Compiled by DAVID MYTON

Experiencing a new culture, achieving career goals and a sense of adventure are the top three factors driving destination choice for international students, found in a survey of over 20,000 students. Teaching quality is in fifth position, while visa issues is only the last of the seven factors the survey found, which include networking and study costs. While teaching quality is obvious, it is but a part of it,” site manager Josh Hopton-Stewart told The PIE News. Additional factors such as a country’s culture, student lifestyle, friendliness of the locals and opportunities for adventure are also considered. With the rise of social media, Hopton-Stewart added, students are starting to “scrutinise” a country’s brand to make their decisions, which is what was captured in the most important driver: experiencing a new culture. “We predict that countries with strong study councils which are engaged in helping university marketers attract international students using the unique culture of their country as a promotional tool will experience a big rise in popularity,” he said. – Claudia Civinini, The PIE News. Read more

Universities in England making “indiscriminate” unconditional offers to potential students may fall foul of consumer legislation against “pressure selling”, the sector’s regulator warned as it launched a consultation on admissions. The Office for Students (OfS) said it was particularly concerned at the growth of so-called “conditional unconditional offers” in recent years, which see universities giving students guaranteed places only if they name that university as their first choice. “So-called pressure selling tactics – for example, applying psychological pressure, or creating an impression of urgency in decision making – could be a potential breach of consumer protection law,” the OfS said in a report into the effects of separating offers from A-level grades. “We will make clear where ‘pressure selling’ practices are at risk of breaching consumer law, and empower students to challenge this as well as taking regulatory action ourselves if appropriate.” – Richard Adams, The Guardian. Read more

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a major new grant program in postsecondary education. To advance its goal of improved student success – particularly for low-income and first-generation students, students of colour, and working adults – the foundation said it is seeking up to 10 “intermediaries for scale” that can work intensively with colleges and universities over a multiyear period. The selected organisations, or groups of organisations, will provide connections and guidance to colleges and universities to support them “through the process of comprehensive change” related to student success and completion. “Our partners’ work has demonstrated that there are innovations that can significantly improve student outcomes, like strengthening advising, tapping the power of digital learning and redesigning remedial education,” the foundation said. “We liken institutional transformation to a home remodel. People take on the task (and yes, headaches) of remodelling for lots of reasons, but mainly to have their homes better fit the way they live – more space for a growing family or more flexible space when kids leave home,” – Paul Fain, Inside Higher Ed. Read more

The Technical University of Munich (TUM) is receiving a €6.5 million (US$7.4 million) donation from Facebook to set up an institute looking into ethics issues in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). TUM’s Institute for Ethics in Artificial Intelligence is to explore areas such as health, policy-making, business and the web economy, and will address transparency, accountability, human rights and other issues in the context of human-AI interactions. Facebook is spreading its funding for the new institute, scheduled to open in February, over a five-year period. “We want to provide guidelines to identify and answer ethical issues relating to AI for society, industry and legislation,” says Christoph Lütge, the new institute’s director. Lütge, a professor of business ethics at TUM, was recently appointed to the German federal government’s ethics commission on autonomous driving. – Michael Gardner, University World News. Read more

A periodic table found during a laboratory clear-out at the University of St Andrews in Scotland is believed to be the oldest in the world. Experts have dated the teaching chart as being printed between 1879 and 1886. Work has been taking place to authenticate and preserve the fragile chart since it was found among old chemistry equipment in 2014. Russian chemist and inventor Dmitri Mendeleev made his famous disclosure on periodicity in 1869. The St Andrews chart bears an inscription identifying a scientific printer who operated in Vienna between 1875 and 1888. Professor Eric Scerri, from the University of California, has dated the table to between 1879 and 1886. Gallium and scandium, discovered in 1875 and 1879 respectively, are present but germanium, discovered in 1886, is not. The university said no earlier lecture chart of the table appeared to exist. Prof David O’Hagan, former head of chemistry at St Andrews, said: “The table will be available for research and display at the university and we have a number of events planned in 2019, which has been designated international year of the periodic table by the United Nations, to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the table’s creation by Dmitri Mendeleev.” – BBC News Scotland. Read more


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