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Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Volume 10, Issue 25; June 29, 2011

The Playing Field

Filling seats in Sri Lanka, without Sri Lankans.

Abroad Perspectives

Attack in Bangladesh shocks Canadians. Sadly, story all too familiar in South Asia.

Over The Counter

Welsh university’s shame over discovered “bad partners”.

Globe Tipping

See the sites… without breaking the bank! Part II

1) THE PLAYING FIELD – Filling seats in Sri Lanka, without Sri Lankans.

Similar to what is increasingly happening in other countries around the world, there is a new dilemma in Sir Lanka – where the University Grants Commission (UGC) recently upped the quota for foreign student admissions at universities around the country. Angered by what this means for local students, the Inter University Students Federation (IUSF) is speaking out against the Higher Education Ministry’s decision – based, according to IUSF representatives, solely on its ‘greed for money’.

As IUSF Convener, Sanjeewa Bandara, explains, the quota of foreign student admissions for the nation’s universities was recently raised from only 0.5% to a full 5% – with at least 1,100 new foreign students now set to enter the local universities.

“This is a grave injustice done upon the local students,” Bandara says, adding that thousands of Sri Lankan students already lose chances at higher education spots due to the competitive A/L (Advanced Level) examinations. According to Bandara, it is just one more instance of the government’s priorities for education being off-skew.

Pointing out in particular the 2,000+ vacant undergraduate positions currently available at universities nationwide, he says such slots would be better filled by local students, than left open in the hopes of attracting more money.

“The government boasts of expanding opportunities for higher education through the establishment of private universities. If they are genuine about their claims, they should first take measures to fill in the vacant positions… [Instead], the government is deliberately ruining chances for local students to enter universities because of their greed for dollars they would be earning, following the admission of foreign students.”

Source: “Increasing foreign student quota hinders local students’ chances”. The Daily Mirror, June 22, 2011.

2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – Attack in Bangladesh shocks Canadians. Sadly, story all too familiar in South Asia.

Many Canadians were shocked and appalled with the front page news last week, that a graduate student at the University of British Columbia had her eyes gouged and nose bitten off, when she returned to her home in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh.

Ruman Monzur, who is now almost blind, alleges her husband was the perpetrator. While it’s not clear what transpired which led to the horrific assault, the attack was only unusual in that it received a lot of attention outside of Bangladesh and particularly in Canada.

If one opens the newspapers of any South Asian major city, stories of abuse, assault and harassment – particularly of women – are sadly, daily fare. Read The Times of India, The Daily Star (Bangladesh) or The Dawn (Pakistan), and they are all regularly filled with sickening reports.

A quick glance at the on-line editions on June 25th reveal:

“After the daylight murder of Mumbai crime journalist J Dey, allegedly after he refused to suppress a report on the sandalwood mafia, a gangster was arrested Friday for allegedly abducting and raping the niece of a reporter along with others to “teach him a lesson” for writing against his gang.” (

“A defeated Union Parishad (UP) member candidate was chopped to death by unknown criminals Friday night at Kamarkhand upazila of Sirajganj.” (

Who can forget the famous case of the young Pakistani woman Mukhtar Mai, who was gang raped and then showed remarkable courage to fight to bring the criminals to justice, only to have the Pakistani courts release the perpetrators and her own government try to silence her.

Change in South Asia will take time, and far too slow for its people who are victimized if expecting the transformation to happen internally. International education and attracting students to experience life in other nations is a critical catalyst for these heinous acts to dissipate in numbers.

3) OVER THE COUNTER – Welsh university’s shame over discovered “bad partners”.

The University of Wales has been advised by UK higher education watchdog, the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), to review its partnerships with colleges worldwide. Mentioned in particular were three of its partner institutions – Accademia Italian (Bangkok), Fazley International College (Malaysia), and Turning Point Business School (Singapore).

Responding to the allegations that its partner institutions may not be up to snuff, a University of Wales spokesman said the institution was making “many transitional and transformative measures” in order to “continue to safeguard standards and the student experience” at the university. Specifically, he said that a new international strategy is currently in the works.

What happened at Wales is far from an isolated instance. In an era where institutions around the world are competing to win allegiances to enhance globalism and revenues, there is commonly a shocking dearth of due diligence. While universities award degrees based on thoroughness of research and verification of fact, taking the easy way out is far too common and leads to embarrassing mistakes.

Some of the highlights from QAA’s public statement on the findings (available in full on its website) are as follows:

Accademia Italiana, Bangkok – Investigated after BBC Wales alleged the college was operating illegally, QAA found that the college was indeed not able to produce any formal approval: “[I]t has been confirmed that the university relied on assurances from Accademia Italiana in Bangkok that they had ‘verbal confirmation’ of the approval of the Thai authorities, but not ‘approval in writing’.”

Fazley International College, Malaysia – Investigated after BBC Wales reported that it was in fact being run by a pop star with two bogus degrees, it was found that the University made “no appraisal of the college’s accounts”, that “no financial advice was sought”, and that “no legal advice was sought on the capacity of the partner to contract.” And concerning the “pop star” – although the college’s Managing Director, “Dr” Fadzli Yaakob’s claims to a DBA degree from the European Business School, UK were indeed found to be false, QAA did not actually find any sign that he has “any direct influence on the standards of programmes of study validated by the university.”

& Turning Point Business School, Singapore – Investigated after a series of student complaints, it was found that there was an unannounced sale of the school by one set of owners due to debt problems, and that the second set of owners disappeared a year later, leaving the students unsupported. As QAA found that “the university apparently took no legal advice, either in the UK or in Singapore, as to the status of the owners”, and that university-assigned “moderators” in many cases failed to visit and/or properly assess the institution, it issued the following statement: “In the light of the disappearance of the first owners, and the long list of unfulfilled demands made by moderators and Validation Unit staff in March 2010, the university’s decision to accept the assertions of the new owners at face value… seems culpably credulous”.

Source: “University of Wales must review link-ups, advises QAA”. BBC News, June 22, 2011.

4) GLOBE TIPPING – See the sites… without breaking the bank! Part II

While some cities, like New York or London, have enough free activities to easily fill a tourist’s week, others seem chalk full of money-demanding sites and services, no matter which way you look (ie: paid bathrooms, anyone?). But for those looking for some unique (and uniquely affordable) sites, read on for some of the world’s best free attractions:

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
( Free markets can be found around the world – but few compare in historical significance or sheer size to Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. Opened in 1461, it’s one of the largest covered markets in the world, comprised of over 58 streets and more than 4,000 shops. Wet your tongue for some apple tea (a common offering from shopkeepers), and put your haggling skills to work!

Mosquée Hassan II, Casablanca
( Morocco’s largest mosque, and the fifth largest mosque in the world, boasts a glass floor, the world’s tallest minaret and a retractable roof. Non-Muslims may only enter the mosque on guided tours, but everyone is free to wander the grounds.

Central-Mid-Levels Escalator and Walkway System, Hong Kong
( The largest of its kind, this 800-metre-long, outdoor, covered escalator opened back in 1993, to carry people up 135 metres from the Central Business District to the Mid-Levels residential neighbourhood.

Parc Güell, Barcelona.
( Gaudí’s outdoor masterpiece, where the artificial and natural meet to make an awe-inspiring sight.

Gateway of India, Mumbai
( Stand under the monumental arch that faces Mumbai Harbour, and take in the chaos happening all around you. A fitting start to any Indian adventure.

Bahá’í House of Worship (aka Lotus Temple), Delhi
( Completed in 1986, the Lotus Temple serves as the Mother Temple for the Indian subcontinent, and is famous for its award-winning flowerlike design.

And for some other free, non-location-specific ideas, consider some of the following:

- Bridge walks – including the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia, Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges in New York, and the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.

- Free ferry rides – the Buiksloterweg ferry (Amsterdam), Staten Island (New York), Algiers Ferry (New Orleans) and the not-quite-free, but very inexpensive traghetto, aka ‘the poor man’s gondola’, for quick trips across the Grand Canal in Venice (look for the green signs).

- Unnatural attractions – the nightly Hong Kong Symphony of Light show, the hourly dancing fountains at the Bellagio, Las Vegas, etc.

- Public libraries – for example, the Humanities & Social Sciences Library section of the New York Public Library.

Source: “What are the world’s best free attractions? Lonely Planet, June 2, 2011.


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