British MPs demand Universities Stop Accepting Donations from "Dictatorships"

GojimoBy Camilla Turner and Harry Yorke for the Telegraph

MPs have said, following a Telegraph investigation into donations made to British institutions by authoritarian regimes.

Experts have warned that universities should be subject to funding rules similar to political parties to prevent foreign powers from “buying” influence at the heart of British higher education.

This newspaper has identified dozens of cases where the UK’s leading universities have accepted sponsorship from regimes accused of links to terrorism or human rights violations.

Hundreds of millions of pounds are funnelled into British universities from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, with funds often earmarked for setting up Middle Eastern or Islamic study centers.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, nephew of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, donated £8 million to Cambridge University to build The Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic Studies.

Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad al-Qasimi, the ruler of Sharjah – one of the most conservative emirates in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – has given more than £8 million to Exeter University over two decades.

He has been a generous donor to the university’s Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, and was described as "the university's single most important supporter" in its 2007 annual report.

Meanwhile, Cambridge University accepted a £3.7 million donation to establish a professorship for Chinese development studies, funded by a charity controlled by China’s former prime minister, Wen Jiabao.

Robert Halfon MP, a former minister and the new education select committee chair said that every university should “think very carefully” about where it accepts money from.

“It should be from democratic countries in my view,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “I’d rather they looked at democratic countries as opposed to dictatorships or countries with questionable human rights records.”

Mr Halfon has previously labelled Durham University's decision to accept a £2.5 million endowment from a former Kuwaiti Prime Minister who resigned in a corruption row "astonishing", and has criticised the university for accepting a donation from the Iranian government.

He also said it was “hideous” that the way the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) “cosied up” to the Gaddafi regime in Libya, accepting a £1.5m gift from a foundation led by Colonel Gaddafi's son Saif, a former student.

The university was later criticised for a "chapter of failures" in its links with the Gaddafi regime.

Professor Anthony Glees, director of the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at Buckingham University, said that funds which seek to shape public opinion should be bound by the same rules as donations to political parties.

"By donating to higher education institutions, Arab and Islamic states are able to dictate a research agenda and influence public opinion in a way which we would not allow for our political parties,” he said.

“Foreign donors can not only shape the debate, but they can also influence students and impressionable young minds.”

Prof Glees, who has written a report on the teaching of Islamic Studies in British universities, added: “Higher education institutions must have highest possible ethical values and must not be sold to the highest bidder.”

Echoing their comments, Andrew Percy, a Conservative MP and former minister, also called for stricter rules on foreign donations to universities.

"There needs to be some sort of oversight of this,” he said. “These are public institutions, educating the young of tomorrow. We should apply very strict rules about foreign donations.

“Universities have been a breeding ground for hatred in recent years and students have been radicalised on our campuses.

“They should not be taking donations from people who are seeking to influence their direction, or hold views inconsistent with promoting tolerance and values of mutual respect and democracy."

The Qatar Development Fund donated £3 million to Oxford University’s Thatcher Scholarships fund, which was established by Somerville College in the late Prime Minister’s memory.

Baroness Thatcher’s former chief press secretary Sir Bernard Ingham said it was “bloody outrageous” that the donation was accepted from a state which “promotes terrorism”.

“It seems to me to be very peculiar at the very least that the university which denied her an honorary degree now names a scholarship funded by a state which promotes terrorism,” he told The Sunday Telegraph.

“I really wonder what’s going on. I think if she was still around she would be asking some very awkward questions. One wonders where we go from here, are there are any principles left?”

An Oxford University spokesman said that all donations are “subjected to high-level and stringent scrutiny” and that the Qatar-Thatcher scholarships “have the approval of Lady Thatcher’s family and some of her closest, most senior advisors”.

A Russell Group spokesman said: “Philanthropy plays an important role in enabling the UK’s higher education sector to deliver world-class research and teaching. Maintaining academic independence is paramount and our universities have established policies in place for considering donations.”

Saudi Arabia Leads the Arab Region in the 2017 ShanghaiRanking’s ARWU

shanghairankingBy Arabia Higher Ed Editorial Team

The 2017 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) was released on August 17 by ShanghaiRanking Consultancy, which annually presents the world Top 500 universities.  This year, in addition to the top 500 universities, ShanghaiRanking announced the list of universities ranked between 501 and 800 as ARWU World Top 500 Candidates.

At the global level, Harvard remains the number one University in the world for the 15th year. Stanford continues to be the second top university. The University of Cambridge overtook MIT and Berkeley and rose to the third best university in the world.

In Continental Europle, ETH Zurich (19th) in Switzerland continues to be the top ranked university, followed by University of Copenhagen (30th) in Denmark and Pierre and Marie Curie University (40th) in France.

Tokyo University is ranked 24th and is still the highest ranked university in Asia. Tsinghua University (48th) entered the top 50 for the first time and became the third top ranked Asian universities behind Kyoto University (35th).

Only two Arab countries made this year's rankings with Saudi Arabia dominating the Arab World with two universities in the top 200 and four in the top 500.  King Abdulaziz University and King Saud University were ranked in the same range (101-150) while Egypt made the ranking with a sole entry by Cairo University (401-500). Lebanon was absent from this year's ranking in addition to the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Qatar.

Universities from the United States dominate this year’s top lists with 48 Top 100 universities and 135 Top 500 universities. China has 57 Top 500 universities and the United Kingdom has 38. In total, 18 universities enter the Top 500 list for the first time.

For the first time, the institutions ranked between 501 and 800 are published as ARWU World Top 500 Candidates. They demonstrate their potential of breaking into the Top 500 list in the near future. Qatar University broke into the top 800 at the 601-700 position while Egypt added two more Universities at the 701-800 position: Ain Shams University and Alexandria University.

United States and China are the two biggest host of Top 500 Candidates, both of them have 55 institutions recognized as candidates.

The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) started in 2003 and is based on a set of objective indicators and third-party data. ARWU has been recognized as the precursor of global university rankings and one of the most trustworthy league table.

ARWU adopts six objective indicators to rank world universities, including the number of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, the number of Highly Cited Researchers, the number of articles published in journals of Nature and Science, the number of articles indexed in Science Citation Index - Expanded and Social Sciences Citation Index, and per capita performance. About 1300 universities are actually ranked by ARWU every year and the best 500 universities are published. Starting from 2017, those universities ranked between 501 and 800 in the world are also published.

‘Muslim Ban’ Has Wider Impact on Study in the US

banBy Ruwayshid Alruwaili for University World News

United States President Donald Trump’s new executive order banning citizens of six Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – from travelling to the US gained momentum in late June after the Supreme Court partially lifted the legal block on the ban until a hearing in the autumn on its legality.

This means that the legal ban will come into effect and the government can enforce restrictions on travellers unless they have a ‘bona fide relationship’ with a person or an entity in the US. Although the executive order seems to be about homeland security, the potential consequences for US higher education could be huge.

The order introduces a number of uncertainties and it does not clearly show how academic institutions should comply with it. Crucially, how this order is perceived in Middle Eastern countries and the global impact on student mobility, especially after the Brexit vote, pose a number of questions for those working in international higher education.

Student Mobility

The anti-immigration sentiment that the executive order and the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom represent threatens to adversely impact higher education globally. It will be very hard to change the perception of prospective international students and their families. Safety and security is a priority.

The number of international students coming from these six banned countries grew in American higher education institutions between 2015 and 2016, according to a survey from the Institute of International Education.

Around 17,000 international students in the US are from these banned countries, according to the survey. Of these, Iran has the largest number of students seeking an education in the US (at around 12,000). This order can only reverse the trend for current and future students.

Student mobility is being restricted in particular for post-doctoral and bachelor level students. The fear that they might be detained and barred entry causes a lot distress and anger. The problem is not with the security measures themselves but with the unwelcoming and anti-immigration message the order carries.

The order seems to be based on fear and scepticism instead of facts or well-informed observations, as one student stated on a Facebook page for Middle East students. Yasser, a Yemeni national who was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, said his dreams had been shattered by this order. Yasser is an undergraduate studying in the US.

He says: “My flight is this summer, but this time it is very different.” He says he needs to make the toughest decision of his life: whether to risk losing his family and residency in Saudi Arabia or to risk losing his US education.

A number of those from the six countries covered by the ban are living abroad either as refugees or have a permanent right to remain. These students are now being impeded from accessing US academic institutions. The order does not clarify what their status might be and puts them all in the same basket.

Wider Impact Across the Middle East

Such fear is contagious. Students from other Middle Eastern countries are highly concerned. Their future is also uncertain since it is unclear whether there will be more restrictions.

Ibrahim, a Saudi student related that he had to drop his plans for studying a masters degree in Chicago after spending two years there learning English. He said he was back home for a holiday when the order was issued. With all the news and media stories, he was unsure that it would be safe to return. Ibrahim is not alone in his fears.

The order limits the likelihood that those travelling to the US will have a tolerant and safe experience. The ban on electronic devices on flights coming primarily from the Middle East also indicates suspicion and distrust.

The current social and political climate has affected perceptions of the US as a welcoming and tolerant place. The Institute of International Education survey indicated that, for a variety of reasons, there will be a slowdown of enrolment numbers from different Middle Eastern countries, even those not affected by the ban.

A recent report indicates a 19% drop in the number of students coming from Saudi Arabia. This decline might be attributed to changes in the Saudi scholarship programme procedures. However, the ban may also have an impact, as Ibrahim’s case suggests.

Students may start looking for other places where student mobility is guaranteed and unrestricted, such as New Zealand and Australia.

This fear is felt across the Middle East and may directly or indirectly affect the numbers travelling to the US. Nearly 40% of US colleges are reporting declines in applications from international students, according to a survey conducted in February by multiple higher education groups.

US higher education institutions should provide bridges of ‘understanding and support’ and remain committed to an ‘open-door’ policy with regard to higher education. They are among the most favoured and attractive destinations for international students. The leading reason for this perception is quality of education and the US’s welcoming climate. However, this could be jeopardised by Trump’s order.

Universities should start to provide clear guidance and support on how to comply with the order. Moreover, they should be creatively working to address these challenges while remaining committed to ensuring that international students from ‘banned countries’ are not banned from access to higher education opportunities. In other words, they should be part of the solution, not the problem.

Ruwayshid Alruwaili is head of the English and linguistic department at Northern Borders University, Saudi Arabia.

Suffocation by Ranking: The New Battlefront in University Subject Rankings

world university rankingsBy Angel Calderon for University World News

Shanghai Ranking has opened a new battlefront in an already saturated rankings space. Released on 28 June, the Global Ranking of Academic Subjects, produced by the same team that compiles the Academic Ranking of World Universities, allows 1,410 universities from 80 countries worldwide the right to boast about their academic successes.

This subject ranking is radically different to any other produced, notably the widely used QS subject rankings, which covers a similar number of subjects and institutions. To start with, the Shanghai ranking is aimed at the postgraduate research training market as well as faculty members seeking greener pastures with higher ranked institutions.

The current ranking comprises 52 subjects (compared to 12 in 2016) across five broad faculty areas and is dominated by engineering, with 22 listings, followed by the social sciences with 14.

There are five indicators, four of which draw data from Clarivate’s InCites database. The indicator that is not bibliometric-based – awards – draws data from a survey, the Shanghai Ranking’s Academic Excellence Survey. There is no need to get too excited about this survey or worried about influencing the likely outcomes because Shanghai Ranking is not interested in the opinions of academics if their alma mater is not included in the top 100.

In distinct contrast to the Academic Ranking of World Universities (500 institutions listed from 45 countries), the subject ranking offers the opportunity for institutions to highlight areas where they excel. In this case, it is about research output, impact and prestige.

The wider usability of this ranking is limited and is somewhat spurious because of the construct of its subject classification. However, let’s not get too distracted on these issues as they are likely to be fine-tuned to entice a wider audience.

Which countries stand out?

At first glance, the United States is the country that appears the most (3,857 times and is top in 32 out of the 52 subjects), followed by China with 1,289 instances and the United Kingdom with 1,168 listings.

While the US has 257 institutions included and dominates the top 100, the interest in the rankings is not so much based on the top 100 as these are well-resourced institutions with big endowments (or with ability to draw funds).

The worthiness of the subject rankings resides in the shifts that are occurring with institutions vying for higher standing (those within the 101-300 band in any of the ranking schemas). There are also institutions in the 301-500 range, particularly those from upper- and middle-income economies, which benefit from a higher standing in the rankings.

The other subject and faculty rankings from Leiden, QS and Times Higher Education also highlight this same pattern.

Institutions from the US, the UK, Germany, Australia, Canada, Italy and France are well represented in the Shanghai subject ranking. However, once the proportion of subjects per institution ranked is considered, their overall standing diminishes somewhat. This is partially explained by the extremely competitive nature of their national systems and their desire to feature in world university rankings.

Further, universities from various national systems such as Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland are also well represented among the top 300 across the various subject areas.

What these results suggest is that over the next few years we will see an uplift in the overall standing of universities from China, Singapore, Malaysia and other Asian countries. The extent to which universities from Japan and South Korea remain competitive depends on their ability to stay abreast of the top Asian universities.

Comparison with other rankings

There are no two ranking schemas that bear much similarity. Every ranking seeks to be different to the other. Institutions use results from rankings to promote areas where they excel or perform best. Put simply, any new distinct ranking is yet another marketing tool.

The Shanghai ranking by subject resembles QS subject rankings because of the number of subject areas ranked (52 compared to QS’ 46 in 2017), and is based on four to five indicators per subject. While the QS rankings draw considerably from opinion surveys and are influential among international students, Shanghai rankings rely considerably on bibliometric data and focus on research endeavours.

At first sight, QS and Shanghai appear in competition because of the volume, detail and coverage, but in actual fact they complement each other, each offering a different perspective and new angle of possibilities for institutional advancement and benchmarking.

The Shanghai rankings and the Leiden Ranking, which aims to measure the performance of the world’s most intensive research universities, rely entirely on bibliometric data. They both draw on data from Clarivate. Leiden produces tables across five main fields of science and assesses the performance of more than 900 universities globally.

Last year Times Higher Education released rankings in 31 subject areas for the top 100 institutions, drawing data from opinion surveys, institutional input and bibliometric information. Both Shanghai and Times Higher Education emphasise the performance of research intensive, well-endowed and elite institutions. And, again, both are complementary.

Suffocation by ranking

With rankings fever already in its 15th year running, there are no signs in sight of it cooling. The release of Shanghai Ranking’s academic subject ranking opens up a new front, which is likely to result in the increased commodification and consumption of rankings data and a rise in the use of consultancy services. After all, we live now in the age of big data, shifting paradigms and the remaking of a new world order.

Today’s idea of the university is being altered by the rise of performance measurement regimes, shifting geopolitics and a collective sense of insecurity and uncertainty.

Angel Calderon is principal advisor, planning and research, at RMIT University, Australia. He is a rankings expert and a Latin American specialist. He is a member of the advisory board to the QS World University Rankings.

Parents Spend an Average of USD 44,221 on their Child's Education

topThe amount parents can expect to spend on educating a child in different countries and territories around the world can vary from USD 7,891 for state-funded education in Indonesia to USD 211,371 for paid-for education in Hong Kong, according to Higher and higher, HSBC’s new report in The Value of Education series.

Parents contribute an average of USD 44,221 (USD67,502 if paid-for, USD32,647 if state-funded) towards all aspects of their child’s education costs from primary school up to the end of university, including school/university tuition fees, educational books, transport and accommodation. Of over 8,400 parents in 15 countries and territories surveyed, parents in Hong Kong (USD 132,161), followed by the UAE (USD 99,378) and Singapore (USD 70,939), contribute the most.

The majority of parents (87%) contribute towards the cost of their child’s current stage of education, with 85% also contributing towards their university or college education. Apart from student loans, only 15% of students in tertiary education contribute towards funding their own education, while 16% benefit from government/state support (via a scholarship, sponsorship, bursary or grant) and 8% from similar school or university support.

When thinking about the majors they would like their child to study at university, parents show their ambition. Medicine (13%), business, management and finance (11%), and engineering (10%) are the most preferred.

In addition, more than nine out of 10 (91%) parents are considering postgraduate education for their child, and 76% of these expect to contribute to the cost. Almost eight in 10 (78%) parents think completing a postgraduate degree is important for their child to get full-time employment in their chosen occupation.

The importance of a postgraduate degree to their future job prospects is even more widely recognised among parents in China (91%), Indonesia (91%) and Mexico (90%).

Parents in Asia are most likely to be optimistic about their children fulfilling their potential. While 75% of parents worldwide are confident their child will have a bright future, they are 87% in India and 84% in China to say so. In contrast, parents in France are more cautious, with only 42% being confident of a bright future for their child. Similarly, 85% of parent in India and 78% in China feel confident their child will get a great job, compared to global average of 68%. In France, only 36% of parents feel confident their child will get a great job.

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