Continental European Universities - mainly those in France, Germany and Italy - are pitifully below standard and don't provide the skills and research needed to help the Continent compete with rampant Asia. Not enough is being spent on higher education in these countries.

But there is a European country that DOES provide excellent universities - Britain - and, as you would probably expect these days between Britain and Continental Europe, British universities are far superior than their Continental counterparts.

In a recent list of the world's 100 best universities, only two European universities featured in the Top 20 - and both of those were British (Oxford and Cambridge). The rest were American. Britain also had the greatest number of new entrantd into the Top 100 than any other country. After the United States, Britain had more universities in the Top 100 than any other naion.
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Cambridge University. British universities outperform the rest of Europe. Continental Europeans should follow the British example on how to create excellent universities

PARIS, France (AP) -- German universities are trying to charge tuition. Paris schools are considering selection instead of open admission. Dutch colleges are pushing students to finish faster. Greece wants to lift a ban on private universities.

Change is rattling Europe's temples of learning.

Resistance remains fierce, driven by fears of the "Americanization" -- or commercialization -- of higher education.

But economic realities are overpowering those who maintain that universities should impart universal knowledge, not pave the way to a job. Too many European graduates are getting welfare checks instead of paychecks.

Europe's universities don't provide the skills and research needed to help the continent prosper and compete with rapidly growing economies in Asia and elsewhere, according to international rankings, school presidents, students and European Union officials.

Germany, France and Italy spend just 1.1 percent of gross domestic product on higher education, nearly all of that from state funds, says the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The U.S. spends 2.6 percent -- with private endowments funding the majority.

Still, that may not be enough. The OECD says China and India are adapting faster than the United States and the EU and are producing more high-skilled workers for 21st century needs.

Lecture halls at Europe's oldest university, the University of Bologna in Italy, are crumbling. French university libraries are outdated, poorly accessible and increasingly ignored.

Students receive little guidance. European college dropout rates average 40 percent. One survey found that more than a third of adults in the EU cannot perform basic computer tasks such as using a mouse to access an Internet site or working with a word-processing program.

"Many go to university because they think it's prestigious. But most of us know that we may still be working at the sandwich shop" after graduation, Fatima Bouziane, a sociology student at the University of Saint-Denis, said as she headed to a part-time cafe job in a bleak neighborhood north of Paris.

The head of France's main employers union, Laurence Parisot, says French universities are "the shame of our nation."

Their dire state is becoming a campaign issue in next spring's election. Presidential hopeful Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a Socialist, says the university system should be "dynamited." On the right, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy is calling for a 50 percent increase in funding for higher education over five years.

"It's a miracle that France is still the world's fifth largest (economic) power, closely tailed by China, considering its weak investment in higher education. Can this continue?" the president of the Sorbonne, Jean-Robert Pitte, wrote in a book this year called "Youth -- They're Lying to You!"

The American sweep of this year's science and economics Nobel prizes is likely to sharpen the debate.
Most European universities are public, and most charge no tuition, just small fees. Parisian universities, for example, charge $125 to $250 a year, and that is covered for low-income students with one-time student stipends.

Critics contend the system leaves education short of funds.

But opponents of market-oriented reforms being proposed across Europe worry that students will become commodities for profit-centered universities and fear that disciplines with limited market value will die out.

French researchers staged nationwide protests against perceived interference in educational affairs by businesses interests and the government. In Greece, government proposals for creation of private universities provoked student protests. In Germany, protesters blocked highways over several German state governments' plans to introduce university tuition fees.
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Britain offers a possible look at the future.

All Souls College, Oxford University. Europe should look to British universities as an example

Its state universities started introducing tuition in the late 1990s, to great protest. Today, schools can charge up to $5,500 a year, collected as a student loan that has to be paid back when graduates find steady work.

Only two European universities made it in the top 20 of the Academic Ranking of World Universities, a list compiled by researchers at Shanghai Jiao Tong University and based largely on the number of Nobel and Fields prizes by staff and alumni and publications in leading journals.

Both European institutions were in Britain -- Oxford and Cambridge. One was in Japan -- Tokyo University -- and all the rest in the top 20 were in the United States, led by Harvard, Stanford, the University of California at Berkeley and MIT.

British universities are also increasingly selective, and they are actively recruiting international students, who pay higher tuition.

Jill Lovecy, a professor of European studies at the University of Manchester, said Britain made a political decision that colleges would not be able to sustain themselves and stay internationally competitive without changing their ways.

Another reason why British universities remain competitive is English. Many EU students -- and increasing numbers from Asia -- choose Britain largely because it is home to a language that is increasingly the lingua franca of the globalized world.
Europe's "Old College Try"

In the Netherlands, universities are experimenting with charging tuition but then giving the money back when students graduate. The idea is to discourage young people from dragging out their studies and to reduce the number of dropouts.

Dutch schools also are trying to match the number of students in any given field to the number of jobs available. And they're toying with selection -- an idea long-resisted in European academia. Some Paris schools, too, want to become more selective.

Finland has no plans to put a stop to the free ride for its own young people, but plans to start charging foreign students much more than the nominal fee they currently pay.

Tuition-less universities have a famous advocate in computer revolutionary Linus Torvalds. He took advantage of Finland's free higher education and the lack of pressure to finish in four years to take the time to create his own operating system in the 1990s. The Linux system -- also available free of charge -- has become an enormously influential player in the computing world.
Pan-European solutions are being proposed, too.

The EU administrative body is pushing the bloc's 25 member nations to boost funding for higher education and to provide grants and loans to all EU students at their colleges -- no matter their nationality. It also wants states to recognize degrees obtained elsewhere in the EU and to send more students abroad.
Andreas Schleicher, head of the OECD education directorate, said change is unavoidable for Europe's academics.

"The world is indifferent to tradition and past reputations, unforgiving of frailty and ignorant of custom or practice," he said. "Success will go to those individuals and countries which are swift to adapt, slow to complain, and open to change."

www.cnn.com (external - login to view) . . .

Countries with the most Nobel prize Winners

1 United States ...270
2 Britain ...101
3 Germany... 76
4 France... 49
5 Sweden ...30
6 Switzerland... 22
7 Netherlands... 15
8 Russia ...14
8 Italy ...14
10 Denmark... 13
11 Japan ...12
12 Austria... 11
13 Canada... 10
14 Spain... 6
14 Australia ...6
16 Ireland... 5
16 Israel ...5
16 Poland ...5
16 South Africa... 5
16 Argentina... 5
21 India... 4


Britain has ten times more Nobel Prize winners than Canada despite having just twice the population.
Last edited by Blackleaf; Nov 21st, 2006 at 02:33 PM..