World in brief - 19 June 2014

June 19, 2014

United States
Low grade for Obama’s scorecards

US president Barack Obama has defended his proposal to introduce “scorecards” to rate universities and colleges after two congressmen introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives opposing the plans. The resolution, by Republican Bob Goodlatte and Democrat Michael Capuano, warns that the system would “mislead” prospective students. But in an online question and answer session, Mr Obama said that the system would help students avoid colleges that are “pretty notorious for piling a lot of debt on their students but not really delivering a great education”.

The Netherlands
Cash in hand will have to be handed back

Non-repayable student grants are to be replaced by loans in the Netherlands. From January 2015, instead of a monthly grant of €9 (£225) for students living away from home and €100 for those living at home, students will have the option of borrowing that sum, to be repaid when they earn more than the minimum wage. The move, which was condemned by student groups, will free up about €1 billion each year, which the government has said will be reinvested in higher education. About 20 to 30 per cent of that sum will be awarded in grants to students whose families earn less than €46,000 a year, according to ministers who have agreed the deal with opposition parties.

State invests in research in Stockholm satellite city

Swedish education minister Jan Björklund has announced an investment of SEK1.6 billion (£143 million) to bring additional student and research capacity in medicine and engineering to the industrial city of Södertälje near Stockholm. The result of long discussions between the state, industry, local government and other funders, the Campus Södertälje initiative aims to offer education to PhD and master’s level, to appoint three new professors and to create 600 extra student places by 2020.

Scholars explore Erasmus for Arab nations

Higher education leaders from the Arab world and Europe have convened in Amman, Jordan, to discuss student and staff mobility among universities and the possibility of setting up an Arab-region equivalent to the European Erasmus scheme. About 250 participants, including 130 university rectors, presidents and vice-presidents, met on 10 and 11 June at the Princess Sumaya University for Technology. Other topics on the table included strategies for educating a “global workforce” and the impact of joint programmes on participating institutions.

Student migration: no end in sight

Corruption and low-quality domestic universities are among the reasons Vietnamese students will continue to travel abroad. That is the conclusion of non-profit research agency World Education Services in a bulletin on student mobility from the southeast Asian country. Since 2012 Vietnamese enrolment in US higher education has increased by 8 per cent, said the agency, adding that “there is reason to believe that this growth trajectory will continue” given that 45 per cent of the country’s population is under 25.

Go8 dismisses deregulation fears

There is “little evidence” that the recently announced lifting of tuition fee caps in Australia would lead to “universal price hikes” across the higher education sector, the country’s research-intensive Group of Eight universities has said. The group analysed fees in already deregulated markets, such as those for international students and domestic postgraduates, and said they show a range of pricing strategies. “If deregulation is likely to lead to uniform fee inflation and skyrocketing of student costs, this should be reflected in the current postgraduate domestic and international markets,” the note says.

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