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Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Volume 10, Issue 22; June 8, 2011

The Playing Field

Michigan wants you, to stay!

Abroad Perspectives

Taiwan working hard to woo students.

Over The Counter

Sacred and sullied in India.

Globe Tipping

Watching your body language: Part One

1) THE PLAYING FIELD – Michigan wants you, to stay !

Almost a half million dollars is going into Michigan’s effort to keep top global talent in the state’s schools and society. A new three-year, $450,000 grant has been awarded to the University Research Corridor (URC) – a collaborative group, made up by the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University – towards launching the Global Detroit International Student Retention Program.

Designed to retain and support international talent in the region, this program is based on recommendations outlined in a May 2010 ‘Global Detroit’ study, funded by the New Economy Initiative. Its objectives include increased marketing of the region to both future and current international students, recruiting of employers to hire international students, navigating immigration barriers, and developing ongoing relationships with participating universities, international students, and related international organizations.

According to URC Executive Director, Jeff Mason, this new program is directly in line with URC’s overall mission – to transform, strengthen and diversify the state’s economy.

“Michigan’s reinvention requires us to retain the best talent we can,” Mason says. “Regardless of whether those students hail from Michigan or come here to study in our great universities, by attracting and retaining the best and brightest, we can accelerate the pace of change to a high-tech, highly skilled knowledge-based economy.”

According to the Global Detroit study, Michigan currently hosts more than 23,500 international students. This is the eighth largest international student population of any U.S. state, and the source of nearly $600 million annually for Michigan’s economy. Additionally, the study found that immigrants in general are responsible for filing nearly 50% of Michigan’s international patents, and are three times as likely to start a new business. These are all facts which have the New Economy Initiative’s Director, David Egner, convinced of the value of the new Student Retention Program.

“Not only can these students improve the overall education levels of the state’s workforce,” Egner says, “but, because Michigan’s international students overwhelmingly excel in critical STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), they can contribute to the growth of emerging sectors in Michigan’s new economy.”

Source: “URC to launch Global Detroit International Student Retention Program”. R&D Mag, June 2, 2011.

2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – Taiwan working hard to woo students.

On May 26th, the Taiwanese government approved a four-year, NT$5.7 billion (US$196 million) plan to boost its higher education competitiveness, in the hopes of attracting more international students.

“Taiwan aims to more than double its number of international students to 95,000 by 2014,” explains Ministry of Education (MOE) official, Tony Lin. “We expect foreign nationals to make up 7.48% of the country’s student population, a rate comparable with Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea.”

In addition to funding scholarships for outstanding foreign students, the newly approved money will also go towards building a more international-friendly study environment in Taiwan. Specifically, upping the number of degree programs being offered in English, building an international student support system, and extending offers of one to two year internships to talented overseas students hoping to work in Taiwan post-graduation.

“The MOE will also bolster its overseas promotion efforts and participate in international education fairs, particularly in Southeast Asia,” says Lin, adding that over 50%, or 4,500, of Taiwan’s international degree students are currently from this region.

Recently, there was a large Taiwanese presence at the Education World Wide fair in New Delhi, India from April 30th to May 1st. According to Anusuya Bose, recruitment officer for the Canadian University Application Centre in Delhi, Taiwan has a tough challenge to win over Indian students and parents.

“They had representation from different institutes and colleges and the Taiwan education minister also visited the fair and visited all the other stalls,” says Ms. Bose.

“I don’t think many students are interested in going to Taiwan,” she adds, in comparing Taiwan to Singapore as Southeast Asian destinations for Indian students. “The students need to do a preparatory course in Chinese, which was not very welcomed by the [Indian] parents or students. Singapore is an old destination for studying, where language is not a problem, as English is widely used. [It is known as] a significant finance, business and education hub. I don’t see it being replaced by Taiwan in the next few years.”

Sources: “Education ministry puts forth plan to attract more foreign students”. CNA English News, May 26, 2011.
& “Taiwan’s cabinet OKs higher education development plan”. Taiwan Today, May 26, 2011.

3) OVER THE COUNTER – Sacred and sullied in India.

In India, politicians, professors and patriotic pride – are all upset after Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh made derogatory public remarks about faculty at the country’s prestigious IIT and IIM institutes, specifically labeling them as being far from “world class”.

“There is hardly any worthwhile research from our IITs,” Ramesh told reporters in New Delhi late last month. “The faculty in the IIT is not world class. It is the students in IITs who are world class. So the IITs (Indian Institute of Technology) and IIMs (Indian Institute of Management) are excellent because of the quality of students not because of quality of research or faculty.”

An IIT graduate himself (IIT Bombay, class of 1975), Ramesh has held the post of Indian Minister of State for Environment and Forests since May 2009. IIT Bombay has even presented him with their Distinguished Alumnus Award in the past. All recognitions, which at least some of his colleagues feel make him qualified to state his opinion in the institutions.

“He (Jairam Ramesh) is himself an IITian. He might be having inside knowledge,” suggested Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal. “Even otherwise…do we have world-class institutions? As Education Minister, I am striving towards achieving world-class standards for our institutions, [but] this is a fact that our institutions don’t figure in the top 150 list.”

At the institutes themselves however, the response is quite different.

“A good artisan does not blame his tools,” snapped Professor Anil Gupta, faculty member at IIM Ahmedabad. “He has crossed the limits. It’s a challenge to teach students who are sharp and bright. Some of our best research institutions are government-run. He should not berate these institutions but rather look towards making them even more effective.”

Other professors at the Ahmedabad institution called the minister’s assessment “simplistic”, and declared that it showed “tremendous ignorance”. They did, however, agree that research was indeed lagging.

Sources: “IIT, IIM faculty not world class: Jairam Ramesh”. NDTV, May 24, 2011.

& “Jairam Ramesh draws flak for remarks on IIT, IIM faculty”. The Economic Times, May 25, 2011.
& “IIT, IIM faculty not world-class: Jairam Ramesh”. India Education Review, May 24, 2011.

4) GLOBE TIPPING – Watching your body language: Part One.

When visiting other countries, it can be extremely difficult knowing what body language is acceptable, which is not, and which is downright offensive. Although many locals are willing to graciously forgive a cultural mishap here and there, wouldn’t you rather know what to avoid? Read on for the first five of ten, on a list of ‘body language etiquette’.

1. In Asia, never touch another person with your foot, which is considered the ‘lowest’ part of the body. If you accidentally do this, apologize by touching your hand to the person’s arm and then touching your own head. Also be careful not to point at objects with your feet, or to prop them up on tables or chairs while sitting.

2. Also in Asia, avoid touching people’s heads or ruffling their hair. Opposite to the feet, the head is spiritually the ‘highest’ part of the body. Similarly, don’t sit on pillows, as they’re meant to be ‘headrests’, used only for this one body part.

3. Shaking hands was introduced to Fiji in the 19th century, and was quickly embraced as the established custom. Note that it is not uncommon for an affectionate handshake to last a long time – even throughout entire conversations!

4. In Nepal, it’s bad manners to step over someone’s outstretched legs. So apart from not doing this, also be sure to move your own legs when someone else wants to pass. Additionally, do not step over or sit on a monk’s cushions in or near a temple – even if currently unoccupied.

5. In Japanese baths, called onsen, always wash before entering the water – otherwise, you will ‘foul’ the water. Also, use a wash cloth to cover your private bits and pieces.

Source: “Travel etiquette 101: body language – travel tips and articles”. Lonely Planet, February 26, 2011.


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