Report on Impact of Financial Crisis on European Education Budgets

A new report from the European Commission examines the effect of the financial crisis on education budgets. The report shows that nearly half of the 28 countries for which data were available cut their spending on tertiary and adult education from 2010 to 2011, with the greatest decline observed in Slovakia (nearly 15 percent), and reductions of more than 5 percent in the Czech Republic, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, and Northern Ireland. In 2012, even larger cuts took place in Cyprus and Lithuania (more than 30 percent), and Greece (25 percent).

Only a few countries say that budget reductions have resulted in increased tuition fees. The report cites Spain and the United Kingdom as two countries where tuition fees are being increased “with the objective of aligning them with the real cost of studies.”

The report examines educational spending at all levels, from pre-primary to tertiary education.

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Resolving Suit, Oxford Will Review Admission Policy

The University of Oxford has agreed to review policies under which its St. Hughes College has required applicants to demonstrate -- as a condition of admission -- that they can afford the living expenses, BBC reported. The agreement resolved a suit filed by an applicant who said he was rejected when he could not demonstrate that he had that money on hand. The applicant said that the rules were a human rights violation.


Breakthrough for Study Abroad in Cuba

Academic Programs International has received a license from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control to operate short- and long-term study abroad programs in Cuba, making it the first study abroad provider organization to announce that it had earned such approval. While regulations released back in 2011 cleared the way for U.S colleges to resume exchange programs in Cuba, the provider organizations were required to submit applications for "specific" licenses – applications that heretofore have gone unapproved. Those in the study abroad field who have been involved in discussions with U.S. government officials say they have been told to expect that other pending applications by study abroad providers will be acted upon shortly. 

"This is really an opening that will increase student participation going forward,” said Brian Whalen, president and CEO of the Forum on Education Abroad, which has been advocating on the providers’ behalf. Whalen noted that Forum data show that about 50 percent of colleges' study abroad programs are run in collaboration with providers.

“We’ll see more programs being developed, more universities being able to offer the experience to their students," he said.

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Speakers consider best practices for internationalizing highly regulated professional degree programs

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At best practices conference, panelists discuss strategies to incorporate international experiences into highly regulated degree programs like air traffic management and nursing.

Australian MOOC Platform

The University of Melbourne is a member of Coursera, one of the primary (and U.S.-based) platforms for massive open online courses. But an all-Australian MOOC platform was launched today, The Conversation reported. Several universities are already signed up to offer free courses through the platform, called Open2Study.


Academics in Germany rebel against rankings system

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Scholarly groups start effort, and are joined by a university in saying they will no longer participate.

'Harlem Shake' Video Leads to Oxford Librarian's Firing

Students at Oxford University are protesting administrators' decision to dismiss a librarian because she let a group of students produce a Harlem Shake video in the library of St. Hilda's College, The Independent of London reported. The student librarian, Calypso Nash, reportedly lost her job even though she was not involved in filming the video, which was recorded in seven minutes at 11:30 p.m. to minimize disruption, according to the newspaper. Many of the student participants were fined for their roles, too.

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Australian universities dedicate positions to working with rankings groups

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Several Australian institutions dedicate staff positions specifically to working with rankings groups -- and moving up on their lists.

Essay on Chinese literature and capitalism

In 2010, the Swedish Academy awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, who is serving a 30-year term in an undisclosed prison near Beijing. Last year, the Swedish Academy selected for the literature prize Mo Yan, a pen name that means being silent. The latest joke in China sums up the two divergent fortunes of the country's only laureates: one is called silence; the other is silenced.

If the earlier prize had angered the Chinese government, the most recent one puzzled Chinese literary critics. "Why Mo Yan?" everyone asked during my recent three-week lecture tour in China. Someone suggested that I was partially to blame because I had included the author in the most recent edition of the Norton Anthology of World Literature. In truth, Mo Yan had gotten his lucky break much earlier when his early novel Red Sorghum was turned into a hugely successful movie, and a second lucky break in an excellent Swedish translator.

This answer didn't quite satisfy my audiences, who found this writer, who tends to revel in seemingly archaic rural worlds, out of touch with their own urban experience. The only person in China who is happy about both Nobel Prizes is Tong Quingbing, a professor of literary theory at Beijing Normal University, who taught both Liu Xiaobo and Mo Yan there and who is known to boast about his two famous students.

The Chinese Government and many Chinese don't count Nobel Prizes for Chinese living abroad, often because they and their works are banned. And yet the literary production of the Chinese diaspora, especially in the United States, is too significant to be ignored, and Chinese scholars are now paying attention to writers like Ha Jin. Even though he is barred from returning to China, Ha Jin can now see some of his novels, for example his most recent Nanjing Requiem, favorably reviewed in China.

During my lecture tour, the topic of greatest interest was capitalism. How did American writers respond to the convulsive forces of industrialization and capitalism in the 19th and 20th centuries, my Chinese hosts and students wanted to know? I offered as resonant examples writers like Frank Norris, whose Trilogy of the Wheat described the power unleashed by the Chicago Stock Exchange and Eugene O'Neill's Hairy Ape, which identifies with the awe-inspiring energy of a steamboat. I described this literature as "capitalist sublime" because writers like Norris and O'Neill approached the overwhelming power of capitalism in ways similar to how 18th century philosophers described unimaginably large numbers and overpowering storms.

When I traveled through China on the sleek bullet train at 200 miles per hour past a landscape of power plants, factories, and gigantic developments, I understood why Norris and O'Neill resonated. Chinese newspapers revel in records, the speed with which the latest battery of high-rises has been built, the latest increase in production. Everywhere, superlatives abound. At the same time, the human and environmental costs are becoming more difficult to ignore. Writers like Frank Norris or Eugene O'Neill didn't have any illusions about the destructive powers of capitalism, either; the sublime was a way of understanding that as well.

I was struck that my Chinese audiences had a rich experience of the capitalist sublime, but they were less familiar with the most hard-nosed defenders of capitalism like Joseph Schumpeter, whose term "creative destruction" fits the current Chinese experience better than any. Ayn Rand was completely unknown as well, though my description of her novels and theories resonated with the harsh face of capitalism in China. Rand's glorification of egotism, by contrast, led only to gasps of astonishment.

The biggest problem for urban Chinese right now, and the subject of the latest set of superlatives, is the explosion of housing prices. Everyone talked about it, on trains, over dinner, after lectures. Those who are priced out are kicking themselves for having waited too long while others rattle off the latest increase in home values (10 million rmb, one teacher told me, about 1.6 million dollars, for a modest Beijing apartment). Students complain that they will have to find work at home because they will be forced to move back with their parents. Those who buy rely on family networks to raise the funds for the down payment. Small wonder that a play like David Mamet's Glengary Glen Ross, the best American work on real estate, is of interest here.

The future of Chinese letters and its relation to world literature is closely bound up with the country's experiment in marrying its one-party system to market capitalism, what the Chinese now refer to, with a chuckle, as "capitalism with Chinese characteristics" (a modification of the official "socialism with Chinese characteristics"). Who will describe its new heroes and new victims? How will writers — and other artists — capture the powers,  the superlatives, the destructions, creative and otherwise, of this new brand of capitalism?

The next Chinese Nobel Prize in Literature will probably not be a writer of rural life, like Mo Yan, but a Chinese David Mamet aiming at the world's largest housing bubble. Or, if we are unlucky, an Ayn Rand with Chinese characteristics.

Martin Puchner is the Byron and Anita Wien Professor of English at Harvard University and general editor of The Norton Anthology of World Literature. He is at work on a travel book about world literature.


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Thunderbird and Laureate Team to Create Global Campuses and Programs

Thunderbird School of Global Management and Laureate Education announced plans Monday for a joint venture in which the Arizona-based business school would establish academic programs through the for-profit education provider's campuses in cities around the world. Under the arrangement, which is expected to be finalized in June, Thunderbird would remain nonprofit but would look to offer instruction at Laureate campuses in places such as Madrid, Paris, Santiago, Chile, and Sao Paulo, Brazil.


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