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Congolese Students Face Costly Delays Due to Shortage of Professors

Africa/ Congo/ 07.04.2020/ Por: Zita Amwanga/  Source:


Trained teachers have not kept pace with a boom in universities, leading to massive staff shortages and leaving hundreds of students in limbo. School closures tied to the coronavirus pandemic threaten to further delay their future.

KISANGANI, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO — Jean Marie Tulume walked into his first day of class to discover one thing missing: the professor.

Thousands of university students face delays in schooling, due to a higher education boom in this provincial capital that has far outpaced the number of qualified teachers.

“We traveled back and forth, believing that the professor would be there, but to no avail,” says Tulume, who waited more than three weeks to start class.

The conundrum of too many schools and not enough instructors has upended higher education in the country’s third-largest city, leading to staff shortages, a decline in academic standards and a delayed future for aspiring graduates.

Officials recently shut down schools amid concerns about the new coronavirus, potentially delaying students’ education even further. DRC has reported 148 cases of the virus and 16 deaths as of April 4, according to the Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center.

Tulume also faced school delays last year. “I have to put up with it,” he says. “I have no choice.”

Higher education institutions in Kisangani are popping up like mushrooms. A decade ago, students could attend the city’s single university. Now they can choose from eight, six of which are private. About 300 professors are spread across the entire system, says Benoit Dhed’a Djailo, rector of the University of Kisangani — the main public university — and the city’s representative for the Ministry of Higher and University Education.

Some schools can’t afford to pay traveling expenses for visiting professors, forcing them to wait until tenured professors have time to teach. Courses go unstaffed through much of the year. And students get stuck with quarterly tuition fees even if their professor doesn’t show up.

Tuition fees vary annually, but public universities generally charge about $300 a year; private school costs roughly $500. Average income in DRC is less than $3 a day, according to a 2018 report by the national statistics office, making it difficult for many students to afford extending their education.

DRC already is reeling from a decline in commodity prices, according to the International Monetary Fund, one of the world’s worst Ebola outbreaks and violent conflict between armed groups, which has displaced around 5 million people in the country’s northeast. This compounds the slow recovery from a brutal civil war in the 1990s. Last year marked the first-ever peaceful transition of presidential power.

“The political and economic situation in our country disrupts the education system,” says Kasimir Ngoubi, a political analyst and professor at University of Kisangani. It doesn’t help, he says, that the path to an associate professor position can take up to a decade. The system is caught in a self-perpetuating cycle: a lack of professors means students don’t get the education they need to fill the teaching hole. Ngoubi advocates for government incentives that encourage talented pupils to consider a track in academia.

Officials argue they can’t afford to make such scholarships available.

The political and economic situation in our country disrupts the education system.

“The shortage of professors is a result of the lack of a substantial budget to overcome the crisis,” says Dhed’a Djailo, the education ministry representative. The ministry can’t cover operating costs to meet demand, recruit promising students or offer financial assistance for continued education, he says. “The government used to provide young people with student grants to encourage them to go to university, but given the country’s socioeconomic climate, there are no student grants anymore, and those who wish to pursue a scientific career will have to bear the university costs themselves.”

Current professors, while taxed with demanding schedules and frustrated pupils, prove the biggest beneficiaries. “The increase in the number of universities is welcome,” says Henri Paul Basthu, a professor who has taught for the past decade. “This helps me become more professional and earn a very good living.”

But it hasn’t worked well for students, many of whom find themselves thrust into vulnerable situations. They worry about the impact it will have, not just on their course schedule but on their future.

“I repeated my fourth year of study because of my refusal to obey a teaching assistant who asked me to have sex with him,” say Vivianne Mudunga, who is studying law at the University of Kisangani. She says she couldn’t get in touch with the professor to prove her valid grades and was therefore held back.

Other students tell stories of teaching assistants who control grades in the professor’s absence and demand money to access course outlines. Fabien Kitenge, a public health student at the same university, was held back because he didn’t pay the assistant’s bribe.

Beyond the immediate delays, students and administrators worry about the long-term degradation of academic rigor in a country struggling to improve its economy.

“I defended my end-of-cycle dissertation under a lot of stress, as my supervisor made me wait for months to complete it,” says Doris Bamba, a political science student who had a position waiting in his hometown – if he could conclude his studies.

The professor didn’t show up to grade his work until after the offer expired. Bamba lost the job.

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UK universities issue health warnings over travel to China

By: Sally Weale.


UK universities with links to China have issued warnings to staff and students travelling to and from areas affected by the coronavirus, urging anyone with symptoms to seek medical advice.

With concern growing about the spread of the virus, universities in the UK are keeping a check on staff who have recently returned from Wuhan, the city at the centre of the outbreak, as well as Chinese students who come from affected areas, many of whom will be concerned about loved ones at home.

China has become an increasingly important partner in UK higher education in recent years, with 120,000 Chinese students enrolled in UK universities last year and numerous partnerships and collaborations between universities in the UK and China.

Nine UK institutions have partnerships with Wuhan University in Hubei Province in central China, among them Dundee University which runs an architecture course in collaboration with Wuhan.

In an email to students, the university urged anyone who had travelled to affected areas and was suffering symptoms to contact their GP by phone, avoid crowded places and alert the people they live with.

Dr Jim McGeorge, university secretary and chief operating officer at Dundee, also warned students to take care if receiving packages from areas where the virus is present, especially if a package contains food items. Experts believe the virus has come from animals, possibly seafood.

In the case of the Dundee-Wuhan university partnership, Chinese students complete their first four years of study in Wuhan, and come to Dundee for their fifth and final year, often choosing to remain in the Scottish city to complete their master’s degree.

A statement from the university said: “There are currently 34 students from the programme in Dundee, having arrived in September 2019. There have been no health concerns raised among that group but we will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

The Chinese architecture students are among 900 students from China currently on the Dundee campus, of which 104 matriculated in January with a further 48 due to arrive later this month or next. The university confirmed that five members of staff returned from a visit to Wuhan last week, but there were no current health concerns.

The University of Glasgow, meanwhile, has a partnership with the Zhongnan University of Economics and Law in Wuhan. A total of 23 Chinese students are in the final two years of their degree in the school of mathematics and statistics. “We can confirm that all our Chinese students on this programme are currently studying at the university and in good health,” a spokesperson said.

Aberdeen also has a partnership with Wuhan University. “The university is aware of five members of staff who have visited Wuhan during the outbreak, four of whom returned to the university three or more weeks ago,” a spokesperson said. “The remaining member of staff has a non-teaching role and is working from home as a precautionary measure.”

Newcastle University hosts around 300 students who have links with Hubei province. “We are writing to them all to remind them to follow the health protection advice and to offer support to any student concerned about themselves or loved ones,” a spokesperson said. The university has also arranged a special health advice event for students arriving from China in the last month, to ensure they register with a doctor.

“In line with Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice, the university is advising that staff and students don’t travel to this area,” a spokesperson said.

Since the cap was lifted on the number of students able to study at UK universities in 2015, the sector has worked hard to increase recruitment from China. According to the most recent data, published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the number of Chinese students studying in UK higher education institutions exceeded 120,000 for the first time last year, a 13% increase on the previous year and up from fewer than 90,000 in 2014/15.

Liverpool University has one of the biggest Chinese student populations. It too has issued guidance to any student currently in or planning to travel to China in the immediate future. A statement on the university website said: “We would advise our students to avoid travelling to Wuhan if possible and follow basic hygiene rules including regular hand washing; maintain good personal hygiene; avoid visiting animal and bird markets, avoid people who are ill with respiratory symptoms [and] seek medical attention if you develop respiratory symptoms within 14 days of visiting Wuhan, either in China, or on return to the UK.”

Birmingham University also confirmed that students from a range of partner universities in Wuhan City are currently studying in the city. A spokesperson said those students would have travelled to the university months ago and the risk of infection was low.

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AUSTRALIA-CHINA The biggest crisis to hit international HE in Australia


The coronavirus outbreak may be the biggest disruption to international student flows in history.

There are more than 100,000 students stuck in China who had intended to study in Australia this year. As each day passes, it becomes more unlikely they will arrive in time for the start of the academic year.

Of course, international affairs are bound to sometimes interfere with the more than 5.3 million students studying outside their home country, all over the world.

After the September 11 attacks in 2001, the United States closed its borders temporarily and tightened student visa restrictions, particularly for students from the Middle East. Thousands were forced to choose different study destinations in the following years.

In 2018, Saudi Arabia’s government instructed all its citizens studying in Canada to return home, in protest at the Canadian foreign minister’s call to release women’s rights activists held in Saudi jails.

A significant proportion of the 12,000 or so Saudi students in Canada left to continue their studies elsewhere, before the Saudi government quietly softened its stance.

So we have seen calamities before, but never on this scale. There are a few reasons for this.

Why this is worse than before

The current temporary migration of students from China to Australia represents one of the largest education flows the world has ever seen. Federal education department data show there were more than 212,000 Chinese international students in Australia by the end of 2019.

This accounts for 28% of Australia’s total international student population. Globally, there are only two study routes that involve larger numbers of students. The world’s largest student flow is from China to the United States and the second largest is from India to the US.

It’s also difficult to imagine a worse time for this epidemic to happen for students heading to the southern hemisphere than January to February, at the end of our long summer break.

Many Chinese students had returned home for the summer and others were preparing to start their studies at the end of February.

By comparison, the SARS epidemic in 2003 didn’t significantly dent international student enrolments in Australia because it peaked around April-May 2003, well after students had started the academic year.

Ending in July that year, the SARS outbreak infected fewer than half the number of people than have already contracted coronavirus. Even during the SARS outbreak Australia didn’t implement bans on those travelling from affected countries.

What will the impact be?

This crisis hits hard for many Chinese students, an integral component of our campus communities. It not only causes disruptions to their study, accommodation, part-time employment and life plans, but also their mental well-being.

A humane, supportive and respectful response from the university communities is vital at this stage.

Australia has never experienced such a sudden drop in student numbers.

The reduced enrolments will have profound impacts on class sizes and the teaching workforce, particularly at masters level in universities with the highest proportions of students from China. Around 46% of Chinese students are studying a postgraduate masters by coursework. If classes are too small, universities will have to cancel them.

And the effects don’t end there. Tourism, accommodation providers, restaurants and retailers who cater to international students will be hit hard too.

Chinese students contributed AU$12 billion (US$8 million) to the Australian economy in 2019, so whatever happens from this point, the financial impact will be significant. The cost of the drop in enrolments in semester one may well amount to several billion dollars.

The newly-formed Global Reputation Taskforce by Australia’s Council for International Education has commissioned some rapid response research to promote more informed discussion about the implications and impacts of the crisis.

If the epidemic is contained quickly, some of the 100,000 students stuck in China will be able to start their studies in semester one, and the rest could delay until mid-year. But there might still be longer-term effects.

Australia has a world-class higher education system and the world is closely watching how we manage this crisis as it unfolds.

Prospective students in China will be particularly focused on Australia’s response as they weigh future study options.

The world is watching

Such a fast-moving crisis presents a range of challenges for those in universities, colleges (such as English language schools) and schools who are trying to communicate with thousands of worried students who can’t enter the country.

Australian universities are scrambling to consider a wide range of responses. These include:


  • • Delivering courses online.
  • • Providing intensive courses and summer or winter courses.
  • • Arrangements around semester commencement.
  • • Fee refund and deferral.
  • • Provision of clear and updated information.
  • • Support structures for starting and continuing Chinese students, including extended academic and welfare support, counselling, special helplines and coronavirus-specific information guidelines.
  • • Support with visa issues, accommodation and employment arrangements.

A coordinated approach involving different stakeholders who are providing different support for Chinese students is an urgent priority. This includes education providers, government, city councils, international student associations, student groups and professional organisations.

This outbreak further raises awareness within the international education sector of the need for risk management and crisis response strategies to ensure sustainability.

Most importantly, we need to ensure we remain focused on the human consequences of this tragedy first. Headlines focusing on lost revenues at a time like this are offensive to international students and everyone involved in international education.


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Pennsylvania’s big higher education problem gets a spotlight

Pennsylvania’s big higher education problem gets a spotlight


Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal to start a major new scholarship program for students at Pennsylvania’s state-owned universities caused a stir over his idea to divert the money from a sacred cow, but it also spotlit an uncomfortable truth about Pennsylvania’s ragged performance on higher education funding.

By just about every measure there is, Pennsylvania is ranked at the bottom among states in the level of higher education aid, size of student debt and affordability of its colleges.

“I don’t know how much louder we have to scream to get the attention of our legislators about this issue,” said Ken Mash, an East Stroudsburg University political science professor who is president of the union of faculty members and coaches employed at Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities. “Everybody sort of agrees it’s a problem, but nobody has come forward with a solution.”

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania’s demographics are worrisome, with a fast-growing 65-and-older population, a shrinking working-age population and a dropping number of high school graduates.

For Pennsylvania’s state-owned universities, fewer in-state high school graduates and stagnating state aid — the university system gets less direct state aid now than it did in the 2006-07 school year — have translated into dropping enrollments, rising tuition and cutbacks.

n 2018, fall enrollment at the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education fell below 100,000 for the first time since 2001, driven by steep declines of students from families whose annual incomes are below $110,000. Last fall, enrollment fell again, completing a drop of 20% since 2010.

On Tuesday, with his new budget proposal, Wolf requested a new, $200 million-a-year scholarship program for low- and middle-income state-system students who stay in-state after they graduate.

It serves several purposes: combating growing student debt; attracting more students to state system schools; and keeping more college grads in a state that desperately needs them.

It could, in theory, wipe out college debt or reduce it for more than 25,000 state system graduates, administration officials said.

Lawmakers are not deaf to the issue. They approved legislation last summer creating a commission to study higher education funding and is required to produce a report with recommendations by July 1.

The system’s chancellor, Dan Greenstein, is in the midst of overhauling the system, working to share administrative resources between universities, avoid duplication in offerings and provide courses more neatly aligned to demand.

Wolf’s scholarship program, he said, targets a critical demographic at a critical time when the state needs to increase the number of adults with higher education degrees from 47% to 60% to meet the current and future demands of employers.

“Unless we ensure affordability, we just can’t make it,” Greenstein said in an interview. “The students we need to graduate to meet those numbers can’t make it to graduation.”

A major complication of Wolf’s plan is the cash source: Wolf is proposing to divert it from subsidies for the horse-racing industry.

Derided by critics as corporate welfare, the horse-racing industry has defenders and top Republicans and Democrats acknowledging that the idea is divisive within their caucuses.

But, if Wolf and lawmakers can agree on another source of money, then the concept of the scholarship program could be a winner in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The cash source aside, there is likely to be broad support among lawmakers for providing more aid to state system students, said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne, R-Lehigh.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Stan Saylor, R-York, likes it, too.

“I love the idea of a scholarship program,” Saylor said. “It depends on whose ox is getting gored here, but the big thing is, I like the initiative from the governor.”

Such a large pot of money for scholarships will no doubt generate debate.

Saylor said the Legislature has no special obligation to helping state system students, and he will insist that the program’s scholarship dollars also be available to students attending community colleges and private colleges and universities in Pennsylvania.

“I’m about competition,” Saylor said, “and competition makes government programs better.”

Top Democrats were effusive about a scholarship program.

Sen. Vince Hughes, D-Philadelphia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said mission of the state university system as a source of high quality, low-cost education is too valuable to abandon, he said.

The money can be found, Hughes said.

“(The governor is) talking about a quarter of the 100,000 or so students that attend,” Hughes said. “That’s real. And it should it be fought for and we should bring that home.”

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Two-thirds of Australia’s Chinese students ‘stuck at home’

Asia/ China/ 04.02.2020/ Source:

Almost two-thirds of Australian universities’ Chinese students are currently abroad, new government data show, in an indication of the scale of the financial hit confronting the sector if the coronavirus crisis persists.

Education minister Dan Tehan released statistics showing that of the almost 190,000 Chinese residents with valid Australian student visas on 1 February – when the government banned foreign nationals entering from China, in a bid to curb the outbreak’s spread – about 157,000 were higher education students.

Of these, 62 per cent were overseas and faced a wait of at least two weeks – and possibly much longer – before being allowed into Australia.

The figures suggest that Australian universities may be about to experience the worst fears of those who have warned against their financial reliance on Chinese students’ fees.

A paper released last year by University of Sydney sociologist Salvatore Babones, who focused his research on seven Australian universities, found that they had derived between 13 per cent and 23 per cent of their income from Chinese students in 2017. Since then, the number of visas granted to Chinese higher education students has increased by about 6 per cent.

Institutional and auditor-general’s reports released since Dr Babones conducted his analysis suggest that the two universities most financially exposed to Chinese students – the University of Sydney and UNSW Sydney – respectively obtained 26 per cent and 27 per cent of their revenue from this source in 2018.

UNSW’s main campus is unusually quiet for this time of year, devoid of the groups of orienting Chinese students that normally circulate in February – a scene replicated at universities across the country.

UNSW vice-chancellor Ian Jacobs last year said that his university had set up a contingency fund to “buy…an extra few months” in the event of a sudden loss of Chinese students, but said he would have to rapidly decrease spending on staff and infrastructure if the crisis lasted longer.

In a 4 February press conference, Mr Tehan said the government and universities had committed to “maximum flexibility” to help Chinese students stranded overseas.

He brushed off questions over whether Chinese students would be entitled to refunds if they could not study in Australia, and whether the government would consider helping universities meet the consequent “shortfall”.

“Let’s wait and see what the impact is of the coronavirus over the next fortnight, the next month, the next quarter, before we start looking at things like that,” he said.

“Let’s deal with getting in place the online learning, the remote learning. Let’s make sure we’re dealing with all those students who are already here in Australia and making sure their welfare is being looked after.”

Some Chinese students have scoffed at online learning as a viable solution, citing internet restrictions at home.

Mr Tehan also declined to estimate the dollar cost of the crisis while acknowledging international education as a “key” export for Australia. “We have to wait and see the extent of the virus…before we can examine this data and get a true understanding.

“What we’ve seen from Sars [severe acute respiratory syndrome] was that the bounce back in the international education sector was quick and immediate. Things have changed since Sars, but that is the information that we can go on historically.”

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United Kingdom: ‘I have a tiny violin somewhere’: Private schools roasted online after complaining about plans to get more poor students into uni

Europe/United Kingdom/02-02-2020/ Author and Source:

Leading private schools in England have criticized plans to improve access to top universities for poorer students, saying it could lead to discrimination of rich kids based on “class,” provoking ridicule on social media.

The Headmasters’ & Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), an association that represents some of the UK’s most expensive private schools, voiced concerns about proposals published on Wednesday by the Office for Students, the higher education regulator for England.

Mike Buchanan, the HMC’s executive director, claimed universities should expand to accommodate as many “truly suitable students” as needed, rather than “rob some students of a future to award it to others.” He argued that institutions must look at their international students intake rather than restrict places to UK students “based on their class.”Plans being put forward by the regulator include a promise to halve the access gap at England’s most selective institutions in the next five years, increasing the amount of disadvantaged students by 6,500 a year from 2024-25.

The seemingly hostile reaction from elite private schools has, perhaps unsurprisingly, prompted much mockery online, with many people expressing little sympathy with their “predicament,” with one person tweeting“I have a tiny violin. Somewhere.”

Guardian columnist Frances Ryan sarcastically remarked that being discriminated based on class sounded like a “terrible education system,” adding: “We should totally do something to fix that.” Others online mercilessly attacked the premise that the “kids of the rich and greedy” deserve sympathy because they’re being attacked based on their “accident-of-birth privilege.”

Helen the Zen@helenmallam

All those poor, expensively educated, emotionally deprived, kids of the rich and the greedy, being discriminated against on the basis of their accident-of-birth privilege. You’ve got to laugh. 

Private schools criticise plans to get more poor students into university

Regulator’s pledge to boost university access in England ‘may discriminate based on class’

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Some accused the private schools of being “actual Marvel villains,” while another Twitter user claimed the “lack of self-awareness is astounding.”

Kalwant Bhopal, a professor of education and justice at Birmingham University, said that it was clear that young people going to independent fee-paying schools were “more likely to be middle-class,” adding that “these schools continue to perpetuate privilege.”

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Egypt’s Higher Education Exams to Start Following ‘Open Book’ System

Africa/ Egypt/ 28.01.2020/ Source:

The Ministry of Education and Technical Education announced that students from grades 1 and 2 in the secondary level of the Thanaweya system would be following the new system in which they would have open access to textbooks during their exams.

The implementation in the system, announced through the Ministry of Education itself, was long anticipated since Egypt’s Minister of Education Tarek Shawki announced a new reform in Egypt’s education system.

Such updates are expected to be implemented as of the next the round of exams set for January for most Egyptian students or students in the public ‘thanawiya ammah’.

Over one million students are expected to be venturing into this change, with the exams designed to be a combination of both paper and electronic forms, as per local news outlets.

For years, Egypt’s ailing educational system has relied on heavy set memorization and ‘ideal answer’ practices. Switching to an ‘open book’ form of examination is intended to spark critical-learning skills as learners become less reliant on memorizing facts.

To score highly in the competitive system, Egyptian students largely depend on expensive private tutoring in which they are encouraged to submit ‘expected’ and ‘model’ answers rather answers than based on understanding which hinders long-term retention of information and the quality of education overall.

Indeed, Egypt in its Global Competitiveness Report 2018–2019, the World Economic Forum ranked the quality of Egypt’s ‘critical thinking in teaching’ as 2.7 out of 7. In 2018, the country’s education quality ranked 129 in Spectator Index

Egypt introduced a new education system in August 2018, with the beginning of the new school year. Part of the reviving the curriculum is introducing a digital system to replace the old paper-based examinations. This move comes in an attempt to prevent manipulation of grades.

The upgrade of the educational programme comes after Egypt received a US $500 million loan from the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) last April to help revamp the system. This also feeds Egypt’s ‘2030 Vision’ development plan that emphasized the importance of educational reform to achieve social development in the country.

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