international

Students Upset Over Sydney Art School Merger Plan

Students have expressed outrage over the University of Sydney's plan to close its arts campus and move students to the University of New South Wales as part of a planned merger agreement between the two institutions scheduled to take effect at the beginning of the 2017 academic year, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Michael Spence, the vice chancellor of the University of Sydney, said that the strengths of the two institutions in the visual arts “can be enhanced through a greater concentration of students and resources, with the result being better visual arts education and research outcomes.” But some students have characterized the merger as "either a downsize or the end of visual arts at the University of Sydney."

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Universities face major challenges with Brexit (essay)

Behind the steel spire atop St. Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast rises a modern structure of gleaming glass and steel. Ulster University is building a new campus right in the heart of Northern Ireland’s capital city. The university, once known only as an access-focused regional institution with a predominant emphasis on preprofessional degree programs, now boasts an excellent business school, a top-tier school of pharmacy and an eye-catching urban campus devoted to the arts.

Ulster University is emblematic of a resurgence of Northern Ireland: once mired in sectarian conflict, Belfast and its environs are now destinations for both tourists and foreign investors. Much of the rise of this country of 1.8 million is due to extraordinary investment from the European Union -- investment that could soon end. Northern Ireland, like England, Scotland and Wales, is a constituent country of the United Kingdom and will take part in a referendum on continued membership in the E.U. this Thursday, June 23.

Polls on the potential British exit, or Brexit, have shown both sides running neck and neck, and the stakes could not be higher for Ulster and other universities in the United Kingdom. In fact, the results could also have a significant impact on American colleges and universities, as well.

British membership in the European Union has been exceptionally lucrative for Ulster University. The university received around 9.4 million pounds ($13.4 million) last year in E.U. funding. More than 1,700 students and around 400 scholars from other E.U. member states attend, teach and research at the university in some capacity. Its location around 45 minutes from the Irish border and only two hours from Dublin makes it a common collaborator with major universities to the south. The university’s Nanotechnology and Integrated Bioengineering Center, which was funded by a £1.6 million grant from the E.U., has generated 25 patents and three spin-off companies that are now valued at over $100 million.

Ulster, however, isn’t the only university in the United Kingdom receiving benefits from Britain’s E.U. membership. Higher education institutions received 16 percent of total E.U. research funding totaling £687 million ($1 billion) in 2013-14. People from other E.U. nations make up 15 percent of the academic workforce and 5 percent of the student bodies at British universities. Given the sheer impact of European support for universities in the U.K., it should come as no surprise that Ulster Vice Chancellor Paddy Nixon joined 102 university leaders, including vice chancellors from Oxford and Cambridge and the president of the London School of Economics, in an open letter in the Sunday Times expressing support for the European Union.

This expression of political support is emblematic of a change in university behavior. While university leaders chose to stay relatively silent on the two other recent major electoral events -- the 2014 Scottish independence referendum and the 2015 general election -- they emphatically support the campaign to remain in the E.U.

Yet despite university support for the European Union, a large minority of government officials and policy leaders want to leave. The leave campaign is led by Nigel Farage, the charismatic leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party whom many in the United Kingdom have compared to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for his bombastic style and anti-immigration stance.

Other major players include former London Mayor Boris Johnson, former Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove and other right-wing members of the Conservative party. The majority of Parliament, including Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn and leaders of most of the minor parties, all support continued membership in the European Union. Cameron and Osborne represent the moderate wing of the Conservative party -- constantly at odds with Gove, Johnson and the party’s right wing.

Brexit was a major political issue in the last general election, and leave campaigners argue that far-right Conservative gains in Parliament were a popular mandate for Brexit. Moderate Conservatives worked hard to renegotiate Britain’s responsibilities within the E.U. and believe that remaining in the European Union will be good for the United Kingdom. It should come as no surprise that both sides disagree on the impact Brexit would have on British universities.

The leave campaign argues that the European Union funds only 3 percent of all U.K. R&D spending and that money saved from not having to pay fees associated with E.U. membership could allow the U.K. government to expand domestic financial support for research. Furthermore, universities in nations outside of the E.U. are still able to apply for research funding; leave campaigners suggest that wouldn’t change.

Leave supporters also believe that, when it comes to U.K. universities’ ability to attract talented European faculty, a U.K. immigration policy absent of E.U. agreements on free movement of people could be devised in such a way that it would privilege scholars from other European countries traveling to Britain. Outside of the E.U., universities could raise fees on E.U. students, an action currently prohibited by E.U. laws that state universities in a given country must treat students from that country and other students from E.U. member states equally. There are also not enough spaces at universities to meet current demand. Leave campaigners argue that filling admissions spaces with domestic students could offset any drop in the E.U. student population.

University leaders and the remain campaign don’t agree. They note that a rise in E.U. student fees coupled with presumably more stringent immigration controls would result in an extremely decreased E.U. student population, as polls of E.U. students show that 80 percent would be less likely to pursue education in the U.K. E.U. students are some of the highest achieving in the U.K. system and are more likely than their British counterparts to pursue graduate degrees in the U.K. Brexit would raise fees on these students, limiting access to U.K. universities and potentially reducing overall institutional quality. It would also limit domestic student interaction with students from other countries. U.K. universities would become increasingly insular and homogenous in their student bodies as American competitors seek greater and greater diversity in their student populations.

Leaving the E.U., remain supporters argue, would also mean closing access to the Erasmus exchange program that allows students from E.U. member states to study in another member country as part of their academic program, further closing U.K. student engagement with their European counterparts. Students may also face adverse outcomes upon graduation should Brexit hurt Britain’s economy and job market. Leaders also fear that highly talented European academics seeking faculty or postdoc positions in the U.K. may seek positions elsewhere as uncertainty regarding their immigration and employment status over the next few years would grow exponentially in the days after a vote to leave. While long-term immigration reform might have some benefits, Brexit would decimate universities’ ability to recruit new faculty in the short term. Lastly, the remain campaign is quick to point out that, while U.K. contributions make up 11 percent of the total E.U. research budget, U.K. institutions receive more than 16 percent of total research grant funding.

What’s often overlooked in the debate between the leave and remain campaigns, however, is that if Britons vote to leave, there will be implications for American universities and students, as well. American universities might be the beneficiaries of Brexit when it comes to faculty recruitment. While emigrating to the United States might be difficult for European scholars when compared to an E.U.-member United Kingdom, stricter immigration controls in the U.K. may make the United States a more desirable location.

Furthermore, around 50,000 Americans study in the United Kingdom each year. A common language and history make the U.K. a top destination for American students, and neither will change with Brexit. The same could be said, however, for Ireland, an E.U. member with no plans on leaving any time soon. Google and other major American tech companies have built their European headquarters in Dublin, and if Brexit happens, many believe American companies with a major presence in London could move their operations across the Irish Sea to Dublin and into other major continental financial centers like Frankfurt and Luxembourg. Students who would have gone to the U.K. to study and intern in finance for a semester or two might soon find themselves more attracted to Ireland.

While American universities may be able to get their pick of scholars in the exodus of European faculty from British institutions that would follow Brexit, and American students may not recognize a tremendous difference between studying abroad in Dublin as compared to Edinburgh or London, the greatest influence Brexit could have on American universities is indirect, but hugely impactful. Most economist agree that a vote to leave would cause a British recession, at least in the short term, with some even saying the vote could trigger a global recession. David Cameron even warned that voting for Brexit would be like putting a bomb under the U.K. economy. For those American universities that are not in a position to compete for top European faculty or send students abroad, global volatility in the markets could cause significant damage to meager endowments and hurt fund-raising.

The cost of Brexit, therefore, is too high. Elite American universities would receive meager benefits, but the rest of the American higher education landscape could feel the effects of a recession too soon after emerging from the financial crisis of 2008. British universities will lose a major source of research funding, faculty and high-quality students. British students will feel the pinch of higher tuition and fees during a period of economic downturn. Brexit has the potential to significantly slow the growth of higher education at home and abroad and offers few benefits to postsecondary institutions on both sides of the Atlantic.

Along the banks of the River Foyle at the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic lies Derry. The walled city is home to a branch campus of Ulster University, and on June 9, the campus hosted two former prime ministers to talk about the potential ramifications of Brexit. Tony Blair and John Major both warned against leaving the European Union, saying it would effectively close off access to the border with the Republic. What neither gentleman noted, however, is that voting to leave the European Union would also effectively cut off access to research funding, high-quality international students and stellar faculty. University students, faculty and staff overwhelmingly support the remain campaign. One can only hope that they turn out to vote in two days’ time. Their universities are counting on them.

Christopher R. Marsicano is a Ph.D. candidate in leadership and policy studies with a focus in higher education policy at Vanderbilt University.

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Professor Dismissed for Insulting Turkey's President

A professor in the communications faculty at Istanbul Bilgi University, in Turkey, was dismissed after allegedly insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a lecture, Turkish Minute and the Hurriyet Daily News reported. Zeynep Sayin Balikcioglu was dismissed from the university after pro-government media outlets reported alleged remarks she made criticizing the Turkish president as “vulgar” and “rude.”

Insulting the president is a criminal offense punishable by up to four years in prison in Turkey. Balikcioglu's dismissal comes amid a larger crackdown on academics and free speech in Turkey.

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Elite Australian Universities Argue for Moderating Enrollment Growth

A group of Australian research universities known as the Group of Eight issued a policy paper on Wednesday calling for the government to “moderate growth in degree level participation, while opening up a wider range of opportunities, including at the subdegree level in both vocational and higher education.”

The paper argues that the shift to a “demand-driven” funding system, which removed caps on the number of domestic undergraduates universities could enroll, has been successful in substantially increasing higher education participation. However, the paper argues that the demand-driven system “is rapidly becoming financially unsustainable” and has fallen short in delivering on equity goals, with most of the growth in participation involving students from middle and high socioeconomic backgrounds. The proportion of undergraduate domestic students coming from low socioeconomic (SES) backgrounds increased by just 1.5 percent between 2009 and 2014.

The paper calls for targeted support for low-income and indigenous students to attend university and for increased government investments in research, among other recommendations.

Some vice chancellors from outside the elite eight research universities slammed the proposals as self-interested in reports in The Australian and The Sydney Morning Herald. Greg Craven, vice chancellor of Australian Catholic University, is quoted in The Australian describing the Group of Eight’s position as “crapulous”: “Their position is that they want more money in the system but that money should go to them,” he said.

The Regional Universities Network also issued a statement strongly supporting keeping the demand-driven funding system in place. “Many more low-SES and regional students have attended university because caps on places have been removed,” the group's chair, Jan Thomas, said. “Proportionally, there has been a 1.5 percent increase in the participation by low-SES students overall, which is progress. More than four to five years is needed to solve the problem.”

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Most working in British higher education oppose Brexit

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Poll of faculty members and administrators in British higher education finds they want their country to remain in E.U.

Swedish Court Backs American Student's Suit

A court in Sweden has ruled that Mälardalen University must reimburse Connie Askenback, an American student who sued saying that the academic program in which she enrolled didn't meet promised standards, The Wall Street Journal reported. The university now owes the former student more than $20,000. The court noted that the Swedish Higher Education Authority had found numerous problems with the program.

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No Makeup ACT in Hong Kong, South Korea After Security Breach

ACT will not schedule a makeup date following the cancellation of its June 11 test administrations in Hong Kong and South Korea due to a leak of test materials.

“Unfortunately, due to the nature of the cancellation and the ongoing investigation, ACT is unable to offer a retest opportunity before the next scheduled administration in September,” Bryan Maach, ACT's vice president for strategic growth markets, said in a statement. “We deeply regret the inconvenience caused to so many students by those who were attempting to cheat.”

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Student Tests Positive for Zika Virus After Study Abroad

A University of Alabama student who recently studied abroad has the Zika virus, AL.com reported. Officials said they could not provide details on the student but noted that most people with the virus recover quickly. The university has notified all students who recently returned from Central and South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean, and recommended testing for any experiencing symptoms. The virus has been linked to birth defects, and so exposure is considered particularly dangerous to women who are or plan to become pregnant.

Israeli Professor Killed in Tel Aviv Attack

A professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev was among those killed Wednesday when Palestinian gunmen attacked Tel Aviv’s Sarona Market, the university announced.

Michael Feige, 58, was a sociologist and anthropologist who specialized in Israeli society. His book Settling in the Hearts: Jewish Fundamentalism in the Occupied Territories (Wayne State University Press, 2009) won the Association for Israel Studies’ Shapiro Prize for the best book in Israel studies in 2010.

A statement from Feige’s faculty colleagues and students at the Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism described Feige’s research as “always penetrating and invariably profound. He brought a unique perspective to the diverse topics he studied -- the shaping of Israeli collective memory; the place of archaeology in Israeli society and the meanings and implications of clashes over antiquities; the changing memory and commemoration of the Rabin assassination; the memory of the Yom Kippur War in Israel; and other subjects central to our understanding of Israeli society in the past five decades.”

Feige is survived by his wife and three daughters.

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Pakistani Law College Leader Killed

The leader of the law college at Pakistan’s University of Balochistan, Amanullah Achakzai, was shot and killed on his way to work on Wednesday, the Lahore-based The Nation reported. Police said unidentified gunmen riding motorcycles opened fire on Achakzai’s vehicle; a motive had not immediately been established.

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