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Wednesday, November 5th, 2003

Issue 3.31 November 5, 2003


Crime and International Students


Chinese Private Education Laws


Profiteering Asian Agents

LET’S GO CANADA – Crime and International Students

At the recent CBIE conference, Higher-Edge presented on the need for much better diligence in the processing of international students. Citing the post 9/11 U.S. example, we noted how public mood can be quick to pounce on connections between international students and crime (above all terrorism), whether real or imagined, eroding favourable governmental regulatory schemes.

The Saturday edition of The Globe and Mail was a healthy reminder of how readily such connections can be made, and even sensationalized. In the article “What they know,” long- time Globe writer Jan Wong explores possible theories regarding the disappearance of 9 year old Cecilia Zhang. Wong’s opening paragraph includes: “Quite possibly, they are Chinese visa students who knew other students living in Cecilia’s north Toronto home”. Wong also cites one source for the nebulous notion that these “one-child policy” children are doted on such that when money runs out they would not be interested in illegal low-paying jobs (and by implication that kidnapping a child is a more palatable money-earning alternative). Finally, Wong cites the rise in “Chinese-on- Chinese” abductions in New Zealand and Australia, claiming that many “of the perpetrators are Chinese visa students.”

It is a straw-man notion to think that incoming visitors, business people, students or immigrants can have the risk of serious crime screened out. All populations, whether incoming or extant, present such risk. But processing rigour must form the foundation for forestalling hyperbolic reactions, as we must recognise the impulse to blame foreigners en masse still has a powerful lightning rod capacity.

ABROAD PERSPECTIVE – Chinese Private Education Laws

While it might come as a surprise to some, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), first authorized private, that is, non- governmental, education institutions in 1982. Today, it is believed more than 1,300 such institutions exist from K-12 to degree-granting level. Effective this past September 1, 2003, the PRC government has now passed legislation liberalising the for-profit opportunities for private institutions. These actions come on the heels of a law passed earlier this year that opened up opportunities for foreign investors or investor institutions to hold stakes in China’s private education sector.

As our Grace Huang reports from China, assessing the calibre of the highly stratified public (governmental) high school and university system is a daunting enough proposition. “Not only must we enhance our diligence and study of private institutions, it is more important to monitor them over time as there is great elasticity of quality; some start off weak in terms of academic quality, and improve greatly after a few years. Indeed, there are some that are the joint venture products of, say, a state-run high school and a privately funded one, where the private one uses the same faculty and facilities but charges private (usually high) fees to students. This does not mean, however, that the academic profile of the students will have the same selectivity as the public-side one.”

Source: “New laws puts growing private sector on equal footing”, World Education News & Reviews, Vol. 16, iss. 5

OVER THE COUNTER – Profiteering Asian Agents

Does refusing to pay recruitment commission to education agents preclude serious exploitation of students? Agents strike deals with institutions solely for the credibility that comes with being the official representative of an overseas institution, which is an attraction for potential students. In Pakistan, Higher-Edge’s Rubeena Hoodboy notes that agents conduct scams by impressing students with full-page advertisements and professional looking offices. Requesting large upfront payments and making grand promises (such as a guaranteed place in an institution), these agencies often disappear within a few months.

In China, fees paid by students to agents, can often dwarf anything offered to agents by institutions; hence institutional payments are welcomed, but not required. One diplomat in Beijing shared with Higher-Edge a complaint from an instructor for a North American institution’s ESL program. An agent in Dalian, guaranteeing a visa, charged $30,000 US for the four- month intensive program. While the majority of the students did not receive their visas, the agent (responsible for completing visa applications) still kept his fee. These approaches in Pakistan and China exemplify circumstances where agents do not rely on commission.

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