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What’s the impact of globalisation on student choices and universities?

Whether a prospective student is looking to study maths or Chinese with German, one factor they will need to consider is how well the degree they select will develop their international outlook.

Of course there will always be careers one can pursue upon graduating that are within organisations operating locally, rather than nationally or internationally. Equally, one could pursue a career in academia or performing arts for example, which doesn’t seem to demand international outlook as a primary skill. However, if an organisation is expanding due to its success, it will likely want to reach out internationally at some point. Equally, if it’s a well-regarded institution, it is likely to already be concerned with internationalisation and have a culturally-diverse staff and student body. And if one does become an actor, they will likely want to be globally-renowned one day?

Why is this happening? Globalisation. Here’s a definition from the Financial Times:

A process by which national and regional economies, societies and cultures have become integrated through the global network of trade, communication, immigration and transportation.

Where’s the evidence this is happening? It’s all around us. Just how far we have come in international trade, student mobility and even tourism in the past few decades is phenomenal. And yes, perhaps, we cannot predict with complete certainty that this trend will continue but, unless the World War III breaks out, I think we are pretty safe to assume.

Moreover, whilst global trade may be somewhat more sensitive to political circumstances, student mobility numbers are continuously going up. This naturally puts pressure on universities to become more creative in attracting international students. UNESCO provides some insight on this in their article ‘Trends in International Student Mobility’:

”Although student mobility is expected to grow, institutions have to compete hard for talented and self-funded students.”

As is documented in this paper, countries such as the US, UK, Australia and Canada have had a steady growth in numbers of international students and they are currently considered to be the higher education leaders of the world.

An article from the Guardian supports this by providing the top 10 places for international students:
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If we look at World Trade Organisation’s statistics as evidence for globalisation, we can easily note that the export and import in the world’s most economically-developed countries keeps growing too.

This is yet again affirmed in the ‘Education at a Glance 2011’ paper released by the OECD:

We can see from the above graph that the number of international students is steadily growing and this is evidence of globalisation in itself.

There are figures from the World Tourism Organisation to say that the youth today travel more, spend more and reach much further destinations. This is also true for those that going away for work experience, study or volunteering.

It seems to me that the variety of different data available on this today allow us to reach one and the same conclusion – developing one’s international outlook is a necessity in the 21st century.


Revealing trends from Google on university-related web searches.

According to a recent BBC news story[1], the Internet giant Google has published its Top 20 most searched universities by Google users worldwide for 2014. The two main trends revealed by this latest list are not only interesting but also thought provoking.

First and foremost, we are witnessing a clear and significant increase in MOOCs popularity. The leading MOOCs providers such as Coursera or edX have been registering online visitors to their websites well above and beyond many traditional and leading institutions such as the University of Cambridge. These platforms, present users with the opportunity to learn and acquire skills and knowledge by reputable institutions while at the same time offer a great deal of flexibility and personal input for each of the users – students. It is certainly not surprising that modern advances in education have made MOOCs popular, reliable and in many cases a preferred alternative to further study overall, especially in times where disposable income for many may be an issue. It also appears that MOOCs and their potential will soon ripen as a field of academic competition and it will be very exciting to see how the top universities in the world will adapt and follow this specific trend.

The second major trend revealed is that Universities no longer rely on the Internet merely for filling in their news feed and sharing important updates, but as the context of educational services becomes even more internationalised and diverse, they begin to adjust their websites for recruiting and attracting international talent. Many of the websites now feature virtual tours, informative videos, advanced graphics and layouts, while more and more departments and schools within the universities are moving to modernise their respective web pages. This is not only due to technological advancements that allow this changes to take place, but it stems primarily by the way we are experiencing and accessing information in the current age, where one institution’s website is in effect its public face.

For more information you can access the full article here.



Endowments and Tertiary Education

The issue of university endowments is quite an interesting one, especially in a time of highly publicized donations and charities, such as the one we live now. Unlike the late 19th and early 20th century when magnates and wealthy industrialists chose to set up or substantially fund their own universities,  the 21st century challenges of setting up and establishing a new university, have altered the field.

Those that seek to make a difference in education today, choose to make a donation to the institution of their choice which adds to the university’s endowment, i.e. a set of assets whose investment yields an annual principal amount for income purposes. This is in contrast to another popular option, the gift, which is treated as income and not an investment. These investments are professionally managed on behalf of the university and the annual proceeds are dispensed according to the will of the donors.

Even modest annual returns of 4% or 5% could correspond to a substantial and dependable income for universities with large endowments; therefore, the option of setting up an endowment scheme is an exceptionally appealing option for universities that want to plan their long term financial security.

The donor’s also can regulate how the endowment will be spent, if they so choose. A part of the annual return could be spent on scholarships based on merit or need, or for aiding freshmen from a specific geographical region or be funnelled towards a specific type of research the university engages in. Another popular option is for the income from endowments to be used in order to recruit and support world class researchers and educators.

In the United States[1], according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers, there are approximately 70 institutions with endowments of over1 billion USD. In Europe the numbers are significantly smaller, perhaps due to a tradition geared towards gifts and annual donations, as well as having more foundations that may not be always linked to tertiary education institutions but offer funding for scholarships and research more broadly. On the other hand, Universities in the Middle East are quickly making their mark in this category, with notably KAUST from Saudi Arabia[2], already holding an endowment of approximately 20 billion USD.

Harvard University tops the relevant list with an endowment of approximately 30 billion USD[3], followed by Yale with 20 billion USD in 2013. Cambridge tops the European list with approximately 5 billion Euros and is closely followed by oxford at 4.2 billion, whereas the ETH in Zurich is the top continental endowment holder with 1 billion Euros in assets.

Endowments represent a useful tool in securing the finances of Tertiary education institutions and their income can be used to raise the research profile, the recruitment outreach and create opportunities for underprivileged students to join their ranks. However, creating a substantial endowment structure that will ensure the above requires a solid marketing of the university’s strengths and a network of alumni and partners that will seek to contribute to it in the near future.

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2013 QS World University Rankings by Subject: What’s Coming Up?

QS is about to publish the World University Rankings by Subject for the third time. They will be more comprehensive and detailed than ever.

The 2013 subject rankings will include a new subject, agriculture and forestry. Growing populations and changing dietary demands mean that this ancient human concern has never been more topical. We are sure you will want to know the top universities around the world for research and teaching in this area.

The addition of agriculture will bring the total number of subjects we cover to 30. Between them they cover the vast bulk of academic activity, whether in terms of teaching and student numbers, or of research.

Over the past year we have also looked at a range of other possible subjects for inclusion. However, agriculture is the only one for which we felt we had the data needed to provide a reliable outcome.

In addition to a new subject, we are amending the subject rankings by adding a new indicator.

In their first two years, we drew up the rankings on the basis of three measures: citations data, academic opinion and employer opinion. The weightings of the three were subject to “variable geometry.” In some subjects, for example, citations are more important than in others, and in these they would account for a higher share of a university’s possible score.

We are now adding a new measure to these three in the shape of the H-index. Readers of Higher Education World probably know all about this indicator, invented in 2005 by the physicist Jorge Hirsch, a professor at the University of California, San Diego. But if not, here is an article on the matter by Alex Bateman of the Wellcome Trust.

The H-index for an individual, or in our case for a department, combines the number of papers they have generated and the number of times the papers have been cited. So it rewards both quality and quantity. By contrast, our other citation measure is prone to being skewed by a small number of highly-cited papers. Our analysis shows that it correlates well with academic and employer opinion of university achievement in specific subjects.




Surviving The MOOC Frenzy

Don’t panic just yet. Despite everything you have heard about Massive Open Online Courses, your university will probably survive the current MOOC frenzy.

A meeting earlier this month at the University of London drew a lively audience of about 150 people to debate the MOOC phenomenon. Run by the University itself, which has been delivering distance learning since 1858, the UK’s Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, and the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education (OBHE), it heard that universities have several reasons for giving away their precious intellectual property online.

The first, as delegates heard from Bill Lawton of OBHE, is that MOOCs are rapidly starting to make money for universities. This mainly happens when the course is validated for academic credit. The result will probably be a Freemium model, like the one popular in the software industry, in which a cut-down version is free but the full item comes at a cost. There are already plenty of cases of a MOOC forming part of a degree course, and therefore involving payment for exams and marking. For example, the University of Texas MOOC offering, via provider EdX, forms part of its planned $10,000 degree, while there is also academic credit for MOOCs from four German universities via Udacity.

Many MOOCs are offered by big-name US universities that are happy to regard them as taster sessions for their highly-priced courses. However, surveys show that about 80 per cent of people taking them already have a degree, often a higher degree. This suggests that a typical MOOC user might well go on to buy a short course, for interest or for professional development, rather than a full degree.

But from the point of view of the university, the difference between a MOOC and conventional university attendance may well be the data it produces. Because the student’s every keystroke is recorded and analysed, it is possible to track student progress, find out where material is too simple or too complex, and see what sort of learning works best for which student. MOOC providers routinely use keystroke patterns to determine whether students are taking their exams or have brought in a substitute to provide the answers. MOOC entrepreneurs are already selling this data, which universities need to improve their provision.

Edwin Eisendrath of Huron Consulting Group in Chicago told the conference that the ability to analyse student learning as it is happening opens up fascinating possibilities for university management. At the moment, we accept that it is possible to measure research outputs, which are the principal driver of academic promotion. But in future, it might be possible to quantify teaching success, which could also be used in promotion decisions.

Tim Gore, director of global networks and communities at the University of London, told the conference that MOOCs need to be seen in context. Their interactive format suits Generation Y, whose members are more serious about peer approval than about praise from their elders. They have also arrived at a time of growing scepticism over the cost of conventional university study.

In future, MOOCs are also likely to be used as a test-bed for teaching innovation, for example by building in games as a serious teaching tool and by incorporating automated cues for students to complete projects. Diana Laurillard of the University of London’s Institute of Education said that they might well contain tested elements common to a range of subjects rather than being assembled on a craft basis like today’s university courses. But this still suggests that MOOCs are going to become a new form of short course, often with an emphasis on professional development, not a direct rival to full-scale university provision.





Global geographies of higher education: The perspective of world university rankings

Over the past decade, annually published world university rankings have captured the attention of university managers, policy makers, employers, academics and the wider public. Many national governments have implemented neoliberal reforms in higher education and increased the autonomy of their universities to enhance international competitiveness. Several universities have adjusted their strategic plans to climb up the ranks, while fee-paying international students often consult such league tables as a guide of where they can expect to receive ‘value for money’.

Read more


Highest ever satisfaction ratings for UK universities since records began

An annual poll has found that students studying at UK universities are more satisfied with their universities than at any time over the past eight years.

The National Student Survey (NSS), carried out every year since 2005, measures the responses of students at 154 higher education institutions, as well as a slightly smaller number of further education colleges.

The survey asks final year undergraduate students how satisfied they are with various aspects of their university experience, with 30 questions asked in total. Teaching, assessment and feedback, academic support, organization and management, learning resources, personal development, overall satisfaction and access to health facilities are covered by the questions, and this year students were also asked how satisfied they were with their students’ union for the first time. Read more

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European Universities Games held in Spain

While the UK is busy undergoing the final preparations for this year’s Olympics, Spain has been playing host to the first European Universities Games.

Organized by the European Universities Sports Association (EUSA), this first edition of the European Universities Games was held in Cordoba, in southern Spain, between 13 and 23 July 2012.

More than 2,500 students took part, representing teams from 151 universities in 32 European nations.

During the ten days of the Games, these teams participated in a total of 667 sports matches, competing to be named the champions in ten different sports.

A glance at the final results of the contests gives an overview of the wide range of universities taking part – and the diverse sporting strengths of Europe’s students.

However, while teams from many different countries were named as champions, several nations had a particularly good run. Read more