U21:Connect - June 2014

04 June 2014
The latest news and items of interest to staff and students across the Universitas 21 network.

U21 news

U21 Rankings published

U21 published the 2014 Ranking of National Higher Education Systems on 15 May.  The Ranking is the only one in the world to assess national higher education systems, and meets a longstanding need to shift discussion from the ranking of the world’s best universities, to the best overall systems in each country. It has been developed as a benchmark for governments, education institutions and individuals, and aims to highlight the importance of creating a strong environment for higher education institutions to contribute to economic and cultural development, providing a high-quality experience for students and helping institutions to compete for overseas applicants.

This list contains the same countries as in the 2013 Ranking, but the order has changed a little. The relative nature of the Rankings is exempli?ed by Switzerland, which has fallen three places even though its score remained constant. The largest changes in rankings since last year are an improvement of eight places by China, a rise of ?ve places for Hungary, and a fall of seven places for Ukraine.  However, this year the rankings also list countries taking into consideration each nation’s GDP, which throws up some interesting results.  As expected, the biggest changes occasioned by allowing for income levels occur at both extremes. Serbia, South Africa, India and China all rise by over 25 places in the rankings. Conversely, four high income countries (Singapore, Norway, the United States and Hong Kong SAR) fall markedly in the rankings. A noticeable feature is that several lower income countries show significant improvements in the Connectivity measure ranking, an activity that is likely to be most beneficial to economic growth.

The full 2014 U21 Ranking, as well as the previous two years’ reports can be found at www.universitas21.com/link/u21rankings



 AGM 2014 a great success

Representatives from each ofUniversitas 21’s 27 members met in Glasgow over three days in May to refine our strategy for the future and debate the structures best suited to support that.  It was a productive series of meetings in the inspiring surroundings of the University of Glasgow, accompanied by unusual Scottish sunshine.  A particular highlight was the Student Summit, where undergraduates met to discuss ‘the university of the future’ and present their visions to Presidents and others.  As a result of this, members confirmed their commitment to involve student perspectives in our activities and work towards including a student voice in our governance arrangements.  A number of potential new projects were discussed under the title WOW projects and work is currently underway to develop these further so that those we choose to pursue together add real value to the students, staff and faculty.  More information about the WOW projects will be forthcoming soon – so watch this space!



Doctoral law forum

In April the first U21 Doctoral Law Forum took place, organised by colleagues at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.  A small but engaged group from Europe, Asia and South America gathered to present on and discuss three key areas - Law and Environment, Law and Regulation and Law and Society. 

The law group is now looking to continue its activity with new leadership as colleagues at SJTU step away from the role, so anyone interested in being involved in the group should contact u21@contacts.bham.ac.uk


Another excellent partnership

Five students from the University of Connecticut’s Higher Education & Student Affairs (HESA) Masters’ programme are spending three weeks at the University of Glasgow, working as a team alongside student services professionals to address a problem of practice posed by Glasgow and deepen practitioner understanding of the issue at hand.  Upon return to the University of Connecticut the students will then put their experiences at the University of Glasgow into the larger context of international higher education, through complementary UConn courses.  Students will also prepare an Action Report detailing the results of the project undertaken in Glasgow and present their findings to the HESA community and Glasgow representatives.  This is the start of an interesting student exchange opportunity between the two universities and one which we hope might be replicated among other U21 member universities in the future.



International collaboration secures grants

Partnerships between a number of U21 universities have led to awards of grant funding being made to them by the British Council.  Each of the winning proposals addresses topics of global significance in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), including energy, climate change and the environment; agriculture, food security and water; global health and wellbeing; and urbanisation.

The Ohio State University and the University of Birmingham have secured funding, alongside the Beijing Institute of Technology (China) for a project entitled “Seeing with Sound - Developing an Echolocation Device based on sensing principles derived from Human Users”, while the University of Nottingham and Shanghai Jiao Tong University, in collaboration with the University of Delaware (US), have received a grant to look at “New Answers For Old Problems: A Global Interdisciplinary Training Network to Address Key Questions in Plant Development for Food”.


Educational Innovation


EI Conference

Further details about the forthcoming Educational Innovation Conference and associated workshops have now been published on the U21 website.  The Conference, which takes place from 23 to 24 October 2014 at UNSW Australia is on the theme of “Personalised Learning”, and includes keynote addresses by leaders of their field, among them Professor Simon Bates, University of British Columbia, on “Personalised Learning: Implications for curricula, staff and students”; Professor Simon Buckingham Shum, Open University, on "The role of data and learning analytics in the personalisation of learning" and Professor Eric Grimson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, "Developing institutional capacity and implications for development of institutional infrastructure in personalisation of learning".  New this to year's conference will be a fourth keynote, offered by a panel of students, who will address questions around the personalisation of learning from a student perspective.

The day before the conference, two workshops will be held, open to all attending the EI conference.  The first is entitled "Virtual Mobility and Shared Learning" and will be lead by Sue Rigby and Amy Woodgate of the University of Edinburgh and the second on "Rewarding Teaching Excellence" will be run by Graeme Aitken of the University of Auckland.

Each U21 member institution is invited to nominate up to three senior policy makers/strategists to attend the conference and full details can be found at www.universitas21.com/link/EIconference2014



Researcher Engagement


Measuring Research Impact

The U21 Research Impact workshop will take place on 12 and 13 August at UNSW Australia and will study a variety of aspects around measuring research impact and their influence on universities. The workshop, aimed at Pro Vice Chancellors (Research) or similar, as well as university managers responsible for research and impact performance and reporting, will focus on three main areas of discussion - Measuring Impact; Engagement Metrics as a means of measuring how effectively universities transfer knowledge to research users and Driving Engagement, providing an opportunity to share experience of what works best to deliver ‘reach’ and ‘significance’.

More information and the registration page can be found at www.universitas21.com/link/RIworkshop2014



Student Experience


Student Mobility Network meeting

27 participants from 19 member institutions met in San Diego on 22 and 23 May, for the annual Student Mobility Network meeting, prior to the NAFSA Conference.  New members to the U21 network joined in a morning session to discuss the workings of U21, followed by afternoon sessions concentrating on new activities and opportunities available in member institutions, a lively ‘speed-dating’ session where members had a chance to speak with new counterparts and have broader discussions on mobility-related issues. Friday’s session was dedicated to discussion around strategic priorities in the network and group discussions on WOW projects, with some innovative suggestions put forward by the group.

The next formal meeting will take place prior to the 2015 NAFSA Conference in Boston. However, interested U21 members attending EAIE in Prague (16-19 September), will meet for an informal lunch during the conference.




People & places


New Chair for U21

The Vice Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, Professor David Eastwood, has been elected as the new chair of the network.  Chairmanship of the network now rotates on a biannual basis and Professor Eastwood was elected unanimously at the Universitas 21 Annual General Meeting in Glasgow on 16 May. Speaking after the election, Professor Eastwood said: “I am delighted to have been asked to chair the Universitas 21 network. The strength and diversity of its members create a powerful global force within higher education. The sector is undergoing rapid change and it is clear that international collaboration is vital to the long-term success of universities and of the sector as a whole.  As Chair I will endeavour to ensure that Universitas 21 continues to provide a dynamic framework that fosters international collaboration between leading research universities.”

Professor Eastwood took over from Professor Fred Hilmer, President and Vice Chancellor of UNSW, Australia, on 16 May and we thank Professor Hilmer for his leadership over the past year.



UC tops QS ranking

Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (UC) has overtaken Brazil’s Universidade de São Paulo to top the QS University Rankings: Latin America for the first time.  Published annually since 2011, the QS University Rankings: Latin America highlights the 300 top universities in the region, based on seven indicators.  The methodology is adapted from that used to compile the QS World University Rankings, with several additional criteria included to enable more in-depth comparison based on regional priorities. UC director Dr Ignacio Sánchez Díaz was delighted with the results. “It’s great news. The effect this leadership can have on attracting professors, students, research and projects to our country is very important, as much in our university as well as in others of high calibre.”

We congratulate our colleagues at UC and look forward to seeing some of this in action when we visit for the 2015 AGM, to be held there in early May.


Farewell to old friends

At the AGM in May we bid farewell to two U21 Managers.  Professor Peter Low has been U21 Manager for the University of Virginia ever since the university joined the network in 2001.  He has been a valued member of the Managers’ group and his contribution to U21 matters will be missed.  We wish him well in his retirement.  Professor Jeff Legro takes his place as Virginia’s U21 Manager.

We also said goodbye to Dr Enrique Zepeda from Tecnológico de Monterrey.  Enrique was instrumental in ensuring the university’s arrival and participation in the network in 2006 and we are sorry to see him leave.  Dr Joaquin Guerra will take over as U21 Manager.