Science diplomacy – A unique opportunity to promote academic collaboration


In Africa Analysis Rami M Ayoubi and Engin Akcay say science diplomacy needs to be reformed to play a greater role in African higher education as it has the potential to promote development and foster a culture of peaceful co-existence; and Simon Ngalomba examines the need for Tanzanian universities to teach students the soft skills that will increase graduates’ chances of finding employment in a tough economic climate.

In Africa Features, Edwin Naidu highlights South African Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor’s plans, which include the BRICS University Network, to enable the country to meet the anticipated demands of the fourth industrial revolution; and Tunde Fatunde examines the controversy created by Nigerian government proposals to increase fees at higher education institutions – a move that it later backtracked on – and the welcoming of plans to establish a bank for student loans.

In news from around the continent, Wagdy Sawahel reports on the arrest of two students during protests sparked by the Mauritanian government’s decision to bar students aged over 25 from being admitted to university; Azzeddine Bensouiah looks at the causes behind the discontent of Algerian lecturers, as they threaten to strike after school teachers received a pay increase; and Kudzai Mashininga reports that nine Southern African Development Community countries are busy implementing a comprehensive qualifications framework for the region.

This week we introduce our second series on Transformative Leadership, in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, looking at the role of universities in driving positive change in the world. Nadine Burquel writes that higher education institutions of today need vision, strategy and direction and the transformative leaders who are able to deliver them.

In a continuation of our report on the publishing crisis, Ryan Allen looks at the recent proliferation of predatory academic journals and its root cause, which can be attributed to the rise of university rankings and other performance indicator-driven issues.

Fiona Crooks – Editor

AFRICA NEWS

MAURITANIA

Students arrested in protests over university age limit

Wagdy Sawahel

Two students were arrested after student unions and associations protested outside Mauritania’s Ministry for Higher Education and Scientific Research in Nouakchott after its recent decision to bar more than 1,000 high school graduates aged over 25 from studying at higher education institutions.

 

ALGERIA

Higher education union threatens strike over ‘injustices’

Azzeddine Bensouiah

The new academic year has barely begun but may soon be disrupted by a strike by the banned National Council of Higher Education Teachers, after it said it would demand the intervention of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in redressing what it claimed were injustices being suffered by higher education teachers.

 

SOUTHERN AFRICA

Nine SADC countries geared for qualifications framework

Kudzai Mashininga

Nine Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries are implementing a comprehensive qualifications framework, which will both facilitate mutual recognition of qualifications and ensure the easy movement of students and workers within the bloc’s 16 countries.

 

KENYA

New accreditation system sets down HE standards

Christabel Ligami

In a move to standardise qualifications, the Kenya National Qualifications Authority has created a new system for the accreditation of student qualifications and has defined entry grades for both degrees and diplomas, according to newly gazetted regulations.

AFRICA ANALYSIS

AFRICA

A unique opportunity to promote scientific collaboration

Rami M Ayoubi and Engin Akcay

Science diplomacy needs to be reformed so that its potential for promoting African development and fostering a culture of peaceful co-existence can be fully realised. Well-selected science diplomats posted abroad could make an exceptional contribution to their country and region.

 

TANZANIA

Employers need graduates to be taught vital soft skills

Simon Ngalomba

With high graduate unemployment in Tanzania, universities need to shift their focus from increasing enrolment figures at institutions to providing a quality education enhanced by soft skills, both of which are required by employers in a challenging economic climate.

AFRICA FEATURES

SOUTH AFRICA

BRICS University Network can boost 4IR hopes – Minister

Edwin Naidu

In addition to the recent announcement that technical and vocational education and training would get a ZAR2.5 billion (US$176 million) boost to equip them with fourth industrial revolution (4IR) skills, Minister of Higher Education and Training Naledi Pandor said she would soon be asking the National Treasury for more funding – and set up a ministerial committee – to ensure that South Africa did not lag behind in the 4IR race.

 

NIGERIA

Unions reject fee hike proposal as government backtracks

Tunde Fatunde

With Nigerian higher education institutions in the grip of a funding crisis, teacher and student unions rejected a recent proposal by a government commission to hike fees – calling it “outrageous”, as it would bar disadvantaged students from attaining qualifications – and called on the government to stick to its fiscal obligations.

 

SOUTH AFRICA

Doctoral qualification standard gets favourable review

Munyaradzi Makoni

Academics have given the thumbs-up to a draft document that aims not only to increase the number of doctoral degrees in South Africa but to improve national standards by providing a watertight system that rigorously guarantees quality.

 

ALGERIA

HE system under fire after political science is dropped

Azzeddine Bensouiah

Algerian education experts and student unions have lambasted recent sweeping changes made to university curricula that have resulted in specialised courses such as political science being discontinued.

AFRICA BRIEFS

SENEGAL

Threat to cancel courses – ‘Government will pay up’

Senegal's Higher Education Minister Mary Teuw Niane has tried to reassure institutions that the government will pay the more than 16 billion francs it owes them, after they threatened to cancel the courses of thousands of students that the state has been contracted to fund.

 

REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Francophone HE council to debate quality assurance

Bertrand Mbatchi, secretary-general of Le Conseil Africain et Malgache pour l’Enseignement Supérieur – the francophone African 19-country higher education council – visited Brazzaville for talks with Minister of Higher Education Bruno Jean-Richard Itoua ahead of November’s conference on quality assurance and equivalence of degrees, which will be hosted by the Republic of the Congo.

NEWS – Our correspondents worldwide report

CHINA

Panic over US scrutiny of science talent programme

Yojana Sharma

China's universities, along with the ministry of education, are hastily deleting all references to the country’s flagship international science ‘Thousand Talents’ programme from their websites, in response to United States investigations into whether it facilitates illicit transfer of US technology, intellectual property and know-how.

 

AUSTRALIA

One in seven students go without food or necessities

Geoff Maslen

Nearly one million Australians are now studying at university, but for most life is hard, with one in seven going without food or other necessities because they cannot afford the costs and four in five having to find paid work to survive.

 

EUROPE

Medicine academies demand post-Brexit research deal

Brendan O’Malley

The Federation of European Academies of Medicine has called on European Union and United Kingdom Brexit negotiators to reach an agreement that will secure continued medical research co-operation post-Brexit and ensure continued unhindered movement of researchers in particular.

 

INDIA

Students threaten campus walkout over sedition charges

Shuriah Niazi

Sedition charges against two Kashmiri students at India’s Aligarh Muslim University, and their suspension from the university, led to a threat by more than 1,200 other Kashmiri students to quit the university and leave for home if the sedition charges are not dropped.

 

UNITED KINGDOM

Birmingham opens door to Chinese students with gaokao

Brendan O’Malley

The University of Birmingham has announced that it will accept the gaokao exam for high-flying Chinese students wishing to join its undergraduate courses in 2019 in place of A-levels or the International Baccalaureate and claims to be the first Russell Group university to do so.

 

DENMARK

Government takes steps to lure and retain foreign talent

Jan Petter Myklebust

A new strategy for strengthening international recruitment for the workforce will help the hiring of international researchers by reducing the income threshold and will encourage international students to stay on and work by giving them a more flexible route into employment after graduation.

 

AUSTRALIA

Federal review of standards of HE courses announced

Organisations that offer higher education courses in Australia are to face a federal review of their standards. The review was called by Education Minister Dan Tehan who has asked Emeritus Professor Peter Coaldrake to conduct the examination.

COMMENTARY

PANAMA

Why HE is key to Panama’s 21st century economy

Philip G Altbach and Nanette A Svenson

Panama is a crucial regional and global crossroads and likes to compare itself with Singapore, but its higher education and research sectors have been particularly disadvantaged, badly managed and resource-starved and need reform if the country is to capitalise on its geographical advantages.

WORLD BLOG

GLOBAL

Can universities become more agile?

Nita Temmerman

Some traditional universities have become too big and bureaucratic and appear to have lost sight of their main functions. Smaller institutions have smaller classes, offer more contemporary content, better industry links and are more nimble and responsive to society.

TRANSFORMATIVE LEADERSHIP

GLOBAL

A critical moment for universities to take a lead

Brendan O’Malley

What is the role of universities in driving positive change in the world? How can they prepare students to face the challenges ahead? These key questions will drive our second series on Transformative Leadership, published in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, starting this week.

 

GLOBAL

Transformative leaders are critical in today’s world

Nadine Burquel

Transformative leaders who inspire academics and students, are deeply connected to changing local and national needs and are able to help their institutions compete with more agile external providers are critical to the future development of universities in a fast-evolving world.

STUDENT VIEW

AUSTRALIA

What it's like to be a student on the poverty line

Mark Pace

National survey findings showing that one in three students regularly miss lectures or classes to work validate the financial hardship that thousands upon thousands of Australian students experience every day, in what seems to be a perpetual war on young people.

THE PUBLISHING CRISIS

GLOBAL

The rise and rise of predatory journals

Ryan Allen

The rise of university rankings, triggering comparison and competition between universities around the world, and over-reliance on decision-making through numbers has pressured academics to simply publish as much as possible, even if that means resorting to publications that are on the fringes of legitimacy.

UWN UNIVERSITY PARTNER

ITALY

A pioneer in the development of education technology

Brenda Dionisi

An Italian university has carved a place for itself in the international distance learning space for its research into and novel use of emerging technologies – including interactive virtual classrooms, Second Life, talking textbooks and holograms – plus teaching via nine languages. Enrolment has jumped 40% in a year.

FEATURES

EUROPE

Funding for Europe’s universities rising, but not enough

Rebecca Warden

Governments have increased funding for European higher education over the past decade but this recovery is not happening fast enough to produce a catch-up effect, the European University Association reports, and some countries – Greece, Spain, the United Kingdom and Ireland – have faced 20% cuts.

 

HONG KONG

Hong Kong steps up research collaboration with China

Mimi Leung

Hong Kong will top up its research endowment fund to the tune of HK$20 billion (US$2.6 billion) to boost innovation as it steps up research collaborations with the Chinese mainland and with other countries, the Hong Kong government has announced.

 

 

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WORLD ROUND-UP

UNITED STATES

Closing the gap between university presses and libraries

MIT Press and the University of Michigan Press have both announced plans to start selling their e-book collections directly to libraries by creating their own distribution platforms, writes Lindsay McKenzie for Inside Higher Ed. Previously they did not have a mechanism for selling to institutions directly.

 

BRAZIL

Researchers fear election of far-right candidate

Brazil appears poised to elect a far-right candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, as its next president. His rapid ascent has unnerved local researchers, who are concerned about the future of Brazilian science, the protection of the country’s biopersity, and its role in the global struggle against climate change, writes Herton Escobar for Science Magazine.

 

HUNGARY

Hungary’s leader Orbán bans gender studies

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is facing a backlash over a government decree effectively prohibiting gender studies courses in all universities across the country. Orbán’s administration believes the courses are rooted in “ideology”, rather than science, writes Chantal Da Silva for Newsweek.

 

UNITED STATES

Harvard – Should race count in university admissions?

The admissions policy of the flagship United States university Harvard is facing a legal challenge which began last week in Boston, with accusations of racial bias against Asian-Americans. And it’s a dispute that will be watched carefully by many other over-subscribed universities around the world, writes Sean Coughlan for BBC News.

 

CHINA-UNITED STATES

Drop in Chinese students concerns US universities

The drop in the number of Chinese going to the United States to study, especially at the undergraduate level, is causing concern in US universities about revenue and academic research, reports China Daily/Asia News Network.

 

PAKISTAN

Government to reform higher education

Raja Yasir Humayun Sarfraz, the provincial minister of Punjab for higher education, said the government is preparing for higher education reforms aimed at meeting the needs of the modern knowledge economy. He made the comments at a high-powered committee meeting on higher education reforms deliberating on the first 100 days agenda of the government, reports The News.

 

UNITED KINGDOM

Universities must reach children earlier to widen access

Traditionally, universities looking to widen access have focused on secondary aged children preparing to take their next step in education. But in many cases it may be too late to shape their decision-making. Universities are looking to solve problems that can become entrenched far earlier in a child’s education, writes Christopher Birchall for The Guardian.

 

UNITED STATES

What must college leaders do to restore confidence?

Americans are losing faith in higher education, and college leaders should look in their mirrors for the reasons. According to a recent Gallup poll, only 48% of the public has “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in higher education. That’s 9% lower than in 2015, the largest drop among all the 16 institutions – including Congress, the presidency, banks, and newspapers – surveyed over that period, writes Michael T Nietzel for Forbes.

 

ZIMBABWE

Unions criticise award of honorary degrees to president

Teachers’ unions in Zimbabwe have lambasted tertiary institutions for conferring honorary degrees to politicians after three honorary doctorates were recently bestowed on President Emmerson Mnangagwa. His predecessor, Robert Mugabe, received five honorary degrees from Zimbabwean universities, reports Bulawayo24.

 

ISRAEL

University staff strike over employment security

The academic year began with some 306,000 students studying at Israel’s higher education institutions, while junior staff at two universities began an open-ended strike over employment conditions and staff at a dozen more colleges threatened to strike this week, writes Stuart Winer for Times of Israel.

 

INDONESIA

Tsunami scientists clash with Indonesian government

Two weeks after an earthquake and subsequent tsunami killed more than 2,000 people on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, foreign researchers say red tape is slowing down or preventing investigative work of the devastated coastlines. But the Indonesian government says that it has sped up the processing of permits for researchers in the wake of the tsunami, writes Quirin Schiermeier for Nature.

 

CANADA

Researchers in Canada discover ‘Messenger’ star

An international group of researchers, including astronomers from Canada’s University of Victoria, is one step closer to understanding what the early universe was like, with the discovery of one of its oldest-known stars. The finding is significant because it provides a window into the period right after the Big Bang – before the Earth, our solar system and even our galaxy were formed, reports the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

 

FRANCE-UNITED STATES

Glitzy ‘Science Oscars’ to make stars of researchers

Nine scientists were recognised with a ‘Breakthrough Prize’, a US$3 million Silicon Valley-funded award meant to confer Oscars-style glamour and prestige on the basic sciences. The prizes in physics, life sciences and mathematics went to six men and three women, reports AFP.

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