Archive for February, 2006

Multidimensional Carnegie Classification

Posted by Eric on February 28th, 2006

Today, the The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has presented its new classification of U.S. colleges and universities. The main differences at the research-end is a change from two types of research universities (intensive and extensive) to three types:

          • Research Universities (very high research activity)
          • Research Universities (high research activity)
          • Doctoral/Research Universities
Other changes in the classification are discussed here at Inside HigherEd and in this pdf-document of the Foundation. According to Carnegie President Lee S. Shulman, the classification has become more multidimensional as a response to the increasingly complex higher education sector:

“The basic classification has been changed because the higher education landscape has become increasingly complex and multifaceted. We concluded that attempting to shoehorn all institutions into one category had introduced distortions, inaccuracies and obscurities that could be avoided. We introduced the five new classifications to reflect these complexities. And because many will rely on the basic classification as the ‘front door’ to the other classifications, we also decided to update and improve the basic system as well.”

In Europe, the development of a similar classification is slowly getting started. Last year in August, a preliminary study on the possibilities for pan European institutional profiling was published (written by a broad group of experts, including several ex-colleagues of mine): Institutional Profiles, towards a typology of higher education institutions in Europe. In this report, the shift to a multidimensional classification (like the 5 new classifications in the Carnegie) was already proposed.

The European group is also talking with the Carnegie Foundation about a global classification.

EIT: European MIT, Technological EUI or none of the above?

Posted by Eric on February 23rd, 2006

The European Commission will propose to the European Council to set up a European Institute of Technology, also known as the European MIT. The Commission President Barosso puts it like this: “Excellence needs flagships: that is why Europe must have a strong European Institute of Technology, bringing together the best brains and companies and disseminating the results throughout Europe”
The EIT will not be a brick-and-mortar institution. Its structure will consist of two levels: a Governing Board with a small supporting administration and a set of Knowledge Communities, distributed all over Europe. These Knowledge Communities carry out the activities in strategic trans-disciplinary areas. The EIT is expected to receive funding from a variety of sources including the EU, the Member States and the business community.

In terms of research, I can not really see what will be the difference with another proposed institution: the European Research Council. In my view, the major difference is that the EIT, unlike the ERC, is primarily focused on technology and its relation to industry. According to the Commission:


“The EIT will be a knowledge operator, not a funding agency as such. It will carry out activities around the three parts of the knowledge triangle: it will educate, do research, and seek to apply the outcomes of that research to commercial ends. (…)The European Research Council is a proposal under the Seventh Framework Programme. It will provide funding to research projects which push forward the frontiers of our knowledge, taking us into new areas. It will fund individual teams or even individuals, on the basis of the sole criterion of excellence.”

The knowledge communities in the framework programmes were organized in so-called Networks of Excellence. Again, here I do not see too much added value in comparison to the ERC. The Commission says that:


“..while participants in the Networks of Excellence simply agree to cooperate, the EIT involves a much closer relationship. Institutions and companies will not merely be connected and exchanging information; they will be working together on a daily basis towards common objectives.”

However, what I miss most in the proposal is any statement about the way that education will be organized in the EIT. Since it physically is not a real university, but relies on its knowledge communities, where do students go? The commission is very explicit that it wants to incorporate education and that it also in that sense is different from the ERC. However I have failed to see any concrete proposal on the educational activities of the EIT. Will they physically be located in one university? Or do they go from one university to another (like in the Erasmus Mundus Programme)? Who is responsible for developing the curriculum? Can the EIT award degrees?

It is obvious that the name European Institute of Technology implies that it in some way wants to emulate the success of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Of course, the MIT has a very good reputation and this reputation is to a considerable extent based on its research. But also in terms of education it ranks as one of the best in the US. Proposing an EIT without any idea about your education (except saying that you want to be excellent) is an insult to the reference to MIT.

Apart from some political issues (location, location), I don’t see why there should not be a brick and mortar institution somewhere in Europe. And then, why not take the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence, Italy as an example. After all, this university has gained an excellent reputation in the social sciences. The idea of a brick and mortar EIT was still real in October 2005, when Scotland placed a bid to host the institute. Maybe, in terms of location (and climate), the Commission should also learn from the EUI in Florence..

Students in Belarus

Posted by Eric on February 22nd, 2006

The Dutch online higher education magazine ‘Scienceguide‘ reported on the precarious situation of students in Belarus. Here is my translation:

With the upcoming presidential elections of March 19, Belarus dictator Lukashenko is acting in the way we know him. Again, he uses students as a target in order to intimidate civilians. During a memorial procession to commemorate ‘lost’ members of the political opposition and journalists, 20 members of the student movement Zoebr have been arrested. Because recently the public voicing of discontent with the regime became liable to punishment (because of ‘attack on the good name of the nation’), one should fear for the fate of the students.

Zoebr president Jevgeni Afanagel and his colleagues were already arrested and accused of vandalism at a gathering where they were planning a demonstration. Also, an opposition leader has been convicted to two and a half year in a penal camp. This happened even though his charge – accepting donations from abroad for his political activities – was withdrawn suddenly.

Lukashenko is also known as Europe’s last dictator. He has totally isolated the country from other European and many Asian countries. Not just political ties with the west are non-existent, but also relations in other fields such as higher education. It is typical that the Belarus has also refrained itself from participating in the European Bologna process, a European reform process aiming at establishing a European Higher Education Area by 2010. Even though in 2005 countries like Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine joined the process, Belarus remains a white spot on the map.

This happens to be very well illustrated on the cover of a book that I am currently reading: Universities and the Europe of Knowledge; Ideas, Institutions and Policy Entrepreneurship in European Union Higher Education 1955-2005 (by Anne Corbett, 2005).

UPDATE: I just ran into the website of an English campaign addressing the Belarus issue:
The United 4 Belarus campaign is aiming to raise awareness of the situation in Belarus in the United Kingdom and the European Union in the run-up to and the aftermath of the March 19th Presidential elections. A number of specific national campaign activities are planned and a number of ideas for local activities are documented on the website.

Rank the Rankings

Posted by Eric on February 21st, 2006
University Rankings are popular. And some of them are quite influential, even though their methodologies leave a lot to be desired. A good example of this influence is for instance the fact that in Malaysia, Ministers and even the Prime Minister have reacted to the Times Higher Education Supplement ranking of universities (very well reported on in this blog, here and here and here, and many more posts)

The Education Policy Institute now has a report on these league tables (a sort of ranking of rankings). Surprisingly (or not?), they point to the German model as a best practice. It’s surprising because it’s not a ranking in the way we know it, like the Newsweek ranking, the THES ranking or the Shanghai Jiao Tong Ranking.

This ranking is developed by the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHE) and its English version is offered through the DAAD website. In this ranking, you personally give your ranking criteria and the priority in these criteria. The site then gives you the best university for your subject (you can also search by university or by city).

The CHE methodology has also attracted the attention from other European countries such as Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands (here they already started with a weak copycat of the CHE ranking). In the long term it might develop into a European wide ranking, where students are able to rank universities throughout Europe, based on their own preferences.

For those that still want to see a ranking. Here is my ranking of political science departments in Germany:

  1. Humboldt-Universitaet Berlin
  2. Universitaet Mannheim
  3. Universitaet Tuebingen
  4. Universitaet Bremen
  5. Universitaet Konstanz

Podcast University

Posted by Eric on February 20th, 2006

The University of Washington has a trendy way to teach you about one of the world’s oldest institutions: the university. They podcast a serie of lectures ranging from ‘Human Sexuality’ to ‘Introduction to Macroeconomics’. One of the lectures that you can subscribe to is ‘The idea of the University’. There are also powerpoint slides avaiable here.

Slowly, more lectures are being offered through podcasts. Purdue University and the University of Washington, to my knowledge, have the widest range of lectures available. ‘Productive strategies’ presented a list with links to lecture podcasts a few months ago.

Obviously, this also sparked a debate about the value of this ‘new’ technology. Should professors podcast their lectures on-line? Are iPods educational? Will students decide not to attend classes? On the other hand, wouldn’t it be a good way of reviewing the lectures before an exam? And couldn’t it be very useful for international students that struggle with the language?

The power of plumbers

Posted by Eric on February 18th, 2006

That poor, backward, traditional place called Europe has been a popular topic in the last couple of days, in the official media as well as in several blogs. Dan Drezner’s blog and Crooked Timber both have a post on this issue, mainly responding to Cato Unbound (Is Old Europe Doomed?) and Fareed Zakaria’s piece in the Washington Post (The Decline And Fall Of Europe). Friday, the International Herald Tribune contributed to the discussion, claiming that Europe’s economies are in the doldrums.

Of course I understand that bloggers and columnists need catchy titles. And I will not claim that Europe is going through its best phase ever, but titles as those above are lavishly exaggerating. Sure, events in Europe have proved that there are big problems in incorporating Muslims and other cultures into economic, political and social life. Sure, some countries have difficulties in adapting their welfare-state systems to a globalised economy. And sure, the aging population will present more problems in the future.

But are the Europeans doomed? Are we witnessing the fall of Europe? Crooked Timber’s post and its comments place many of the arguments that Zakaria presents in perspective (and knock down a few of them). I rather think of it as a transition phase than the ‘fall of Europe’. Aging populations after all are not just a European problem. Neither is the integration of other cultures.

What bothers me most however is the cherry-picking. Europe consists of very diverse nations, in terms of culture, political systems, etc. Even the so-called Old Europe is diverse and does not just exist of France, Italy or Germany. As I discussed earlier, newspapers and magazines can easily support their message by picking the country that fits their argument.

The International Herald Tribune discusses to measures that could revitalise Europe’s economies. One is about whether services should be traded as freely between EU countries as goods, and the other is over the freedom of citizens of the European Union’s 10 newcomer countries to live and work wherever they choose within the 25-nation Union. The IHT claims that:

In both cases, a clear majority of voters and national governments are set on limiting these freedoms. Their stance might be understandable, though regrettable, if there were an economic advantage to be gained. But in fact the opposite is true: denying free movement of people and services carries heavy cost penalties for Europe’s already sclerotic economy.

I think the IHT is right here. Both freedoms would benefit Europe as a whole. But then again, it’s hard to reach agreement on sensitive issues between 25 diverse countries. Especially when it concerns the dangers of Polish plumbers..

Europeanisation by stealth

Posted by Eric on February 16th, 2006

The Chronicle reports on another clear illustration of how the European Union, and especially the European Court of Justice (ECJ), affects national higher education policies. Formally, the EU has no authority in the field of higher education. Yet, through spill-overs and ECJ litigation it profoundly impacts higher ed.
Until last year, Austria was the only country that did not have a cap on the number of students in medical schools. Everyone who finished high school and passed the ‘matura’ was able to attend medical school. Most EU countries had such caps in order to avoid an over-supply of doctors and specialists and to prevent spending costly resources on the training of doctors.
In order to avoid an influx of foreign students to study medicine in Austria, the ministry established special requirements for foreign EU students. These requirements however were illegal according to an ECJ court ruling (link to Chronicle/subscribers only). After all, this was seen as discrimination on the basis of nationality (Article 12 [ex Article 6] of the Treaty is one of the EU core principles and provides that any discrimination on the grounds of nationality is prohibited). The result was that at the day of the court ruling 700 German students had applied for a place in an Austrian medical school.
Response of Thomas Schmid, spokesman for the Ministry of education:

“All over Europe, we have limits in the field of medicine. Germany has just 8,300 medical-school places for a population 10 times the size of Austria’s. So what do many German students do? They come to Austria to get a place, and what happened was that the number of Austrians’ being able to study medicine was being dramatically limited.”

As a response to the court ruling, Austria’s education minister, Elisabeth Gehrer introduced a measure that would end unlimited access to eight courses of university study, including medicine and business administration. She said that Austria’s university system simply could not afford the strain of allowing unrestricted admission of all students.
But this still did not resolve the issue of foreign students. It just means that prospective students (whether they are Austrian or foreign) can not just enter any programme of choice anymore. With nearly half of Austria’s medical students coming from Germany and the prospect that the proportion would continue to rise, the government felt compelled to act. This time, the Austrian Minister seems to have found a way around the non-discrimination principle:

Austria’s education minister, Elisabeth Gehrer, announced on Monday that 75 percent of the places at Austrian medical schools would be reserved for students who finished their secondary education in Austria. Twenty percent of places would be restricted to students from elsewhere in the European Union, and the remaining 5 percent would be allocated to students from countries outside the union.


The legislation had been checked by experts in European Union law. Because the new measure’s provisions are not contingent on national origin, but on where a student completed high school, the government is confident it will pass easily through the legislative process and be enacted within a semester.

There is still hope for the nation state in Europe..

Globalisation: 99 Definitions & Perspectives

Posted by Eric on February 14th, 2006

While I was looking for a file in my computer I stumbled upon an old document. It’s a file with a list of different perspectives and definitions of globalisation that I assembled for my doctoral research some years ago. I thought it might be of useful for students and scholars that are trying to grasp the possible meanings of the term.

It is a list of 99 (give or take a few) views from different disciplines and different sectors. Most are from academics, ranging from anthropologists to economists and from philosophers to business gurus. It includes statements from people as diverse as Bill Gates, Karl Marx and Vandana Shiva and organisations ranging from Greenpeace to the World Bank.

I converted the list into a website that can be found here (pdf also available).

If you think any perspectives should be added, let me know..

Unhappy Chardonnay Socialists

Posted by Eric on February 13th, 2006

A survey of Curtin University compares the happiness of people in all electorates in Australia reveals that the Sydney Inner West, covering Annandale, Leichhardt, Petersham, Newtown, Marrickville and Summer Hill, tops the national list for all-round UN-happiness. The Sydney Morning Herald wonders:


“is it aircraft noise, John Howard’s long reign, or being overworked and underpaid that makes the so-called chardonnay socialists of Sydney’s Inner West the most disgruntled people in Australia?”

I must admit that I was surprised by the findings. Arriving in Sydney almost a year ago, I immediately loved Newtown and lived there since. Somehow I think that the descriptions in the Lonely Planet about Newtown fits better:

“a melting pot of social and sexual subcultures, students and home renovators. King Street, its relentlessly urban main drag, is full of funky clothes stores, bookshops and cafes. While it’s definitely moving upmarket, Newtown comes with a healthy dose of grunge, and harbours a decent live music scene”

“a swag of funky cafes and restaurants lining King Street offer an interesting introduction to the suburbs community life”

Micro-Managing Red Tape

Posted by Eric on February 13th, 2006
Rumour has it that the Australian universities will soon start a new assault on red tape and over-regulation. They claim that government bureaucracy is wasting millions of taxpayers’ dollars a year. In their vision for Australian higher education (Our Universities: Backing Australia’s Future, released in 2003) the Howard government agreed that:

“..the reporting requirements of universities need to be streamlined and that the resulting savings should be re-invested in education. Significant reduction in regulatory intervention, to which the Government is committed, will require the development of agreed measures of educational outcomes that can replace the present heavy emphasis on inputs reporting and process monitoring.”

In November 2003, the former Minister Dr. Brendan Nelson stated:

“I have agreed to a series of changes to the higher education reform legislation to significantly reduce the level of red tape and simplify the administration of the reform programmes”

Obviously, they have been unsuccessful in reducing red tape. Australian higher education has been radically marketised in the past decades. This should have given universities the flexibility to operate more entrepreneurial, more effective and more responsive. Marketisation often comes with a reduction in funding and this also happened in Australia. However, a reduction in funding should mean that there will be ‘less strings attached’.

Marketisation in Australia has indeed led to decreased funding (per student) of Australian higher education (see for instance chapter 10 in this report, table B1.4 in this OECD Excel file, this publication of the Australian Vice Chancellors’ Committee). However, somehow this has gone together with an increase in micro-management and micro-regulation instead of an increase in flexibility. In short: red tape is everywhere in Australian universities, despite (or due to?) increased marketisation.

Vice Chancellors agree. Australian National University vice-chancellor Ian Chubb said red tape and regulation had continued to grow:

“All sorts of approvals have to be gained for courses that shouldn’t be required. We have to predict basically 12 months in advance the subjects students will enrol in. Given a third haven’t finished school when we make those predictions, it is unnecessarily complicated.”

University of Western Sydney vice-chancellor Janice Reid said compliance costs now amounted to millions of dollars every year:


“The explosion in fine-grained information demands by government and the ever more prescriptive policy environment is limiting our ability to be innovative and responsive to students. It means directing resources to huge compliance and reporting exercises and away from teaching research. It would be costing millions of dollars across the sector.”

I completely agree with their observations. At the same time I would advise them to take on a more critical perspective on their internal operations. Red tape is not just caused by governmental micro-management and an abundance of accountability demands from governments but also by over-management by the university central-level offices. Of course the two are interrelated: the micro-management of the government triggers the need for more managers and administrators at the university level. But still, I think there is a lot of efficiency to be gained internally. Of course that does not mean that the new Minister of education is off the hook..

Cold, costly but cutting edge education

Posted by Eric on February 11th, 2006
The recruitment of international students has become a lucrative business in countries like the US, the UK and Australia. In the UK they are estimated to bring in about 4 billion pounds a year to British universities and some 10 billion to the economy as a whole. With the aging of the population, the UK is worried about the (financial) future of its universities. Non EU international students can be charged higher fees and are therefore seen as a potential solution to these financial problems.

There are now over 300,000 foreign students demand from international students stagnated in 2005, rising just 0.3% compared to the year before. This can be partly attributed to increased global competition but also to the growth of the higher education systems in China and India. Due to these factors the projected amount of international students (850,000 in 2020) has become a difficult target.

To remain competitive in the market, the UK needs to have a competitive advantage over other competitors. In a BBC article, Dr Tim Westlake, director of international development at Manchester University seems to agree:

“At present, the international student market is dominated by English-speaking countries. The global dominance of the English language has given the UK, the USA, and Australia a real competitive edge.”

But then the question becomes: how do these countries compete with each other? According to Dr Westlake, the unique selling points will have to be the quality of UK degrees and the quality of the student experience. And the unique selling points of the US and Australia? Apparently not quality but:

“…the sunshine and beaches of Australia and the low cost of living of the USA”

Lisbon and Washington

Posted by Eric on February 9th, 2006

A bit over a week ago, President Bush has delivered his State of the Union. Last Wednesday, the Budget for 2007 was presented. In both, the American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) played an important role. The ACI sets the following goals:

  • 300 grants for schools to implement research-based math curricula and interventions
  • 10,000 more scientists, students, post-doctoral fellows, and technicians provided opportunities to contribute to the innovation enterprise
  • 100,000 highly qualified math and science teachers by 2015
  • 700,000 advanced placement tests passed by low-income students
  • 800,000 workers getting the skills they need for the jobs of the 21st century

140 business, political and educational leaders have instantly taken action and expressed their opinion:

“Thirty-one college presidents and chancellors are among the 140 business, political, and educational leaders who have endorsed an advertisement appearing in today’s issues of The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal that urges readers to help keep America the driving force in innovation.”

The ACI can be seen as the US version of the European Union’s Lisbon Strategy. The Lisbon Strategy’s goal was to become “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-driven economy by 2010″. The main issues for the realisation of the Lisbon agenda were:

  • the necessary investment in R&D, that is three per cent of GDP;
  • reduction of red tape to promote entrepreneurship;
  • achieving an employment rate of 70 per cent (60 per cent for women)

After an evaluation by former Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok, the strategy was re-launched in 2005. More focus on growth and employment, simplification and national ownership via national action plans are the key elements to re-launch the Lisbon reforms agenda.

Comparing the two strategies exposes the problem of the EU (at least in this field of innovation). The USA can establish hard quantitative targets to which it can be held accountable. The United States of Europe sets targets but cannot enforce implementation. Also, in the US, leaders around the nation form a coalition to see to it that things get done. In Europe, leaders from around the continent gather, write, gather, write, establish a compromise that everyone can live with and then hope that things get done.

Either increase European authority on these issues or stop formulating, evaluating and re-launching strategies.

Anyone but the King

Posted by Eric on February 9th, 2006

Thailand is one of the countries in Southeast Asia that has shown rapid development. Economically it has done very well. It recovered relatively easily from the financial crisis in 1997 and is showing good progress in recovering from the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. It has liberalised in terms of trade, but it has also become more open politically.But of course there is one thing that you cannot do, and that is to criticise King Bhumibol. The Chronicle reports:


The government of Thailand has blocked access in that country to the Web site of Yale University Press. The move is in response to the site’s publicity material for The King Never Smiles: A Biography of Thailand’s Bhumibol Adulyadej, a book in which the author criticizes the king of Thailand.The government will also ban importation of the biography, which Yale is to publish in July. At various times after an initial blockage of the Web site earlier this month, parts of it were viewable within Thailand. Now access is fully censored, with a notice that reads: This Web site has been blocked by Cyber Inspector, the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology.

In recent years there has been a lot of debate on how higher education world-wide will be affected by the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS; a treaty within the WTO framework). The GATS makes a distinction between four different modes of supply of services:

  1. Cross-border supply is defined to cover services flows from the territory of one Member into the territory of another Member (e.g. distance education programmes offered abroad);

  2. Consumption abroad refers to situations where a service consumer (e.g. students go to another country to complete a programme);

  3. Commercial presence implies that a service supplier of one Member establishes a territorial presence, including through ownership or lease of premises, in another Member’s territory to provide a service (e.g. a university established a branch campus abroad);

  4. Presence of natural persons consists of persons of one Member entering the territory of another Member to supply a service (e.g. academics teaching a course in another country).


It is not entirely clear how the GATS will restrict governments in making policies for their national higher education systems and in giving preferential treatment for their citizens. In the liberalization of services in the EU common market, this has also led to discussions. Among other things, this has led to a uniform tuition rate for students from EU countries The fees may be different in different countries, but within countries they have to be the same for domestic students and other EU students).

The GATS raises a lot of questions. To what extent is national funding of higher education a government subsidy, and should suppliers from other countries (i.c. foreign universities) then receive the same support (a commitment to national treatment implies that the Member concerned does not operate discriminatory measures benefiting domestic services or service suppliers). Under Article II of the GATS, Members are held to extend immediately and unconditionally to services or services suppliers of all other Members treatment no less favourable than that accorded to like services and services suppliers of any other country (the so-called MFN or Most Favored Nation principle).

But have universities found a way around the GATS? Inside Higher-Ed (Sailing Around the Flat World) has a report on a new mode of supply: the Scholar Ship, a collaboration between Royal Caribbean Cruises and six foreign universities.

The program is a corporate subsidiary of Royal Caribbean, and the academic programs will be led by Macquarie University in Australia. The maiden voyage of the ship — which will have libraries and lecture halls where the casinos and ballrooms were — will be in January 2007.
Students, who will be taught primarily in English, will pay $19,500 for the classes and cruise, and will have eight port stops as they circumnavigate the globe, beginning and ending in Athens.

I guess most of the time will be spent in the (non-territorial) high seas. As far as I can see (although I am all but an expert on legal issues) this mode of supply of educational services does not fall under any of the 4 categories. Truly de-nationalised, global education        

Science Dollars, Shekels, Rand and Reals

Posted by Eric on February 3rd, 2006

A newsfeed from the Science and Development Network brought me to this article on science spending. The article is based on the UNESCO Science Report 2005. We have heard a lot of talk about how Asia is catching up with Europe in terms of spending on R&D and Science. In the case of science spending, Asia has already overtaken Europe, mainly due to China’s increase in spending on science.

It says that from 1997 to 2002, Asian funding from public and private sources rose by four per cent, enabling Asia to account for 32 per cent of global research spending. In those five years, China’s share of global spending more than doubled, from four to nine per cent. Meanwhile, the Latin America and the Caribbean region’s share of the global total fell from 3.1 per cent to 2.6 per cent. Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa contributed just 0.1 per cent of the global total

But what probably surprised me more were the figures on the spending per researcher. This number is very low for the Asian states of the former Soviet Union: US$ 8,900. The average spending per researcher in OECD countries is US$ 191,900, while for the United States this is US$ 230,000 and for the EU the number is US$177,000. Most surprising are the countries that spend most per researcher:

1. Israel US$ 661,000
2. South Africa US$ 357,600
3. Brazil US$ 238,000

I can image that the high numbers in Israel (and in the US) are somehow related to military spending (this table shows that Israel and the US also rank 1st and 2nd in gross expenditure on R&D per inhabitant: 922 resp. 1005 US$ per inhabitant). But why do Brazil and especially South Africa spent so much money per researcher?

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