International Higher Education Roundup: 6 October 2011

International Higher Education Roundup: 6 October 2011

International Higher Education Roundup

The TopUniversities.com guide to higher education news from around the world.

France tightens restrictions on non-EU students

The French ministries of the interior and employment have announced that it will be made harder for students from outside the EU who have studied in France to change their student visas into work visas. This represents a tightening of the interpretation of 2006 legislation, rather than a new law per se. The same group of students will also have to prove increased financial resources before being allowed to study in France in the first place.

The move has been defended by the French Minister for Higher Education and Research, Laurent Wauquiez, who wants to encourage exchanges between universities rather than foreigners studying whole degrees in France. However the Conférence des Présidents d'Université has spoken out against the move, as has the Conférence des Grandes Ecoles (a highly selective group of smaller institutions) and the Confédération Etudiante (the students’ organization).

Full story – University World News

Harvard endowment goes up to $32.5 billion

It may be number two in the 2011 QS World University Rankings®, but there is one regard in which Harvard leads the pack by quite some way: wealth. And with the latest consolidation – a hefty $6.8 billion – it now has an endowment of $32.5 billion. To put that in perspective, the world’s number-one institution, the University of Cambridge, has $6.7 billion in its coffers, and continental Europe’s leading university, ETH Zurich, has $1.5 billion.

As a result of this, the university has increased its scholarship fund to $160 million, and as of next year, will not charge students who come from families with an annual income of less than $65,000 anything to attend. This is $5,000 higher than this year’s figure. Notably, less than a fifth of the university’s $3.7 billion operating cost is generated the university’s $52,650 a year fees.

Full story – BBC

Sweden increases scholarship fund in order to attract foreign students

In 2011 Sweden introduced fees for non-EU students for the first time, which has inevitably led to a massive decline in the number of these students studying there, despite the Swedish government setting up two schemes to counteract this. These were the Swedish Tuition Fee Waiver for gifted students, and the Swedish Institute Study Scholarship, which was created for nationals of certain developing nations with which Sweden has forged educational ties.

The schemes, however, failed to adequately arrest the decline, and consequently the Swedish government has pledged to massively increase funding to both in 2012. Current levels stand at around $4.4 million each, which will be increased to $8.8 million for the Tuition Fee Waiver, and $7.3 for the Institute Study Scholarship, which will be opened up to students from all developing countries.

Full story – University World News

East Asian universities move closer to integration

Universities from East Asia have moved closer to their own version of Europe’s Bologna Process, a scheme which has seen universities in the region integrate their systems of higher education to facilitate easier exchange, mobility and collaboration.

Representatives from Japan, China, South Korea and the various member nations of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) met last week at the ‘International Symposium on Exchange among Universities with Quality Assurance in the East Asia Region’, hosted by Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Discussions at the conference centred on the need for an integrated system of higher education which would help to facilitate collaboration between universities in the various nations involved.

One scheme that is already in motion is CampusAsia, launched last year by China, Japan and South Korea with the goal of synchronizing the three nations’ systems of higher education. Quality assurance bodies are still involved in discussions at present, but it is being touted as a potential model for other nations in the area to follow.

Full story – University World News

Japan considers changing academic year to match Western model

Most countries in the Northern hemisphere adhere to an academic year which starts in the fall (September or October) and goes on until the summer the following year. However, Japan is an exception to this rule, with its academic year starting in April, and running on until the following March.

This could change soon. Concern over the low numbers of foreign students combined with the difficulty of running exchange programs with foreign universities in a country which is beginning to take internationalization seriously is leading the nation’s educators to reconsider.

This isn’t the first time the debate has been raised, but people are sitting up and paying attention now that the University of Toyko has entered the argument. Japan’s leading university, and the 25th best in the world according to the QS World University Rankings®, has a student body that is only 3% international at present. This is something which they are now seeking to address.

Obstacles to the change are the lack of synchronicity this would cause with the school year, and the traditional recruiting schedule of Japanese graduate employers.

Full story – Chronicle of Higher Education

Erasmus Mundus Program expanded to Arab Region

The Erasmus Mundus program is a European Commission initiative which provides support to institutions which offer cross-border programs and also to the students and academics involved. While it was originally focussed on inter-European exchange, as a result of the EC’s current focus on strengthening ties with ‘European Neighbourhood’ countries, it is being expanded outwards to countries to the east and south of Europe.

It was announced last week that no less than $90 million has been earmarked to facilitate this, with a particular focus on the countries involved in this year’s Arab Spring. The funding will be spread over four years.

Full story – University World News