News: Education and training monitor 2014

ed2014The European Commision has issued the third “Education and Training Monitor” that examines the development of education and training systems across the EU. Its purpose is to follow up on the Europe 2020 targets for education and training. The two headline targets include: reducing early school leavers under 10% and increasing tertiary attainment to at least 40%. The monitoring exercise follows more indicators that are considered important to reach these targets and understand the context.

Regarding higher education attainment, it appears that participation rates in average in Europe are increasing. In 2010, average tertiary education attainment was at 33,6%, and this has now increased to 36,9% – not far off the 40% target. However, looking at the map of Europe, there are also great disparities in this area, and Italy and Romania have attainment levels at 22,4% and 22,8% respectively, a sharp contrast from Ireland, where tertiary education attainment is at 52%, and additionally UK, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania and Luxembourg where tertiary education attainment is over 45%.

Regarding employability, the target is that by 2020, the share of those who have graduated from upper secondary or tertiary education should be at least 82%. This number has however been steadily decreasing, from 77,4% in 2010 to 75,5% in 2013. Countries like Germany, the Nerthelands and Luxembour show employment rates of over 85% for their graduates. At the same time, and rather unsurprisingly countries in the South of Europe who have been hit hard by the economic crisis show employment rates that are under 60%, where employment rate in Greece is just 40%. (more…)




Guest blogger: Just started your PhD? Time to start writing your thesis…

Dr. Siân Lindsay  (University of London)

Dr. Siân Lindsay
(City University of London)

This guest entry is written by Dr. Siân Lindsay who shares some tips on PhD dissertation writing. She works as a lecturer in educational development for the department of Learning Enhancement and Development (LEaD) at City University London. Siân is module leader on LEaD’s MA in Academic Practice programme, and is co-convenor for the SRHE Newer Researchers network and conference. Siân holds a PhD in Molecular Biology from Royal Holloway University of London and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA). Siân’s current research focuses exploring and supporting the PhD student experience and her recently published research on thesis writing can be found here

Siân can be found on Twitter @sianylindsay or emailed sian.lindsay.1@city.ac.uk

Back in late 2003, as a first year PhD student, the thought of producing a 100,000 word thesis was unimaginable and overwhelming. I consoled myself by promising that as long as I worked as hard as possible in collecting lots of data to analyse then writing my thesis would be easy. I would only start writing properly once I had all my data together and could take a holistic view of it all. But that was my mistake, because actually I didn’t get all the data I needed until the final few months of my PhD studentship. I’d left much of the thesis writing until the end and was now facing a colossal and highly stressful task ahead of me. Somehow I did manage to write my thesis in less than 6 months and then passed my viva. But, the stress in doing so had a significant impact.

My experience in part propelled me to undertake some research into the PhD student experience of thesis writing. The other factor was motivated by a need to understand why PhD students can take longer than is ideal to complete their PhD.  In the UK, full-time PhD students should complete their doctorate within 4 years (this includes writing and submitting their thesis), whereas part-time students are allowed up to 7 years. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) publishes research degree qualification rates (RDQRs) for HE institutions running PhD programmes to largely demonstrate how well the 4 or 7 year deadlines are being adhered to. Notably, HEFCE positively discriminates institutions with higher rates with better funding opportunities than those with less than ideal rates. It is important to note that RDQRs are adjusted according to the particular nuances of an institution (e.g. its size, locale, number of PhD programmes etc). As an additional impetus – the stress of letting a PhD run on for too long also has really significant implications on the student: mentally, emotionally as well as financially. Based on several discussions with Senior Tutors for Research at my university, I had hypothesised that thesis writing may represent a significant hurdle in slowing down progression of the PhD (or sometimes even stopping it altogether).

I set about testing my hypothesis by interviewing PhD students who were right in the middle of writing their thesis (or had just completed it). I also wanted to know what worked for these students in writing up (and conversely, what to avoid doing) and disseminate their ideas and advice with others. (more…)




Student blogger: Tuition fees for non-EU/EEA students in Norway – who will bear the brunt of it?

Hedda master student Ammar Bahadur Singh

Hedda master student
Ammar Bahadur Singh

These days, Norwegian government is discussing the new national budget where a number of changes have been proposed. One of the proposed changes has been the introduction of tuition fees to non-EU/EEA students. While we are waiting for the decision, one of Hedda master students, Ammar Bahadur Singh has examined some of the implications of such fees for students from developing countries. 

Following the footsteps of its closest neighbors, Norwegian government in its state budget of 2015 proposed to introduce tuition fees for international students outside the EU/EEA and Switzerland. If implemented, it would directly affect the students mainly from developing countries, rather the students from other countries like the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, etc.  Denmark introduced tuition fees in 2006, Sweden in 2011, Finland in 2010 on a trial basis and the trial period is coming to an end this year, Norwegian conservative government is struggling harder to impose tuition despite strong opposition from student communities, and Iceland has not taken any initiatives in this regard, though all students must pay and annual administration fee of approximately £350.

Nordic countries are known as the front-runners in advocating, promoting and protecting the principles of equity and equality in the world, but the provision of tuition fees only for students outside EU/EEA and Switzerland goes against their own principle of equity and equality of opportunities. Why has Norway proposed to impose discriminatory provision of tuition fees?  What is the rationale behind it? If it is a business, why does the same principle not apply to all students (domestic and international) as it is in the US, the UK, Canada, etc.?

The Norwegian government led by conservative party proposed the tuition fees soon after it came into power in 2013. The parliament strongly rejected it. This year the same government has also put forward the same proposal for imposing tuition fees for international students outside EU/EEA and Switzerland. Students’ parliaments, many universities professors, international students’ union (ISU), etc. have strongly opposed the proposal saying that it would jeopardize the principle of free education, which is the cornerstone of the development of welfare state. The proposal is the blatant violation of this principle. They argue that the introduction of tuition fees is the first step of introducing tuition fees for all as the Netherlands, Ireland and the UK has done and that finally, no one will get free education.

However, the conservative circles of politicians and student wings supporting them have put forward some arguments in support of their proposal for imposing tuition fees for international students. They argue that their closest neighbors have already introduced tuition fees and they don’t want international students out EU/EEA coming to Norway simply because of cost-free education, but for quality education. Second, the provision of free education can lead to a degradation of quality and introduction of tuition fees will ensure quality in higher education. Third, why should Norwegian taxpayers subsidize international students who pay tuition fees back home and in other countries for higher education?  Fourth, they are attempting to limit the meaning of the long standing political consensus for free higher education only to Norwegian students, not for others. (more…)




Call for papers: various themes related to higher education policy

ICPPThe International Conference on Public Policy will take in Milan from Wednesday, 1st July to Friday, 4th July, 2015. The call for papers has recently been issued.

Deadline for applications – 15th of January 

In total there are 18 various section, including a section for specific topics that also includes education. Here are a number of panels of interest for higher education policy:

T18P27 – Governance of Knowledge Policies (Section 18c – Education)

Chaired by Jens Jungblut, University of Oslo, Department of Education; Meng Hsuan Chou, Nanyang  Technological University; Pauline Ravinet, Université Lille 2. Discussants: Mitchell Young (Charles University), Tim Flink (WZB) and Tatiana Fumasoli (ARENA; Oslo)

The governance of knowledge – generation, organisation, or dissemination – has now permeated all policy levels, from the local, national, regional to the global. These processes, however, are studied across diverse disciplines – science and higher education (policy) studies, international relations, comparative politics, sociology and organisational studies – often disconnected from one another. This is surprising given that there are at least three clear research foci they have in common. At the level of (i) discourse and ideas, attention is paid to whether, how, and why concepts such as excellence, globalism and regionalism, innovation, to name but a few, percolate into daily practices and how they are then weaved into the fabric of policies, organisations or systems. Similarly, these disciplines have in common their interests in how the dynamics of higher education, research and science have impacted (ii) the central organisations, i.e. universities and non-university research institutes, as well as the funding and regulatory agencies. Finally, there is also clear shared research interest in how such dynamics have affected (iii) groups and individuals as members of these organisations, e.g. asking whether and how the normalisation of universities or their global differentiation/isomorphism clash with the normative foundations of science as a profession/vocation or, even earlier, with the hitherto humanistic ideals of ‘socialising’ students by education.

This panel invites researchers from across diverse disciplines to examine the multi-level governance of knowledge policies and politics, focusing on any of the above-mentioned dynamics as well as the role of actors in influencing them. Submitted papers should be clearly linked to one of the three sections – each addressing one of the three research foci identified. All accepted papers must have a clear conceptual approach, preferably supported by empirical examples beyond a single case study.

T02P05 – Patterns and pathways of convergence/divergence in higher education: A comparative perspective (Section 02: Comparative Policy)

Chaired by - Martina Vukasovic, Centre for Higher Education Governance Ghent (CHEGG), Ghent University, and Donald Westerheijden, CHEPS, University of Twente. Discussant: Giliberto Capano (more…)




News: University rankings as institutional strategy tools?

euaLast week, EUA published a new report on rankings  ‘Rankings in Institutional Strategies and Processes: Impact or Illusion?‘ (RISP) where the project examines in detail how rankings are used for institutional development across Europe. This report directly follows up on two earlier EUA reports on rankings that had primary focus on analyzing the methodology of rankings. Earlier this year, NIFU also published a report on the Nordic countries, where focus was on a comprehensive deconstruction of the rankings to identify what assures success, and to examine the impact of rankings on the leadership of research intensive universities in the Nordic region.

Data for the EUA report was gathered in various forms. An online survey was sent out to all EUA members (about 850). The survey yielded responses from 171 institutions in 39 countries, with a broad coverage of various European countries. 90% of the respondents came from instituions who are part of a ranking. Folloing up on the survey, a total of 48 meetings were conducted through six site visits to understand in more detail how instituions work with rankings, and a roundtable was organised with 25 participants from 18 European countries to create an arena for peer learning and sharing of experiences.

The main conclusion from this project is that rankings indeed do have an effect on institutional behaviour, but that this effect varies. 60% of those who answered in the survey replied that rankings are used in their institutional strategies – but the specific kind of use varied from examining certain indicators to using them in a comprehensive manner. Furthermore, it is highlighted that as many as 39% report that the results of rankings “to inform strategic, organisational, managerial or academic actions, and another third of respondents were planning to do so”. Unsurprisingly, rankings were widely used in marketing, but the respondents had also reported use in “the revision of university policies, the prioritisation of some research areas, recruitment criteria, resource allocation, revision of formal procedures, and the creation of departments or programme”. (more…)