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QS Directors met President of Shanghai Jiaotong University

On 28th November, 2014, QSIU Directors met Prof. Zhang Jie, the President of Shanghai Jiaotong University in London, during the UK trip of Prof. Zhang.

Prof. Zhang is the youngest President ever appointed to lead Shanghai Jiaotong University, an internationally known university, one of the top 5 in China, based on the QS World University Ranking.

 

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(Ben Sowter, Head of QS Intelligence Unit, President Zhang Jie, President of Shanghai Jiaotong University, Dr. Christina Yan Zhang, China Director of QS Intelligence Unit met on 28th November, 2014 in London, UK)

 

The meeting took place in Imperial Colleges London, a university President Zhang who also visited on the day. Mr. Ben Sowter, Head of QS Intelligence Unit, Dr. Christina Yan Zhang,China Director, QSIU, met President Zhang, who was accompanied by a senior leader of the university.

It is the first time that any QSIU leaders meet President of Shanghai University. Therefore, President Zhang gave a brief introduction about the university’s history, its strategic focus and its dedication to internationalisation, innovation and cross-discipline research. President Zhang also discussed one of a recent article he was invited to contribute to Nature on 15th October 2014 on “Developing excellence: Chinese university reform in three steps“.

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(President Zhang Jie shared his views about Chinese universities reform, as part of the article he recently published on Nature.)

 

Ben Sowter, Head of QS Intelligence Unit congratulated President Zhang on his all the achievement Shanghai Jiaotong University have achieved under his leadership, and responded with a brief overview of the key areas of work QSIU covers to support international strategy of universities worldwide, especially The Wharton-QS Stars Awards 2014: Reimagine Education, which President Zhang was interested in submitting entries for next year’s intake.

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(Ben Sowter, Head of QS Intelligence Unit, talked about the Reimagine Higher Education Competitor to President Zhang Jie,of Shanghai Jiaotong University.)

The meeting lasted for about 1 hour, with President Zhang extended an invite for QS leaders to visit him again in Shanghai in the near future.

 

 

QS University Rankings:Asia 2013

Best Student Cities 2015

The QS Best Student Cities 2015 index was released today. Paris remains in top place, with a number of ranked universities and as a hub of employer activity. It also performed well on the Student Mix and Desirability indicators.

The Australian city of Melbourne, climbed up the ranking from fifth place to take second place, outperforming London who held this position last year. Melbourne has a number of ranked universities and scored the highest of any city for its diverse student mix. Being rated by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Ranking as on of the most liveable cities in the world, Melbourne scored well on the Desirability indicator. It also scored strongly on Employer Activity. Like the other Australian cities in the index, Melbourne scored less well on the Affordability indicator.

London slipped to third place, scoring lower than many other cities on Desirability and struggling on the Affordability indicator. London however holds its place in the top three due to the high concentration of top ranked universities, as the top city in the world on the Employer activity indicator and with a strong student mix.

Having studied in both Melbourne and London, I have found them both great cities to study and live in. There are things that I have loved about being a student in both of these cities that aren’t perhaps so easily captured by the indicators of the index. I loved Melbourne’s thriving arts scene, fantastic café-culture, and multi-ethnic character. London on the other hand is a bustling global hub of business and culture – home to some of the world’s greatest cultural institutions, with a fascinating history, eclectic nightlife, and a wonderful melange of diversity. This mix of experiences wonderfully enhanced the formal education I was receiving.

There are numerous factors that students consider when choosing where to study, and the QS Best Student Cities is one of the tools that students may use to help them find what’s most important to them. Check out the full results.

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Ground breaking research through collaboration

The benefits of multi-university research are evident now more than ever. The collaborative efforts of University College London’s institute of neurology and Wroclaw Medical University have birthed a pioneering treatment for spinal injuries. Darek Fidyka, a Bulgarian made paralysed from the waist down following a knife attack, was the first person to receive this treatment. Professor Geoffrey Raisman, whose team at UCL institute of neurology discovered the technique, said: “We believe that this procedure is the breakthrough which, as it is further developed, will result in a historic change in the currently hopeless outlook for people disabled by spinal cord injury.”[1]

The surgery was performed by a Polish team led by one of the world’s top spinal repair experts, Dr Pawel Tabakow, from Wroclaw Medical University. This collaborative effort has resulted in a world-first medical breakthrough in paralysis treatment. While both medical experts drew upon their respective strengths and skill, the economics at play present a sound argument for this type of collaboration. This British-funded research would have been cheaper to carry out in Poland in comparison to the UK. Higher operation costs could have potentially slowed down the pace of the treatment as additional funding would have had to be sourced and medical red-tape might have hampered the surgery altogether. This form of collaboration could set a future precedent for UK – Eastern European research.

Details of the research are published in the journal Cell Transplantation.


[1] The Guardian (2014) Paralysed man Darek Fidyka walks again after pioneering surgery, http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/oct/21/paralysed-darek-fidyka-pioneering-surgery#start-of-comments

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2014 International Trends and Enrolment Patterns in UK

The latest report of the ‘Universities UK’s Higher education in focus’ published by Universities UK (UUK), revealed the most recent international student trends and enrolment patterns in UK Higher Education Institutions. Attracting prospective international students is of vital importance principally because international students are a strong income feed for UK universities in a time of post-crisis fiscal constraints and increasingly competitive funding frameworks: over 2012-2013, almost 12.1% of total UK university income was derived from non-EU student tuition fees. International students, furthermore, also bring economic benefits to local economies in UK cities, namely, 18% of all jobs generated by the higher education sector. Nonetheless, overall levels of non-EU student immigration to the UK has been falling since 2011. Although the trend in higher education enrolments have shown only a marginal decline, it is significant because the number of students seeking to study overseas is growing and the patterns and motives of student choices is gradually changing.

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Responses to UKK survey: Change in Number of new entrants in 2013-2014 compared to 2012-2013

Main trends highlighted in the UUK report:

  • By 2013 the number of overseas students arriving in the UK fell. Other main English-speaking destination countries, United States, Canada and Australia, have all witnessed an increase in the number of overseas applicants.
  • UK universities have reported a growth in overseas entrants for 2013-14, but Scotland showed an overall decline in all levels of study.
  • There is a clear split between a growth in students applying from the East Asia and Pacific region compared to the Indian subcontinent and parts of the Middle East like Saudi Arabia.
  • South-east Asian markets (China, Malaysia and Hong Kong) are growing but they follow different trends: the most demanded studies for Chinese students are in postgraduate studies in business and administration whereas Hong Kong students apply for undergraduate programs.

The report also stresses an important element that UK universities need to be specially attentive to. According to the 2014 NUS survey of international students already in the UK, the majority feel unwelcome, and a significant number would not recommend the UK as a study destination to their friends or relatives [1]. This negative word-of-mouth effect derived from the lived experiences of students might contribute further to the decline of the UK as a preferable study destination. More bad news in the report are the results from IDP international Student Buyer Behaviour Research 2013. In this study, the UK was rated as the worst destination among the Top 5 English-speaking destinations (US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand) in terms of perceived graduate employment opportunities, and fourth in terms of student visa requirements/policies [2]. Finally QSIU Whitepaper on Globalization, Mobility and Rankings, adds that working on international cooperation can make border more accessible and it can impact upon immigration frameworks [3]. The reports paint a tense scenarios in a globalizing world where fluid movement is necessary, as with trade: the UK has seemingly less to offer to international students, and the postgraduate employment opportunities for non-EU graduates is likewise a key factor affecting the overall brand engagement and attractiveness of UK universities. Therefore, in order to secure a return to growth, the study recommends launching an international student growth strategy which would communicate a consistent message, namely, that the UK is a welcoming destination to international students and that post-study work opportunities exist independent of any net migration target.

[1] National Union of Students (NUS) http://www.nus.org.uk/en/news/press-releases/international-students-feel-unwelcome-in-uk-as-immigration-bill-set-to-create-new-barriers-to-study/

[2] IDP International Student Buyer Behaviour Research 2013 http://www.uk.idp.com/PDF/101372_IDP_MEL_Buyer_210x595mm_Infographics_V04.pdf

[3] QS Intelligence Unit: Globalisation, Mobility & Rankings. September 2014.

Park Guell views of Barcelona

The Spanish Resurrection

For the past few years Universities in Southern Europe had deeply suffered the consequences of the world financial crisis. As most Spanish universities rely mainly on public funding, the Higher Education industry has been particularly affected by the consequences of the budget cuts.

However, the latest edition of the QS World University Ranking shows that Spanish universities are doing its best to overcome the adversities. In general terms, they are performing better for a second year in a row. In the top we find the Catalan flagship universities; the historical University of Barcelona (UB), which this year has progressed from 178 to 166, followed by the Autonomous University of Barcelona; which went up from the 177 position to 173.

Read more

Photo by Kevin Dooley; licensed via Creative Commons.

UK: student failing degree trying to blame university

A story published a few days ago on the Times Higher Education caught my attention. This was explaining how a international student at the University of Warwick who failed her Master’s degree is claiming she should not have been accepted in the first place because the result of her English language test taken in Pakistan – the Warwick English Language Test – did not meet the minimum threshold required by the institution. In fact, it was slightly under (BCC) the required level (BBC) so the student now feels the university offered her a place in the programme because of the high tuition fees she was paying – particularly in the UK because of the university reforms and the consequent tuition fee hike allowing universities to increase the tuition fees to £9,000 for undergraduate studies. As for postgraduate studies, tuition fees can easily achieve more than £10,000 per year. The university later confirmed a typo in the test results led to this error of offering a place in the programme.

On the one hand the student may have not achieved the required English level during the admission test, but did not seem to query the institution why she was offered a place and did accept it so it is not entirely fair to claim something if this fact was ignored from the beginning. On the other hand, institutions could maybe make sure the admission standards have been taken into consideration. Mistakes happen, and that’s how we learn from them.

Speaking about the issue of English not being up to the required standard to enrol a university, as an international student myself from a country where English is not an official language, if I knew I didn’t meet the required level and I was still given the chance to study to a top university, I would definitely study harder to make sure to pass.

Image courtesy of taesmileland / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Spain: university entrance exam scrapped for international students

A government decree in Spain has been promulgated in June 2014 with immediate effect. The traditional entrance exam to access higher education programs after high school – the Selectividad – is now scrapped for foreign students.

The Selectividad consists of exams in four or five areas, in Spanish:

  1. Foreign language
  2. History of Spain or History of Philosophy
  3. Spanish Language and Literature
  4. Specialty subject
  5. Other official language

At the moment, international students from several countries were already exempt from this exam, including EU and China students, as long as they took part in their respective end of high school exam in their respective countries (e.g. Gao kao in China, Baccalaureate in France).  But for students from the rest of the world, the exam required an excellent knowledge of Spanish language and history, and was definitely a barrier to enrol at Spanish universities.

With this move, Spain is aiming at significantly increasing the number of international students as access will be much easier. In 2012/2013, it was reported Spain had 73,639 international students, representing 4.7% of its total student population. This is much lower in Europe in comparison to several other countries such as the UK with 427,686 foreign students enrolled in 2012, France with 271,399 or Germany with 206,986 according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

international students in Spain 2012-13

The chart above represents the top ten countries sending international students to Spain. As published on the Institute of International Education, this reveals that currently at least 13,129 students (representing at least 17.9% of the total inbound student population) from this top ten hail from Latin America (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Mexico) where Spanish in widely spoken. We don’t have access to the full list of countries but clearly Latin America represents a strong provider of overseas students.

As far as Spanish students are concerned, the national Selectividad will be stopped from 2017/2018 and regions will define their own exams.

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Student loans: Challenges in reforming loan structure

The issue of student loans has been flaring up on both sides of the Atlantic quite recently, with some serious implications for higher education if many of the changes were to be implemented in the next few years.

In the US, the efforts of the administration to enact legislation that will ease the financial burden incurred on university students by way of their student loans and the federally subsidized grants has been a major point of friction with Republican opposition. Student loan debt is estimate to close to 1 trillion USD, increasing at a staggering rate of 300% in ten years , whereas the average debt load for the graduates of higher education is approximately $20,000 on average. Given the recovery phase of the US economy and the financial woes that have troubled it since 2008, it becomes obvious that debt restructuring is a key issue.

The importance is twofold. Student loans are proving to be a heavy financial burden, stifling entrepreneurship and forcing many graduates to abandon career aspirations and seek even low-paid employment in order to repay their loans; in the days of the financial crisis aftermath, many find themselves still unemployed and with a negative credit score, painting a rather bleak personal picture of the future. In addition the student loan apparatus involves the federal government, the universities and a series of market players, such as debt relief companies and others, which makes reform not only gruelling but also politically tense.

In the United Kingdom, the government will be conducting research on the issue of student loans, although the department of Business, Innovation and Skills has not confirmed a change in policy. The UK has a relative advantage to the US system since tuition for undergraduate study is capped at £9,000 per year. The system is also more generous, since it allows repayments only if the graduate is employed and earning over a certain amount and the debt itself has a 30 year write off term limit, with outstanding fees written off after that period has elapsed.

The proposed research will be exploring the possibility of making universities partially responsible in underwriting student debt. In theory, this would lead to a closer connection between the graduates and the university, perhaps increasing the investment and effort UK universities will need to put forth in order to ensure high employability rates for the students. It will also mean a shared and thus diminished risk taken on by the Treasury, reducing exposure for the government.

The key issue in the UK remains that if such moves were ever to be implemented, debt to earnings ratios within universities would shrink or even disappear, making universities less able to secure their financial position and thus undertake large and important steps in improving infrastructure, offer scholarships and bursaries to under-represented groups and of course continue to strive for improving educational services without the worry of debt repayment in a flux economic climate. In fact, any alteration to the student loan scheme would have to take under consideration the realities of tertiary education and the job market so as to ensure that the drive for minimal government exposure to debt would affect the teaching quality and outcomes in universities.

Image courtesy of  Vlado / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Netherlands: student grants to be replaced by loans

Dutch students are about to face a major change in the funding of their higher education. Netherlands’ Minister for Education, Culture and Science, Jet Bussemaker, has agreed to a bill that would start officially from 1st January 2015 that is aiming at converting student grants into student loans, which means students will need to repay their loans later in life and therefore start their career with a debt. According University World News, this plan will enable the government to free about 1 billion euros, it also says 20% to 30% of this amount will redistributed to students having a family income lower than 46,000€.

Until the end of 2014, students will be able to receive a grant from the government (called Studiefinanciering) with two tiers.

  1. Students living with their parents: €100.25/month.
  2. Students not living with their parents: 279.14€/month.

At the moment, many Dutch students receive the basic grant, as conditions seem easy to reach. Any of the below can entitle a Dutch student to receive the Studiefinanciering.

  • Work 56 hours a month in a registered job
  • If married or have a registered partner from the EU and Switzerland, if they work 56 hours a month with a contract from a Dutch employer
  • If the parent works 56 hours a month with a contract from a Dutch employer (and is resident in the Netherlands)
  • If the student or his/her partner or the parent is an independent entrepreneur and/or freelancer based in the Netherlands, works 56 hours a month.

Currently a student loan (named Collegegeldkrediet) taken in 2014 will have to be repaid within 15 years after graduation, with a start date set to two years after graduation. Any European is technically entitled to subscribe to this study loan.

According to the QS World University Rankings®, the highest ranked Dutch institutions are University of Amsterdam (ranked at 58) and Leiden University (ranked at 74). These universities will both charge €1,906 of tuition fees for a Bachelor’s degree for the 2014/2015.

More information about grants and loans in Netherlands.

QS Courses

QS launches latest product – QScourses.com

There has been an upward growing trend in the number of prospective students searching and applying for business and management related courses here in the UK.  In light of this, QS has partnered up with local institutions to offer a comprehensive directory containing detailed information on more than 5,000 courses spanning the higher education spectrum.

QScourses.com enables prospective students, globally, to search for business-related courses offered by UK universities and business schools. The platform also offers a free student support service that guides prospective students through the application process, helping them to identify programs that match their background and requirements, as well as assisting universities in their search for finding quality students to fill their programs.

To find out more about QScourses.com, contact Anca Bratu.