A New York Timesarticle examines the potential for conflict of interest in Quacquarelli Symonds (known as QS) operating an international rankings system for universities and also a "ratings" system -- with the latter open to those who pay for an audit. The article notes that institutions that do poorly in international rankings (which tend to give the highest marks to research universities known around the world) are evaluated on different criteria, and are then awarded stars that they can use to boast and to recruit students. Two universities in Ireland are cited as examples of institutions that paid QS and now boast five-star ratings. Several international education experts are quoted expressing skepticism about whether the stars are meaningful. But the universities say that if they attract more students, their payments to QS will be worth it.
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday gave a speech calling for better standards and an enhanced private-sector role in higher education, Outlook India reported.
Mukherjee said that while ancient India had universities that were considered world leaders, many Indians today feel that they must leave the country to obtain the best possible higher education. He said that the country's top universities need to be able to compete in the top levels of international rankings, where their absence is the subject of much discussion in the country. "We must change the reality of our universities not figuring in the list of top universities of the world. Indian universities should aim at becoming top educational institutions in the world with global standards of research, teaching and learning," he said.
Further, he said that the country need more than its public universities. "It is important that the private sector also contributes its best to the provision of higher education in India," he said. "The private sector has played a key role in higher education in other countries across the world. Many top universities including Harvard, Yale and Stanford are the result of efforts of the private sector. There is no reason why Indian private sector cannot achieve similar results."
Israeli authorities on Monday granted full university status to the Ariel University Center, a higher education center on the West Bank whose future has become a hotly debated issue in Israeli academic and political circles, The Jerusalem Post reported. Advocates for Israeli settlements on the West Bank have pushed for the center to be given the same status as other Israeli universities. But many Israeli academics -- professors and administrators alike -- have opposed the idea. Some have argued that the move will link Israeli higher education to the government's policies supporting greater West Bank settlement -- policies that many Israel academics abhor. Other academics have offered more practical criticism, arguing that there isn't enough money for the country to support an eighth full-fledged university. An editorial in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz said that the move undercut the independence of Israeli higher education.
Scientists in Spain have been holding protests all week over cuts to research budgets, Nature reported. Government spending on science has been cut by 39 percent since 2009. In Madrid, scientists released balloons to symbolize the departure of talent from the country.
A campaign to fund scholarships and fellowships for Syrian students and professors is well under way. The first grantees reflect on the situation they left behind and their hopes to help Syria rebuild.
Thousands of Hungarian students held rallies in Budapest last week to protest government plans to make most university students pay tuition, Reuters reported. Starting next year, the government plans to cut by two-thirds the number of students whose university education is subsidized by the government, forcing the others to pay tuition. Government officials say that they need to cut costs to deal with a national deficit, while students say that the government should be investing in the future leaders of the country.
Twelve British universities have created Futurelearn as a platform for MOOCs (massive open online courses) to be available free to anyone in the world, Times Higher Education reported. Courses will be offered by: