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Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Volume 10, Issue 38; November 2, 2011

The Playing Field

Running out of room in the Netherlands.

Abroad Perspectives

A little publicity, a lot of reaction.

Over The Counter

University of Wales abolished after mounting scandals.

Globe Tipping

What to do when luggage gets lost.

1) THE PLAYING FIELD – Running out of room in the Netherlands.

With the number of foreign students in Dutch higher education institutions increasing by 54% in the last year alone, both left-wing and right-wing political parties are calling for stricter quotas and restrictions through the government lottery.

The Netherlands does not limit the number of students which can be admitted to specialized study courses. Instead, its admittance is based on a weighted lottery system – meaning the higher a student’s secondary school grades are, the more likely their chances are to earn a place, with those in the highest category (Category A) automatically given direct admission. Foreign students are placed in Category C, which puts them mid-way through the lottery process (the lottery classes ranging from A to E) and gives them 53% chance of earning a place – making it an extremely attractive option for overseas students, especially those hoping to get into specialized courses. Consequently, since 2006, the number of foreign students has risen from 19,000 to 54,500, with their share of allotted lottery places in areas such as medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine rising from 9.3% to 18.3%.

Following reports that this rise in foreign students is costing the government €100 million, both the right-wing PVV and left-wing SP parties are arguing for a quota to be put on the number of foreign students admitted by the current lottery system.

In a statement made by the Technical University of Delft, officials said the reason behind the rise in foreign admissions was the fact that the admission process was not competitive: “because Holland has quite a socialist view when it comes to education, which means that everyone who wants to learn and qualifies for it may be given the right to study,” read the university’s publicity materials. “That’s why in Holland grades are secondary when getting university admission.”

Hans de Wit, professor of internationalization of education at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam, University of Applied Sciences, says that the system was never intended to encourage an increase in foreign student numbers. But neither was it able to keep international students out.

With the Dutch higher education system already facing serious capacity problems, pressure is mounting to increase select course quotas across the country – specifically aimed at controlling foreign admissions. And according to de Wit, this is a problem not only in the Netherlands, but also causing concern in other European countries, including Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, and Scotland.

Source: “NETHERLANDS: Calls for quotas for foreign students”. University World News, October 23, 2011.

2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – A little publicity, a lot of reaction.

This August, a local newspaper, the Springfield News-Leader, ran several stories highlighting Missouri State University’s Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) program. Unlike regular academic program, the EMBA started in 2007, and is touted as a unique ‘educational service’, rendered to a Hong Kong-based agency. Through this agency, groups of Chinese students – sponsored by various universities, governments, trade associations and businesses – are assembled to be educated in a one-year, accelerated program at MSU’s Springfield campus. Since it’s inception, over 250 Chinese have completed the program.

But after not-so-flattering re-writes of the article made their way across Chinese media, several of these Chinese sponsors have declared their intentions to pull out of the program.

“They say, ‘We know this is a quality program, but we do not want to be associated with it because of what’s in the press,’” says Jim Baker, MSU’s vice president for research and economic development.

The original story, based on interviews conducted with more than a dozen Chinese graduates from the program, highlighted views on the EMBA. While many grads shared their appreciation for the program, and for their American educational experience, some also spoke of misgivings – especially pointing out the poor English skills that many students are accepted with.

According to the News-Leader story, students in the program do not need to take English proficiency tests typically required of international students – and some students admitted that this “lower threshold” was a major reason they chose the MSU program to begin with. This lack of language requirement, combined with the allegation that the Hong Kong ‘recruiting’ agency keeps more than half the program fees, makes the program’s setup very unique.

However, after a re-write by the Chinese ‘Sing Dao Daily’ – which spread quickly to other Chinese news sites – the story read much more sinister, stating that “[t]he program is suspected of selling degrees, helping MSU and the middleman to profit while the Chinese students do not get a good education.”

According to MSU interim president, Clif Smart, “(There) were notable inaccuracies in the (News-Leader) articles, and those were exacerbated when the articles were translated into Chinese and published in China.”

Meanwhile, university representatives are on their way to China to do damage control – where they hope to reassure upset sponsors of the program’s quality.

Source: “Chinese sponsors want to exit MSU executive business program”. Springfield News-Leader, October 22, 2011.

3) OVER THE COUNTER – University of Wales abolished after mounting scandals.

After mounting pressure and negative reactions followed a series of high-profile scandals, the University of Wales (UoW) is ceasing to exist. Already, its chairman has resigned, and, as the university was a federation of various institutions across Wales, its constituent parts will now go their separate ways.

Two – Newport and Glyndwr, in Wrexham – will become independent universities, while Swansea Metropolitan will merge with another institution, called Trinity St David. This newly merged institution will take the name “University of Wales: Trinity St David”, and will inherit what remains of the UoW’s network of affiliated colleges.

The closure follows allegations about a visa scam and failures to carry out proper checks on foreign colleges accredited by the university to award its degrees – the failure of which led to scandals involving its partner institutions in both Malaysia and Thailand. Then, this October, another investigation revealed that overseas students at Rayat London College were sold diploma exams answers before taking their tests – giving them cheated entry on to UoW MBA degrees and allowing them to apply for UK visas.

This newest development was the last straw for vice-chancellors of other Welsh universities, who led the calls for scrapping the UoW.

Meanwhile, another University of Wales affiliated program – the Training and Advanced Studies in Management and Communications (TASMAC) – is drawing fire from international students who feel they’ve been wronged after its London campus suddenly closed last month.

“TASMAC did not inform students until 6 October at 11.45pm by email that they were going to cease operations due to UK Border Agency changes” says one such student, who declined to give his real name. “The next day, on 7 October, the campus was locked. The same note that we got by email was posted on the Wembley Campus and the Kingsbury Campus [on the outskirts of London]. We were not allowed inside. There were trucks loading up furniture and other things. They were taking everything away.”

The only choices the students were offered were to enroll in the private Holborn College’s MBA course (paying extra tuition for the course, on top of the non-refundable fees they’d already paid to TASMAC), or to transfer to one of TASMAC’s campuses in India (which still run in Pune, Bangalore, and Kolkata). The latter of which is particularly less than ideal for students who already paid large sums to travel to and set up residence in the UK, either directly from India or from other countries around the world.

“We feel cheated by TASMAC,” continues Patel. “But we do not know what our future is when we cannot transfer our credits to other universities and private colleges want to charge us again. UKBA only allows us to stay 60 days if we are not on a course. Then we must leave, so there is additional stress.”

Sources: “University of Wales abolished after visa scandal”. Telegraph, October 22, 2011.
& “UK: We feel duped by TASMAC, say Indian students”. University World News, October 23, 2011.

4) GLOBE TIPPING – What to do when luggage gets lost.

It’s a horrible feeling. Standing at the baggage carousel, waiting for what seems like forever, when the carousel suddenly stops, and you realize, begrudgingly – no more bags are coming out. Or, if yours somehow (magically) does arrive, it comes out looking like someone took a knife to it. What next? … And more importantly, who’s responsible?

Delayed luggage: The good news is that airlines are pretty good at tracking luggage, and about 98% of all misplaced bags are eventually returned – either on the next flight, or re-routed from whichever ‘wrong airport’ they got sent to. Either way, airlines generally deliver them directly to wherever you are staying within the next couple days – so just make sure you claim lost luggage at the airport as soon as it happens, and give the airline staff your full address and phone number where you can be reached. Also before you leave the airport, find out who you can call to check on your bag’s status. Additionally, many airlines also offer reimbursement for any unexpected expenses caused by the loss or delay (ie: toiletry or clothes costs), either directly or via discount on future airfare. Either way, keep your receipts!

Lost Baggage: If you turn out to be one of the unlucky 2% who doesn’t eventually get your bags, be sure to get a written claim for damages. This may require a different form than the original “missing luggage” form, so be sure to enquire how to file. On domestic flights, airline baggage liability is capped at $3,300 per person, whereas on international trips this varies, as it is governed by two international treaties – the Montreal and Warsaw Conventions. As of August 2011, if you paid a checked baggage fee for your lost bag, the airline must refund your fee – but check your carriers web site for specifics. You also may need to produce receipts to prove the value of any items you had in your suitcase – so if you have them, be sure to include them with the documentation you send to the airline. Just realize that the airline will deduct any ‘depreciation’ on your items caused by time or wear (ie: they’re not going to give you the full $1000 you paid for a suit purchased two years ago). If you’re concerned your checked baggage is worth more than these limits, you can purchase “excess valuation” protection before you fly – though first be sure that they’re not already covered by your homeowner’s or travel insurance policy. Also realize that airlines typically have a long list of items they cannot be held responsible for (jewelry, money, heirlooms, etc), so be sure to put any such items in your carry-on only.

Stolen Bags: Many airlines scan bags when they’re loaded into the baggage claim area and keep records – so it may be possible to tell right away if your luggage went ‘missing’ rather than delayed. Either way, this claim then needs to go through the airline desk. However, note that if your bag goes missing after you’ve left the baggage claim area, that your claim is no longer with the airline, but with the police. Your homeowners insurance may cover a stolen suitcase – otherwise, consider purchasing travel insurance.

Damaged Baggage: Once you’ve gotten your bags off the carousel, immediately check them for damage or other signs of tampering. Report any damage before leaving the airport, where airline customer service will likely want to inspect the bag. Most airlines don’t cover minor wear and tear – only major damage. Also be sure to keep any receipts for repairs, and use only airline-sanctioned luggage repair vendors if you hope to be reimbursed.

How to Prevent: Besides putting your name and contact info on both the outside and the inside of each of your bags, you can also consider placing a copy of your itinerary inside each bag so that the airline can more quickly locate you if necessary. Also, be sure to carry any valuables and/or “can’t lose” items in your carry-on bag, along with at least one change of clean clothes, and consider writing out a packing list before you check your other bags – this way you know exactly what’s in your luggage if it goes missing. Finally, watch to make sure that the luggage tag the airline staff puts on your suitcase matches your final destination. And if things still go wrong, just be sure to file a complaint immediately!

* Ever wondered where lost bags go after they die? Check out!

Source: “Lost Luggage”. Independent


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