- EU: Erasmus Expanding to Latin America
- UK: Resistance to REF
- MOOCs: Economics of MOOCs
- Research Output: Asia Overtakes US
The European Union has announced plans to expand its ‘Erasmus’ study-abroad programme in Latin America, giving thousands of students and academics an opportunity to trade places for up to three years. From this year, the EU will offer 25,000 two-year grants, 15,000 three-year scholarships and thousands more short-term grants to students and academics worldwide, with those in Latin America now eligible for all the places on offer. Launched in 1987, Erasmus began as a pan-Europe student-exchange programme. It has since expanded beyond the borders of Europe, and last year the EU agreed to increase its budget, setting aside 14.7 billion euros for an expanded Erasmus+ programme for 2014-2020.
Applicants for government support, required to demonstrate the benefits of their research, say the measures are too narrowly defined.The fundamental idea is relatively uncontroversial: As government spending in Britain has become more constrained, public investment in research must be shown to have value outside academe. But calculating research’s broader value is a challenge—and a growing number of academics find themselves arguing that the requirements are unduly burdensome and do little to achieve their stated goals. British academics are primarily affected in two ways. Applicants for grants from all seven research councils, which are independent government bodies, must include the impact statement. And beginning this year, government financing of universities depends on a formula that includes a measure of university departments’ impact. Under the so-called Research Excellence Framework, the impact made by university departments accounts for 20 percent of the formula for financing them.
An Economist article and Alex Tabarrok in a Marginal Revolution blog post weigh in on the future and economic structure of MOOCs (massively open online classes). Yes, MOOCs potentially upend the fundamental economic structure of teaching. Teaching had been a high marginal cost business. MOOCs are a nearly zero marginal cost business. But, For now, MOOCs are a quite high fixed-cost business. Putting a class up in a MOOC is not quite as much work as writing a
textbook, but it’s nowhere near as easy as teaching a new class. If you’re tempted, beware! Preparing, taping, editing and uploading a lecture is not the same as walking in, telling a few jokes, and getting through the week. Fixing anything that went wrong or updating is costly too. In sum, I see two possible paths this could take. MOOCs could become snazzy textbooks, “monetized” by textbook companies. Or they could become a central way universities establish a presence beyond local campus walls, generating the “superstar” market. Or, perhaps, a bit of both.
Asia has overtaken the US in research output, a new American report says. In its biennial survey of science and engineering indicators, the National Science Board says the major Asian economies collectively perform a larger share of global research and development than the US. And China is rapidly overhauling the North American superpower in high-end manufacturing, the report says. “The first decade of the 21st century continues a dramatic shift in the global scientific landscape,” said NSB Chairman Dan Arvizu.“Emerging economies understand the role science and innovation play in the global marketplace. (They) have increasingly placed a priority on building their capacity in science and technology.”