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Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Volume 10, Issue 10; March 16, 2011

The Playing Field

UK universities to close ? Warnings from the National Audit Office.

Abroad Perspectives

Germany rated Number One for foreign students.

Over The Counter

London calling. Pakistan answers. Toronto targeted.

Globe Tipping

Red-Eye flights. Survival tips.

1) THE PLAYING FIELD – UK universities to close? Warnings from the National Audit Office.
In England, upcoming cuts and changes to funding could lead to more universities being put at risk of bankruptcy, warns the National Audit Office (NAO).

Although the financial watchdog says the sector has seen “strong growth in its income” in recent years, it warns that the tides could change. In a recent report, the NAO says these new cuts and changes will only benefit select universities – while many others will consequently have less money.

“While there are a number of financially strong institutions,” the report reads, “there is wide variation in institutions’ financial performance.”

“The transition and the new environment itself will increase the risk within the sector, potentially raising the number of institutions at high risk of failing.”

Although the government has said it will protect funding for science-based courses and research, in general, teaching grants to universities are being cut and universities will be expected to fund their courses from higher tuition fees. Resulting, consequently, in immediate tuition raises for 2012 – from just over £3,000 a year, to a maximum of £9,000.

And with NAO’s discovery that about one in 10 UK institutions had already been in the red for at least two of the past three years, it says it’s likely that these numbers will increase. And if it does, more potentially negative outcomes may follow – higher prices, more mergers, and even total shut-downs.

According to the NAO report, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) should give the public more information about universities judged to be at risk. As, for the time being, the funding council waits at least three years before it names such institutions – and then only does so if it considers there to be no harm caused to current students or the institution.

“As a greater proportion of funding begins to follow the student,” the report reads, “the funding council should consider whether the current arrangements strike the right balance between protecting institutions and their students, on the one hand, and enabling prospective students to take more informed decisions on where to study, on the other.”

Source: “Universities: NAO warns cuts pose bankruptcy risk”. BBC News, March 4, 2011.

2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – Germany rated Number One for foreign students.

In an international league table released by the British Council, Germany has been named the most supportive country for overseas students.

The survey, called the Global Gauge, came ahead of a major British Council conference on university globalisation, held in Hong Kong this week. Ranking university systems on such aspects as openness, degree quality, degree recognition, support for overseas students, and how much students were encouraged to spend time abroad, the top eleven countries were named, in order, as follows: Germany, Australia, UK, China, Malaysia, US, Japan, Russia, Nigeria, Brazil, and India.

So how did Germany rank first ?

In an online article by the BBC, one of the top attractions for international students is Germany’s increasing availability of courses taught entirely in English – and, even more alluring, the fact that overseas students do not pay any more in tuition fees than home students do. In fact, at universities in many parts of Germany, no tuition fees are charged at all, meaning the same thing for both German and foreign scholars – free education.

Student Sophie Perl, from the U.S., explains how this factor drew her to study in Berlin.

“I think the biggest factor is financial,” she says. “In the US a graduate programme would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, in Germany it doesn’t cost anything. And it doesn’t cost more for foreign students than it does for German students.”

For her university – which gains no financial incentive from the policy, and must provide extra support for such overseas students – the benefits are still strong.

“It’s been deliberate policy,” says Herbert Grieshop, managing director of the Freie Universitat Berlin’s Centre for International Co-operation. “We wanted to internationalise. We thought that it helps our students, our research.”

Germany is also home to one of the world’s most mobile student populations, with more students studying abroad than any other European country. Its goal is for half its students to spend at least one term abroad.

Source: “Germany top for foreign students”. BBC News, March 9, 2011.

3) OVER THE COUNTER – London calling. Pakistan answers. Toronto targeted.

The London School of Business and Finance (LSBF) opened its first North American campus in Toronto last week, offering certification in the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).

Mel Broitman reports this week from Pakistan, where LSBF if being promoted by agents everywhere in the country. “It caters to those who just want to be in Toronto,” says Broitman who wonders about the academic integrity and intent of the program.

The LSBF website is clear on how far it will dip to sell seats. “It is recommended that students whose first language is not English should possess a minimum of 4.5 IELTS to study ACCA with success.” (

“4.5 IELTS for success ? You gotta be kidding,” says Broitman. The fine print about LSBF’s ACCA program can barely be read on-line. It’s very easy to miss the disclaimer which state the program is not accredited in Ontario. Nor is there any reference to the extreme unlikelihood of any of their courses being eligible for transfer credit to Canadian universities.

Broitman says most education and immigration agents in Pakistan have fallen in love LSBF’s Toronto option and are promoting it widely. With the British and Australians currently shutting doors on the huge market of mediocre students looking to convert study abroad into working abroad, they see LSBF as their hottest new product in Pakistan, and a pathway to Canada. These types of office building based private programs taking on as many international students as possible (whether they show up to classes or not), could soon be a ubiquitous feature in Toronto, much as they have been where LSBF came from, London, England.

4) GLOBE TIPPING – Red-Eye flights. Survival tips.

Red-eye flights can be a great ‘tool to save’ – both time and money. But for those of us not lucky enough to be seated in business or first class, the downsides of leaving late, arriving early, and lacking that proper sleep in between can wipe a traveler out – particularly for those crossing several time zones on their way.

However, there are some tactics to help ease the strain…

1. Order a special meal so you’re served first. Although the ideal scenario is to eat in the airport before even getting on the plane (to maximize the amount of time you have to rest)… if you don’t have the time to do this, then ordering a special meal – such as vegetarian, low salt, or Halal – can mean you’re served ahead of all the other economy passengers. Additionally, these meals are often lighter than the regular fare, helping you to avoid the bloated ‘travel stomach’. Just one note, though – make sure you request this option when booking online, otherwise it may not be available.

2. Pick the best “sleeping seat” for you. Some people sleep better in a window seat, with a pillow or sweater cushioning their head against the side of the plane. Others swear by the aisle, so they can easily get up and walk around. But whatever your preference, check out this guide to getting extra legroom to make the most of your sleep –

3. Pre-hydrate so you don’t dehydrate. Common flight advice is to drink plenty of water onboard. But for a red-eye, this is generally a poor idea – more likely to result in multiple trips to the washroom in the middle of the night. Not to mention the annoyance of waking up to drink every hour! So to avoid this – keep yourself well hydrated with non-caffeinated drinks for at least eight hours leading up to your flight. Also, if you’re someone who struggles with the ‘red-eye wake up’ in the early am, it might be worth grabbing an unopened can of something caffeinated from the flight cart – that way you can drink it to give yourself a jolt just before landing.

4. Put something in your ears, and over your eyes. There’s nothing like a sudden bright light from the lavatory, a screaming child, or noisy cougher to keep you wide awake. Which is precisely why earplugs, headphones (especially noise-cancelling ones), and eye masks (cotton being preferable to polyester) often prove to be very wise investments. Alternatively, pop on a pair of sunglasses, which will block out enough light, but not completely blind you.

5. Consider sleeping pills. It may seem an obvious way to ensure maximum snooze-time, but just make sure you test any out before your flight. Melatonin might be a good one to try – known for its great ability to give you just a few hours of sleep without leaving you groggy after you wake up.

Source: “How to survive a red-eye flight in economy”. Australian Business Traveller, February 21, 2011.


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