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Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Volume 10, Issue 13; April 6, 2011

The Playing Field

Vietnamese students “dinged” with illegal hikes to dong and dollar tuition fees.

Abroad Perspectives

Turkmens can now leave, since they are needed to return.

Over The Counter

Beyond Tri-Valley – more scams across the US.

Globe Tipping

Travel Video Basics: Part I

1) THE PLAYING FIELD – Vietnamese students “dinged” with illegal hikes to dong and dollar tuition fees.

Imagine your tuition fees going up by tens of millions… That’s the story in Vietnam – and while its “dong” and not dollars which are being hiked, it’s still a very steep difference for students.

Following a sharp, 9.3% value decline of the Vietnamese dong currency this February, many non-state schools have made considerable raises to their tuition fees for the 2011 academic year. As many of these schools run programs with foreign partners, it is understandable why they would want to charge their tuition fees in dollars. But the problem with this as many Vietnamese students are now finding out, is that these fees are then at risk of huge fluctuations, depending on the dong’s strength in the world market.

All Vietnamese schools – both private and public – are officially barred from charging or collecting tuition fees in any currency other than dong. According to Vietnamese media reports, this regulation has never been respected by the country’s non-state universities – and some of these schools even raise their tuition fees after advertising ‘set’ annual tuition rates, which is another illegal action.

One such school is the International Cooperation Training Faculty, under the Hanoi Industry University – where, in January 2010, students were asked to pay an additional $50 in tuition fees (equalling a 10.6% increase above the advertised entrance fees), due to “price slippage”. Even though this clearly violated government relations, students had no choice but to pay – or give up their studies. The school, meanwhile, faced no official consequences.

Although many universities (particularly those in the south of the country) plan to further increase their tuition rates next year, only a few believe this would deter students. Instead, these institutions – including the Hai Phong People Founded University and the Huu Nghi Technology and Management University – are offering local students large scholarships and/or actual tuition drops, in order to ensure that ‘poorer yet excellent students’ still have access to their programs.

Source: “Non-state universities raise tuition fees, dealing a blow on students”. VietNamNet, March 23, 2011.–dealing-a-blow-on-students.html

2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – Turkmens can now leave, since they are needed to return.

For a number of years, the energy-rich central Asian nation of Turkmenistan has actively sought to prevent its citizens from studying abroad. No longer. According to recent reports by state television, Turkmenistan president Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov announced that government will now recognize and employ graduates of foreign universities.

Until now, international graduates have been barred from getting state jobs. But with Berdymukhamedov’s declaration that their expertise is needed for the implementation of ongoing large-scale reforms within the country, it seems their value is finally being recognized.

Critics have long attacked education policies in the nation, many of which date back to the rule of eccentric former president, Saparmurat Niyazov, who died suddenly in late 2006. Under Niyazov, only degrees obtained at select foreign state universities were officially recognized, and a government quota allowed only 200 students per year to study in universities which had bilateral agreements with Turkmenistan. And although Berdymukhamedov has introduced limited educational reforms since taking power, Turkmens are still discouraged from studying abroad. The most notable example taking place in 2009, when hundreds of Turkmen students were barred from leaving the country to take up courses in nearby Kyrgyzstan’s American University of Central Asia, and the American University in Bulgaria.

Rights activists claim that the government’s strict rules on education are part of a broader attempt to maintain a tight ideological hold over the population.

Source: “Turkmenistan set to allow foreign-educated graduates to work in state bodies”. The Canadian Press, March 19, 2011.

3) OVER THE COUNTER – Beyond Tri-Valley – more scams across the US.

After the disastrous Tri-Valley University (TVU) scam this January – which led to numerous Indian students being trapped in the US without programs after their university was brought up on immigration fraud charges – a new report alleges that TVU isn’t the only American university duping Indian students (as “Overseas, Overwhelmed” published on February 9th, the TVU wasn’t alone in the scam, plenty of students and agents were complicit).

According to a new report, investigated and released by the Washington DC-based Chronicle of Higher Education, the University of Northern Virginia, the International Technological University (ITU) and Herguan University were all among those found to be carrying out TVU-like business models. Unlike TVU, however, they are not known to be facing any federal action.

“These universities are names that kept cropping up in our investigation, and so caught our attention,” explains Karin Fischer, one of the journal’s reporters. “The investigation raises questions about how strictly the federal government is being able to ensure the quality of institutions it allows to admit foreign students.”

Citing a combination of “lax” regulations and “chinks in the students visa system”, the report explains how such loopholes currently allow dubious, non-accredited universities to gain permission from authorities to admit foreign students – even falsely claiming that their credits are recognised by other, officially accredited universities.

Source: “US journal says more universities duping Indians”. Hindustan Times, March 24, 2011.

4) GLOBE TIPPING – Travel Video Basics: Part 1

Whether you’re shooting for work purposes, for family and friends back home, or just to preserve memories for yourself, creating a quality video takes more than just hitting the little red button. Here are a few basic tips to help take your travel videos to the next level.

Watch the light. Besides remembering the golden rule of capturing images – that the light is best in the early morning and late afternoon – there are a number of things to keep in mind lighting-wise, no matter what time of day you’re filming. For example, in situations where lighting is low (including indoor locations or evening events), or places where you can’t use any flash or mounted lighting (such as museums, where soft lighting helps protect artefacts), using a tripod or other camera-stabilizer and avoiding any ‘walking shots’ will minimize the grainy effect and help make the most of the light available.

If shooting outdoors during the day, however, you may face another lighting issue – the sun. The problem with sunlight is that it can sometimes be harsh, resulting in dark shadows over faces or objects. So if you’re not lucky enough to find a dry, yet overcast day (the best kind for minimizing shadows), then consider moving any subjects under a shady area, such as a tree – and try to stand so that the sunlight is coming from behind you, over your shoulder, rather than from behind your subject, which causes silhouettes.

Check your colours. If you want you or your subject to stand out in videos, try to dress appropriately – in light and bright colours, which not only help to create contrast and highlight subjects against backdrops, but are also the most flattering on camera.

Besides looking for objects of bright colours to focus on (such as a red-robed dancer in a street performance, or a yellow bird that catches one’s eye upon a white fence – things that stick out against more neutral backgrounds, such as green woods, blue skies, or gray city streets), there’s also a setting that can help captures more ‘true to life’ colours. Although many basic camcorders do it automatically, it’s worth looking into your settings to see if you have the option to set your own ‘White Balance’. By ensuring that the whites are captured as truly white (the function of this mode), you’ll also ensure scenes don’t have blue or yellow tints – a common problem in video. Just make sure that if you decide to use manual white balance settings, that you re-balance the setting every time you change lighting locations (ie: moving from inside a room to outside the building).

….For more travel video tips, check out next week’s edition of Globe Tipping!

Source: “4 Tips for Shooting Better Travel Videos”. Traveller’s Notebook, March 5, 2008.


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