the desire of Canada to attract highly skilled immigrants and the view of Canada that attracting foreign students is a good way to do so. One survey was among prospective students showing interest to come to Canada – done by World Education Services. The other survey was among enrolled international students in Canada, done by CBIE itself.
The results show that quite many of the foreign students intend to stay and work in Canada. Socio-economic factors correlate stronger with this intention than academic factors: More students from less developed countries and less well-to-do themselves want to stay and work in Canada. Such a tendency could not be found for with academic performance.
Comprehensive Internationalisation in Buffalo
Comprehensive internationalisation has not featured in this VU IN&R for a long time – for lack of good examples. The University at Buffalo (past of the SUNY system) does provide such an example. Their report of the Provost’s Task Force for Inclusion and Engagement of International Students doesn’t explicitly refer to the concept of ‘comprehensive internationalisation’ but it does actually shows how to implement it in practice. The report speaks about inclusions and engagement of domestic and international students rather than about the inclusion of international students in the existing academic community. It uses a strong factual base of quantitative data as well as surveys among students and academics, with also comparative data on the situation elsewhere in the US. It takes a holistic look that ranges from recruitment & admission, orientation & arrival, the content and structure of the curriculum, the role of faculty, campus services, as well as employment opportunities and alumni involvement.
Their vision is that the whole university should emanate an atmosphere of welcome to international as well as domestic students, but they self-critically articulated as their starting point that “UB sends a powerful negative message to these students by assigning limited, inaccessible and frankly unattractive office space to International Student and Scholar Services.”
One of the interesting developments at the University at Buffalo is that they managed to align the strategic rethinking of their attitude to international students with a concurrent redesign of the academic core of their undergraduate curriculum. The result: international engagement and awareness as part of the core curriculum – not proposed by the international task force, but by the educational one.
First Generation Students Stand Out
Campus Lab, a US company originally focused on student feedback but now more broadly engaged in higher education data collection and analysis, has published a web-based report “Fresh Insight on First-Generation Students” comparing six non-cognitive skills of students who are the first in their family to go to university (“first generation”) with students from a HE family background.
Using data from their Campus Labs Student Strengths Inventory, which measures students in six non-cognitive skills, they could compare first-generation students with their peers. Their system showed this kind background for 750 000 students, of whom 14% are first-generation.
Their analysis shows that first-generation students (14% of a survey size of 750 000) have a slightly higher score in educational commitment, academic self-efficacy, academic engagement, and campus engagement. But they score less on social comfort and resiliency.
How Diverse is the International Office
The Diversity Abroad Network has published a survey report on “Diversity & Inclusion among International Educators”. The Diversity Abroad Network is a grouping of (mostly US based) educational institutions, government agencies, for-profit and non-profit organizations committed to advance policies and practices that advance access, diversity, equity and inclusion in global education and exchanges.
Although the survey suffers from low response rate, a recognised North American perspective and lack of comparative data by being the first in its kind, it is still interesting to see the results – precisely because it is the first such survey. Although the title might make one think of people who teach, the survey seems to have been addressed to people who have organisational and administrative roles.
What stands out – though not unexpectedly – is that the vast majority is white (70%), female (79%), and born in the country (87%). On the other hand, almost 30% are first-generation (against 14% first generation in the total US student population, see the Campus Lab report). The report would have been more valuable if it would have provided such comparison against the general cohort of HE educated people in the US. The fact that 18.5% of people in international education have a background in a foreign language becomes more meaningful if we know how much bigger this number is than the average number of foreign language graduates.
As it is, the report doesn’t present much of an answer to who diverse the international office – or should be. But as a first survey on the international education professionals from a diversity perspective, it should definitely be applauded.
Size Matters – In Science Class
To look for factors that influence the – well-documented – underperformance by women and underrepresented minorities in science, researchers from i.a. the University of Minnesota studies the correlation between class size and performance in science education: Do Small Classes in Higher Education Reduce Performance Gaps in STEM? Apparently, they assume a link between performance as a student with later performance as a scholar.
The found no correlation between class size and performance for underrepresented minorities. They did find such a correlation for women, in the sense that women underperformed on high-stakes exams in larger classes, but actually received higher scores on non-exam assessments.
White Supremacy on Campus
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) published a web-based overview and analysis of White Supremacist Propaganda incidents on campus in the US in 2017-2018. The ADL describes itself as activists, educators and experts, who fight anti-Semitism and all forms of hate.
Their overview shows a 77% increase of incidents from the previous academic year, with 292 cases reported, compared to 165 in 2016-2017. According to the report, white supremacists have been actively targeting U.S. college campuses since January 2016, but the practice failed to gain any real traction until the fall semester of that year. Since then, propaganda efforts have steadily increased.
In their overview, they distinguish between reported incidents and incidents recorded by ADL itself, the latter being 478 since September 2016. The report has a graph showing where these incidents occurred (with a chart of Red and Blue in 2016 for comparison).
The European Commission has published its European Innovation Scoreboard 2018 report, both as a downloadable PDF and as an interactive web tool – with country reports.
Overall, the report shows that Europe is catching up with the US, but losing some ground to South Korea. Within Europe, the report divides the countries into four categories – from strongest to weakest innovators. Sweden, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, the UK and Luxemburg are the strongest, with the Netherlands and the UK making the most significant strides since 2010.
But the other countries with Aurora universities (Norway and Iceland are not in the overview) are also above the EU average – but Germany not progressing since 2010.
The country reports give an overview with stronger (dark green) and weaker (through yellow to red) points within a country’s system. In the Dutch overview, most elements are dark green; those that are not, are with the private sector – not with the Higher Education & Research system.
E-Health and IP
The European Commission has published the final report of the Bohemia project “Transitions on the Horizon”.
The report calls for European R&I to become the engine of transformation in terms of:
- Social Needs: Providing for the needs of people;
- The biosphere: Safeguarding a hospitable planet;
- Innovation: Harnessing the forces of change;
- Governance: Joining forces for a better world.
It identifies 19 targeted scenarios, from ‘assisted living’ (including eHealth) to ‘towards a new knowledge system’ (including intellectual property rights). The alphabetical order of the 19 scenarios may indicate that it was not possible to order them by relevance, urgency or another kind of priority.
How Cool is your Campus?
UCLA’s unit for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion has developed an App for gauging how students feel on campus. The app, BruinXperience, provides a space for students to communicate their experiences (good, bad, indifferent) at UCLA. In the current Beta version, only 1500 students will get the App. Every two weeks, they’ll get an alert to answer two questions about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences at that moment. They’ll have up to 24 hours after that alert to complete 2 short questions, which should take them no more than 5 minutes total. If they have something to share between the two-week intervals, they can use the “Share Your Thoughts” section in the app. To stimulate the use of the App, the unit is giving out quarterly prizes that range from a modest $5 to a Smartphone.
Recently, Times Higher featured an article on grade inflation in the United Kingdom. A second look at scholarly literature on the subject surfaced a study by Ray Bachano of the University of Brighton on “Grade inflation in UK higher education” from 2017. His statistical analysis of grades does show some increase in ‘good’ (1st and upper 2nd) and excellent (1st class) and a slight decrease of the low 3rd class grades. But as the graph shows, the trend is nowhere near as steep as newspapers or politicians may make out and the author – while not ruling out that grade inflation has indeed occurred particularly since 2009 – also point to increasing student motivation and improving educational technology as possible explanations.
He also notes that there is no statistical support for the assumption that women’s grades are improving faster than those of men; nor does he see statistical support for the notion that it is harder to get a good or excellent grade in the sciences.
No Tension Between Teaching & Research?
Academic and policy advisors broadly believe that attention for teaching and for research are at odds with one another.
Two researchers – from Portland State and Florida International – set out to test that assumed tension for one particular category of young academics: PhD students in life sciences in the US. They analysed the impact on research efficacy of one specific type of educational activity: “Evidence-based teaching”. They looked specifically at the impact of the Phd’s confidence in their research efficacy, their production (publications), and how they communicated about their research more broadly. They found a slightly positive correlation with the PhD’s confidence in research preparedness. They see this as an indication that universities can increase the focus on teaching in their structured PhD-programmes, especially when it is evidence-based.
Whose Citations Count?
The global rankings like Times Higher, Shanghai and QS all suffer major shortcomings in their methods, which are unclear and keep changing, and in the strong focus on reputation, statistical outliers and volume over quality. The most objective part of them consists of an indication of the field weighted citation impact (FWCI), which shows which proportion of your scholarly output belongs to the most cited in their field – which normalises both for the size of the unit and the publication practice in the field. In the Netherlands, we recognize the Leiden based CWTS as one of the most reliable – it is not a Ranking, but a transparent tool to calculate this proportion of highly cited publications. CWTS uses data from the Web of Science.
Of the other Rankings, Times Higher is the clearest and consistent in also looking at this FWCI, but based on the data of the Elsevier Scopus database. One would expect that the FWCI information from both systems would yield only marginally different scores – but that is not the case.
A comparison of the citation scores between the Aurora universities – looking at both FWCI scores and how they changed over the last two years – shows that 2 Aurora universities improved their citations performance in Web of Science, but not in Scopus; 2 Aurora universities the other way round: up only in Scopus. Two went down in both and three went up in both. So performance in Web of Science and in Scopus correlate positively in 5 cases, but negatively in 4. Let’s call it a draw – and hope more research is done on the quality of citations’ research.
Note from the Editor: Doctoral Education and Internationalisation
I recently attended a meeting on “Doctoral education and its contribution to the internationalisation of universities”.
Listening to four very knowledgeable presenters, I found myself at a loss. They gave us a lot of information concerning their situation, but I couldn’t make head or tail of it. It made me ponder on what I would have liked to hear, what would have made the session more meaningful to me. Some possibilities occurred to me:
- I would have liked to get examples of changes to their practice of doctoral education that had made a significant and visible impact on the internationalisation of their university.
- I would have liked to hear examples of missed opportunities they had seen in their university, for doctoral education to contribute to the internationalisation at their university. Preferably with an analysis of the causes for missing the opportunity.
- I would have liked to hear about obstacles in their institution that were preventing or hampering a meaningful contribution to internationalisation by doctoral education. Preferably with some ideas about how to tackle these obstacles.
I would have liked to hear all of this in the clear understanding that different people mean different things by internationalisation, and that different people may want doctoral education to make different kinds of contribution to internationalisation.
O well; the session helped me to think this out, so it was a very useful session for me.
More International Students?
QS Enrolment Solutions (formerly Hobsons) recently published an “International Student Survey”. This report analyses the views of over 60.000 students worldwide who expressed an interest in 11 continental European countries. It highlights student responses on: how they assess the quality of education and teachers, how they choose a course, and what their communication preferences are.
In using the data from the report, universities might be tempted to see ‘more international students’ as a goal in itself, regardless of what that means for the university. So users of the report would do well to consider what price they are willing to pay.
One other observation of the report is that it doesn´t seem to reflect ´language´ as one of the considerations to choose a country. This is remarkable, as specifically continental European universities still have to deal with the perception that international students will have to learn German or French or Swedish if they choose these countries.
College Not Affordable
The Rockefeller Institute of Government of the State University of New York (SUNY) has published a report “For Many, is College out of Reach?”. The report notes that while education is generally seen as an important tool to address inequity issues, the rising costs of higher education together with the HE public budget costs since the 2008 crisis and the proposed further cuts under president Trump seriously impact the ability of higher education to fulfil this role.
The report explores various ways who higher education institutions and the HE system may still work to keep a higher educational accessible to a diverse population:
- providing direct benefits to students instead of block grants to institutions
- provide targeted programmes for at-risk students
- provide new access by breaking up traditional education structures
- use quality and success indicators to demonstrate value
- bend the total cost curve for college education
The report contains fascinating information on how groups of people rate the value of higher education in the US, showing that only a tiny minority thinking that benefits outweigh costs and showing that those who have no Higher Education experience tend to not believe its benefits.
More concerning is their overview of declining enrolment rates in the US as the tangible proof of decreasing access:
In view of the projected labour market needs for higher educated people in the US, this is not only a social problem, but also an economical one.
Marsh Mellow Test Meltdown
In an article in Psychological Science, researchers from NYU and UC Irvine report their replication and extension of the famous March Mellow test. The report shows strong bivariate correlations between a child’s ability to delay gratification just before entering school and both adolescent achievement and socioemotional behaviors.
They found a bivariate correlation that was only half the size of those reported in the original studies. The correlation reduced two thirds in the presence of controls for family background, early cognitive ability, and home environment. So was the later success related to their ability to delay, or were both success and that ability related to the background?
Horizon 2020 As Job Motor
The European Commission has published a study on High-quality job creation through EU programmes. The study examines how four EU programmes: the H2020, the ESF, the YEI and the EGF, support job creation and quality employment.
The study finds that only H2020 could demonstrate strong evidence for job creation and the involvement of private companies (especially SMEs) was a key success factor in job creation in H2020.
Open Educational Resources
The Chronicle of Higher Education has published an interesting Infographic showing that Open Educational Resources are much more popular among students than among academic.
The European Commission has proposed a 10 billion euro Digital Europe programme – the first such programme by the EU. The commission’s proposal focuses on Supercomputers, Artificial Intelligence, Cybersecurity, Digital skills, and Wide use of digital technologies. Moreover, the proposal mentions documents, universities in the context of Objective 4: Digital skills, as providers of relevant courses.
The document refers to Horizon Europe as the programme that will ensure adequate research money.
Quality of Doctoral Supervision?
Two relevant publications on the topic:
The German University Association for Advanced Graduate Training (UniWIND/GUAT) has published a booklet on Doctoral Supervision, with recommendations and examples of good practice. The booklet aims to serve both universities and individual doctoral supervisors.
It looks at responsibilities of the university and of the supervisor, gives good practice examples from Bielefeld and Berlin, and sketches the outline for a Workshop for Supervisors.
The University of Roviri I Virgili in Catalunya already last year published Good Practices In Doctoral Supervision. This document was the result of the “Tarragona Think Tank”, a follow up meeting to a EUA CDE workshop in 2016. The publication looks at doctoral supervision from a European as well as a local perspective and also stresses the importance of doctoral supervision as a competence that can’t be assumed present and needs to be trained, assessed and monitored.
If STEM Ain’t Broke, Fix It Still?
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in the US have published a comprehensive report on the graduate STEM education in the 21st century, prepared by the committee on revitalizing graduate stem education for the 21st century.
The report is interesting in that, rather than constructing its recommendations from an analysis of the problems and how to fix those, starts by depicting an `ideal graduate STEM education´ and articulates recommendations to get closer to the ideal.
The report does identify problems:
- There is a mismatch between what the faculty want and what the students want
- Graduate STEM education doesn’t meet the needs of an increasingly diverse population
- Demand for STEM graduates is generally high, but not in all fields.
FP9 = Horizon Europe
On June 7, the European Commission has published its proposal for Horizon Europe, the 9th framework programme for research and innovation that will succeed Horizon 2020. The proposal is for a budget of 100 billion euro, which is 25% more than Horizon 2020, but significantly less than the 160 proposed in the Lamy report. Horizon Europe will consist of three pillars:
- Open Science,
which will include the current research torch bearing activities of the ERC grants and the Marie Sklodowska Curie Action grants
- Global Challenges and Industrial Competitiveness,
which will be organised in 5 thematic clusters, and
- Open Innovation
In pillar 2, “missions” will be formulated, which seem to aim for a crosscutting approach connecting disciplines, themes and actors in a more integrative way then before.
In pillar 3, the new kid on the block is the European Innovation Council – heavily endowed with 10 billion or 10% of the budget. The EIC is intended to be the innovation counterpart to the ERC: soliciting top quality proposals from the grass root level, without too much steering on specific topics or predefined outcomes by the Commission.
Among universities there is concern that the pure research flagships of ERC and MSCA will grow only very modestly and fear that too much of the other pillars will be focused on technology and ready-for-market developments.
The Young Academy, an independent part of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, has published a “Beginner’s Guide to Dutch Academia”. It is intended to help senior academics (researchers and teaching staff) who are unfamiliar with the Dutch academic setting, but the authors hope that postdoctoral and doctoral researchers will also find relevant information in it. It address key questions on the structure of Dutch academia, specific research organisations in the Netherlands, the system of higher education programmes and degrees, and the long term picture of HE&R policy. In addition, it offers practical information on financial issues as well as diversity issues and family support.
Fraud with Research Money
The European Anti-Fraud Office OLAF has published its OLAF 2017 report. It notes that academic and research fields are prone to fraud, as attested by the significant number of fraud cases uncovered by OLAF in the past years. In particular, the secondment of researchers has become a lucrative business for fraudsters, with individuals, research institutes or companies pocketing EU money for academic or professional exchanges which never actually take place, or projects that never come to fruition. The total damage to the EU financial interests exceeded EUR 800 000 – about 0.026 % of the total fraud damage estimated by OLAF at 3 billion Euro overall. With an annual H2020 budget of let’s say 10 billion in 2017 on a total budget of about 160, research takes 6% of the budget but involves 0,026% of the fraud.
So the message that research fraud is a serious issue may not be seen as firmly based in facts.
Note from the Editor: I Don’t Understand
A simple sentence that is heard ever so often in international cooperation – when so many things are different from what we are used to.
But we can put the very many utterances of that simple sentence in two broad categories.
One is where “I don’t understand” actually means:
“I totally and utterly reject what you are saying/doing/thinking. It is totally clear to me that this way of doing/saying/thinking is sheer madness. Anyone in their right mind should be able to see this. Any sensible person should see that my own way of doing/saying/thinking makes much more sense. But I am far too polite (or timid) to say this so instead I say ‘I don’t understand’”.
The second group is more like:
”How interesting. Apparently you are doing/saying/thinking things in a way very different from my own. I believe you to be a sensible person making sense of the situation that you´re in. So I am really curious to find out more about what you mean and why it is that your way of doing/saying/thinking, which seems so strange to me, really makes sense to you.”
Asking which of the two approaches is the more constructive and productive way of engaging in international and intercultural cooperation, is of course obviously rhetorical.
So the more fascinating question is: “Why do we, while we should know better and actually do know better, still so often fall into this trap of “I don’t understand” in the sense of “I don’t buy this?”
A penny for your thoughts on this.
Finland: Tuition Fees And Decreasing Interest
StudyPortals has published an analysis on their website on the Declining international student interest for Finnish universities. They have compared the enrolment data of international students in Finland with their SP data on interest from international students for study in Finland on their StudyPortals website.
They notice a decreasing interest. And have calculated the ‘normal’ interest on the basis of the total number of international students against the total number of international study programmes. In fact, they see now that the Finnish share in the supply (of international programmes in Europe) is larger than the demand (by international students).
Preparing our students for the global world
The maximum that non-EU students are allowed to work alongside their study in the Netherlands has been extended to 16 hours per week. This is an extension to the previous maximum of 10 hours per week. The alternative of not working during the semester, but full time in the three summer months, has remained unchanged.
The change is the impact of a European regulation, EU Directive 2016/801, which was adopted on May 11, 2016, to stimulate the mobility of students and academics within the European Union. So the same change will have been implemented – or will be implemented – throughout the European Union.
Erasmus Regulation 2021-2027
In a Press Release, the European Commission has announced its plans for the follow-up programme to the current ERASMUS+ programme. It is mostly ‘more of the same’ – which is not to be read in any way de-appreciatively. The new plan will revert to the simple ERASMUS as its name, dropping the “+” that nobody liked using.
The proposed “Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council” has more lofty policy text than practical information, which is given in the accompanying Commission Staff Working Document. The main message is that the budget will be doubled to 30 billion euro. The bulk will continue to go to Education and Training (25,9) with 3,5 billion for Youth and about 0,5 billion for Sports.
The Commission introduced a new feature DiscoverEU for 18-year olds. The general structure of ERASMUS remains the same, with KA 1 for mobility, KA 2 for cooperation projects and KA 3 for central actions. The ‘European Universities’ initiative will be part of KA 2, but (obviously) centrally managed.
1.5 Million Asian Graduates Stay To Work in the US
The Pew Research Center, a non-partisan institution in Washington informing the public about the issues, attitudes and trends that shape the world, has published a report showing a 4-fold increase in the number of international students that stay to work in the US after graduation.
Their numbers increased by no less than 400% between 2008 and 2016, to a total of 1.5 million. More than half (53%) of the foreign graduates approved for employment specialized in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields and three quarters came from Asia
Pew based its report on an analysis of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) data.
EU’s Flagships Getting Under Steam
At the May 22nd Council meeting of Education Ministers of the European Union, the “Macron” initiative was pushed a bit further through the procedural pipeline. Reading the Outcomes Proceedings, we see that the Minsters have told the Commission that it is working in the right direction and should continue to move that way. The choice between “European Universities Alliances” and “European Universities Networks” or “European Universities” has fallen on the latter ”European Universities”, which feeds the impression that these are seen not only as the Flagships of the envisaged European Education Area but also as the building blocks of a transnational = European system of European Universities in the sense of Higher Education & Research Universities under a European legal framework.
Is this an Utopia, Dystopia, or the next big step forward for Universities in Europe?
As a next step, the Committee of National Experts will convene again) and for the last time) in Brussels this Wednesday, June 6. Apparently, a draft for the Call for Proposals will be discussed there, with overall principle objectives, specific targets for 2025, eligibility criteria, and Award Criteria. ´Geographical balance´ is one of two aspects of ´European added value´, which is part of four aspects of ´Relevance´, which can earn max. 30 of the max. 100 points in the assessment.
Bologna: What’s in a name?
The European Commission has published its Bologna Implementation Report 2018. The document provides a wealth of information on all kinds of aspects of the higher education structure in Europe. The authors analyse to which extent national systems confirm to the common structure of degrees, study points and other elements of the agreed Bologna structure.
To those observers who see “Bologna” less as a unifying force and more as a common language to describe increasingly diverse patterns of higher education, the report also shows interesting indications that they may be right. Whoever entertains the idea that the same degree name (e.g. Bachelor’s) and the same ISCED level means also that similar Learning Outcomes are guaranteed in terms of knowledge but also in terms of academic competencies or ‘soft skills’, will be in for a cold surprise.
That doesn’t diminish the value of the report with its treasure of data for all who are interested in Higher Education in Europe.
Striking Impact of ERC Projects
The European Commission has published a concise Qualitative Assessment of completed ERC projects.
The study was conducted on a random sample of 223 Starting and Advanced Grant projects from a pool of 470 completed projects. Therefore, It shows that 79% of ERC projects generate breakthroughs or major advances: 19% led to a breakthrough and 60% to a major scientific advance. Finally, the analysis confirms the results announced in 2016 and 2017.
When Money Means Quality, and When Not
An article in Nature reports on a study by Ulf Sandstrom and Peter van den Besselaar on Funding, evaluation, and the performance of national research systems in the Journal of Infometrics. In their study, Sandstrom and Van Den Besselaar have looked at the added value of additional funding to the production of top-quality research (in terms of field weighted citations). One of the reasons for focusing on change was that the comparison of input levels between countries is problematic. For example, in the UK PhD students are not counted as costs (=inputs) significantly improving the input/output ration compared to countries that do count PhDs as costs. Looking at the impact of changing inputs on changing output solves that problem.
The researchers found that where traditional input/output studies show the UK system as the most efficient one and the Netherlands system much weaker, the analysis of change actually shows the UK and e.g. Israel at the bottom end and the Netherlands and Belgium at the top.
Their findings indicate that efficient science systems have a well-developed ex-post evaluation system combined with considerably high institutional funding and not too large university autonomy. Whether autonomy from the state has a positive effect remains unsettled. Countries with an ex-post evaluation system are more efficient, but much less so when ‘strong’ evaluation systems have direct funding effects.
Less efficient systems seem to have strong ex-ante control, either through a high level of so-called competitive project funding and/or through strong power of university management.
Last Dollar Works
In a study “How Does Last-Dollar Financial Aid Affect First-Year Student Outcomes?”, researchers from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia analysed enrolment and academic performance of students in the Bridging the Gap program of Rutgers University-Camden. They complemented their data with student interviews.
Last-dollar scholarship programmes look at the total costs of the student as well as the money they already found (e.g. with other scholarships) and then provide the remainder. However, the difference between first-dollar and last-dollar scholarship programmes is explained neatly in an info-sheet of the National Scholarship Providers Association.
The Rutgers study shows that the Bridging the Gap programme led to a boost in enrolment of lower-income New Jersey residents and diminished financial stress. There was also a correlation with academic performance, but it was unclear if this could be attributed to the Last-dollar programme.
DK, SE, SF, NL Digtal Leaders
The European Commission has published the 2018 version of ‘The Digital Economy and Society Index’ (DESI). According to the highly graphical information, Europe still has worlds to win in terms of digitalisation, although there is a steady increase in important domains. Noteworthy is that the four most digitalised countries in Europe: Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and the Netherlands, are also leading digitalisation globally, before the US, Japan and South Korea.
But only 20% of companies in Europe are highly digital, which is less than in these global front runners and particularly small and medium-sized enterprises.
Note from The Editor: Macron + Maastricht = Money
The ‘Macron Initiative’ refers to a Call for Proposals by the European Commission for ‘European Universities’ the form the core of a new supranational European Higher Education system. Rumour has it that Maastricht University is preparing a proposal with some other young research universities in Europe.
A good friend and colleague of mine made an interesting connection between this rumour and the discussion in the Netherlands about the pros and cons of the increasing number of EU students in Dutch universities.
Politicians and students are telling themselves, each other and the public that Dutch universities should stop recruiting these EU students – because they say it is against Dutch interest. This is funny because there is hard evidence that the Dutch economy and the Dutch taxpayer profit significantly from these EU students.
Even funnier, the Dutch universities want these students – Maastricht would have to close without their German students – even though increasing numbers of EU students simply mean decreasing amounts of funding per student (which actually explains the position of the Dutch students).
Dutch government could easily resolve the dilemma for the universities by simply not counting the EU students when they divide the fixed budget for university education among the universities. That would be an immediate disincentive to recruit more EU students.
But an even more exciting solution would be for Maastricht to win its bid for a European University, be lifted out of the Dutch university system and transferred to the newly designed European system – with the proportion of the Dutch HE budget commensurate to the proportion of Dutch students in Maastricht.
Short Time Works, Semester Better
The Forum of Education Abroad has published its “State of the Field 2017”, the 6th such survey since 2006. The Forum sees itself as the collective voice of U.S. post-secondary education abroad. The report, based on 264 responses to a survey to 768 Forum member organisations, provides an overview on what´s happening in Study Abroad for American students, with input from sending universities, hosting universities as well as programme providers.
Among other things, it gives an insight into what people in the field see as their major concerns, and effective strategies as well as major barriers to increase numbers. Noteworthy: Assessment of the learning outcomes of a Study Abroad period are identified as questions yet to be answered. The Forum does have a special Guide to Outcomes Assessment in Education Abroad downloadable at its website, edited by Mell C. Bolen, director of Study Abroad at Princeton University.
UK Students Abroad: Few, But With Reward
This month, Universities UK International published another report in the context of its Go International: Stand Out campaign. The current report is on the 2015-16 graduating cohort. In March 2015, we reported that the 2012-13 cohort report of UUKI calculated that students with international experience in their studies are more likely to find employment and – when they do – have higher earnings than their fellows who didn’t go abroad.
According to this new report, the percentage of the full cohort who are mobile has remained the same, but the percentage of students from less-advantaged backgrounds, and the percentages of Black students and Asian students going abroad has increased. With more than half of mobilities in 2014-15 facilitated through the Erasmus+ Programme, the UK remains reliant on this scheme to deliver mobility for students. Like in the 2012-13 report, the data show that the positive impact of study abroad: less unemployment, better jobs, and higher starting salaries are even stronger for students from disadvantaged and underrepresented groups.
The report contains an interesting overview of mobility by discipline. That Language takes 1st place with 32.1% doesn´t surprise us. But Medicine (31.2%) is often seen as a ´hard´ field for student mobility. Only four subject groups (Languages, Medicine, “Combined” and Veterinary) score above or close to 20% – after that, there is a deep dive to less than 8%. One wonders if that might have anything to do with the fact that a programme “with a year abroad” in England still invariably means “one more year”.
Last Place Author?
In an article on the AEA (American Economic Association) Papers and Proceedings, the authors show that women and underrepresented racial and ethnic groups are less likely to be last authors, an indicator of career independence. In their article Last Place? The Intersection of Ethnicity, Gender, and Race in Biomedical Authorship, they want to highlight the notion that ethnicity, gender, and race are not necessarily additive, but interact to determine experiences and outcomes. Interestingly, the study shows that minority women face less disadvantage than the disadvantage of being black or Hispanic plus the disadvantage of being a woman.
The researchers found a way around the problem small number of minorities and the small number of women in some science careers by using a convention of the biomedical sciences.
The study used a database of 486 644 articles with two to nine authors published in medical journals by U.S. scientists between 1946 and 2009.
Education Under Attack
The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) has published the 2018 version of its “Education under Attack” report.
The overall number of attacks on education documented in Education under Attack 2018 suggests that violence directed at students, educators, and their institutions increased worldwide. Between January 2013 and December 2017, from 2009 to the mid-2013 period covered in Education under Attack 2014.
This study found that there were reports of more than 1,000 individual attacks on education or cases of military use of schools or universities, or of 1,000 or more students, teachers, or other education personnel being harmed, in 9 countries: DRC, Egypt, Israel/Palestine, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Sudan, Syria, Turkey, and Yemen.
Reports suggested that students and educators were individually targeted most frequently in Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine, Nigeria, and the Philippines.
Military use of schools or universities was reported at least once in 29 countries. These included cases in which armed forces or non-state armed groups used schools as bases, barracks, temporary shelters, fighting positions, weapons storage facilities, detention and interrogation centres, or military training facilities.
Girls and women were uniquely targeted because of their gender, not only as victims of sexual violence but also where armed groups opposed female education.
Girls and women were targets of attacks on education because of their gender in at least 18 of the 28 countries profiled in this report.
Attacks on higher education staff and infrastructure were widely reported in every country profiled, including attacks on higher education buildings in 20 countries.
Prepublication Disclosure: When? Why?
In an article Science Advances, an offspring of Science, researchers from the US and Germany have published an article on the forbidding title Prepublication disclosure of scientific results: Norms, competition, and commercial orientation. On the basis of a survey of 7103 active faculty researchers in nine fields, they have examined the extent to which scientists disclose prepublication results, and when they do, why? They found that in 7 out of 9 fields, more scientists disclose results before publication than not, but there is significant variation in their reasons to disclose, in the frequency of such disclosure, and in withholding crucial results when making public presentations. A probability model shows that 70% of field variation in disclosure is related to differences in beliefs about norms, competition, and commercialisation.
Too Much Course Information
Four researchers from the Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis report on their field experiment to better understand how information about courses may influence the students’ choice and performance.
In a large-scale field experiment, the undergraduate students felt encouraged or not, to use information from official transcripts and detailed end-of-course evaluation surveys from the past fifteen years before choosing their courses. They found that students who used the information had a lower GPA by 0.28. Additionally, they found that the lower grade particularly related to information on the grades obtained in that course. Their exploratory analysis suggested that these effects are not due to a change in the choice of courses, but rather by changes to their behaviour within the courses they subsequently took. The report How a data-driven course planning tool affects college students’ GPA: Evidence from two field experiments is published by Stanford – CEPA.
Renewed EU Agenda For Research & Innovation
The European Commission has published a “Communication” and a “Factsheet” unfolding its views on the future research and innovation strategy in Europe – as a contribution to in the informal EU leaders summit in Bulgaria this month. As the Commission notes, the EU has world-class research and strong industries, but EU companies and venture capitalists spend less on research than elsewhere and the EU has relatively few start-ups valued at > 1 billion).
In this context, the European Commission calls for i.a. the speedy decision to increase in investment in research and innovation with €100 billion and to stimulate venture capitalist investment in R&I.
Interestingly, the European Commission shows awareness that it should not only focus on research and business processes, but also on assisting citizens in handling the transition that is required of them in this rapidly and constantly changing surroundings.
The Communication and Factsheet make no explicit reference to the Sustainable Development Goals, but do seem to have been written with those goals in mind.
Is Free Tuition Possible?
In an article in Higher Education Policy that winks at the well-known acronym TINSTAAFL, Boston College Ariane de Gayardon attempts to get some order into the muddled situation across the globe about what is understood by “free tuition”. Her article There is no such thing as free higher education shows that the broad concept of free higher education conceals many different financial realities, with only very few of them being actually really free. Many so-called free higher education systems are open only for just a fraction of students, others may be free from something called “tuition”, but might pay up to € 3000 for student services and examinations. So her bottom line message is to protesting students, in student-loan systems, who want their system to move to “free higher education without a clear understanding of what this may mean in practice.
I would like to add one notion that Ariane de Gayardon doesn’t seem to cover which may help to clarify the discussion a bit further. I would suggest that real free higher education entails that a student without any money and any access to cash, can enter and complete a full degree course in higher education. That means that all education costs, as well as all livelihood costs during full time study, are somehow covered without the student or his family having to foot the bill. Real free higher education can be measured by a) the proportion of students who are in this blissful situation and b) the average percentage of full costs (of education and livelihood) that students or that families have to shoulder themselves.
Note: Diversity As Redressing Imbalance of Cultures
Last week, I visited the University of Iceland – one of the members of the Aurora Network. My conversations with the diversity officer in Reykjavik helped me to get some understanding (rightly or wrongly) of the underlying pattern of what Aurora universities can do in various manifestations of Diversity issues:
- Diversity issues become relevant to the university when there is a situation of a dominant culture over one or more subordinate cultures, which has the effect that members of a subordinate culture have less opportunity to fulfil their potential in the university.
- This is a problem because of unfulfilled potential from the perspective of the individual (unequal opportunities) and from the perspective of the university (unfulfilled potential)
- The first part of a successful way to address this problem is to have (or develop) adequate tool of analysis and diagnosis: to find out that there is a problem, to get a view on how big it is and what the causes are.
- The second part is to have (or develop) tools, or rather a toolkit with interventions to reduce the imbalance between Dominant and Subordinate cultures in the university.
In this pattern, “gender-budgeting” – which is one of the potential projects in the Diversity & Inclusion group of Aurora – is one possible tool in the toolkit to address one specific form of imbalance that leads to diversity problems.
Short Time Works, Semester Better
Two American researchers report on the impact of different forms of Study Abroad among over 1800 graduates from Elon University (NC) in their article on Student Outcomes Associated with Short term and Semester Study Abroad Programs in Frontiers, the International Journal for Study Abroad. Comparing students without Study Abroad with those with different combinations of Semester Abroad and Short Term Abroad, they found that both Short Term and Semester programmes were positively associated with how students rate their overall educational experience. But students with Semester Abroad experience-reported better outcomes than those with Short Term Abroad experience. There was less measurable added value for a second international experience: a Semester after Short Term or vice versa or two Short Term experiences. So, while Short Term programmes have their value, Semester programmes correlate with better outcomes.
9/11, Lehman, Trump: 17 Years & 3 Shockwaves
In an article published by the Berkeley Center for Studies in Higher Education, Rahul Choudaha from StudyPortals analyses the major trends in international student mobility towards the US since 2001. He attributes dropping numbers in 1999-2006 to the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and the ensuing “war on terror” (reducing student interest). The robust growth of 44% between 2006 and 2013, he attributes to the global financial crisis (increasing US recruitment efforts). The slowdown in international enrolment that he projects, is attributed in the article both to increasing competition by English-taught programmes elsewhere and to what he euphemistically calls the new world order – probably meaning Trump.
Me or My Friends Make Me go To China?
In an article in Frontiers, the International Journal for Study Abroad, two researchers report on a survey among some 400 American students about their interest in studying in China. In their article Predicting U.S. College Students’ Interest in Studying in China: Social Influence, Personal Experiences, Country Reputation, and Media Coverage, the researchers distinguished between factors related to the individual perceptions and opinions on a study in China and social influence: the opinions of others.
They found that social influence or normative pressure is a much more important factor to shape their attitudes toward studying in China than their overall perceptions of China and media coverage of China.
More International Students in China
In August 2017 (VU IN&R No 96), we already noted an article in World Education News & Reviews about China as potentially a new leading destination for international students. Now, this emerging trend is underpinned by data from the Chinese government. The Chinese Ministry of Education reports that in 2017, there were 489 200 international students in China; an increase of over 10% for the second consecutive year. Most of them are coming to China for a Study Abroad period, but almost half (241 500 or 49.38%) are degree students. According to the MOE, a growing number of foreign students are choosing to study in China for a master’s or PhD degree across a widening range of disciplines, and scholarships granted by the Chinese government are playing an increasingly important role in attracting international students.
Fewer Internationals in the US
The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement office has published its biannual report on international student trends: SEVIS by the Numbers. The report shows that the total number of SEVIS records for active F and M students decreased by 0.5 percent, from 1,208,039 in March 2017 to 1,201,829 in March 2018. Numbers are still up from the Southern Hemisphere, but definitely down from the Northern Hemisphere.
Those That Have Not… Will Give Up, the Matthew Effect
Three Dutch researchers, with affiliations with prestigious universities also in the US, have published an article in PNAS on The Matthew effect in science funding. They analysed data from a large academic funding program to quantify the Matthew effect and identify generative mechanisms. Their results show that winners just above the funding threshold accumulate more than twice as much funding during the subsequent eight years as non-winners with near-identical review scores that fall just below the threshold. This effect is partly caused by non-winners ceasing to compete for other funding opportunities, revealing a “participation” mechanism driving the Matthew effect.
New Dutch Science Funding Strategy
NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research), the Dutch Science funding organisation, has published its 2019-2022 strategy document: Connection Science and Society. NWO wants to be more flexible in adapting to anticipate developments in science and society and has identified 5 major ambitions. It wants to play a key role in connecting agendas, to actively foster research talent, stimulate collaboration for excellence and innovation, be host or point of entry to major research infrastructure and stimulate effective use of knowledge through co-design/co-creation. It will also give special attention to the “Matthew principle” that disfavours good researchers who just failed to secure a grant early in their career.
Impact on Society/Economy?
Reuters has published its 2018 “Reuters Top 100”: a list of most innovative universities in Europe. Their methodology focuses entirely on innovation for the for-profit sector: for the economy, not for society. All their indicators are related to patents, which will exclude innovative research which can’t be marketed and sold at a profit.
Having said that, it is interesting to see the spread of “innovation in terms of patents” across Europe: in the top 100 list, Germany (23 institutions) and the UK (21) are almost on a par, followed by France (18). Then come the small countries that punch above their weight: Netherlands (9) and Belgium (7, per capita the highest score). Switzerland (4) and Denmark may also e see as punching above their weight, but in absolute numbers, Spain may surprise some readers with 5 institutions (three from Catalunya).
There are two Aurora universities among the top 100: The University of Grenoble Alpes owns a proud 28th place – and would probably rank much higher had the merger with the Grenoble Institute of Technology (rank 46) already taken effect. The University of Antwerp is on place 96. Why not more Aurora universities? The answer may well lie in the exclusive focus on patentable innovative research – leaving aside innovative research with a high societal impact of a non-marketable nature.
More Study Debt = Less Life Gain
The US Department of Education has published a report “Debt after College: Employment, Enrolment, and Student-Reported Stress and Outcomes” on the long-term financial consequences of study loan debt. As the report focuses on the cohorts graduating since 1999, the impact of the 2007-08 crisis can be deduced from the data. In the US, the percentage of students graduating with debt has risen from 49% in 1992/93 to 66% in 2007/08 – with the average amount growing from $15 000 “2009 dollars” in 1992/93 to $ 24 700 in 2007-08.
The data show that students graduating with a study loan debt are less convinced that studying was worth it, have more trouble in making ends meet, are more often forced to delay buying a house and starting a family, and are significantly more often forced to take jobs that are less desirable for them.
Reputation Halo in Germany
Studies with relevance to the internationalisation of higher education can be found where least expected: the Journal for Institutional and Theoretical Economics (founded in 1844!!) published an article by Mira Fischer on the spill-over effect of research excellence on the perception of students of the quality of their education.
In a highly quantitative approach using a three-year survey among 37 000 students at 33 Higher Education Institutions in Germany, the author shows the impact of an award of a research excellence label like the German “Excellence Initiative” changes. Universities that have been awarded such a prestigious research label, are – controlling for all other factors – seen as offering better education by students and high school students. Better education and better job prospects, just by a research label. After a few years, when the award of the research label is further in the past, students’ ratings of educational quality return to the previous level, even when the research label is still valid.
Legal Needs of Refugees
HiiL, The Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of the Law, has published an assessment of the legal needs of particularly Syrian refugees, based on analysis of 1800 Syrian refugees living in Lebanon and Jordan, collected early 2017. They found that almost 2/3rd of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon and more than 1/3rd in Jordan had experienced legal problems in the four preceding years: nearly 400 000 refugees with legal issues! The most pressing justice needs involve housing and money: house-eviction and non-payment of wages. The report notes that there is a dire need to collect more and better data on the justice problems for the Syrian refugees and the ways to resolve them, as well as better data on – and improvement of – the capacity of the justice system in the countries where the refugees live.
Balancing Free Speech & Inclusive Practices
The American Council on education has conducted on an online survey among university presidents about the possible tensions and dilemmas between protecting free speech and protecting students from expressions which they may find offensive. Virtually all presidents (98 per cent) agreed that protecting both freedoms of speech and promoting an inclusive society is extremely or very important to democracy. But when faced with the hard choice between protection of free speech and protection against offensive speech, the vast majority gives precedence to the freedom of speech. Presidents overwhelmingly indicated that it is more important for colleges to allow students to be exposed to all types of speech (96 per cent) than it is for colleges to protect students by prohibiting offensive or biased speech.
Major Deals with Publishers
The EUA has published its survey of the major contracts concluded between consortia of (mainly) universities and libraries, but also governments and scientific organisations on the one hand, and the major publishers of scientific journals on the other. EUA asserts in the report that the total sum of money involved in these Big Deals with the publishers is over 420 million Euro, of which a huge share (over 380 million) goes to periodicals. EUA refers to recent studies that have estimated a 45% or 170 million euro saving by a full transition towards an open access publishing system. That is a lot of money, which could be re-allocated to research and/or to moving towards a full-scale open access publishing system.
Big Data in Higher Education
Three researchers from Spain have written a chapter in the Handbook of Research on Emerging Business Models and Managerial Strategies in the Nonprofit Sector, focusing on the use of Big Data in the Higher Education sector. They explain how “Big Data” has required the development of data analytics tools far beyond the power of MySQL or Oracle and analyse the steps of Big Data analysis. They assert that Big Data analysis, potentially can make it easier in higher education for the management to make progress in key areas such as finance, student evaluation, and resource allocation and that a majority of colleges and universities are collecting large volumes of data. But they also state that few institutions use the information strategically.
College Sports or College Grants?
Erica Blom, Research Associate at the Urban Institute, used National Collegiate Athletic Association data to calculate how many more students colleges could fund if they got rid of athletics. In her Urban Wire blog on the topic, she calculates, based on various assumptions, that colleges could fund at least an additional 200,000 scholarships. She shows that college sports bring in money for only a small number of colleges and that for the majority it actually costs – a lot. Costs include coaching and other staff, athletic scholarships, and facilities and overhead, as well as travel, uniforms, and snacks for athletes.
This is well in line with earlier signals that the main reasons that tuition fees in the US are so much higher than full cost tuition in Europe or Canada have little or nothing to do with the costs of education – because the money is simply not spent on education.
Times Higher Education has analysed the differences between disciplines in the likelihood of academic working getting cited in the years after publication. As Simon Baker writes in the article “Academics publishing in particular fields of chemistry or neuroscience are virtually guaranteed to be cited after five years, but more than three-quarters of papers in literary theory or the performing arts will still be waiting for a single citation.” The analysis was done in disciplines which had at least 10 000 published articles between 2012 and 2016.
The article gives an overview of the disciplines with the highest and lowest citation scores. It would be interesting if the Times Higher Education team would carry out a similar exercise for the SDGs rather than for academic disciplines.
Persistent Gender gap in Academic Salaries
The American Association of University Professors has published its Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2017-18. The report has a solid base in survey responses from almost 380 000 faculty members from over 1 000 HE institutions.
The report notes that Faculty saw a modest rise in salaries since the year before, but that this was mostly offset by the rising cost of living. One salient graph shows the gender gap between academics in the US. Institutions to the right of the red bar pay higher salaries to men than to women at a specific academic rank. Among the other salient points: Retirement security has drastically eroded since the 2007 depression.
Students Bringing Money to Denmark and Wales
Universities Denmark has published a report – in Danish – analysing the cost-benefit ratio of international students coming to Denmark. The report “Samfundsøkonomisk regnskap for internationale dimittender i Denmark” analysis of the economic impact of international students in Denmark shows that the net contribution to the Danish economy of international students was DKK4 billion (537 million Euros) in 2007-11.
A similar report was published on The Economic Impact of International Students in Wales. Their graphic executive summary shows the incoming students generated 487 million pound in 2015-16, which constituted 3.7% of Welsh exports that in the period. The spending of international students and their visitors generated over 6850 full-time equivalent jobs in Wales, equivalent to nearly 0.5% of Welsh employment. Of these 1,598 jobs were created in areas which do not have a university presence. Thus the report underlines the positive impact but also warns for the vulnerability to drops in students – and warns against strict immigration regulations and other impediments to incoming student mobility.
The two reports follow earlier similar reports in the Netherlands, Germany, Finland and the US – all showing significant economic and fiscal benefits of incoming student mobility.
The Value of a PhD Degree
A PhD degree is an almost certain employment guarantee, but for the majority, this will be outside Academia. This is the main conclusion of the report (in Dutch) on “The sense of obtaining a PhD”. The report was published by two researchers at the Rathenau Institute, a private non-profit institute researching societal dimensions of science, innovation and new technologies.
The report shows that 70% of PhDs in the Netherlands end up outside academia (universities and university hospitals. The number of PhDs in the Netherlands has increased tremendously in 25 years, from less than 2000 in 1991 to almost 5000 in 2016, with the strongest increase in the health field. There is a clear mismatch between the expectations and wishes of the PhDs and reality: 55% would like to stay in an academic setting, but slightly more than half of them (30%) actually succeed in that. But the overwhelming majority of PhDs does find a job: unemployment among PhDs is less than half the overall average unemployment rate in the Netherlands for the period analysed: 2% against 4,2%. And those working outside Academia don’t do so to their dissatisfaction: more than 80% value their PhD enough to say they would do it again (against 90% of those in Academia).
Note: Corrective Leadership
Anybody who is in a position of professional supervision faces the dilemma of when to correct the work of co-workers. This applies to university rectors and presidents quite as much as to directors and heads of sections in the university administration – and to professors who supervise doctoral candidates.
The dilemma is when to correct and when to let things pass.
One of my superiors early in my career helped me to make an important distinction in three categories of assessing somebody’s work, each of them starting with the observation `This is now how I would have done it myself`, but with different responses to the co-worker:
- “I would have done it differently”: people do things differently and often a co-worker does a job not in the way you would have expected it – or done it yourself. But that always means that your own ‘different’ way would also have been better?
So it makes sense to ask oneself: “Yes, I would have done it differently, but am I absolutely convinced that my way is actually the better way?”
If not, different is actually enriching and co-workers will greatly appreciate a supervisor who is willing to give that space.
- “I would have done it better”: this may often actually be true, as the supervisor will generally have more expertise and more experience. But everybody has to learn, nobody was born with extensive professional experience. So the question, maybe, should not be if you would have done better, but rather if the job was done sufficiently well enough.
“Well done, let’s do it this way – and by the way, maybe next time you could do it even better in the this-or-that way” is an empowering and capacitating message.
- “This is not good enough”: What my early career supervisor thought me was that this conclusion about what your co-worker has done “this is not good enough” should really only been draw after you have seriously considered if option 1) (different) and option 2) (good enough) have been considered and discarded.
Universities thrive if their leaders, professors, and managers have the wisdom to apply these basic rules – I confess that I try and still often fail at it.
Mobility Data: Up or Down?
In the Spring 2018 issue (93) of “International Higher Education” published by the Boston College Center for International Higher Education, OECD Education Division Head Dirk van Damme analyses what he sees as the faltering growth of international mobility. He writes that as many expected the huge growth in international student mobility from 1.7 million in 1995 to 4.5 million in 2012 to continue, the OECD Education at a Glance shows that it didn’t: “Between 2012 and 2015, a mere 100,000 students were added to the 4.5 million.”
This is remarkable because one can read the following in that OECD EaaG publication:
The supporting graph in that publication does, however, support Van Damme’s warning about minimal growth in 2013-15:
All in all, Van Damme’s concluding remark is worth repeating – and the whole article worth reading: “What is happening both on the demand and supply sides of international higher education is fundamentally reshaping the size and direction of international student mobility
flows. (…) the current changes in international education will have a profound impact around the world in the twenty-first century.”
Welcoming International Students & Researchers
The Finnish government has announced that from May 15th, new legislation on students and researchers, also from outside the EU, will be giving both researchers and students better access to residence permits. The goal of this act implementing the EU Directive on students and researchers is that most students completing their degrees in EU countries stay and work in the Union.
With the new act, all researchers would receive a researcher’s residence permit, irrespective of whether the research is in an employment relationship or, for example, receiving a grant. The residence permit would be granted continuously for two years. Currently, a permit may be temporary or continuous, and in principle, it is given for one year.
All students would continue to be granted a temporary residence permit. Still, as a rule, it would be given for two years instead of one year if the conditions (incl. sufficient financial resources) are met throughout the stay.
Cassie: Impact of Study Abroad
With support from the US Government, a Consortium for Analysis of Student Success through International Education (CASSIE) has been set up under the leadership of the University of Georgia system. CASSIE is a research partnership to study the impact of international education experiences on student success outcomes.
It will look at critical questions such as:
- Is the positive impact of study abroad on graduation rates similar for private institutions as well as for the public?
- For smaller colleges as well as for large research universities?
- Does studying abroad impede timely graduation for students majoring in “lockstep” STEM majors
- How well-represented are students receiving need-based financial aid among world language majors, and how does choosing such a significant effect on the likelihood that they will graduate within four years?
- When students double-major in a world language plus another academic area, do their grades suffer, or does additional language study instead boost achievement in their other academic area?
The CASSIE initiative is still inviting new partners and collaborators, although it is not clear if this is limited to North America.
Tuition Hampering Diversity
In a study “Exploring the Effects of Tuition” Drew Allen from Princeton and two colleagues report on a study they undertook on the implications of rises intuition on racial/ethnic composition of the student population. The study addresses two primary research questions: What are the effects of tuition increases on racial/ethnic diversity at public institutions over time, and do the relationships between tuition increases and racial/ethnic diversity at 4-year institutions vary by institution selectivity?
Their findings suggest that tuition increases at open-access, non-selective public 4-year institutions are negatively and significantly associated with the racial/ethnic diversity of enrolled students. This same negative relationship can be seen among 2-year public institutions, and the effects are more pronounced in full-time, first-time freshmen as compared to the overall full-time campus population.
US Knows its College Spending Gap
The Center for American Progress has published a report on Gaps in College Spending Shortchange Students of Color. While inequities in the primary and secondary school system in the US are already well researched, this report claims to be one of the first analyzing the same issue at postsecondary education.
It finds that on average, education spending at public colleges is more than $ 1000 less for black and Latino students than it is for white students, adding up to a spending gap of 5 billion dollars a year. In 2015, California spent 26% more to educate a white student attending college than it did to educate a black college student—a $3,000 difference per student.
One wonders how the situation is in European countries with substantial minority populations, like the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France. Probably the saddening answer is that we don’t know. Regulations meant to protect our privacy actually make it hard to see that we may have quite as large problems as they do in the US.
Hungry and Homeless on Campus
According to the report “Still Hungry and Homeless in College” from the Wisconsin Hope Lab, a staggering 36% of college students in their national survey were ‘food-insecure’ in the 30 days preceding the survey and also 36% were ‘housing insecure’ in the preceding year and 9% were actually homeless. The percentages for the community colleges are even significantly higher than that.
The report is based on a survey of 43 000 students at 66 institutions in 20 states plus DC.
The Wisconsin Hope Lab aims at improving equitable outcomes in postsecondary education from the perspective that students from low-income households, students of colour, and students who are the first in their families to attend college are still being left behind.
Man Smart Woman Smarter
In Advances in Physiology Education, three researchers from Arizona State University published an article “Who perceives they are smarter?” on the influence on student´s academic self-concept by their characteristics such as gender and mother tongue. In a study on 244 students, linear regression showed that men and native English speakers had significantly higher academic self-concept relative to the whole class compared with women and non-native English speakers. Using logistic regression, they found that men had significantly higher academic self-concept relative to their groupmate compared with women.
It may remind some of the older readers of the song by Harry Belafonte: “That’s right de woman is uh smarter, that’s right, that’s right”.
How to Report on the SDGs?
KPMG has published a document “How to report on the SDGs: what good looks like and why it matters”. Although KPMG aims the document at major corporations, showing that already 40% of the 250 largest companies in the world discuss the SDGs in their reports, the KPMG publication is relevant for universities as well.
They summarise their advice on how to report in 9 short questions: Does the ….
- Does the report show the business case for taking SDG-action?
- Does the CEO talk about the SDGs?
- Does the report assess the company’s SDG impact?
- Does the report identify SDG priorities for the company?
- Does the report explain the method used to prioritize?
- Does the report show specific SDG targets?
- Does the report disclose SDG performance goals?
- Does the report set these SDG performance goals in a SMART way?
- report entail indicators to measure progress?
These questions are relevant for societally engaged research universities such as in Aurora quite as much as for big corporations. In addition, wouldn’t it be nice if scholars from relevant Aurora research groups analyse the KPMG approach and give their comments from their own methodological perspective?
The OECD has published a report “Valuing our Teachers and Raising their Status” because they underline that increasing importance of teachers who feel – and are – valued by their societies.
In an overview of how well teachers feel themselves to be appreciated, Flanders, the Netherlands, England, and Norway show higher ratings than the OECD average; in Iceland, Sweden and France. Teachers feel below-average appreciated (no data for Scotland and Germany).
Innovating Liberal Arts
The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) has published a report on “Innovation and the Independent College” as the result of a series of workshops in the future value of the liberal arts and of independent colleges and universities. Approximately 500 presidents, chief academic officers, senior administrators and faculty leaders from over 120 independent non-profit HE institutions explored key trends in higher education and society, the pressures that individual colleges and universities face, and potential solutions.
The report does not have an Executive Summary and apparently wasn’t designed to give one singular message. It reads more like a recipe book aimed to give those who read it – or glance it through – some new ideas or possibly just inspiration for the challenges they face at their own institution.
The courses on the menu focus on Athletics, Career Connections, Community Engagement, Consortial Agreements, Cost containment, Curricular reform, New academic programmes and New students. Each section gives ‘challenges’ and ‘questions’, leaving it to the users to formulate their own answers.
Texas’ Real Graduate Salary
The University of Texas has developed a free online tool to find out how UT graduates fare in terms of salary, debt and jobs data. The tool SeekUT was developed by the University of Texas together with the US Census Bureau and gives students access to median earning of UT graduates working full time — by degree level in 300 areas of study — 1, 5, and 10 years after graduation, alongside median student loan debt. Additionally, seekUT includes program descriptions, the average time to degree, and the percentage of graduates who have continued their education beyond the baccalaureate. It shows the industries where graduates are working by area of study, as well as the anticipated job growth in Texas by occupation through 2022.
For Whose Profit?
The Century Foundation, a progressive non-partisan think-tank based in New York and Washington, has analysed the how well public, non-profit, and for-profit Higher Education institutions in New York perform in terms of employment outcomes and financial burden for the students as well as how much of the tuition money is actually spent on education.
Their report “Grading New York’s Colleges” shows that the for-profit institutions – which attract many more of the underprivileged students – do much more poorly on all three accounts than both public and non-profit private institutions.
The majority of students at 38% of the for-profit institutions have no wage benefit from their tuition: they still earn less than the average worker with no more than high school.
Over 12 years, students at for-profit schools default at more than four times the rate of those at public and nonprofit colleges in New York.
And while 78 per cent of nonprofit schools spend at least half of tuition revenue on student instruction, only 29 per cent of for-profit schools do so.
Reproducibility Crisis Overestimated
Two researchers from Stanford and one from the Leiden CWTS have conducted a major meta-analysis of Web of Science articles to search for evidence of the “reproducibility crisis caused by many biases”. Their report on “Meta-assessment of bias in science” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science shows that the actual situation may be less worrisome than people might believe. They looked for evidence of a great number of possible causes for distortion of research results – reporting stronger positive effects than warranted because allegedly:
- The small size of the study
- Studies with negative effects don’t get published
- Early studies in a specific topic give more extreme results
- Studies with positive results get more citations
- Publication pressure – especially in the US – leads to exaggerated results
- Young – particularly male – researchers are ambitious and want to shine
- In some fields, there is a lack of peer control
All in all, they found that these biases, where they exist, are relatively small. They found some inclination for overestimated effects in small, early and high-cited articles. But their overall conclusion that these biases are much smaller than the public discussion on the reproducibility crisis would make it seem. Rather than investing heavily in this assumed crisis, they suggest that the feasibility and costs of interventions to attenuate biases in the literature might need to be discussed on a discipline-specific and topic-specific basis.
European Universities Headache
Let’s have some twenty world-class European universities, with bright students freely moving between campuses in various countries, getting degrees that are automatically recognised throughout Europe!
A dream or a nightmare? Whichever it is, what started as a paragraph in Macron’s visionary “I have a European Dream” speech of September, is now fast turning into a tangible project, with a proposed first pilot call in the coming Fall. The Commission is putting serious money into it: the winning consortia (3-4 in the first round and maybe 6-8 in total) will get at least 5 million euro to give European higher education “electroshock”.
Serious researchers choose their own research partners and serious universities don’t interfere in that process. Is this the unsurmountable stumbling block for these European Universities – or is it a serious puzzle deserving serious attention?
Many of those now circling around Brussels to see if – and how – they can become part of this initiative (universities, university networks) will try to downsize the plans of the European Commission to an extra nice edition of what is already happening in ERASMUS+.
But could it be that the Commission has other plans – and has somehow managed to get the active support of national governments? Is there a reason why they mention the European Institute in Florence and the Collège d’Europe in Bruges among the first examples of ‘existing models’. Might it be that they are aiming – at least as one potential outcome – at the transformation of some of the winning Consortia in the 5 million Euro lottery into single European Universities. New entities that will be lifted out of the HE systems of their constituent consortium universities and find a legal basis in a European Statute.
What is a wise response to this fantastic new idea? That is a question that will be on many a rector’s minds:
“Is it a mere fantasy of bureaucrats with nothing better to do – not worth spending time on?”
“What is the likelihood that other universities/university networks will jump unto this 5 million euro train – for better or for worse.”
“Will I laugh out loud or grit my teeth if I keep my university on the solid ground I know?”
Quite enough to give rector’s a serious headache: the “European University’s Headache” or EUH!
Taking or Making our Study Places?
The Dutch Nuffic has published its data and analysis on “Incoming student mobility in Dutch higher education 2017-2018”. It shows that this year, a record number of over 122 000 international students study in Dutch higher education – for a full degree programme (over 75%) or for an exchange period. International enrolment in degrees rose by 9.3% since last year. Maastricht University remains the university with the highest number of international students in the Netherlands, followed by the University of Amsterdam and the University of Groningen. Amsterdam has most international students, but still a modest proportion of its total student population compared to Maastricht and Groningen. The Nuffic data show that degree mobility has more than doubled since 2006. It also shows that – it would discount the huge numbers of German students in Maastricht, we would see a very balanced spread of students from mainly European countries, and China and the US.
The report signals the recent questions in the Netherlands about all these international students “taking our own students’ places and forcing them to follow English taught programmes”. It fails to note how many Master’s programmes would shut down and not be available for Dutch students at all if the international students wouldn’t keep them populated and thus keep the Dutch Higher Education at its present strength.
Who recruits from India?
The Wall Street Journal reports (March 11) that the number of visa to foreign students fell markedly with 17% in 2017, with a major decline from India. The stricter immigration policies of the US government may be seen as the prime cause for this decline. Any and all universities in the US complain about the “shrinking of the pool” of applicants and the general feeling is expressed by the recurrent saying that “Trump is doing a great job in recruiting for Canadian universities”, which was allegedly uttered informally by a senior Canadian official.
American Language First, Signs Rise
A report on Enrollments in Languages Other Than English by the Modern Language Association in the US shows that aggregated fall 2016 course enrolments in languages other than English were 1,417,921 against 1,561,131 in fall 2013. Thus, admissions fell 9.2% between fall 2013 and fall 2016, suffering the second-largest decline in the history of the census (the most significant decline, 12.6%, was in 1972). This history dates back to 1958. Since then, the enrolment in foreign language suffered an overall decline from 162 enrolments per 100 students (so 1,6 on average per student) to 75 in 2016.
In terms of ranking, Spanish and French still lead as the two most studied languages. American Sign Language continues to be third, having displaced German in 2013.
The report is based on a survey among the over 2600 HE institutions in the US offering non-English language education, with an overwhelming response rate of over 95%!
Resilience of Immigrant Students
The OECD has published an extensive study on “The Resilience of Students with an Immigrant Background”. Given the crucial importance of education for the integration of immigrants in society, it has looked at enablers and risks for success in education from an academic, but also from a social and emotional perspective.
It has found – unsurprisingly – that immigrant students tend to underperform. Some data comparing immigrant students with an average cohort:
- failing basic academic proficiency: 51% against 28%
- weak sense of belonging: 43% against 33%
- poor satisfaction with life: 31% against 28%
- school-related anxiety: 67% against 61%.
Academic underperformance among students with an immigrant background is particularly pronounced in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Japan, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland. Socio-economic disadvantage and language barriers are two of the greatest obstacles to the successful integration of students with an immigrant background. Education systems, schools and teachers can play a significant role in helping students with an immigrant background integrate into their communities, overcome adversity and build their academic, social, emotional and motivational resilience.
Admissions: Playing or for Real?
As InsideHigherEd comments:
What happens to diversity-minded educators when their son is wait-listed by Yale, but his biracial best friend with lower grades and test scores gets in?
The Lincoln Theatre Center in Manhattan is staging a play called Admissions. It explores the ideals and contradictions of liberal white America. Sherri Rosen-Mason (Jessica Hecht) is head of the admissions department at a New England prep school, fighting to diversify the student body. Alongside her husband, the school’s Headmaster, they’ve largely succeeded in bringing a stodgy institution into the twenty-first century. But when their only son sets his sights on an Ivy League university, personal ambition collides with progressive values, with convulsive results.
Lanes on the Open Science Road
The European Commission has published a “Staff Working Document” on the implementation of the European Open Science Cloud (launched in April 2016). Based on thorough stakeholder analysis, the Commission underlines that the European Open Science Cloud requires a clear governance framework, the definition of initial services, a clear business model, easy access and re-use, and cost optimisation. It identifies 6 Model Action Lines:
What 10 Chinese PhDs Think
In Dutch higher education media, some eyebrows were raised about the assumed uncomfortable position of Chinese PhD candidates in the Netherlands. The source was a Master’s thesis on the subject by a Chinese student in Leiden; a summary of the thesis was published in the Dutch Science Guide. The student-author paints are rather a glum picture of the situation of Chinese PhD students and their own perception of that situation: they would rather have gone somewhere else, don’t feel very much at home, feel not very well supported and face problems overcoming the cultural differences between China and the Netherlands. The authors blame this in part on the binary system for PhDs in the Netherlands, with some PhD candidates in senior research positions (with teaching duties) and others with research student status (without teaching).
But we must note a few comments on this study and to what extent its findings may be generalised. It is based on 10 qualitative interviews – against a total of almost 400 Chinese PhDs in the Netherlands. It does not compare the findings with the situation in other countries; it notes that Chinese students may well develop a different appreciation of their PhD track in the course of their 4 years, but apparently doesn´t show to which extent this actually happens.
Studies like this are `exploratory´. At best, they may lead to the conclusion that more valid studies are called for to see the indicative signals of the exploration can be proven to have real value.
So, academically speaking there is not so much reason for raised eyebrows, but rather for question marks. But in politics and publicity, maybe it makes less sense to speak academically.
Join the FP9 Lobby
Not a day passes without new voices in the choir of stakeholders adding their opinion on what FP9, the successor to Horizon 2020 should look like. The UK government and no less than 13 universities’ networks have gone public recently.
The UK in its FP9 position paper basically calls for continuation: of excellence, relevance, openness, diminished red tape, regional balance, European added value. Like Tom Lehrer once said about protest singers; “it takes courage to speak out in favour of the things that everybody else is against, like peace and brotherhood and so on.”
The LERU-led group of 13 university networks in its statement found it hard to agree on much except: “Double the budget”.
The Young European Research Universities Network YERUN – also part of the group of 13 groups – did formulate a more specific coherent message in its position paper: besides calling for adequate funding and diminished red tape (yawn), it says FP9 should *) engage society, *) further open science, *) look for a broader perspective on impact, and *) promote young researchers’ careers.
In this, YERUN takes a similar societally-inclined position as Aurora, which suggest a connection between FP9 and the “Macron Initiative” and pleas for transdisciplinary research, involving societal stakeholders from even before the first problem statement.
Of course, the European Commission will freely cherry-pick from all these statements to create the programme that they had in mind all along. They will always be able to refer to some element in some statement, saying “we follow the wishes of the field”. And truth be told, I trust the Commission officials better to balance the various perspectives and keep their eye on the common interest than any of us lobbyists.
Members’ share in H2020 and GDP
According to the EC publication “Horizon 2020 in full swing”, the success of the programme is such that it would have needed another 66 billion euro (in addition to the present budget of almost 80 billion) to fund all proposals that have been assessed as high-quality by independent evaluators.
Almost 60 000 researchers participated in almost 14 000 approved research projects (out of almost 10 times as many applications).
Of all EU member states, the highest H2020 contribution went to Germany followed by the UK, France, Spain, and Italy.
Below the proportion of the H2020 contribution per country is compared to their share in the EU GDP. This goes to show which countries are punching above and below their weight in European Research funding – assumedly because of the quality of their research. Maybe surprising that according to these data, the UK’s share in H2020 is below its share in GDP, while the reverse is true for e.g. Spain and Slovenia.
Call for AI Experts – 9 April
The European Commission has published a Call for experts for its High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence – with a submission deadline of April 9. The group will serve as the steering group for the European Artificial Intelligence Alliance which the Commission will set up to bring all actors including businesses, academics, policymakers, consumer organisations, trade unions, and other representatives of the civil society to the table.
Details of the application and selection procedures are available in the Register of Commission expert groups and there is a downloadable Call for application. The commission is looking for individual experts as well as high-level stakeholder representatives.
Mobility of Researchers? Good Idea!
The European Commission has published a “Study on Fostering Industrial Talents in Research at European Level”, commissioned to Marc Whittle of the Centre for Strategy & Evaluation Services. The study looked at intersectoral mobility of researchers (i.e. between academia and industry). Although the prime aim of the study was to take stock of the situation, it did also come up with an overall appraisal of the situation and some recommendations.
The appraisal is that intersectoral mobility is good for researchers, industry and the (semi) public sector alike and that there is not enough of it.
The recommendation is that the European Commission should do something about it: take the lead and ensure that the topic is ‘mainstreamed’ as a horizontal priority in FP9, as well as being funded vertically in FP9 through specific calls.
Note: Beyond The Gut-Feeling
We see discussions in various countries questioning the wisdom of offering more and more higher education degree programmes in English and actively attracting international students to these programmes.
“Aren’t these international students occupying study places that should be available for our own students? Stop selecting (=rejecting) our own students!”
“Teaching and learning in English instead of our mother tongue is lowering the quality of education – and destroying our culture!”
“These international students are being taught at the expense of our taxpayers’ money. And the universities only want international students to make money on them.” (Isn’t this a contradiction in terms?)
These questions are valid because they give vent to real feelings – but not because they are based on the available data.
Students analytics still needs a lot of improvement, but the data we have indicate that international students perform better on average than domestic students and that they have a positive impact on the performance of domestic students.
Universities – at least in the Netherlands – need to prove that they don’t use taxpayers’ money for non-EU students and charge tuition fees that cover the costs but don’t earn them profits.
The soft skills that employers are crying out for – as specialised knowledge quickly becomes obsolete in the workplace – is particularly strongly developed in international and intercultural classrooms.
All these arguments are well-known, supported by data and often articulated.
One argument seems to be missing:
International students help widen the available HE programmes for domestic students! Without international students, many Master’s and Bachelor’s programmes now offered in English, would not be offered at all. Simply because the number of domestic applicants would be too low to run the programme on the taxpayers’ money provided – per domestic student.
Let’s continue to strengthen the evidence base for the impact of international classrooms on the learning outcomes of domestic and international students. Let’s go beyond the gut-feeling.
No Advantage from Bilingualism
In a meta-study of 152 studies in six executive domains, Minna Lehtonen and her colleagues have looked for the assumed positive effect of bilingualism on executive functions compared with monolinguals – and have found none.
The study “Is bilingualism associated with enhanced executive functioning in adults? A meta-analytic review” – published in the Psychological Bulletin of the American Psychological Association – found that marginal advantages for inhibition, shifting, and working memory disappeared after correction for bias and no advantages were found for monitoring or attention. For verbal fluency, they found a small disadvantage. They conclude that the available evidence does not provide systematic support for the widely held notion that bilingualism is associated with benefits in cognitive control functions in adults.
New Boost to Swedish Internationalisation
The Swedish government has published a new “Strategic Agenda” for the internationalisation of Swedish higher education and research. There is a very specific recommendation to include “sustainable development” in the text of the new HE law in Sweden: It should stipulate that
all international activities at each higher education institution should contribute to improving the quality of education and research and, nationally and globally, to the sustainable development that higher education institutions are meant to foster.
The document identifies 8 specific objectives of the internationalisation strategy for the 2020 – 2030 period. These contain relatively few measurable targets – except for the aim that the current percentage of 14% of Swedish students should be raised to 25. A target for incoming students may well follow in the October 2018 report.
The Swedish internationalisation strategy seems an important guide for the future development of the internationalisation of higher education and research in an important European country. After France – with the Macron initiative – this is the second sign that not all governments in Europe are afraid to show their international and European vision and ambition.
Look who’s Talking – too Long
Three Gothenburg researchers – together with others – have found that male speakers at conferences exceeded their allocated time more frequently than female speakers, especially at large conferences (60% vs 49%). The most important factors that influence how long a presenter spoke were 1) their allocated time, 2) their career stage and 3) the level of time keeping enforcement. Since conferences are an important arena for science dissemination this might have a negative impact on female scientist’s careers. The article “Gender balance in time-keeping at life science conferences” is available as a preprint, not yet peer-reviewed.
To Those Who Have …..
An article in the New York Times of January 18th, building on research done by Ray Chetty on equality of opportunity, shows that students at elite colleges are even richer than experts had realized. 38 colleges in the US have more students from the top 1% of the income scale than from the bottom 60%.
These findings come from a cross-analysis of national tax income and tuition data. About four in 10 students from the top 0.1 per cent attend an Ivy League or elite university, roughly equivalent to the share of students from poor families who attend any two- or four-year college. In contrast, less than one-half of 1 per cent of children from the bottom fifth of American families attend an elite college; less than half attend any college at all. At elite colleges, the share of students from the bottom 40 per cent has remained mostly flat for a decade. Access to top colleges has not changed much, at least when measured in quintiles. (The poor have gotten poorer over that time, and the very rich have gotten richer.)
Refugee Students in Germany
The German DAAD has published a report on the integration of refugees at German higher education institutions. Given the huge number of refugees in Germany – certainly compared to other European countries – this is no small matter. The report is based on data from the DAAD itself, from the German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies, and from the German University Application Service for International Students uni-assist e.V. The German “Integra” (Integrating Refugees in Degree Programmes) is described in detail, analysing the composition of the participants I .a. by original, type of institution and degree programme, the German state, and residence status. Unsurprisingly, Bavaria and North-Rhine Westphalia have the greatest numbers and together account for almost one-third of the total.
Mental Health Crisis in Graduate HE
After an earlier report that four out of ten UK students have mental issues (see VU International News & Reviews 105), now Nature/ biotechnology has published a much broader analysis of the Evidence for a mental health crisis in graduate education. Adding to earlier studies within single universities, the researchers used social media and direct email to survey 2279 graduate students (90% PhD, 10% Master’s) from 234 institutions in 26 countries.
NB Three Aurora universities were part of the study: Aberdeen, Grenoble, and Vrije Universiteit – albeit each with one student.
Their results show that graduate students are more than six times as likely to experience depression and anxiety as compared to the general population. Forty-one per cent of graduate students scored as having moderate to severe anxiety on the GAD07 scale as compared to 6% of the general population.
Of those who suffered from mental health issues, 50% did not feel supported by their supervisor!
Pick and not-Choose – your Roommate
As a rule, the VU International News & Reviews discusses reports with a solid evidence base and ignores single incidents or opinions.
As an exception, we point to a recent decision by Duke University reported in InsideHigherEd that “Duke University has removed from students what has become one of the most significant aspects of matriculation at many colleges: picking a first-year roommate. Beginning with the Class of 2022, the roommate-selection process will be entirely governed by the university, with assignments largely made at random — a shift, officials said, meant to stem the recent movement of students self-selecting peers with similar perspectives and backgrounds to their own, fueled by social media connections made before arriving on campus.”
This example has relevance also for Campuses in Europe. The issue of students’ aversion to having international students – not even as a roommate but as housemate – plays up at Dutch universities and probably also in other European countries.
Work-Based Education Works
Already in 2015, the Rockefeller Institute published a report “Applied Work-Based Learning at the State University of New York” that compares the experiences with work-based student learning at SUNY with those elsewhere in the US and globally (Australia, Germany, and Switzerland). At SUNY, work-based activities encompass Co-operative education, internships, ‘work-study’ arrangements, and clinical placements and are distinct from community-based activities (e.g. community service learning) and discovery-based activities (e.g. research). SUNY sees work-based learning as an important tool to enhance not only retention and graduation success but also employment success. The study concludes that work-based learning needs to be embedded throughout the degree programme, be credit-bearing, and asks for adapted modes of assessment of student learning. To be sustainable, it needs an adequate mandate as well as funding and a support structure. The reporters are cautious about the impact: due to data limitations, they will go no further than speak of indicators of a positive impact of work-based learning on the targeted retention, graduation and employability.
Bibliography on Doctoral Education
The International Association of Universities (IAU) has released a bibliography on doctoral education. The bibliography – with concise descriptions of each publication – was prepared for the IAU portal on Innovative Doctoral Education in Africa (IDEA-PhD) and comes from the Association’s bibliographical database (HEDBIB).
The bibliography covers publications and documents, including online resources, published between 2011 and 2017, from around the world. The biggest section is on Europe and North America (39 pages), the smallest one is on doctoral education in the Arab world (1 page).
Academic In-Group Bias
In the online journal of the Social Science Research Network (SSRN), two scholars from the University of Haifa have published a study examining if academic journals favour authors who share their institutional affiliation. Comparing citation counts with a ‘difference-in-differences methodology for articles written by in-group members, the authors find that when there is an affiliation between author and journal, the articles get 9 to 19 fewer citations. Taking citations as a proxy for quality, the intimation is that authors with affiliation to a journal get their article placed more easily and with lower quality.
The Long Arm of the Dragon
In the March 7 issue of Foreign Policy, there is an interesting article called “China’s Long Arm Reaches Into American Campuses”.
This article is based on investigative journalism including interviews with people involved in the Chinese Students and Scholars Associations (CSSAs) active at most American colleges and universities with substantial Chinese populations.
The article cites examples of Chinese students being paid to cheer visiting Chinese officials. Anonymous Chinese students say that they are uncomfortable with what they felt was growing ideological pressure from the embassy and consulates. Many CCSA’s many officially describe themselves as under the “guidance” or “leadership” of the embassy.
Note: Wag the Dog
The European Commission is frantically working to give head and tail to the initiative for “European Universities Networks” launched by French President Macron in his Europe speech last September. Since then, the initiative has been endorsed by the heads of state and government (Gothenburg, November) and the Education Ministers (February 2018).
The contours of the new initiative are beginning to show. Some 20 networks, not just for the elite, with a strong focus on seamlessly recognised study abroad with joint and double degrees. The strong intertwining of education and research, creating – as one Commission official put it – an ‘electroshock’ therapy to break down the silos of education and research.
All of this fits well in an ambitious way forward for universities in Europe – but there is one thing that worries me, or actually two.
As far as one can foretell, it seems most likely that the Call for Proposals for these European Universities Networks that integrate Education and Research in a revolutionary new way will be made as part of the ERASMUS+ programme and its successor – and not as part of H2020 or its successor FP9. This worries me because academic researchers will far more easily be persuaded to seriously integrate education into their research proposals than vice versa. Research proposals in H2020 and its predecessors and successors are taken far more seriously by academics than E+ proposals. We may find that awkward and unsatisfactory and ill-advised – but it is true. When it is part of the Research scheme, the dog will wag the tail. When it is part of the education scheme, the Commission is expecting the tail to wag the dog. That was a nice movie, but not a documentary.
The second worry is that funding, regulatory frameworks and personnel arrangements for research connected to universities are so vastly different throughout Europe, that any Europe-wide initiative to break down the silos of education and research that does not build on a sound knowledge of these differences – and a viable way to tackle them, will face tremendous difficulties. Somebody should make the European Commission officers aware of this problem and somebody (why not Aurora) should make a solid inventory and analysis of these differences.
ERASMUS++ for the Elite?
At the European Education Summit of February 15, the education ministers concluded that the Council and the Commission will take work forward with a view to inter alia stepping up mobility and exchanges, encouraging the emergence by 2024 of some twenty ‘European Universities’, enhancing the learning of languages and promoting student mobility and participation in educational and cultural activities.
In this, they followed the conclusions of the Gothenburg summit, which already formulated these goals for intensive EU-supported activities of some twenty ‘European Universities’.
If considerable resources from the Erasmus++ budget will be allocated to these 20 new entities with a strong focus on top quality mobility, joint degrees and seamless recognition, the question surfaces how the European Commission hopes to avoid the emergence of a European Champions League of highest reputation universities – with detrimental impact on the overall quality of the Higher Education systems and the opportunities for an international experience for others than the happy few.
Diversity in Context
Three academics from Clark University in the USA have published a book on theory and practice of diversity and inclusion in Higher Education in an internationally comparative perspective. The book, Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education and Societal Contexts, offers multiple perspectives and responses to diversity and inclusion challenges with insights from Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, Trinidad, Turkey, and the US. It looks at building a diverse & inclusive Framework, conditions for inclusively diverse learning, and the need to monitor implementation as the key components of the book.
ETS Questions on Graduate Admission
Educational Testing Services, the US-based NGO that delivers the GRE and TOEFL, has produced a publication on “Connecting Graduate Admissions Practices with Goals”. This publication yields basically a set of questions, developed with practitioners, to be used by Master’s programmes to examine and critically reflect on their current admission process, its quality and effectiveness.
It hands discussion-starter questions both for the planning and the monitoring & evaluation of the admission process and in between looks critically at a) the information you need, b) the way you examine that information, and c) the way you arrive at a decision to accept or reject and applicant.
The guide falls short of making make an explicit distinction between a) the things students have to be good and how good they have to be at it (what you are looking for) and b) the things you use in the process like grades, tests and interviews (the things you are looking at). But implicitly, it asks the questions that help to make this distinction.
US High School not enough for 40%
The College Board reported on February 21 that a record 1.17 million students in the high school Class of 2017 took at least one Advanced Placement course. That’s up from 1.14 million in one year and far more dramatically over a decade. Of the Class of 2007, 23.9 per cent took at least one AP course, but the share is 37.7 per cent for the most recent class.
The article in InsideHigherEd focuses on the distribution of various ethnicities in the AP programme. But from a more distant European perspective, the most striking notion is that for almost 40% of the US cohort, the formal education system simply doesn’t perform well enough and that those who can afford, need to buy their way into the remedial teaching needed to get entrance to decent higher education.
Salute to Antwerp
The European Research Council has published the list of Proof of Concept grants awarded in the third and last round of 2017. Among the 52 PoC grant winners is one from the University of Antwerp: Johan Verbeek, with “Adaptive transmission electron microscopy: development of a programmable phase plate”.
In total, 2017 saw 160 Proof of Concept grants, among them two from the University of Antwerp and one from Gothenburg University.
Why Professors are Poorly Paid
In the series of discussion papers of the IZA Institute of Labor Economics in Bonn, Daniel Hamermesh published an article Why are Professors “poorly paid”? in which he demonstrates a 15-percentage wage disadvantage for academics compared professionals outside academia with exactly the same profile. He also demonstrates that although the academic staff work equally long weeks as their colleagues outside the university, their hours are spread more evenly over the hours of the day and days of the week. He used the data from the Current Population Surveys of the American National Bureau of Economic Research.
More Hate Crimes on US Campuses
According to the Campus Safety and Security website of the US Department of Education, the number of hate crimes in 2016 at American campuses rose to 1300 from 1043 the year before. With the exceptions of a peak of 1198 reported hate crimes in 2010, the data show a steady slow increase from less than 1000 in 2009 to 1043 in 1500 and then a sudden surge to the 1300 in 2016. The statistics are based on data from over 6000 institutions with over 11000 campuses.
A quick scan on the hate crimes at European universities yields no relevant information – it does show that the University of Gothenburg has expertise in hate crimes in Europe more generally.
Higher Education and Brexit
The Danish School of Education at Aarhus University has published an impressively comprehensive Working Paper 28 on what Brexit may mean for higher education and research in Europe. It contains loads of data on the current level of the intertwining of higher education and research between universities in the UK and other European countries in terms of student and staff mobility as well as research collaboration.
The data serve as the substratum of a series of semi-structured interviews. This combo of quantitative and qualitative data was first generated for the UK and the Netherlands and subsequently complemented for 8 other countries: Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, and Switzerland – leading to a total of 10 case studies. A case study on Finland is still in the making.
The report shows that the UK is a very important player in both the ERA and the EHEA, but not as central as Germany. Against the widespread fear that Brexit would constitute a risk to the quality and reputation on research in the European Union, one can also read from the report that Brexit may provide new opportunities: for high-level research cooperation with German partners, or attract high-level researchers as well as students either from Britain or to continental Europe instead of to Britain.
SDGs in Europe; 5 seem Lost?
In November 2017, the European Commission published its 2017 Sustainable Development Goals Monitoring report.
This publication provides a statistical overview of trends relating to the SDGs in the EU over the past five years (‘short-term’), based on the 100 indicators chosen.
It claims that over the last five years, the EU made moderate progress in eight SDGs. Such moderate trends can be seen in SDG 4 ‘quality education’, SDG 17 ‘partnership for the goals’, SDG 9 ‘industry, innovation and infrastructure’, SDG 5 ‘gender equality’, SDG 8 ‘decent work and economic growth’, SDG 1 ‘no poverty’, SDG 2 ‘zero hunger’ and SDG 10‘reduced inequalities’.
In the case of four goals — SDG 6 ‘clean water and sanitation’, SDG 13 ‘climate action’, SDG 14 ‘life below water’ and SDG 16 ‘peace, justice and strong institutions’ — trends cannot be calculated due to insufficient data over the past five years.
Strangely enough, the summary gives no information on the remaining 5 SDGs, nor an explanation of why that information is missing.
Note: The (Hidden) Purpose of Admission
We recently see an upsurge of PhD studies focusing on how to select for admission to higher education programmes. The study by Judith Zimmermann in 2016 was recently followed by the study by Sebastiaan Steenman and that by Susan Niessen, in Utrecht and Groningen respectively.
I would like to see research on selective admission using the ‘conflicting hypothesis’ method that prof Ulrich Teichler – Nestor of researchers of higher education internationalisation – has always been so fond of.
In that method, the researcher(s) base that works on two conflicting hypotheses and analyses their data from that double perspective. Working with more than one researcher obviously helps, but even a single scholar should be able to wear such double hats.
The two conflicting hypotheses for HE selective admission could be as follows:
- Hypothesis one:
Education is predominantly seen as a ‘cost category’ in the public sector. Education is not primarily seen (although lip service may be paid to it) as a Human capital investment. The overriding priority in setting up selective admission processes is the minimisation of costs and of risks for the HE provider. Getting “the best” students (without defining “the best” or relating that to the specific programme) and minimizing the risk of false positives is important, as is a limitation of costs to the university. Minimizing false negatives is not so important, nor is the costs to society or to rejected but qualified applicants. Reliance on simple and seemingly objective quantitative indicators like prior academic grades and standardised are preferred.
- Hypothesis two:
Key stakeholders of the programme see education as an investment in social and human capital. The overriding priority in setting up selective admission processes is to achieve the best match between the potential of applicant students and what the educational programme has to offer. Getting the “best fit” (which may take other aspects than successful programme completion into consideration, like lifetime public and private benefits) is important, with balanced attention for minimizing both false positives and false negatives, and costs for programme, applicants and society.
Preference for a holistic admission process and attention for balanced class composition and reflection of the needs of society and the labour market may be observed.
Fewer International Students to the US
As also reported by the US National Science Foundation, the Council of Graduate Schools reports that – for the first time in a decade – the number of international graduate applications has declined between Fall 2016 and Fall 2017: with 3%. The report “International Graduate Applications and Enrollment”, but international graduate enrolments in Fall 2017 constituted 24% of the total. Chinese and Indian continue to be the largest cohorts and Engineering, Math & Computer science, and Business continues to be the most popular fields.
ERASMUS+ Mid Term Evaluation
The European Commission has published the results of the mid-term evaluation of the ERASMUS+ programme, in the shape of a 43-page synthesis of national reports and a 553-page Final and Main report, both of them a combined evaluation of Erasmus+ and its predecessor programmes. The accompanying 8-page Letter to the European Parliament highlights that the programme is well on track to reach its goal of 4 million beneficiaries by 2020 and is generally seen as more coherent and relevant, but only partly more efficient that its predecessor programmes.
According to the report, Erasmus+ beneficiaries have a 13% higher chance of finding a job fast, test 7% higher in foreign language skills, perceive personal and professional development 8% more positively, and have a slightly higher likelihood (2%) to finish their studies. Erasmus+ beneficiaries have a considerably more positive perception (19%) of ‘Europe’.
Left-wing Indoctrination Myth Busted
Researchers from Ohio State, North Carolina State and James Madison through their Interfaith Diversity Experiences and Attitudes Longitudinal Survey (IDEALS) studied how young students’ attitudes towards liberal and conservative views evolved through their first year in college – where they were taught by academics who – as earlier studied have shown – tend to be more liberal than the American population at large. This academic liberalism has fed the belief that students are indoctrinated at American colleges.
The researchers asked respondents the extent to which they thought liberals and conservatives were ethical, made positive contributions to society, and were people the student had something in common with. They also asked students if they had a positive attitude toward each group. The same questions were asked at the beginning of each student’s freshman and sophomore years. Their study shows that about half the students developed a broader perspective – with more appreciation of views that were not their own – while about 30% became more negative towards other views. But the crucial finding here that this trend is similar for left-leaning and right-leaning students.
Use-Inspired Basic Research Works
The Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI and the Austrian Institute of Technology AIT have published their analysis of the Future & Emerging Technologies (FET) part of Horizon202: Visionary and Collaborative Research in Europe. Pathways to impact of Use-inspired Basic Research. Their analysis of 224 FET Open and FET Proactive projects and ensuing bibliometric research shows high yield of the programme in terms of the number of publications, the standing of the journals, the number and breadth of citations (average citation rate of 6.1, higher than in physics). Comparing the high-risk FET research projects with venture capital projects which on average yield 10% of excellently performing projects, the comparable rate with FET projects was 19%. 83% of projects were assessed as ‘radically new’ and the (measured) impact on the economy and the (estimated) impact of society were also high.
In my note of Newsletter 105, I suggested the following basic request from society to academically excellent research:
“We want your work to focus on some unsolved problem out there in the world, in society.
It is OK not to aim for short term results and not to define the results before you start.
It is not OK to choose the topic of your studies without any ambition to help solve real problems.”
The FET analysis underlines that ‘use-inspired’ research can be just as fundamental, just as novel and just as successful as purely curiosity-driven research. QED.
New EU Digital Education action plan
By Silvester Draaijer
On January 17, the European Commission has issued its “Digital Education Action Plan”, a follow up of EU plans of 2013 “Opening up Education”, in the field of digital education. The plan covers various ICT related themes and areas of education from primary education up to University education. The European Commission tries to accelerate developments and dissemination of best practices and innovation at a European level.
The plan is ambitious but the European Universities Association (EUA) also identifies omissions and vagueness in its Response. The EUA urges the Commission to be more specific on a proposed Europe-wide platform for digital higher education and about connecting information systems. Also, there is a lack of recognition of skills for European citizens deriving from the social sciences and humanities. The Commission is currently talking to stakeholders in EU member states on the follow-up of the Erasmus and H2020 support schemes and the new plans to realize the goals put forward in the action plan.
Americans in the Digital Desert
According to the American non-profit Urban Institute, about three million Americans are disconnected from higher education because they live more than 25 miles from a HE Institution ánd do not have access to adequately high-speed internet. Interestingly enough, among Whites, the proportion of people living in either physical or online educational deserts is second highest (20%) with only Native Americans showing a (considerably) higher percentage (almost 40%).
Transforming Engineering Education
The American Association for Engineering Education has published the third of its four reports in the Transforming Undergraduate Education in Engineering (TUEE) project.
After the first report focused on what key knowledge, skills, and abilities the industry expects to demand of engineers in coming years, and the second report focused on students´ views on the strengths and weaknesses of the current curriculum, this third report on Women participation and retention shows the main elements of an action plan focused on reducing the gender gap in engineering. The Phase IV workshop will focus on Narrowing the list of knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) identified in Phase I to a set of competencies that can and should be addressed through changes in curriculum/pedagogy in academia and determining how professional societies can assist in affecting curricular and pedagogical changes within the constraints and mechanisms of academic environments.
Do Humanities Graduates Earn Less?
The American Academy of Arts & Sciences has published its “The State of Humanities 2018: Graduates in the Workforce and Beyond”, using the Humanities Indicators website (www.HumanitiesIndicators.org) which features 103 topics and includes more than 500 graphs and data tables detailing the state of the humanities. It shows that although Humanities graduates in the US start at lower earnings than in other fields, over time – and with growing experience – this earning gap of Humanities get smaller with most other fields except life science and physics. When looking at labour market prospects, the report shows that the 4.3% unemployment rate among terminal bachelor’s degree holders in humanities is not that much higher than the 3.6% as an overall average among graduates.
Note From The Editor: Entitativity
At the VU conference on Superdiversity and Higher Education, I learned a new word: entitativity.
Entitativity refers to our growing tendency to see others as part of a different group: different and threatening.
This may trigger us to ask ourselves some challenging questions about ‘entitativity’ in our own universities.
Do we also see this effect among the diverse groups of students within our academic communities? Do students with distinct backgrounds – in social, economic, national, cultural, or other senses – tend to communicate almost exclusively with ‘their own’? Also in class and in academic work?
If so, do we allow our students to stay within their respective entitativity bubbles, from which they see other students as different, strange and threatening?
Do our universities do enough to help out students break out of their bubbles? Can universities in a high trust network like Aurora learn from each other’s’ best practices – and mistakes and mishaps?
Study Abroad mainly for the Happy Few?
Students from backgrounds that are underprivileged in one way or another stand a lower chance to have an internationalisation experience – although research shows that these students on average profit more from such experience when properly coached.
A German study from some time ago underlines this point: In a discussion paper The Social Selectivity of International Mobility among German University Students of the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung, Claudia Finger analyses data from the German National Association of Student Affairs (Deutsches Studentenwerk) on two cohorts (1997 and 2006) and finds a) that social background is an important obstacle to study abroad and b) that this has not weakened, but rather increased after the introduction of the Bologna reforms.
US Graduate Enrolment over the Hill?
The US National Science Foundation has published its 2018 Science & Engineering Indicators. The publication looks at the S&T education from elementary to graduate university level, the S&T workforce, the attitude of the public and government towards S&T and compares the R&D landscape in the USD in an international setting.
It also zooms in on undergraduate and graduate enrolment in S&T and in this contexts looks at international enrolment also in a broad context.
The report shows that after consistent growth up to 2016, 2017 showed lower enrolment figures at both undergraduate and graduate levels, with a total decrease from ca 840 000 to ca 809 000 students.
This downturn is much more noticeable in non-S&T fields, but even in S&T, graduate enrolment is down with 15 000 to 229 000 – while undergraduate international S&T enrolment barely holds its own.
Defenders and Challengers in Higher Education
StudyPortals’ new publication on Envisioning Pathways to 2030 offers a quick view on the authors’ take on megatrends in a) the world around higher education, b) higher education as a sector, and c) strategies for international recruitment/enrolment of students.
The selected trends are plausible – although other choices might have been equally plausible – and the foundation in statistics seems solid.
They offer an interesting conceptual framework for the position that universities may take in view of the developments around them: Defenders – Adapters – Innovators – Challengers.
The framework does beg the question where the authors would position the Dutch universities, which have been active in English taught programmes for decades but are not part of the English-speaking world.
Their message that to stick to full degree programmes for youngsters coming directly from secondary education is a “defenders’“ position, is challenging most continental European universities – and is probably meant to be just that.
Motivation Statements? They don’t work
Next month, Anna Niessen will defend her PhD dissertation “New rules, new tools: Predicting academic achievement in college admissions”, reporting on a multi-cohort analysis on the predictive value of motivation and other personal competencies or traits on the selection of students in higher education programmes.
She has found – what many practitioners will agree with from their experience – that assessing motivation and personal competencies and traits is, in the first place, hard to do in a reliable way: you can’t be sure that your measurement is accurate. And in the second place, even if you make the measurement as truthful as you can, its predictive value on study success is negligible.
Anna Niessen argues that giving applicants test tasks that are similar to the real programme (curriculum samples), yields much better predictive results. As she ends her abstract: “A major challenge in establishing effective and fair selection decisions in education and in organizations is to overcome the reliance on intuitions and gut feelings; scientific knowledge based on selection psychology should be utilized in practice much more.”
Effective and Stable Admission?
Already in 2016, Judith Zimmermann defended her PhD dissertation at ETH Zürich on “Information Processing for Effective and Stable Admission”. Although the statistical handling of her data will no doubt have been flawless, her theoretical and conceptual framework leaves room for improvement – and criticism. She seems unaware of the crucial distinction between a) what students have to be good at, b) how good they have at it, and c) what tools can be used to ascertain this when deciding if a student will be admitted or rejected when applying for a Master’s programme.
She shows no awareness of the extensive body of expertise in the American graduate admission community and seems to not care about the issue of false negatives: rejected students who would have done well. This is remarkable, as recent findings at well-reputed American Graduate Schools show that this is indeed a problem. Through their National Student Clearing House system, American institutions can – and do – find out that their rejected applicants too often are admitted and successful at other schools that are as good – or better.
Why Mobility Matters to Women
Already in 2016, Price Waterhouse Coopers conducted a study exploring the link between gender diversity and international workforce mobility. Their starting point was the observation that women make up only 20% of the internationally mobile workforce in the Financial Services sector, which worries the sector’s CEOs who see talent scarcity as one of their greatest challenges. Based on over 600 interviews and a survey of over 4000 participants in 40 countries, they found that almost the same number of women in the sector aspires an international work experience as men: 73 – 77%. But a stereotype perception among company leaders and HR staff, as well as a lack of transparency about international job opportunities make that companies don’t adequately use their female staff’s inclination for international assignments. In addition, more flexibility in the assignment choices would help step up the proportion of women in international workforce mobility in the Financial Services sector.
And probably not only in the Financial Services sector.
University Career Guidance Works!
From a 2017 survey among over 32 000 students at 43 randomly selected Higher Education institutions in the US, Gallup and Strada conclude in their 2017 College Student Survey that career services at universities are effective in boosting the students’ confidence in their preparedness for the job market. This is particularly true for students from non-traditional and underrepresented backgrounds. But these services are still underutilised, with 60% of the students in the survey never using either physical or online career services.
Labour Market Value of Short Degree Programmes
The American Enterprise Institute has published a study “Saving the Associate of Arts Degree” which may also interest those in European higher education who believe in the value of short HE degree programmes in the first cycle.
The report starts with the observation that the American AA degree – designed as a low threshold stepping stone to the Bachelor’s degree – actually for many is the end of their HE career. Sadly enough, students with no more than an AA degree, actually suffer a wage penalty from their short degree cycle, unless they have high-value marketable skills. They discuss mechanisms through which colleges can help AA degree holders to the value of their degree, i.a. through transfer pathways to Bachelor’s degrees, embedding marketable skills into the AA programmes, and strengthening ties with employers.
Brexit May Hamper Recognition of UK Degrees
In an article published through Academia.edu, Vangelis Tsiligiris and Alex de Ruyter explore “What the higher education Brexit debate has not covered”. Apart from their conclusions that there are both challenges and opportunities for British HE in Brexit and that more research is needed both on facts and perceptions around the issue, one of their more salient observations is on – possibly diminishing – recognition of UK degrees within EU countries after Brexit.
They argue that in spite of the legal framework within the European Union for the recognition of university degrees for both professional and academic purposes, European countries have been known for dragging their feet in actually giving holders of international degrees full rights and opportunities within their system. This is particularly relevant for the British providers of transnational education, offering Greeks, German and other European students the possibility to obtain a British degree without ever leaving their country.
Note: The Mission of the University
I want to give my take on what the message of society to universities should be – as a contribution to the ongoing discussion about the merit of value-free and curiosity-driven research.
Here goes what could be the message to researchers – and to research-intensive universities:
“We want you to conduct your thoughts and studies beyond the confines of current thought and current knowledge; we want you to be critical of any practice, belief or assumption that we all hold self-evident.
“We want your work to focus on some unsolved problem out there in the world, in society.
It is OK not to aim for short term results and not to define the results before you start.
It is not OK to choose the topic of your studies without any ambition to help solve real problems.”
UK Study Abroad Interest Almost Halved in 2 years
In November 2017, the British Council published its “Broadening Horizons, Assessing the Needs of a New Generation”. The famous British sense of understatement is illustrated in its heading that “interest among British students has weakened”. The report shows that 34% of the cohort went down to 18% between 2015 and 2017: meaning it has almost halved. The main reasons for not contemplating a study abroad period are the students’ assessment that UK higher education is simply the best and their lack of knowledge of the research showing that study abroad enhances their labour market value. The drop in interest is not just connected to Brexit and extends to the US – still highest rated destination – as well: in 2015, 4 out of 10 students aiming to go abroad put the US on the top of their list, but it 2017, that was less than 2 out of 10: so of a shrinking group, fewer would put America first.
France Attractive for Students? NOT!
The PIE News – News and Business analysis for Professionals in International Education – may have had a remarkable black-out at the start of 2018 with their coverage of a CAMPUS France survey. “France is more attractive for study than Germany, US, UK, survey finds”; and this is borne out by the facts, but with the side note that the 14 245 students in the survey a) were planning to study in France, b) actually were studying in France or c) had been studying in France. Small wonder that they find France attractive. Actually, the more remarkable finding from the Campus France survey is in this survey among students already attached to France, Canada gets a higher rating (69%) than France (64%).
UK Gains 22.6 Billion Pounds p.a. for from International Students
A report by consultant London Economics for the British Higher Education Policy Institute and Kaplan International Pathways has added a UK analysis of costs and benefits of international students to earlier similar studies in the i.a. Netherlands, Germany, Finland, and the USA. What is interesting in this report shows already in its title: “The costs and benefits of international students by parliamentary constituency” – the regional analysis at a fairly low level. The annual benefit for the UK for each EU student is £ 87 000, for non-EU students it is £ 102.000. With 26% of the 231 065 international students coming from the EU and 74% from elsewhere, the arithmetic says 22 667 476 500 pound sterling per year. Against this stands a total annual cost of £ 2.3 billion: more than a 100% return on investment.
The report breaks down the numbers for the various regions in the UK and – as the title promises – down to the level of the Parliamentary constituencies.
The constituencies where international students make the greatest contribution to the UK economy (and to the resident population) are Sheffield (£1,960 per resident), Newcastle upon Tyne East (£2,010), Nottingham South (£1,680), Oxford East (£1,480) and Manchester Central (£1,330).
International Branch Campuses
Nigel Healey has written a short overview cum literature review on the management of International Branch Campuses as part of the Encyclopedia of international higher education systems and institutions. He sketches some of the specific challenges for these off-shore campuses, looking at their operating environments, organisational form, and capacity of the home university to manage it at a distance. From the article, and the spreadsheet overview by Cross-Border Education Research Team (C-BERT) to which he refers, it can be seen that the previous growth of IBCs has levelled off in recent years.
In the C-BERT overview, the US understandably leads the pack with 109 IBCs, followed by the UK (45) and France (31). It is noteworthy that China, being one of the major hosts with 44 IBCs, is also increasing in importance as the location of the IBC’s home university: 9 IBCs. India (10) and notably Russia (22) are ahead of China in this respect. The article also lists the 10 IBCs that closed down over the last 20 years: five from the US, three from Australia and one each from the UK and Canada.
Look Who’s Talking at Colloquia
In an article on Gender disparities in colloquium speakers at top universities in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Christine Nittrouer from Rice University and her co-authors report on their analysis of Colloquium talks at prestigious universities, as these both create and reflect academic researchers’ reputations. Analysing 3652 talks in six academic disciplines, they found that men were more likely than women to be colloquium speakers, even after controlling for the gender and rank of the available speakers.
They managed to eliminate the alternative explanations that women might decline invitations more often by qualitative data from top researchers at top universities.
Instead they did find a positive correlation between the gender of session chairs and of session speakers, concluding that their data suggest that those who invite and schedule speakers serve as gender gatekeepers with the power to either create or reduce gender differences in academic reputations
Immigrants offspring slowly close HE gap
The OECD has published the report “Catching up? Intergenerational mobility and children of immigrants”. The report finds that natives with immigrant parents have lower educational attainment and weaker learning outcomes than their peers with native-born parents in most European OECD countries, especially in those countries which experienced large-scale immigration of low-educated immigrants in the past. Native-born persons with two foreign-born parents are a growing group: in the European Union, they account for 9% of all youth aged
15-34, but already for 11% of all children below the age of 15. Natives with parents born outside the EU are 4 percentage points less likely to choose an academic higher education stream than their peers with native-born parents and similar education levels.
But the gap is slowly getting smaller, which can be seen both in the gap within one age group and between age groups:
On average across European OECD countries, natives with immigrant parents have on average 1.3 years more schooling than those parents, while their peers with native-born parents have 0.7 years.
Among parents, the difference in educational attainment between native-born and immigrants is roughly 1.2 years of schooling, while among the offspring generation this difference is reduced to roughly 0.7 years of schooling.
R&I Investments: Where Private, Where Public?
The ECS DG for Research & Innovation has published a report (commissioned by the DG to Deloitte and Rand Europe) “Research, Innovation and Growth” on the impact of public policy on innovation. It looks that such impact in the areas of R&D investment, of Education, and of R&D productivity. The report aims to assess the impact of public vs private investment on knowledge production as well as knowledge diffusion and looks separately at the impact of skills accumulation policies and policies addressing R&D productivity.
It finds that more highly developed countries (G7) profit more from global knowledge circulation that others (non G7) – which reminds one of the issues of winners and losers of globalisation within our societies.
It also finds indications that more highly developed countries can rely more on private R&D investments, while others stand to profit more from public investments.
With the report comes a separate report on skills accumulation in the countries under review.
Slow increase in OER
Two researchers of the Babson Survey Research Group report on developments in Open Educational Resources in “Opening the Textbook; Educational Resources in the US, 2017”. They note that Open Educational Resources are still on a slow upward curve in awareness and appreciation among academics. 10% of the 2700 respondents report that they are “very aware” of open educational resources and 20% “aware”. But there is a steady and continuing increase in both awareness and appreciation, particularly for introductory courses. The appreciation for the non-profit OER platform OpenStax has grown to be equal to that of commercial textbooks.
Master’s is the new Bachelor’s – in salary
In a study published by the American Enterprise Institute, Mark Schneider and Jorge Klor de Alva look at statistical data from Florida, Colorado and Texas to assess the labour market value of a Master’s degree in distinct disciplines. They attempt to fill in the gap that much more is known about labour market value of both Bachelor’s and PhD degrees than of Master’s degrees in the US; even though there are many more Master’s than PhD’s every year (760 000 against 179 000). They find that the salary bonus of a Master’s may be very low or even harmful in fields like Philosophy, Arts, and Early Childhood Education. At the positive extreme, we find – unsurprisingly – subjects like business and IT.
It is interesting to see that the differences between states may be – and are bigger among the big-bonus-Master’s programme than between these disciplines.
The authors note that low paying disciplines may have high societal value, but make no attempt to find an explanation for these lower rewards in ‘the labour market’. Otherwise, they might have felt the need to make a distinction between a privately-funded labour market and a publicly-funded one; with political and societal pressure to keep salaries for similarly tricky or essential tasks lower in the public sector than in the private sector.
In December 2017, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) together with Indiana University’s Center for Postsecondary Research has established the VALUE Institute to provide a continuing resource for higher education institutions to document, report, and use learning outcomes evidence to improve student success in college. The VALUE institute builds on the earlier VALUE project, in which tools were developed to assess both cognitive and personal competencies achieved through Higher Education programmes.
The value of these VALUE rubrics – as experienced i.a. in the ERASMUS+ funded Mastermind Europe project – is for one that it disentangle abstract competencies like ‘creative writing’ into components that make sense to academics within their subject area and secondly that if gives descriptive performance indicators describing competence at four different levels (see sample below).
The VALUE Rubrics can be downloaded for free (after registration).
Note from the Editor: Value-Driven Mission?
Let’s examine the following train of thought
- Universities need to be mission-driven and value-driven; not just on paper, but in reality.
- To make it more than rhetoric, universities should explain to applicant students and staff: “these are our values, this is our mission; if you don’t agree with them and can’t comply with them, our university is not a place for you!”
- Missions and values are by definition subjective; people may disagree with them. People are free to hold on to their own values. Even if these are anti-social (but not illegal); even if they put individual liberty and individual economic gain above all and any kinds of societal and community values.
We may dislike that – and I do – but we can’t deny people the right to have these detestable values.
- So this may well lead to a cleft between (many) universities driven by societal values and (some) universities defending the libertarian, egotistic, rat-race perception of the meaning of life.
- Is this what we want? Do we accept this logical conclusion of the starting point that our own university must have a more-than-rhetorical society-/community-engaged vision, mission and values?
I don’t know; I’m puzzled and I invite comments on how to resolve this paradox of engagement that leads to a decrease in societal coherence.
Brazil Launches New Internationalisation Scheme
After the end of the “Science without Borders” programme, the Brazilian government has launched a successor scheme called Programa Institucional de Internacionalização or Programme for Institutional Internationalisation. Like before CAPES will be the implementing institution and the programme will be known as CAPES – PrInt.
The programme is focused on cooperation by – younger and more established – scholars with international counterparts and will fund individual and group missions abroad as well as scholarships in Brazil for international scholars as well as promising Brazilians with international experience.
Erasmus+ 2016: Inclusion and Employability
In November, the European Commission published its 2016 Erasmus+ Annual Report, highlighting the policy priorities of social inclusion as well as skills development for lifelong employability.
In 2016, the EU spent 2 270 million euro on Erasmus+, yielding close to a quarter million mobile people and involving close to 80 000 organisations in over 20 000 projects.
Interesting to note is that the annual budget will only rise in the coming years from about 2.5 billion to something near 3.5 billion euro in 2020.
Also interesting to see is that higher education is a relatively small player in Key Action 2 and has relatively low success rates: 18% in 2016.
Higher Completion Rates in the US, Less for Minorities
The National Student Clearing House Research Center in the US has published a report on the Fall 2011 student cohort, showing an overall national 6-year completion rate of 56.9%, which is 2.1 points higher than that of the 2010 cohort and continues the long term trend of rising completion rates in the US.
When examined by race and ethnicity, Asian and white students had much higher completion rates (68.9 per cent and 66.1 per cent, respectively) than Hispanic and black students (48.6 per cent and 39.5 per cent, respectively). Black students represent the only group that is more likely to stop out or discontinue enrollment than to complete a credential within six years (total completion rate of 39.5 per cent, compared to the no longer enrolled rate of 42.8 per cent).
Incentives and Rewards for Open Science
As Thematic Report 3 in the context of the Mutual Learning Exercise: Open Science – AltMetrics and Rewards, the European Commission (DG R&I) has published a report on Incentives and Rewards to engage in Open Science Activities. The first thing that stands out is the missing Executive Summary.
The report, building on a working meeting in Croatia in September 2017, provides an overview and assessment of the various practices currently being used and/or investigated to incentivise and reward researchers and their institutions for engaging in open science activities.
Sections 5, 6, and 7 of the report detail the incentives and rewards that may be provided by the researchers themselves, by funding bodies, and by national governments.
The text of the various sections is sometimes less than clear, but the summary table on page 31 (34 in the PDF) gives a concise and useful overview of challenges, concerns and things that can actually be done.
Innovation of Teaching & Learning: EUA Peer Report
The EUA has published a report on the work of its Peer Groups on Innovation of Teaching & Learning in 2017.
The four peer groups – which also played an important role at the European Teaching & Learning Forum in Paris (28-29 September 2017) – are:
- building a link between research and teaching missions of the university
- empowering students for their future professional life and civic engagement
- addressing larger and more diverse student bodies ensuring student success
- fostering engagement in developing L&T.
The report by no means presents final answers to the issues discussed; rather, they aim to provide a basis for further debate. Readers are invited to reflect on what extent the groups’ recommendations apply to their own institutional contexts, which is hoped to provide an impetus for further development of L&T in universities.
ERC Consolidator Grants
The EU has published the list of ERC Consolidator grants awarded in 2017. The ERC consolidator grants are designed for researchers of between 7 and 12 years of experience after completion of their PhD, who have a scientific track record showing great promise and an excellent research proposal.
In total, 329 researchers were awarded such a prestigious grant and the total amount of money involved is ca € 630 million.
Of the 329 grant recipients, 60 are based in the UK, 56 in Germany, 38 in France and 25 in the Netherlands, to list the top 4 countries – which take well over 50% of the total.
Looking at ERC Consolidator grants awarded to researchers in Aurora universities, we see three grants at the University of Bergen, two at the University of Antwerp and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (medical Centre) and one each at the University Grenoble Alpes and the University of East Anglia. This constitutes to 2,7% of ERC grants awarded; according to Eurostat, Europe has 1,82 million researchers in the EU-28.
Almost 6% more R&D in the World
The EU has published its 2017 EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard within the context of its IRIMA project (Industrial Research & Innovation Monitoring & Analysis), looking at 2500 of the biggest companies in terms of R&D investment in 43 countries. The EU companies account for 26% of global R&D investment, the US companies for 39%, the Japanese for 14%, the Chinese for 8%, leaving 13% to the rest of the world. The 2500 companies have been increasing their R&D investments for 6 years on a row now, 5.8% in 2016. Within the EU, R&D growth is in the automotive sector, together with ICT and Health.
Looking at the country level, Germany, the UK and France understandably lead the pack, followed by the Netherlands, Ireland and Sweden.
Macron attracts 13 US Climate Scientists
An article in Science Magazine lists the results of the French “Make Our Planet Great Again” initiative: 18 researchers from across the globe have been awarded a 3-5 year research grant of up to 1.5 million euro each. Of the 18 researchers – which are listed in the article, 13 are from the US.
CIOs: the Cloud as the new OPEC?
The Leadership Board for Chief Information Officers (LBCIO), a split-off from the Crhonicle of Higher Education, has published its Information Technology in Higher Education Report 2017.
It looks at CIO characteristics and concerns, in terms of finance, IT governance, consumerisation, academic as well as administrative computing, infrastructure, the cloud and Big Data.
It notes that ‘security’ is and remains one of the issues that keep CIOs awake at night, as each new innovation brings new security concerns. It also notes that moving to “the Cloud” has taken considerable momentum, but adding to the concerns that universities increase their dependency on outside partners beyond their control. Is the Cloud gaining a monopoly power like OPEC (used to have)?
Universities’ Funding: Growing Systems under Pressure
The EUA has published an update on its Public Funding Observatory with an interactive online tool and a new downloadable Public Funding Observatory 2017 report. The EUA started with this observatory in 2008, to monitor the impact of the crisis on university funding. It contains data on 34 countries, with separate information for the constituent parts of the UK.
When looking merely at university funding, 7 of the 9 ‘Aurora’ countries seem on the positive or neutral side, with only England and Scotland showing decreasing funding. But when set against rising or falling student numbers, only Sweden and to a lesser extent Norway show sustained university funding against student numbers. In Germany, Flanders, the Netherlands, and France increased funding doesn’t make up for student growth. In Iceland, Scotland and most significantly in England, a rise in student numbers accompanies a decrease in public university funding. In all fairness, it must be noted that in England, overall public spending on HE increased significantly while public spending on universities decreased: the impact of the publicly-subsidized loan-based tuition fees.
Zooming in on more recent figures (2015-16), the EUA report shows over 5% increase in funding for Iceland, between 1 and 5% increase for Norway, Germany, the Netherlands and France. On the downside are Scotland and more significantly England with still continuing decreases – still noting the tuition fees for the UK. Flanders and Sweden show little or no changes in public funding over 2015-16.
In general terms, the EUA report notes that the divide between better-funded and poorer funded universities is getting wider within Europe
Climate Migration Security
Institute Clingendael has published a policy brief on Climate – Migration – Security; Making the Most of a Contested Relationship. The report discusses the relationship between climate change, migration and security, which is academically contested. Migration and Climate Change and Security issues are themselves relatively uncontested phenomena, but the causality between them is far from clear. But the subject of climate- and security-driven migration is too politically sensitive to wait for academic consensus, the authors argue.
The report offers a concise overview of the primary debates and is also valuable because of the literature to which it refers.
(How) can SSH support Social innovation?
The European Union (DG R&I) has published a report on Social Innovation as a Trigger for Transformations – The Role of Research. It analyses in particular how the social sciences and humanities can contribute to the much need social innovation. The report argues for a broad concept of social innovation, which encompasses a variety of forms of social change: social, cultural and educational emancipation, social movements, bottom-up organisations aiming at the satisfaction of human needs, new ways of bottom-linked governance, in addition to solidarity and the social economy.
It underlines the importance of social innovation research to ensure its societal and historical embeddedness and emphasises the absolute need for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary methodologies.
Note From the editor: Patents for Society
Students at a Technical University in the Netherlands have developed an electric car with huge potential in terms of battery life and mileage. But the real innovation is their business model: they will make it available only for not-for-profit crowd-sharing use.
Thus, they not only profess but actually implement the practice of research and innovation for societal benefit, for the public good. What could engaged research universities – dedicated to difference – such as the members of the Aurora network learn or emulate from this example from Eindhoven?
Is it conceivable to set up a model agreement between the university and its researchers, that patentable inventions and scientific discoveries made in that university will only be disseminated and put to practice in a not-for-profit, ‘doing business to make human life better’ kind of way?
Such an agreement would not by definition have to be obligatory for all scholars in the university. Maybe it could start as a voluntary endeavour?
Russian Scholarships; How Many?
Russia has started an “Open Doors Russian Scholarship Programme”, offering scholarships to non-Russian applicants to Russian Master’s degrees programmes. In 2017, the programme focuses on 4 subject areas: Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science and Economics. There are study programmes both in Russian and in English.
Unfortunately, there seems to be no information on a) the number of scholarships available and b) the number of programmes that are available in Russian or in English.
Baltic Linguistic Scholarship Scheme
The rectors of the University of Latvia, the University of Tartu and Vilnius University have signed an agreement on the establishment of a new scholarship to support students who study the languages of all the three Baltic countries.
The purpose of the 2,000-euro scholarship is to foster cross-border cooperation among the Baltic countries and academic cooperation among the leading Baltic universities, spokespeople for the University of Latvia told BNS.
The scholarship will be awarded annually. The first scholarship will be awarded by the University of Tartu later this year, the University of Latvia will present the scholarship in 2018 and Vilnius University in 2019. The University of Tartu will begin accepting students’ applications at the end of November.
Baden-Württemberg charges fees for non-EU students
Starting winter semester 2017/18, universities in Baden-Württemberg will begin charging tuition fees for non-EU international students. The government defends the step as a way to keep the system open to these students whilst maintaining quality standards and also points to the more intensive advisory services for foreign students. The fees will be modest in comparison to full-cost tuition fees in the Anglo-American world or the Netherlands: 1,500 euros per semester.
The system will not apply to EU and EEA students or to foreigners who went to school in Germany.
Hands-On Advice on Intercultural Communication
In the Handbook on Internationalisation of Higher education, there is one interesting article in its 3/2017 issue, which apart from that mainly consists of descriptions of the authors´ own programmes, experiences or views.
The interesting article is by Darla Deardorff on “Communicating Successfully Across Differences”; it provides a highly readable overview of dos and don’ts that are based on research. It has a few simple recommendations like “speak clearly”, “look for what was not said” and “check for understanding”. It also contains a checklist to get a better grasp of one’s own communication style (self-reflection is the beginning of wisdom as the saying goes) and ends with a list of 16 recommendations – called ‘strategies’- of which the last one is ‘cultural humility’: recognise and profess your limited understanding of other cultures – it helps!
Readers who can’t access the article my contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Free to Think – Not!
Scholars at Risk – the worldwide network of institutions and individuals dedicated to protect scholars and promote academic freedom – has published the 2017 edition of its “Free to Think” report. For the period September 1, 2016 – August 31, 2017, it reports and analyses 257 report attacks in 35 countries. Top of the list is imprisonment (83) followed by “killings, violence, disappearings” (55) and official prosecution (45). The report is based on the work of Monitors on a rolling basis. The report contains a full list of all the incidents in the reported period.
Surprisingly – or not – 6 incidents were reported for the USA; the only European one (not counting Turkey or Russia) was in …… Belgium.
Global Student Housing Trends
Savills, a UK-based global real estate provider, has published a Spotlight 2017-218 report on Student Housing worldwide. It is a very rich report, not to be summarised in a few lines. Among the noteworthy elements, we may mention that 37% of the 16 billion dollar sector is now in the hands of cross border investors, with Singapore as the home of the biggest investors.
The reports note huge growth numbers for France (245%) and Germany (380%) and list France, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia as growth markets for student housing.
It contains an interesting graph of total costs per month in various parts of the globe, with Boston and New York requiring very close to $ 6 000 per month to be a student. Amsterdam figures in the lower half of the graph with something between $2 000 and $ 2 100 per month.
Education for a Social Europe
From EUA Newsletter
The European Commission has published a new Communication on “Strengthening European Identity through Education and Culture” which outlines its vision of a European Education Area for 2025. The goal is to create a “Europe in which learning, studying and doing research would not be hampered by borders”. While the EU cannot legislate on educational matters, the ambitions are high. Among other things, there is a proposal to remove obstacles to recognition also for primary and secondary level education, expand mobility beyond higher education, and create world-class networks of European universities.
Peer learning for Innovation of Teaching & Learning
The European Universities Association has published a Report from the thematic peer groups of their “Learning and Teaching Initiative”. The report gives best practice and recommendations from the peer groups on such topics as *) improving the link between teaching and research, *) empowering students for their future professional and civic life, *) addressing diverse student populations, and *) fostering an academic culture that cherishes teaching.
Macron Starts his Major HE Reform
After a pressure-cooker consultation process from July till October 2017, the French government has published its plans to reform the higher education sector “Plan Étudiants; Accompagner chacun vers la Réussite” (Students’ Plan: guiding all to success). The goal is to address major shortcomings in the system, like lack of matching between vocational education and the labour market, continued ‘social privilege’ in higher education, and low success rates (only 40,1% of students finish their 1st year on time).
The government claims it will invest almost 1 billion euros in its new approach, aspires to build 60 000 more student housing places and do away with the lottery system in access to university.
There is no specific mention of reforms in the Masters or Doctorate cycles of the university.
Celebrating Skills in the Humanities
The British Academy has published the report “The Right Skills: Celebrating Skills in The Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences” of its Flagship project, which was launched to articulate and celebrate the skills gained through studying arts, humanities and social sciences (AHSS), and to lead a high-level debate about the value of these skills to the individual, to society and to the economy.
The report identifies three broad areas of skills developed through the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS): • communication and collaboration • research and analysis and • independence and adaptability. It argues that the economy, of which 80% in the UK is in the services sector, is in dire need of precisely the skills developed through AHSS education.
The inventory of skills in the report seems to be based more on an inductive gathering of skills as observed or perceived in the field. The report contains no references to generally accepted categories (in organisational psychology) of personality traits and personal competencies, such as the Big 6 Hexaco and the Great Eight Competencies. Correlation with the AACU VALUE Rubrics could also add significantly to the usefulness of the report, particularly in terms of assessable levels of competencies of the identified AHSS skills.
Getting Skills right in the UK
The OECD has published a report “Getting Skills Right: United Kingdom”, as part of the broader OECD programme of work on how to achieve a better alignment of skill supply and skill demand. That programme focuses on: i) understanding how countries collect and use information on skill needs; ii) investigating cost-effective training and labour market policies to tackle skill mismatch and shortages; iii) studying the incentives of training providers and participants to respond to changing skill needs, and iv) setting up a database of skill needs indicators. For the UK, the report notes a low labour productivity growth, which is linked to the observation that many employees work in occupations, not directly related to their training. The validity of this link may be doubted, when one sees that the report also mentions transversal (or ‘general academic’ or ‘meta-cognitive’) skills as crucial challenges in skill/shortage vacancies.
The report notes that the UK has made a big jump in Tertiary education attainment: from 26% in 2000 to 42% in 2014; this jump is ascribed to the HE reform in England towards full-cost tuition fees with a major study loan system.
Aurora salutes 37 top researchers
This month, Clarivate has published its 2017 list of highest cited researchers, based on the publications of Web of Science. The list is based on the top 1% most cited papers for their year of publication in one of 21 main subject fields.
A total of 36 ‘highest cited researchers’ belong to one of the Aurora universities – or did so when they published there highly cited work. VU Amsterdam leads the list with 12 highly cited researchers, followed by the University of East Anglia with 6, the University of Iceland with 5 and the University of Gothenburg with 4 highly cited researchers.
For comparison: the list has 91 Dutch researchers from 11 of the 13 Dutch research universities. There, the list is headed by Erasmus with a proud 25, followed by Utrecht (15) and both VU and Leiden with 12. Maastricht, Twente, and Tilburg have no researchers on the list.
An 8-page report explaining the methodology of the list can be downloaded from Clarivate.
Note From the Editor: Societal Impact Between Perception and Facts
Societally engaged universities – like the members of the Aurora network – put great value on the extent to which the research produced by their academics is not only academically excellent but also societally relevant and impactful. But how can a university – or a ministry on behalf of the taxpayer – make sure that this societal impact indeed does exist?
Universities always tend to look for some kind of system, a mechanism that ends up with a simple arithmetic number that lends itself to comparison – and governments do so even more. But any mechanism, any system is basically an invitation to ‘gaming’ and inevitably leads to perversion: it evokes not the desired behaviour, but undesired behaviour which satisfies all the system’s requirements.
With Societal impact & relevance of research, the problem is even more complex because of two inherent complexities of research impact: time and attribution. In plain English: by the time that the practice in society has really and significantly changed, it is hard to attribute specific portions of the change to individual research achievements.
Let’s return to the gaming and perversion aspect of the problem: a mechanistic solution of giving `impact points’ doesn’t work, but apparently we also can’t do without it.
Why not try for a combination for perception and facts – following in the footsteps of Robert Pirsig who in “Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance” tried to ridged the gulf between ‘classical’ and ‘romantic’ outlooks on life and the world.
Why not say that we accept there is a societal impact of research if:
- the people out there (public, media, politicians) believe that there is.
Our marketers have been telling us for years now that this is the way to go: find captivating stories of research that are visual enough to make it to the Children’s News. Don’t fret that this may fail to disclose all the fabulous research findings that are less easily transformed into simple images and compelling soundbites.
Because it is only one of the requirements.
- the facts confirm the people’s belief.
Facts can never be conclusive, may be manipulated or carefully chosen. But research universities that take themselves seriously, need to make a serious effort to collect all the data and benchmarking information that helps to corroborate (or falsify) the identification of societally impact research.
And the proof of the pudding is in the third requirement.
- we ourselves truly and honestly believe it.
Self-respecting research universities need to be able to muster sufficient self-critical and self-reflecting capacity to be able to tell – and say out loud – if research isn’t really that much good, even when the public cheers it and the (manipulated) data sing its praise.
So that’s my note for this week: a suggestion to create a narrative of ‘societal impact and relevance of research’ on the basis of these three ingredients: two are perception, one is fact.
And that is a fact!
UK Students: Go Abroad, Stand Out
Universities UK International (UUKi) has launched a campaign Go International: Stand Out on November 2nd to address the fact that the UK lags behind the rest of the world in the percentage of students who have international experiences. Over 50 UK universities (not listed, alas) have already signed up to the campaign, which intends to raise the percentage of students having a study, work or volunteer experience abroad from the current 6,6 to 13% by 2020. In its earlier Gone International report (see VU IN&R 97), UUKi had already demonstrated the positive employment effect of international experience, especially for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
UK GVT asks for Impact Study of International Students
The UK Migration Advisory Committee has published a briefing note as a first step in their analysis of the impact of international students in the UK. MAC is an independent, non-statutory, non-time limited, non-departmental public body that advises the government on migration issues. MAC has been commissioned by the UK Home Office to assess the impact of international students in the UK.
In the document: “International students, a briefing note to accompany the call for evidence”, they show that entrance statistics of foreign students has decreased from over 220 000 in 2011 to 139 000 in 2017 and the proportion of visa awarded for the study has gone down from 35% to 7%. They also show that 95% of visa students either get an extension or are shown to have left the country. Of 4%, it is not sure how many have stayed out-of-status and how many have left, e.g. on a second passport or through a Common Travel Area.
Last but not least, they show the proportion of EU and non-EU students relative to UK students: international students make out 20% of the total student population and even 38% of graduate students.
Less International Students in the US
The Institute for International Education has published its Open Doors 2017 data. The information is now increasingly tailored to the internet generation, with Fast Facts, Infographics, Regional data, and Places of origin. China and India still account for more than 50% of the close to 1.1 million international students in the US.
Destination countries for American students going abroad include the countries of Aurora universities: the UK (1st with >39 000 students), France (4th with > 17 000), Germany (5th with almost 12 000), and the Netherlands (23rd with 3 433 American students). But the data seem to indicate that since Fall 2016, the overall trend of international students coming to US Higher Education institutions is downward.
Housing Problem for 50% of International Students
HousErasmus, a project-organisation aiming to look at the challenges and best practices around accommodation for international students, has published a HousErasmus+ Research Report report on the alarming housing situation for mobile students in Europe. The report shows that mobile students have a vastly different perception of the problem that universities and housing providers, and that this is an obstacle for improving information to students as well as and for collaboration between stakeholders. Almost half (45%) of students in Erasmus+ study mobility and 56% of those doing traineeships say that the housing market of their host HEI was difficult.
17% of respondents report perceived discrimination when looking for accommodation and 12% of them experienced attempted.
Interestingly enough, in the overview of obstacles reported by returning students after their period abroad, housing is not shown among the major problems, which are language, information and money (extra costs and loss of income).
Math and Study Abroad?
Lisa Anne Kasmer and Esther Billings from Grand Valley State University in Michigan have published an article on “Teaching Mathematics in Multilingual Classrooms: Developing Intercultural Competence via a Study Abroad Program” in Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad. They investigated how a study abroad experience teaching mathematics in Tanzania, Africa impacted a group of American secondary education pre-service teachers. They examined three areas: the students’ attitudes, knowledge and comprehension, and skills in an effort to understand their ability to teach in multilingual classrooms. One of the results of the Study Abroad experience was that the students had learned to think carefully about each mathematical term they would use while teaching.
Programme Guide Erasmus+ 2018
Exams Disadvantage Female Biology Students
In a study “Exams disadvantage women in introductory biology” published in PLOS One, scholars from the University of Minnesota and Stanford have found that for female students, their performance in exams and a poorer predictor of their overall performance, including lab work and writing assignments, than for men. They found that test-anxiety impact female students worse than male. The study was based on a sample of 1500 students.
Almost Half of US Academics Teach Online
InsideHigherEd has published its 2017 Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology it took together with Gallup on how US academics look at IT in teaching. In a survey of ca 23 000 academics (10% response), they found that the number of academics with online teaching experience has grown from 30% in 2013 to 46% in 2017. Most academics who teach online (70%) believe that it improves their teaching also offline. Academics who don’t teach online are must more sceptical (42%) about online teaching than those who do (23%). Academics who do teach online are less sure of the equal value of online teaching for others’ courses (45%) than for their own (65%). They’re only human, after all.
High Digitised Jobs Quadrupled in 15 Years
Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Programme has published “Digitalization and the American Workforce” in an effort to strengthen the fact base under discussions of digitization of work and its impact of both wages and job security. It provides a detailed analysis of changes in the digital content of 545 occupations covering 90 per cent of the American workforce in all industries since 2001. Where in 2002, 56% of jobs were labelled as ‘low digitization’ and 5% as ‘high’, in 2016 the proportion of ‘low digitization’ jobs had almost halved to 30% and ‘high digitization’ jobs had more than quadrupled to 23%.
The report’s overall takeaway is twofold: digitization vastly expands the potential of the economy, providing opportunities for many. But significant improvements in digital education and training, are needed both to broaden the high-skill talent pipeline and ensure that underrepresented groups will also profit from an increasingly digital economy.
Graduation and Employment?
The European Commission has published its Education and Training Monitor 2017, tracking actual results compared to targets in key performance indicators like early school leaving, HE attainment, adult education, and employment. It shows that HE attainment for women is well on track (43.9% against the target of 40%), but men are still lagging with 34.4%.
Employment rates of recent HE graduates across the EU region is 82.8%. When looking at the Aurora countries within the EU, we see that Germany is way below in HE attainment, but highest in recent graduate employment, whereas France stands out negatively in recent graduate employment.
How Few Workers Outperform Computers
The OECD has published a report on Computers and the Future of Skill Demand in which they compare the current workforce deployment of Literacy, Numeracy and Problem-solving skills with the capabilities of computers in these areas. They focused on the state of the art computer capabilities demonstrated through research (but not yet broadly applied in practice).
The report shows that compared to 1990, more people use literacy skills, but most of them at a fairly moderate to low level. Only 13% of workers daily use the broad metacognitive skills on a higher level than what computers are now able of. 62% use these skills at a level that computers nowadays can match (the rest doesn’t use such metacognitive skills at work).
13% is much lower than the cohort percentile that currently follows – or has completed – higher education. In other words, a university degree is not a guarantee that your work will be taken over by a computer – sooner rather than later. Food for thought for educational strategists at our universities.
Student Satisfaction in the US
Ruffalo Noel Levitz published its 2017 Satisfaction and Priorities Report, based on a sample of close to 700 000 students from 970 HE Institutions – a series they started in 1994. Interestingly, not only adult learners but also online learners in HE show higher satisfaction, while students at 4-year institutions are less satisfied than average.
According to the survey, students attach most weight to instructional effectiveness, academic advising and student-centeredness if determining how satisfied they are. Students are least satisfied (in order of how important they find them) about conflicts between courses they want to choose, value for tuition money, and how enjoyable it is to be a student.
Students in the US and in Europe are not the same; but it would interesting to compare these findings with national and European student satisfaction surveys.
New H2020 Work Programme out
The EU has published the H2020 work programme, showing how it will spend €30 billion of the EU research and innovation funding programme Horizon 2020 during the 2018-2020 period. Over that period, the Commission seeks a greater impact of its research funding by focusing on fewer topics such as migration, security, climate, clean energy and the digital economy. Over the next 3 years, the Commission will seek greater impact of its research funding by focusing on fewer, but critical topics such as migration, security, climate, clean energy and the digital economy. At the same time, H2020 will continue to fund ‘curiosity-driven science’ with nearly €1.86 billion.
Tuition Fees and Student Support in the EU
Eurydice publishes its annual report on National Student Fee and Support Systems in European Higher Education for 2016/17
This report on student fee and support systems in Europe provides a comparative overview of which students pay fees, how much they pay, and to what extent they receive financial support during their studies. Individual country sheets outline the main elements of national systems. While attention mostly focuses on the first and second cycle full-time students, it also shows data for short cycle students for the first time.
Information covers the 28 EU Member States as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Norway, Serbia and Turkey.
The report gives specific information for each country, categorizing them in the most common categories of fee payment in first-cycle studies.
In most countries, fee policies in second cycle programmes are identical to those in the first cycle.
Historians Easily Fooled
In a paper on Lateral Reading: Reading Less and Learning More When Evaluating Digital Information, published on SSRN (an open-access online repository of pre-prints papers dedicated to Social Sciences), two scholars from Stanford report on their analysis of how people determine the credibility of digital information, and how people recognise misinformation, fake news, and rank propaganda masquerading as dispassionate analysis.
With a sample 10 PhD historians, 10 professional fact-checkers, and 25 Stanford University undergraduates, they found that historians and students tend to stay within a website to evaluate its reliability and often fall victim to easily manipulated features of websites, such as official-looking logos and domain names.
By contract, the fact-checkers laterally, leaving a site after a quick scan and opening up new browser tabs in order to judge the credibility of the original site. Compared to the other groups, fact-checkers arrived at more warranted conclusions in a fraction of the time.
Note From the Editor: Why Aurora? What good does it do for the academics or students in our university?
This is a question that the champions of Aurora within the Aurora universities will get and often do get.
Here is an attempt to give an answer – inviting suggestions for better answers.
Universities – like any kind of organisation – need compelling stories that contain the shared values and beliefs of the people who form the university. A university itself is nothing but a story that exists for as long that the people who form it, believe in it. Academics generally identify more with their peers wherever they are; but where the majority of academics do not identify at all with their university, that is a vital weakness.
A university with a ‘living’ story – one that is endorsed by the majority of the academics, students, administrators and leaders in it – is stronger, more relevant, and more resilient than a university without such a story [or with a story that few actually believe].
Aurora helps to articulate and strengthen the basic story of e.g. the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. The drive to match academic excellence with societal relevance is core to the vision and mission of VU as it is core to Aurora. It applies to research – seeking to contribute to the resolution of major societal problems; it applies to teach – seeking to help new generations to become responsible and contributing members of society, and it applies to outreach – always looking for ways in which researchers and students can engage with our community.
The choice of the core priorities in Aurora reflects this: *) Diversity & Inclusion in Education, *) Societal Impact & Relevance of Research, *) Innovation of Teaching & Learning, and Student Engagement.
If Aurora can make the VU-story stronger – because the Aurora story is basically the same, as are the stories of the other Aurora universities – then that stronger VU-story will in effect make VU itself stronger: a better place for students to study and a better place for academics to teach and to do research [and to let society profit from their expertise].
Domestic and International Graduate Enrolment
The National Foundation for American Policy has published a report on “The Importance of International Students TO American Science AND Engineering” which shows to which extent graduate programmes in science and engineering are dominated by international (predominantly Asian) students. At many U.S. universities, both majors and graduate programs in science and engineering could not be maintained without international students. It is a pity that the report zooms in so much on only electrical engineering and computer science; the table in the report doesn’t contain the totals and the average percentage:
|International students||133 648|
|Domestic students||53 440|
|The overall proportion of international students||71.4%|
Domestic and International Graduate Enrolment
The Council of Graduate Schools in the US has published its Graduate Enrolment and Degrees 2006 – 2016 report. It shows that international graduate students constituted 18.9% of total enrollment in Fall 2016, against 81.1% for U.S. citizens and permanent residents; at the highest research doctoral institutions, the share of international students was considerably higher: 28.3%. International students were particularly well-represented in mathematics and computer sciences (54.6%), engineering (54.3%), and physical and earth sciences (33.0%).
Graduate applications increased most in mathematics and computer sciences (5.5%), physical and earth sciences (5.0%). Graduate applications decreased most in arts and humanities (-6.2%)in line with the trend from the last five years.
Global Education: SDG 4
UNESCO has published its second “Global Education Monitoring Report” (2017/18), with a special focus on accountability in education. Although the main focus of the report – and of Sustainable Development Goal 4: “Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning” is on basic education and the 264 million children not going to school, the report also looks at tertiary education. It shows that while the global gross enrolment rate in tertiary education has almost doubled from 19% in 2000 to 36% in 2015 – and Europe and North America reaching 75% of the age group – tertiary education attainment has basically stagnated in Central Asia and in Sub Sahara Africa.
Needless to say, research-intensive universities in Europe can’t assume responsibility for each and every one of the 17 SDGs. But universities that profess their commitment to societal engagement as well as to academic excellence might at least be expected to explain – in their strategy – which SDGs they do embrace and why those SDGs rather than others.
Data for Development
The OECD has focused its 2017 Development Co-operation Report on Data for Development, because “Big Data” and “the Internet of Things” are more than buzzwords and the data revolution is a key opportunity to achieve the Sustainable Development: more and better data can help boost inclusive growth, fight inequalities and combat climate change.
The report argues that while the value of data in enabling development is uncontested, ongoing gaps in basic data and weak statistical capacity in developing countries continue to hamper reforms and successful policies.
The report sets out priority actions and good practices that will help policymakers and providers of development assistance to bridge the global data divide, notably by strengthening statistical systems in developing countries to produce better data for better policies and better lives.
Dutch STEM Gender Gap
The OECD has published The Pursuit of Gender Equality: An Uphill Battle, showing how well – or not – countries are doing in implementing policy measures aimed at reaching gender equality goals. The report builds on the OECD Gender Initiative from 2010 with the flagship 2012 publication Closing the Gender Gap: Act Now!. The country report for the Netherlands shows that women in the Netherlands have higher levels of educational attainment than men, but there are lower proportions of women in relatively lucrative STEM fields: 27,5% against an OECD average of 39,2%. These averages are 38,2% for France and 46,1% for the United Kingdom.
Relationship counts – for Female Job Applicants
In an article on Gender and Relationship Status Discrimination in Academic Hiring in the American Sociological Review, Lauren Rivera from Northwestern University reports on a (qualitative) study that Junior faculty search committees actively consider women’s—but not men’s—relationship status when selecting hires. From the Open Access information on the study, it is unclear how many cases the study is based on.
Declining Access at Public Universities
The think tank New America has published an analysis Moving on Up matching HE data with anonymized tax data of a sample of 30 million Americans to see what the role of Higher Education is in upward social mobility. This approach allows looking at the correlation between higher education and earnings as compared to parents’ earnings.
Among the findings is declining access to the more selective public universities in the US.
Nearly two-thirds of selective public universities enroll fewer low-income students than they did in the late 1990s.
Open Access Week
Last week, October 23-29, was International Open Access Week. This is a good occasion to point to the EUA publication (last June): Towards full Open Access in 2020, with recommendations for university leaders and national HE associations (rector’s conferences) on e.g. the use of ‘green’ and ‘gold’ Open Access routes, on cost transparency in scientific publishing, and on the need to develop robust pro-OA reward systems for researchers.
Modernizing HE = Internationalizing HE
At the request of the Committee on Culture and Education (CULT) of the European Parliament (EP), the Brussels-based Academic Cooperation Association (ACA) has carried out an analysis of “A renewed EU agenda for higher education”. The European Commission has now published the resulting report as Research for the CULT Committee –Modernisation of higher education.
The study analyses the policy developments since the Commission’s 2011 plan for the modernisation of Europe’s higher education systems and assesses the events against the aims of the agenda. It shows that since 2011, the Commission has broadened the purpose of its HE policy from a more narrow focus on employability to include other societal aspects of skills development; but still with a relatively small focus on STEM fields rather than on an interdisciplinary approach. The study also notes “…an almost complete absence of internationalisation activities and contributions.”
MIT Introduces Digital Diplomas
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is offering some students the option to be awarded tamper-free digital degree certificates when they graduate, in partnership with Learning Machine. Selected students can now choose to download a digital version of their degree certificate to their smartphones when they graduate, in addition to receiving a paper diploma.
Using a free, open-source app called Blockcerts Wallet, students can quickly access a digital diploma that can be shared on social media and verified by employers to ensure its authenticity. The digital credential is protected using blockchain technology. The blockchain is a public ledger that offers a secure way of making and recording transactions and is best known as the underlying technology of digital currency Bitcoin.
Unproductive Old Researchers?
In a study covering almost 2500 North American researchers with 200 000 publications, researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder have unnerved the generally accepted narrative that researchers peak soon in their career and then show a gradual but inevitable decline. The study – aiming to comprehensively cover North American computer science – shows that this canonical narrative holds true for only about 20% of the researchers. The remaining four-fifths of faculty in their study exhibit a rich diversity of productivity patterns.
SDGs in Universities: Get Started
Although it was produced with a specific focus on universities in Australia and the Pacific, it contains valuable information for other HE institutions as well. It looks not only at teaching and research but also at the university organisation and its external leadership role in its community. It offers a simple 5 step approach to SDG engagement and provides tools for mapping exercises, stakeholder workshops, business case development for SDG engagement, and reporting models. In addition, it offers a wealth of case studies – from an Australian/Pacific context, naturally.
Note From the Editor: Comparative advertizing in student recruitment
Last week saw a rare phenomenon in the Netherlands. The University of Amsterdam (UvA) started a campaign in all major Dutch university cities trying to draw the attention of students to their offerings in MSc degree programs.
That in itself is nothing new as all universities do that, but this campaign used comparative advertising which is “not done” in the Netherlands and sometimes even results in legal action.
In Groningen UvA posters claimed that “there are things above Groningen” where the university’s slogan says “nothing above Groningen”, and near the VU building UvA posters said that at UvA you could really look further, making fun of the VU slogan “Looking further”.
The campaign gave rise to numerous reactions, most of them about the corny humour used but hardly any about the comparative advertising aspect. Probably the negative connotation of comparative advertising does not stem from ethical objections but from considerations with regard to the effectiveness of promoting one’s offerings at the expense of those of the competitor. Next year’s MSc enrollment at UvA will tell us more about this effectiveness.
Study shows: Study Abroad Works
This month, the Institute for International Education has released the study report “Gaining an Employment Edge: The Impact of Study Abroad on 21st Century Skills & Career Prospects in the United States, 2013–2016” which shows that studying abroad has a direct impact on skills needed for career success. The study is based on a sample of over 4 500 alumni of U.S. higher education institutions who participated in study abroad between 1999/00 and 2016/17. A large portion of respondents reported they had developed cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal skills to a significant degree through study abroad. The data suggest that study abroad to getting attractive jobs offered and also opened new career opportunities.
Others take too many international tuition fees – I don’t
InsideHigherEd has published its 2017 Survey of College and University Admission Directors. Interesting among the findings is that about two-thirds of respondents feel that US colleges and universities have become too dependent on international tuition fees from just a few countries, but almost 75% say that doesn’t apply to their own institution.
Also interesting: about 25% of respondents say they have a ‘pathways programme’ for international students – and most say it is a key part of their international recruitment strategy.
International Classroom Literature Review
As mentioned in VU IN&R 96, regular International Education media publications based on thorough research are more scarce than one would want. But another Journal has come to our attention: the Journal of International Students, published since 2011 – with a purely American board of editors.
In Volume 7(3), a systematic literature review is published on the Experience of Education in the International Classroom. The findings of the study – using both students’ and teachers’ perspectives– shows academic cultural differences seem to have more impact on the learning outcomes in the international classroom than language barriers. The study started with an article base of 10 100, which it narrowed down to 104 articles that were actually read and then to 29 articles actually included in the study.