Compiled by David Myton

Teaching quality and testimonials from peers are top of mind for prospective international students, while rankings seem to be losing importance in their decision making, an industry report carried out by website shows. Compared with current students, prospective student respondents were more likely to cite student reviews as a motivating factor in choosing a university. Application decisions made on the basis of videos or virtual open days were also found to be “skyrocketing,” the report stated, while study abroad fairs were losing ground. “We expect to see the value of student reviews and testimonials continue to grow. Unfortunately, most universities aren’t keeping up fast enough with the expectation for peer-to-peer communication,” site manager Josh Hopton-Stewart told The PIE News. “Whatever universities are planning in this area, scale it up. Utilise your current students as well as your alumni.” – Claudia Civinini, The PIE News. Read more

Universities and colleges in Sweden are the biggest sinners among state-run authorities when it comes to carbon emissions from flying. Swedish Radio News reveals that over half of the 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide released by state-run institutions in 2017 came from higher education institutions, with the Karolinska Institute the worst offender. At Lund University, student organisations are demanding a 50 per cent reduction of the school’s emissions within the next four years. “It’s the hypocrisy that is frustrating – the university is a main producer of sustainable science and yet we’re not practicing what we preach, ” Lund student Wilhelm Wanecek tells Radio Sweden. The 21-year-old, who is studying computer sciences, says those employed by the University fly too much out of habit.  “I don’t think they consider it, it’s just a habit and that’s what we want to change. In 2017, there were 5,000 flights from Lund to Stockholm and only 3,000 train journeys,” he says. – Dave Russell, Radio Sweden. Read more

New Zealand’s latest evaluation of research in tertiary institutions has recognised more researchers, more women, and more academics working at the highest levels. The quality evaluation for the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) was conducted last year and the results will be used to allocate more than NZ$1 billion in research funding over the next six years. It assessed thousands of academics’ research and their contribution to the wider research environment. It concluded that 7,408 full-time equivalent (FTE) academics were performing at a high enough level to attract PBRF funding for their institutions, 1,000 more than at the previous assessment in 2012. They included 1,168 FTE researchers who achieved the A category, meaning their work is world class. The top-ranked researchers accounted for 16 per cent of the total, up from about 13 per cent in 2012. The largest numbers of A category researchers were in engineering and technology with 103 A researchers, psychology with 70, and the biomedical field with 64. – John Gerritsen, University World News. Read more

The exams regulator in England, Ofqual, is “killing off” modern languages by failing to address the excessive difficulty of language GCSE and A-level exams, according to more than 150 academics. In a letter published in the Guardian, the 152 academics – from 36 universities – warn that the exams are graded too severely and the stress for pupils is “disproportionate”. “They will have to sit excessively difficult exams and accept that their grade may well end up lower than their performance deserves,” the letter says. “Where’s the incentive to choose a language if you’re systematically made to feel rubbish at it?” In schools in England over the past 15 years, entries for language GCSEs have dropped by 48 per cent, with German down 65 per cent and French down 62 per cent. The drop accelerated after 2004, when languages were made non-compulsory subjects at GCSE. – Anna Bawden, The Guardian. Read more

A national study of US college tuition discount rates has found that private colleges and universities offered incoming freshmen discounts higher than 50 per cent during the last academic year and projects record high discounts this year. According to an annual study by the National Association of College and University Business Officers, or NACUBO, discount rates surpassed 50 per cent in 2017-18 and are on course to hit 52 per cent in 2018-19. The rapidly rising rates are the result of continued efforts by colleges and universities to aggressively recruit and retain more freshmen. The trend is occurring as college enrolment is declining nationally and competition for students is intensifying. Discounting Study, which reports final discounting data for the 2017-18 academic year, and preliminary estimates for 2018-19, found that the average tuition discount rate -“defined as institutional grant dollars as a percentage of gross tuition and fee revenue” – for first-time, full-time freshmen reached 50.5 per cent in 2017-2018 and is expected to jump to 52.2 per cent in 2018-19, a new record high. – Marjorie Valbrun, Inside Higher Ed. Read more


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