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Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Volume 10, Issue 16; April 27, 2011

The Edge

Former Canadian Minister of Immigration fronts for Indian immigration agents.

The Playing Field

Dubai looks to its students.

Abroad Perspectives

Study Struggles Abroad … Now a good thing?

Over The Counter

Nigerian crackdown leaves thousands of students in despair.

1) “THE EDGE” – Is a former Canadian Minister of Immigration working with Indian immigration agents?

A former Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is fronting for an immigration agency in Punjab. Does that strike you as fair game?

The former Canadian Alliance, Reform, and Conservative party elected representative from southern Alberta (Medicine Hat), Mr. Monte Solberg’s presence in Punjab recently, was organized by the biggest immigration agency and resettlement company in the world for Canada. It was big news with photos and articles splashed across Indian newspapers and TV.

Solberg’s media blitzed skewed considerably to the attractions of Canada as a study destination. But is this the type of help the Canadian student recruitment arena can do without?

Canadian media is increasingly covering how corrupt is the field of immigration consulting in north India, and in particular the state of Punjab; this has for a terribly long time been well known to Canadian immigration officials. For a former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to sidle up to an immigration consultancy, is at best questionable and at worst, rather unseemly.

Moreover, for so many years, Canadian universities and colleges worked closely with the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration to create legal space for students to come with paramount study objectives while maintaining notions of permanent residency (“double intent”). It is precisely immigration agencies which nourish the blurring – and often abuse – by disingenuously steering those looking strictly to become permanent residents, to the study permit stream.

From the media coverage though, you can see why Solberg’s influence is such a winner for immigration consultants. “I talked to the former minister to know about the procedure,” Harminder Singh told the Ludhiana Tribune. “I will meet the consultants in the Chandigarh office to submit a fresh application.”

The delicious irony in all this is that Mr. Solberg and his wife Deb are constant and committed commentators for a conservative agenda. As the Globe and Mail penned, “the couple is seemingly ubiquitous these days, emerging as a force of punditry on the right in this country.” Conservative politics and immigration usually make very strange bedfellows. But, as one senior immigration officer in New Delhi once told me – “Mel, always follow the money trail.” The immigration business in Punjab is worth tens of millions of dollars and possibly hundreds of millions, if the gates open wider.

It’s Mr. Solberg’s right as a private citizen to join hands with Indian immigration agents. But should a former Federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration be doing it?

(“The Edge” by Mel Broitman, Director of the Canadian University Application Centre. Mel’s back in India from May 5-10, and again May 28-June 8)

MORE LINKS TO FOLLOW:

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2011/20110410/ldh.htm

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-04-10/ludhiana/29403067_1_immigration-policy-monte-solberg-citizenship

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/deb-and-monte-solberg-take-up-the-tory-fight/article1507844/

2) THE PLAYING FIELD – Dubai looks to its students.

Striving to identify new ways to improve university education in Dubai, the nation’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) has released an online survey targeting university students in the country. Split into three sections – quality of education, choice of institution, and demographics – the survey is designed to better understand overall student satisfaction. Students taking part in the study will have until May 5th to complete almost 40 different questions.

According to KHDA, the survey results will be used by themselves and the Government of Dubai, in order to identify new ways of improving education at post-secondary institutions.

“This is a unique opportunity for us to make contact with students and hear their voice,” explains KHDA Executive Director for Higher Education, Dr Warren Fox. “Their answers will have an impact on our decision-making, as we shall be able to assess better what our students need.”

The results will also be released to the participant universities later this year, though individual institutions will not be named. Almost 20 different universities and foreign branches – all based in Dubai but representing various nations around the world (including the US, UK, Australia, India, Iran, and Pakistan) – are taking part.

Source: “KHDA seeks students’ opinion on universities”. Emirates 24/7, April 18, 2011. http://www.emirates247.com/news/emirates/khda-seeks-students-opinion-on-universities-2011-04-18-1.382328

3) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – Study Struggles Abroad … Now a good thing?

The year 2011 is just four months old, and it’s already marked itself as a year of extreme upheaval, and for university study-abroad programs, also a year of tough decisions.

America’s Northeastern University is one example. Going back 12 months, the university has had to suspend programs and evacuate students from each of its following study destinations: Thailand (due to anti-government violence), New Zealand (twice, for earthquakes in both September and February), Egypt (revolution), and Japan (earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis). The university had also planned to team up with an institution in Tunisia, but had to put those plans on hold due to fresh unrest.

Universities appreciate that in order to function successfully abroad there are certain risks and uncertainties that need to be accepted. These risks, of course, also apply to parents and students – though for some students, it seems this is not such an issue.

Peggy Blumenthal, a senior counsellor at the Institute of International Education, gives the example of post 9/11, when she says enrolment in study abroad to Islamic nations was expected to drop. Instead, from 2002 to 2006 it rose a whopping 127% with students yearning for a role in rebuilding, and first-hand knowledge of the politics that drive dissent and reform. It seems ‘hot spot’ destinations may have become more of an attraction than a deterrent. But with many travel insurance policies basing their coverage off their own country’s official travel warnings, when disaster strikes, universities and students have little choice but to suddenly evacuate any region deemed unsafe for travel.

With such keen students, how do institutions decide whether (and when) to leave? According to George Washington University’s vice president for international programs, Donna Scarboro, it’s a matter of evaluating the entire situation – including weighing both the pros and dangers involved with staying.

“Sometimes it’s a matter of imminent danger,” she says. “Sometimes it’s evaluating transportation and resources. If the circumstances make it difficult for the students to study and learn, then the purpose is lost.”

In Egypt, this was the case. But despite the university finally deciding to activate its evacuation insurance plan, applications to study in Egypt next fall are already pouring in. Such destinations offer “very powerful learning that students want to be a part of,” Scarboro explains, and this is what schools want to provide.

Source: “Study Abroad in Hot Spots”. NYTimes.com, April 15, 2011.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/education/edlife/edl-17abroad-t.html?_r=2

4) OVER THE COUNTER – Nigerian crackdown leaves thousands of students in despair.

According to local reports, officials from Nigeria’s National Universities Commission (NUC) caused a series of dramatic and emotional scenes on a number of Lagos campuses earlier this month, after they stormed suspected illegal study centres and shut them down on the spot.

The institutions, many of which claimed to be satellite campuses of other legitimate universities (located either in other Nigerian states or nearby West African nations) were closed after proprietors failed to produce the necessary certificates to prove their validity to the NUC.

Leading the group of NUC officials was Professor Ebenezer Adebowale, who is quoted as having told the students at one of the illegal institutions, “Some people are making money out of you… Any certificate that you are issued here will not [be] worth it, will not be accepted.” Devastated at the reality of losing large tuition sums and years of study without any form of degree or transferrable credits, some of the students are said to have broken down in tears at the NUC’s announcements.

As for the so-called universities’ staff members – while many lecturers claimed innocence from any knowledge of illegal operations, others were reported as having literally run away from the NUC officials, leaving classrooms full of highly upset students behind. A number of others were declared by the NUC to be unqualified for their current teaching posts, as a result of lacking the required degrees to oversee the high-level courses they were currently instructing.

Dani Zaretsky, co-founder of the Canadian University Application Centre, is well aware of Nigeria’s reputation as a hotbed for con artists – particularly when it comes to the issue of higher education. Having travelled to a dozen Nigerian cities, he has himself seen many cases of education-based cons over the years.

“There are not only con-artists looking to exploit genuine students for money,” Zaretsky explains, “but also a great many individuals purporting to be students, looking to con admissions and gain study permits [to other countries].” Although such cases can cause major problems, from a recruitment standpoint, Zaretsky says they needn’t stand in the way.

“Extensive local knowledge and careful scrutiny on the ground [can still] enable institutions to separate deserving individuals from others. In fact, for all the challenges, the civil society progress over the past 10 years of my work there has made Nigeria an exciting country in which to recruit.”

Source: “Tears flow, as NUC closes illegal varsity study centres in Lagos”. The Sun News On-line, April 12, 2011. http://www.sunnewsonline.com/webpages/features/education/2011/apr/12/education-12-4-2011-002.htm

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