HE News Brief 2.10.12
By Abby Chau
- UNITED STATES: Latest endowment figures published
- UNITED KINGDOM: Middle East donations to UK universities
- BULGARIA: New domestic rankings system
- SWEDEN: Quality assurance controversy
Latest figures released show some interesting facts regarding the endowments in the states. Harvard and Yale’s endowments fell slightly with the former receiving 1 billion dollars to $30.7, due to loss related to foreign assets. Pre economic instability prior to 2008, Harvard’s endowments reached $36.9 billion. The wealthiest institutions tend to invest heavily in private equity while smaller institutions played it safe in the current financial climate. Both MIT and Stanford saw a slight gain in endowments, up approximately by half a million.
Durham University’s acceptance of a large endowment from a former Kuwaiti Prime Minister caused a stir recently. However according to the FT, Middle East endowments to British universities is nothing new. Oxford receives the largest sums from Saudi philanthropists – the former prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz al-Saud donated two million pounds to the newly refurbished Ashmolean Museum and twelve Muslim states contributed to the University’s Islamic Studies Centre. The Said Business School also benefited from support from a Syrian-Saudi businessman contributing £23 million. Cambridge has also been a beneficiary, it received more than three million pounds from Oman in order to pay for two posts.
A new rankings system set up by Bulgarian education minister Sergei Ignatov is causing a stir in the country. The rankings system allows students to customise results and boasts transparency in the way indicators are calculated. Students may customise the rankings by placing weightings on several specific indicators including theoretical knowledge, applicability of degree acquired, participation in internships, and student load. The initiative is supported by Boyan Zahariev, program director at the Open Society Foundations, a George Soros organisation. The rankings system utilised student surveys and government statistics regarding student employment status and tax payments.
The European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) ruled recently that the Swedish Agency for Higher Education has two years to sort out its quality assurance system when it found that it only qualified for three out of the fourteen criteria required for ENQA membership. The ruling has caused a storm in Sweden because many say that the education ministry was informed of such an outcome if it did not reconsider certain measures, particularly those relating to measuring learning outcomes. Many educators within Sweden are worried about the repercussions of the finding with the worse fall-out being that Swedish undergraduate graduates may find difficulty gaining admission to postgraduate studies in other countries. In 2000, Sweden was instrumental in setting up ENQA as part of the Bologna Process mandate.