U21:Connect - May 2016

21 April 2016
The latest news and items of interest to staff and students across the Universitas 21 network.

Welcome to the May edition of U21 Connect, featuring all the latest news and items of interest from the Universitas 21 network.


U21 Ranking of National Higher Education Systems 2016 now available online!

The Annual Universitas 21 Ranking of National Higher Education Systems 2016 is now available to view and download from our website.

The 2016 Ranking includes the same 50 countries as in previous reports, which have again been ranked separately by four areas and also given an overall rating. New for 2016 is the productivity and drivers of research for the higher education sector, taking into account the relationships between inputs (resources and Environment) and outcomes (output and connectivity).

The top three countries, in order, are the United States, Switzerland and Denmark, the same as in last year’s ranking. The United Kingdom is now ranked fourth, a rise of four places from last year’s ranking. Next in order are Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands and Singapore. Canada has fallen three places to ninth with Australia tenth.

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

Please feel free to share this document within your universities and your wider network as well as via social media using #U21Ranking.

To download your copy of the Rankings project as well as explore our data comparison chart and interactive map, please follow the link below:



U21 hold Annual Network Meeting and Presidential Symposium at NUS

Presidents and Vice Chancellors of U21 member universities, along with U21 Managers, were invited to attend to meet with peers to discuss matters of importance to the network and to shape the forthcoming year's agenda.

The meetings took place in Singapore from 11 to 13 May, during which the recent Gilbert Medal and U21 Award winners were presented with their awards.

Many thanks to Professor TAN Chorh Chuan and all at NUS for being such gracious hosts.

The next set of U21 meetings for Presidents will take place at the University of Nottingham in the UK from 3 to 5 May 2017.



Gilbert Medal and U21 Award winners recognised in Singapore

The former President of Ireland, Professor Mary McAleese, was presented with the Gilbert Medal by Chair of the U21 network Professor Sir David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Birmingham, and Professor TAN Chorh Chuan, President of the National University of Singapore.

Professor Mike Clifford, The University of Nottingham, and Dr. Wondwossen Gebreyes, The Ohio State University, also received U21 Awards for internationalisation at the ceremony held during the U21 Annual Network Meeting at NUS.

Many congratulations to all three recipients!

Gilbert Medal
U21 Award




Educational Innovation

U21 Educational Innovation Conference Update, October 26-28 2016

The 2016 Educational Innovation Conference will seek to define what constitutes teaching excellence in research intensive universities and how is it developed, recognised and rewarded. 

The October 2016 meeting will be arranged into five main themes:

  • Session 1: “What constitutes teaching excellence in a research-intensive university?”
  • Session 2: “Supporting staff to deliver teaching excellence”
  • Session 3: “Evaluating teaching excellence”
  • Session 3: “Is ‘Learning Gain’ a valuable contributor to the concept of teaching excellence?”
  • Session 4: “What do students regard as ‘excellent teaching’ in a research-led university?”
  • Session 6: “The regulatory environment – what are the government and funding agencies interests in teaching excellence?”
  • Session 7: “Developing a U21 position statement on ‘Teaching excellence in U21 institutions”

Each U21 institution may nominate up to three members of senior staff to attend the event.  Registration is now open and a detailed programme is available at http://www.universitas21.com/link/EIConf2016.

For further details, a programme is available to download via the event page, please follow the link below for more:

EI Conference 2016


Large-data collection and analysis initiative

At a recent meeting of U21 Senior Leaders, there was support for the EI Cluster putting together a U21 group of senior individuals in our institutions involved in large-data collection and analysis.  There are a number of issues where cross-network cooperation across U21 might be useful.

  • U21 universities put a considerable level of effort into the development of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and many institutions draw comparative data from other U21 universities in order to benchmark themselves. As part of a cross-network big-data conversation it might be worth discussing if there is a network interest in sharing some relevant data between the members of University 21 for collective and mutual benefit in the development of KPIs.
  • From the point of view of the Educational Innovation Cluster there is also a growing interest in using some of the educational data we collect (individually and collectively)  to assist in the improvement of student engagement, retention and high-level learning - more commonly termed as Learning Analytics. Learning Analytics refers to the process of gathering and analysing details of individual student interactions (including in online and blended courses; student use of VLEs, library and other educational resources, etc.) with a view to understanding and optimizing student learning and the educational environments in which it occurs. In the EI Cluster we are keen to share effective approaches to Learning Analytics approaches and also to consider sharing some relevant educational large-data across institutions.

Please signify interest by contacting Lavinia Winegar-Gott at Lavinia.winegar-gott@universitas21.com.  If there is sufficient interest in a collaboration of this sort, UCD has offered to host the first meeting of this specialist group.


Researcher Engagement

Early Career Researcher Workshop

Nominations have now closed for the 2016 Early Career Researcher (ECR) Workshop taking place at the University of Edinburgh on 29-30thSeptember. The theme of ‘Big Data at the heart of 21stcentury research’ has been highly popular and we have received the highest ever number of nominations for an ECR event. The researchers selected to attend will be contacted in the coming weeks to confirm their place.   



RE Cluster meeting in Maryland

Early May saw the RE Cluster meet in Maryland for their annual face-to-face meeting and the DDoGS pre-meeting workshop on Graduate Mobility.

The main themes for the DDoGS were on support for graduate mobility, both financial and pastoral, and employability skills, particularly for those graduate students who will not continue their career within academia. Plans were agreed to ask all U21 members to ring fence funding for graduate mobility and for a resource to be developed offering practical information on mobility for students planning a research stay within the network. The DDoGS also agreed to increase the scope of the U21 3 Minute Thesis competition to include Masters by Research students from 2107 onwards.

The main outcomes of the Research Leaders discussions included piloting Pecha Kucha presentations at the ECR workshops to help researchers learn new skills for presenting for a non-academic audience and ways to increase U21 research collaborations, including working with the U21 Research Collaboration Group to offer training to cover the practicalities of US and EU research administration policies.




Student Experience

‘Global Ingenuity Challenge 2016’ Inspires Student Creativity to New Heights

The winners for the 2016 Global Ingenuity Challenge have been announced. The winner prize was awarded to the teams from the University of Connecticut and Korea University. The submissions by Lund University, Fudan University and The University of Nottingham were highly commended by the judging panel. All of these provided innovative solutions to real problems: microfinance models to address urban decay, reducing isolation and disadvantage of single person households, refugee housing and integration, reducing energy waste by students and affordable flexible accommodation for job seekers.

Sixteen teams from twelve institutions submitted their videos exploring innovative solutions to the Challenge of Sustainable Housing. All students submitted excellent videos, which can be viewed online. The number of entrants more than doubled from the pilot in 2015. We look forward to further growth of this activity in the future.

For more information on the Global Ingenuity Challenge, please follow the link below:



Over 40 students from 18 members to participate in the Undergraduate Research Conference

Nominations for the 2016 URC have now closed. The URC will be hosted between 11 and 16 July by Tecnológico de Monterrey, with the theme “A global perspective on ageing societies”.

Presentations will be available in electronic format after the conference, we look forward to sharing the students’ work with the network.

For more information, visit our 2016 Undergraduate Research Conference webpage via the link below:

URC 16


U21 Student Mobility Meeting to be held Denver on 27 May

32 staff from 18 member universities will be attending the U21 Student Mobility Meeting.

The Meeting will provide opportunities to network with peers, share members' updates, get information on the work conducted by U21 in areas related to student mobility, as well as feedback on current projects relevant to student mobility.

The final agenda for the meeting is available via the link below:

Student Mobility Meeting


People and places

Birmingham and Nottingham link creates £10m research centre

The Centre of Membrane Proteins and Receptors (COMPARE) will bring together more than 20 leading researchers from both institutions to create more effective drugs with fewer side-effects to treat cardiovascular disease and cancer, while working with the pharmaceutical industry to develop the treatments.

The partnership, which was initially launched five years ago, aims to promote collaboration on research, education and professional services, despite the two institutions competing for students.

Professor Sir David Greenaway said that the partnership has created links between heads of departments and professional services.

Professor Sir David Eastwood pinpoints professional development, responses to the teaching excellence framework and curricular innovation as other areas where staff will work together.

For more on the partnership, please follow the link below:

Birmingham-Nottingham Partnership



PUC and HKU Presidents meet in Hong Kong

Dr. Ignacio Sanchez, rector of the Pontificia Universidad Católica De Chile, visited the University of Hong Kong, where he met with President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Mathieson to review the current academic relations between the two institutions and to strengthen the current relationship.

During the meeting Dr. Sanchez and Professor Mathieson the state of higher education in both countries and focused on the issue of internationalisation and international students and teachers.

Since 2010 PUC and HKU have had a bilateral agreement student exchange with over 20 students travelling between the institutions.

PUC-HKU Partnership


UJ delegation attends Times Higher Education Africa Universities Summit 2016

Under the theme Globalisation and Policy Directions for African Higher Education, the two day summit (27-29 April), an initiative of THE, in partnership with the University of Johannesburg, saw delegates from UJ led by the Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Ihron Rensburg and Executive Director of Internationalisation, Dr Pinkie Mekgwe, deliberating on shaping the future, internationalisation and collaboration of higher education on the continent.

Professor Rensburg reflected on aspects of excellence for institutions and the definition of international excellence, whilst also maintaining local relevance, graduate employability, and the role of universities in producing young African academics in touch with the needs of Africa.

The need was also stressed for institutions on the continent to develop clear policies on internationalisation, research and teaching collaboration with institutions within and outside Africa.

Universities Summit 2016