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Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Volume 10, Issue 17; May 4, 2011

The Playing Field

Ideas for a changed future – ‘Going Global’ outcomes.

Abroad Perspectives

In a higher education battle… Greece versus the E.U.

Over The Counter

In the UK, new rules find a new rule-breaker

Globe Tipping

Becoming a Minimalist Traveller

1) THE PLAYING FIELD – Ideas for a changed future – ‘Going Global’ outcomes.

For those who missed attending this year’s Going Global conference, the 5th annual British Council event held this past March in Hong Kong, there were a number of key plans and initiatives brought up concerning the internationalization of higher education during the weekend’s discussions.

The truly international event, located for the first time outside of the UK, saw over 1,000 delegates from 68 different countries, and was themed, fittingly, “World Education: The new powerhouse”. As host to the conference, Hong Kong took the opportunity to show off its own commitments to continue making education its biggest spending priority – including announcing a government promise to spend HK$54 billion (approx US$7 billion) on education in April alone. That’s almost a quarter of the city’s total recurrent expenditure. Though their plans did not end there – other proposed education reforms also include moving from three to four-year undergraduate degrees. And with 20% of its students already non-local, the reasons behind the nation’s new commitments are obvious.

Besides the growing commitment and role of Hong Kong – as well as Asia as a whole – when it comes to attracting and supporting international higher education, other ideas exchanged at the conference were more universal in reach. Many were ideas which went beyond the (somewhat criticized) importance of climbing “international rankings” as ‘the’ means to success.

These ideas included thoughts on addressing the role of English as the global lingua franca of higher education, the effective utilization of university alumni networks for fundraising purposes, and the techniques behind building effective industry relationships. On this last topic, for example, Glasgow Metropolitan College’s Sandra Gunn addressed participants of the session, “Building international partnerships with real impact for industry – insights from the creative industries”. After offering the advice, “Don’t marry the first girl you dance with … you need to build trust before embarking on the adventure of joint-collaboration,” Gunn shared lessons from two international projects carried out by her own college, including a highly successful student-industry venture with India’s South Indian Jewellery Federation.

Also highlighted at the conference was a preview of the British Council’s new Education Market Intelligence (EMI) initiative, aimed at offering universities and policy makers a more unbiased and accurate view of the higher education landscape. Covering such areas as student mobility, country profiles, and student insights, EMI has involved 80 different institutions so far, and aims to branch out further in future. The initiative’s first report will be made public via online portal later this month.

Source: “Covering all aspects of higher learning”. The Star Online, April 24, 2011.

2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – In a higher education battle… Greece versus the E.U.

Greece is facing the prospect of serious legal action by the European Union, unless it meets Brussels’ demands to lift a series of restrictions currently hindering private colleges from competing with its own state-run universities.

Most of these restrictions were introduced back in 2008, by the then-conservative Greek government, in the hopes of regulating the surge of colleges that had for years been operating like commercial enterprises, obtaining licenses from the development ministry. These new regulations included such conditions as all private colleges having to provide a $715,000 bank guarantee in order to cover the refund of all student tuition fees and staff wages in the event of a closure – an order, according to the European Commission, in direct violation of the E.U. laws on freedom to offer and receive services. Nevertheless, the following (current) government upheld the decision, and called on all colleges to fulfill the new conditions in order to renew their licenses.

Some colleges found slightly creative solutions to meet the conditions, while others felt they had no other choice than to shut down. These colleges, offering graduate and postgraduate courses on subjects from business management and law to tourism and hotel management, range from well-established educational centres to newer, smaller institutions. In the end, last autumn saw the approval of 30 of their licenses, while 10 others faced the much-feared official rejection. It is these rejections, and the criteria behind them, which the E.U. now considers as ‘undue intervention’ by the Greek state, according to the official warning letter issued by Brussels to Greece.

Behind the E.U. action, however, is the larger debate within Greece itself – between government, academic officials, and the colleges in question – about whether this private higher education sector (and the competition it brings) in fact helps or hinders the quality of higher education across the country. Opinions within Greece remain largely divided. But what does seem certain is that, if Greece does not work with the E.U. to satisfy these new demands, the nation may well be facing the European Court of Justice in the very near future.

Source: “E.U. Presses Greece on Private Colleges”. NYTimes, com, April 10, 2011.

3) OVER THE COUNTER – In the UK, new rules find a new rule-breaker.

Scotland’s Glasgow Caledonian University has become the first in the UK to have its license to support international students suspended – albeit temporarily – by the UK Borders Agency (UKBA).

The decision came after an agency inspection discovered that 150 Filipino nursing students from the university’s BSC Nursing (Professional Development) course had been working almost full-time. Although this course involves a large quantity of work-based learning, according to new UK laws – which came into force only a month ago – foreign students are only entitled to work for a maximum of 20 hours a week while studying. Instead, the UKBA inspection found that these students were working full-time in care homes, only attending formal studies for one or two days each month, instead of the required minimum of 15 hours per week.

The university has 28 days to demonstrate to the Home Office that it has addressed the concerns, or it may have its international student “trusted sponsor” license revoked completely. Although university officials feel the action taken against them is “disproportionate”, they say they are working fully with authorities to better understand the issues and implement any changes as necessary.

Currently, about 10% of the university’s 17,000 students come from overseas.

Sources: “Licence suspended at British university amid student visa concerns”. , April 25, 2011.

& “Glasgow Caledonian University has licence suspended”. BBC News, April 21, 2011.

4) GLOBE TIPPING – Becoming a Minimalist Traveller

It’s easy to stress out when travelling – especially when trying to keep straight bags and bags of heavy luggage, fistfuls of travel documents and important papers, and wallets literally crammed with different kinds of cards, currencies, and coins… But for those looking to de-stress the entire travel process, here are a few key tips, all based around one simple idea: Minimize.

1. Travel with less. The more you travel, the more you’ll realize you don’t actually need ten pairs of trousers or five pairs of shoes. Until then, try packing your suitcase and then removing half of the items you packed. Chances are, you’ll find that even these remaining items are more than what you’ll actually need.

2. Pick stuff up as you go. Unless you’re heading to trek across rural Africa, or off on an expedition to the North Pole, chances are that anything you’ll need, you’ll be able to find at a local store at your destination. So rather than packing extra toothpaste, every conceivable type of medicine, bandages, pockets full of spare batteries, etc, limit your packing to what you know you’ll use – rather than preparing for every type of disaster possible (which is not only heavy for your bags, but more mentally stressful on you as well!).

3. Digitize. Rather than carrying around folders full of paper (which can easily get crumpled or misplaced), keep your documents tidy (and save trees!) by saving versions on your laptop and in your email – and if you have a smartphone, keep a PDF version there as well for easy access.

4. Automate your travel. Try an easy app like TripIt (available either online or with your smartphone) to keep track of all your flights and itineraries, so you don’t have to constantly look up information and changes. You can also cut down on the paper collection (and save time) by making bookings online, using reliable sites like Momondo for flights, or Hostelbookers for guesthouses and hotels – this way you know you’ll get good prices, and all the booking details are immediately sent to your email address so you can’t lose them.

5. Pick one card - and put everything travel-related on it. By using only one credit card for travel, you can limit the number of different bank accounts and card bills you have to deal with. And once you set up your accounts for online access, it’s easy to check and manage your finances. An extra tip – if you choose Capital One, Chase, or Discover credit cards when overseas you can even avoid paying a foreign transaction fee!

And finally, 6. Unplug. The Internet can be a huge time-drainer – not to mention cause of stress, especially when out on the road. So in order to help with time management, set a specific time of the day and a time limit, and then stick to it. This way there will be more time for your other work, or travels in general.

Source: “Matt Kepnes: Becoming a Minimalist Traveler”. Huffington Post, April 7, 2011.


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