Unwanted branch campuses

An unwelcome higher education arrival.

University World News reports on French unhappiness at a Portuguese interloper:

Portugal’s private University Fernando Pessoa, or UFP, is planning to set up a second branch in France – despite a complaint filed last year by French Higher Education Minister Geneviève Fioraso that installation of its first university centre in France was against the law.

The UFP’s first branch, the Centre Universitaire Fernando Pessoa, was set up last November at La Garde, near Toulon in the Var, southern France. It offers humanities and social science courses and, more controversially, health studies including dentistry and pharmacology at bachelor, masters and doctoral levels.
The university claims its Portuguese degrees are valid throughout the European Union – including in France which, unlike Portugal, exercises strict selection in health studies with an 85% failure rate at the end of the first year.

In recent years many failed French medical students have continued their studies by moving to other countries such as Belgium, Romania and Spain. Now the UFP at La Garde offers them an opportunity to do so on home soil – at a cost.

UFP charges between €7,500 and €9,500 a year, compared with French university charges of €181 for first-degree general medical studies and €250 for a masters.

It is a surprising situation. UK institutions do not exactly welcome foreign branch campuses either but there are at least six already in this country according to the OBHE plus dozens and dozens of smaller offices, most of them in London. With France’s 85% failure rate though it does look like there might be a good market for UFP’s health studies courses with their more relaxed entry requirements. Even with their significantly higher fee levels.

Tackling Education Corruption

Higher Education challenges in Indonesia.

University World Newshas a story on higher education corruption in Indonesia. It sounds like a challenging environment but it does seem like the issues are being tackled:


A graft watchdog in Indonesia has sounded a red alert for the education sector as it recorded some 40 cases of corruption in 2012, causing losses to the state of around Rp139 billion (US$14.4 million).

Corruption was found at all levels of education, from elementary schools to universities, and from local education agencies to the House of Representatives, said the non-profit Indonesia Corruption Watch, or ICW.

According to the group’s latest report, around a third of the country’s entire education budget was misappropriated during procurement of goods and services.

This does seem like an extraordinary position – one third of the total education budget being lost to corrupt activities. The story does seem to show that progress is being made but there is clearly a long way to go.

New Branch Campuses in China

Some new Branch Campuses on the way

The University of Nottingham admitted its first students in China back in 2004, establishing the first Sino-Foreign University in China and then opening its campus, pictured above, in Ningbo in 2006. There are now over 5,500 students following University of Nottingham degrees at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China. Since then others have followed, employing different models at different scales and with various partners.

An earlier blog post covered the general expansion of branch campuses. Now Hanover Research has a piece on prospective branch campuses in China. It reports that the the Observatory of Borderless Higher Education (OBHE) has identified at least seven branch campuses currently being planned for mainland China – accounting for approximately one-fifth of all branch campuses slated to open through to 2014. All are from western universities, with five from the United States and two from the United Kingdom. The article actually lists seven US universities:

  • New York University
  • Duke
  • George Washington U
  • Berkeley
  • Kean (which seems to be the most advanced)
  • Missouri St Louis with Missouri U of Science and Technology

The piece doesn’t name the UK universities but I have a pretty good idea about one of them.

Some more details of the OBHE report can be found in a University World News story on the topic and some surprising information about Chinese university opening a European branch featured in an earlier blog post.

Austerity in the USA

Savings needed at US Universities

University World News. carries a piece by William Patrick Leonard, vice dean of SolBridge International School of Business in Daejeon, Republic of Korea, suggesting that US Higher education institutions need to rein in their costs. The traditional approaches to meeting financial shortfalls, raising tuition fees or increasing student numbers, are, it is suggested no longer justifiable:

The third internal budget balancing tool, cutting costs, has been the least favoured. It can negatively influence programmes and hence careers. I suggest that many institutions, large and small, have found it politically easier to increase revenue rather than control costs.

They have tended to resist seriously questioning the viability of ineffective or inefficient programmes and services. Simultaneously, many have increased their continuing cost burden by enhancing existing programmes and services as well as adding new ones.

This reflects perhaps the different structural set up and culture of US higher education but the contrasts with the position in the UK do seem rather stark. In particular, after several years of significant financial challenges in this country and in anticipation of many more to come, all institutions have had to make savings. Fees are capped and increasing enrolment is only realistically possible through growing international student recruitment which in itself is more challenging than ever because of visa regulations. So, in the UK we have been dealing with the need for reducing spend for some time.


Simplistically, institutional costs may be crudely subdivided into two categories – external and internal.

The external costs are composed of purchased goods and services. Unless the institution has the power to negotiate price, its utility, insurance, contracted services and consumable costs are largely beyond its control. External costs are strongly influenced by the internal costs that institutions should have more control over.

The place to start is internal costs. In American higher education internal costs are governed as much by unquestioned culture as by contractual obligations. Institutions have tended to regard the traditional mix of faculty, curriculum, calendar and infrastructure as immutable. This has been accompanied by an exaggerated sense of entitlement to external support.

The majority of US higher education institutions can no longer rely on the historic levels of government support or philanthropic largesse. Nor can they depend on the continued utility of tuition fees and enrolment increases to align revenue with their immutable culture-driven costs.

I suspect this is a reasonably accurate assessment of the position. Whilst we are now used to the challenges of savings needs in the UK (and indeed are not experiencing them for the first time), it will be a bit harder if there is no prior knowledge of how to respond. Having said that, after many years of growth there is likely to be significant scope for savings.

New markets for fake qualifications

Exciting new opportunities for purveyors of fake qualificationss

Earlier posts have reported on particular examples of fake university degrees including a scandal in Pakistan and the entertaining story about a dog which was awarded an MBA. Now University World News reports on the new growth area for fake qualifications:

Degrees from Western universities have become so prized in China in recent years that degree mills and fake certificate producers have mushroomed, making the country one of the world’s major producers of bogus degrees – not just for customers in China, but across Asia and beyond.

With an ongoing crackdown by Chinese authorities and the ubiquity of genuine degrees from the US, UK and Australia among Chinese graduates, the shadowy industry appears to be moving into lucrative new areas – professional qualifications designed to smooth the way into coveted jobs.

“A foreign degree used to be seen as ‘gold plated’ in China. It’s no longer the same because now lot of Chinese students come back from universities in the US and UK,” said Ning Guan, strategic development manager at UK Naric, the National Recognition Information Centre, which specialises in identifying and tracking bogus degrees on behalf of UK universities and large companies recruiting internationally.

“China’s labour market has become more demanding. Before, you could go back [to China] and get a good job. Now you need a professional qualification to go with your foreign degree to get a decent job. So there is definitely a market opening up for this kind of qualification,” she told University World News.

It’s an interesting development with the growth in fake professional certificates, eg in accountancy and vocational subjects, alongside more traditional forged degree certification particularly noteworthy. It goes to show that perhaps a fake degree alone isn’t enough to get on in the job market these days.

European Union university ranking plan: the sector holds its breath

Latest news on the most eagerly awaited league table

A post just over a year ago noted the development of a new EU ranking method. Now University World News carries a piece about the European Union defying criticism of its university ranking plan. Speaking at a rankings event in April Jordi Curell, director of lifelong learning, higher education and international affairs, did accept that not everyone was wildly enthisastic about the U-Multirank non-league table. But he did attempt to defend the idea:

“Rankings which are carefully thought out are the only transparency tools which can give a comparative picture of higher education institutions at a national, European and global level,” he told the symposium.

In March the UK House of Lords’ European Union committee called the initiative a waste of money. Its report argued that U-Multirank brought nothing new to a market already crowded by other international ranking systems, such as those developed by China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Times Higher Education magazine and QS.

But Brussels plans to plough ahead regardless.

Earlier this year the Commission announced that it would spend €4 million (US$5.2 million) testing its new ranking method and invited HEIs to tender for the work with the results due at the end of next year.

Curell told the symposium that generally, a reluctance to support rankings had evolved. But while they might not reflect the full diversity of reality, rankings shape the perception of that reality.

He advised representatives of higher education institutions present at the event to try to influence how rankings develop rather than opposing the trend.

This final point is a good one: universities do have to engage with the rankings. Although you don’t have to express support for them in order to do so. However, I’m still not clear why U-Multirank, a league table which will not be a league table, is necessary. We’ll have to wait and see.

The Shape of Things to Come – Going Global 2012

The shape of things to come: global trends and emerging opportunities to 2022

I was privileged to chair this session at the British Council’s Going Global event on 15 March:

Over the next five to ten years, which will be the countries with fastest growing higher education systems? Which countries will have environments rich in opportunities for student mobility; for cross-border education provision; and for collaborative research? The new research from the British Council begins to provide answers to these questions. It reveals the new big emerging markets for international students, along with those countries that will be most open for international collaboration in teaching and research. Earlier British Council studies found that the number of students seeking to study overseas depends heavily on family income and the number of students enrolled in domestic higher education. It now depends more on trade links, cost of living and tuition, and exchange rates between the respective countries. The Global Education Opportunities Index maps the economic growth projections and demographic indicators across countries, along with global trade links, to highlight the areas where most opportunities will emerge for international collaboration and student mobility. Dr Janet Ilieva provides an overview of the approach taken and the research methodology, and presents the main findings. The expert panel from UNESCO Institute for Statistics and the OECD then debate the relevance of the opportunities and the implications of this research.

Janet Ilieva delivered an excellent presentation setting out the details of the combination of demographic and economic drivers which will re-shape the global higher education landscape – the data, evidence and forecasts which will be needed by institutions to enable them to address opportunities for student mobility, TNE and collaborative research.

The presentation covered

  • Globally mobile students
  • The internationalisation of research
  • Business collaboration
  • Opportunities for global engagement

Chiao-Ling Chien of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and Richard Yelland from the OECD responded with some important additional comments too with the latter noting that we also need to pay proper attention to the other 98% of non-mobile students.

Whilst the content delivered represented significant progress and valuable information, the concerns from the audience largely related to the quality, consistency and timeliness of data.

The video of Janet’s presentation and her slides can be found here. Do have a look. Overall, it was fascinating stuff and a real honour to participate.

The report from which the data was drawn will be published soon. In the meantime University World News carried some of the information contained in it and in Janet’s presentation with the headlines being the slowdown in the growth of higher education enrolments and the impact of economic changes on the HE landscape. First the demographics:

The largest higher education systems are likely to be China with some 37 million students, India with 28 million, the US with 20 million and Brazil with nine million.

However higher education, currently one of the fastest growing sectors globally, is predicted to experience a significant slowdown in the rate of growth in enrolments in the coming decades.

This is according to the report The Shape of Things to Come: Higher education global trends and emerging opportunities to 2020, drawn up for the British Council by Oxford Economics. It is to be published officially next month, but a preview was released ahead of the British Council’s “Going Global” conference being held in London from 13-15 March.

The study forecasts enrolments to grow by 21 million students by 2020 – a huge rise in overall numbers and an average growth rate of 1.4% per year across 50 selected countries that account for almost 90% of higher education enrolments globally.

But this represents a considerable slowdown compared to the 5% a year global enrolment growth typical of the previous two decades, and record enrolment growth of almost 6% between 2002 and 2009.

Tertiary enrolments have grown by 160% globally since 1990, or by some 170 million new students.

This slowing in growth “should be expected with the sector maturing or slowing in some markets, and demographic trends no longer as favourable as a result of declining birth rates over the last 20 to 30 years,” says the report.

rowth in enrolments in China are predicted to fall from a 17 million increase to five million, according to the report’s projections. India’s tertiary enrolment growth overall is forecast to outpace China’s during the period.

“This does not take into account the political ambitions and aspirations of these countries,” said Janet Illieva, the British Council’s head of research, who will be presenting some of the research findings at the “Going Global” conference this week.

“If India manages to double participation rates in the next five years, this will be a phenomenal increase,” she said, referring to Indian government plans to increase gross enrolments from 17% of the cohort now to around 30% in the next decade.

Economic growth fuels enrolments

Over the last 20 years, growth in global higher education enrolments and internationally mobile students has closely followed world trade growth and has far outpaced world economic growth.

“What is changing is GDP (economic wealth), and economic growth which has a very significant impact on tertiary enrolment,” Illieva told University World News.

A country’s average wealth is seen as a clear driver of future tertiary education demand. “Not only is the relationship positive and statistically significant, but perhaps more importantly, at low GDP per capita levels, gross tertiary enrolment ratios tend to increase quickly for relatively small increases in GDP per capita,” the report says.

Around half the 50 countries studied currently have GDP per capita levels below US$10,000 a year. “Provided these economies grow strongly over the next decade, as many are forecast to, there is significant scope for their tertiary enrolment ratios to increase.”

But despite strong economic growth, many of the shortlisted economies are forecast to still have GDP per capita (adjusted for purchasing power parity) below US$10,000 in 2020 – including Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, India, Morocco, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

This is likely to constrain how quickly these countries close the gap in enrolment rates compared to advanced economies. But it also means continued rises in enrolment ratios and strong growth in tertiary education demand beyond 2020.

“Where income is below US$10,000 a year, a proportional increase in income results in a much higher rise in the rate of enrolments than you would expect,” said Illieva.

Things really are changing. Look forward to seeing the full report when it is published.

How to create a world-class university

Is there really a recipe for creating a world-class university?

University World News carries a piece on what looks like a fascinating new publication from the World Bank on the making of world class universities. The report looks at a number of case studies, particularly from East Asia, and draws out several common characteristics of the most successful institutions.

The report is available from the World Bank here and the abstract sets out the approach:

How do you build a world-class research university from scratch? In today’s ever-faster, global economy, many countries are reflecting on the merits of building elite global universities to make their mark in world research. Recognizing that such universities are emerging as the central institutions of the 21st Century’s knowledge economies, a new book ‘The Road to Academic Excellence: The Making of World-Class Research Universities’ examines the recent experience of 11 universities in 9 countries on 4 continents that have grappled with the challenges of building successful research institutions under difficult circumstances, and synthesizes the lessons learned. This book will be essential reading for governments, tertiary education leaders, employers, and citizens, considering reforms and innovations to improve their country’s position in the global scene.

The University World News article highlights the successes of the universities in Asia and their characteristics:

Top-performing research universities share three common characteristics – a high concentration of talented academics and students, significant budgets and strategic vision and leadership, according to the authors.

“Global talent search seems to be one of the most powerful accelerating factors” towards world-class status for research universities whether they are in a poor or rich country, and whether they are small or big, said Salmi. “It is all about talent.”

According to Salmi, what distinguishes successful East Asian universities from the rest of the world is an emphasis on international staff and students.

“Both Shanghai Jiaotong University [China] and Pohang University of Science and technology [South Korea] made a strategic decision to rely principally on Chinese or Korean academics trained in the best universities in North America or Europe and, to a large extent, to recruit highly qualified foreign faculty,” he noted in the study.

But he acknowledged that new research universities face special challenges in attracting top academics and good students.

One of the most successful examples in the study, Hong Kong University of Science and technology, “pushed this logic to the extreme,” according to Salmi

“The rapid development and rise of the new university can be attributed in large part to its systematic policy of giving priority to outstanding Chinese from the diaspora for staffing the initial contingent of academics.”

This enabled the institution to become a node for disseminating global knowledge within the country and region and to contribute to global knowledge, an important characteristic of world-class institutions.

It’s perhaps not terribly surprising that you need top talent, plenty of money and some good leadership for a university to succeed. More interesting is that there seem to be only a modest number of institutions which have rapidly achieved world class status in the way described here. Maybe it’s harder to collect the ingredients and follow the recipe than it appears.