In the coming four weeks the posting will probably be a bit slower. I am currently visiting the Center for Higher Education Policy Studies in the Netherlands (a 3-week visit sponsored by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia). After this I’ll be co-teaching a course in an Erasmus Mundus programme at the University of Aveiro in Portugal for one week (a course jointly offered by the University of Oslo, the University of Aveiro and the University of Tampere (Finland) and coordinated by HEDDA).

In these weeks I’ll try to keep up with the news in academia and report my views on it. For now, here are two news items of the past days that struck me.

First there are the results of a study commissioned by the British Council. Both the Chronicle and The Australian report on the study that finds that Australia remains a favourite destination of Asian foreign students. The study follows up on a previous survey, conducted in 2000. Then they found that fewer than half of international students in Australia regarded the country as a destination preferred over Britain or the United States. In 2005, however, 81 percent reported that Australia was their first choice among the three recruiting rivals. Only 11 per cent of Asian students in Australia would have preferred to be in the US (in 2000 the figure was 33 per cent) and only 8 per cent in Britain (in 2000, 15 per cent). The results were presented at the Australian International Education Conference. At the same conference, studies were presented about the effect of the growth of foreign students on the quality of education in Australia. Those effects remain a topic of fierce debate.

A second news item was the University of Warwick’s vote on its Singapore plans. The Financial Times reports that senior lecturers at Warwick University have voted against setting up a branch campus in Singapore because of worries about limits on academic freedom in the country. The Economic Development Board of Singapore had invited the University of Warwick and the University of New South Wales (Australia) to set up a branch campus in the country. According to the FT:

The vote is a blow to the city-state’s ambitions to become a regional hub for higher education. It comes in the week that the outgoing US ambassador to Singapore warned in a farewell speech that Singapore’s limits on expression might cause the government to “pay an increasing price for not allowing full participation of its citizens”. Singapore requires international educational institutions operating in the city-state to agree not to conduct activities seen as interference in domestic affairs.

In an interview with the Boar (the student newspaper of the university), Warwick’s Vice-Chancellor argues that: “This is the best opportunity we will ever receive. If we don’t go, how will we increase our international credibility?” Aside from wether the decision is the right one or not, it is comforting to see that even this successful university, which is commonly seen as a model for entrepreneurialism and innovation, sticks to its academic principles.
          

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