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Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Volume 10, Issue 40; November 16, 2011

“The Edge”

Silence of the Deans.

Abroad Perspectives

From Oil to Institutes: Qatar prepares for the future.

Over The Counter

Online degrees gain popularity in East Africa, while officials warn of ‘fakes’.

Globe Tipping

Insurance explained.

1) “THE EDGE” – Silence of the Deans.

There is a connection between the fraud perpetrated by education agents in China (and elsewhere) and the unethical practices of major multi-national banks. You’ll find the intersection at many Business schools at many well known universities. How so ? Highly educated Deans have been silent on the subject, and just like the education agents and bankers, the silence has been bought and paid for.

The cheating in China is well documented and gone on for years. The two most respected publications writing on international education – the New York Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education wrote on it yet again last week, quoting a report that “90 percent of Chinese applicants submit false recommendations, 70 percent have other people write their personal essays, 50 percent have forged high-school transcripts, and 10 percent list academic awards and other achievements they did not receive.” Of course, Chinese education agents make tens of millions of dollars, charging each applicant several thousand dollars for their “assistance”, so they are highly motivated to send any applicant they can, real or fake.

The article does not point out that the vast majority of these students are bound for business schools abroad. Business, is by far the degree program of choice for Chinese. So whether it is Foundation programs leading to a BComm, a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) or an MBA or Masters of Finance or Management – these are all the typical targets of Chinese families and their agent representatives seeking admissions, real or fake (and we know there are huge numbers of fraud.)

This is no secret, yet it is barely is audible above a whisper in the hallways of academe in the United States, Canada, UK, Australia, etc. The Deans know that many of their students are not good, and even that a good number are not bona fide. But when you need to balance budgets and pay for the high-price salaries and pension responsibilities of the faculty and administration – universities are simply turning a blind eye and taking the money. Due diligence be damned. Academic integrity is buried alive.

So when Citigroup agreed last month to pay $285 million in a settlement admitting to defrauding customers (they already had a record of doing so previously), and all other major banks have done the same (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, etc), it’s no stretch to draw their bankruptcy of integrity in a straight line from their board rooms to Business school classrooms.

Canadian banks are of course smug with how they have stood apart in the recent times of financial turmoil. True enough. But the virus is catching, and if you listen quietly, you hear the whispers at Canadian business schools just barely audible above the silence.

“Are these credentials for real? They list 90% Class 12 grades but the student is barely passable.”
“I heard these kids paid their agent five thousand dollars. Should we be a party to that ?”
“For someone with a 100 TOEFL, how can he barely have any English skills ?”
Shhhhhh…quiet…it’s not good for business.

(“The Edge” by Mel Broitman, Director of the Canadian University Application Centre. Archived issues of “The Edge” can be found at

2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – From Oil to Institutes: Qatar prepares for the future.

Fuelled by oil, Qatar is the second richest country in the world when it comes to per capita GDP – a figure expected to reach $109,000 by year’s end, according to the IMF forecast reported by local daily, ‘The Peninsula’. But as it prepares itself for a post-oil era, the country is investing heavily in education and science, hoping this industry will be the one to maintain its economy in years to come.

Already the Emir of the country, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, has put hundreds of millions of dollars into universities and research institutes – especially focusing on those located in the Doha-based ‘Education City’. Small as the country may be, it aspires to become a global and regional hub for education, science, and technology – acting, as the Emir’s wife, Sheikha Mozah explains, as a “small laboratory which finds solutions for the rest of the world”.

According to the Qatar Foundation, Qatar Science and Technology Park, which houses R&D centers run by 21 corporate partners including Shell, has received investment totalling more than $800 million. Meanwhile, the country has also spent more than $890 million building an airport-sized Qatar National Convention Centre, designed to host large-scale events such as the latest World Innovation Summit for Education, which recently took place there.

In Qatar, eight foreign universities – six American, one Paris and one London-based – already offer international education to both local and foreign students, using the same curricula as those administered on their main campuses. Education City itself houses several prestigious satellite universities on a 10 square kilometre lot, including Carnegie Mellon University, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, Northwestern University, Texas A&M University, Virginia Commonwealth University and Weil Cornell Medical College.

Beyond the exceedingly low student-teacher ratio (4-to-1) and very diverse mix of students and faculties found at these campuses, another major factor makes Education City highly attractive to both local and foreign students alike – cross-class registration is allowed among the different schools at the location.

“Instead of traveling abroad to attend a university, we have world-class education at our doorsteps,” explains Mashael Alhajri, a 19-year-old Qatari student at Georgetown University. “[Here] I am able to study the major that I want at Georgetown, while attending classes at Northwestern, Texas A&M, Carnegie Mellon or Virginia Commonwealth. This congregation of academic institutions is like no other in the world.”

Currently, international students outnumber Qatari students in the universities of Education City – and it’s a trend also present in the society as a whole. Out of 1.7 million people in Qatar, only 250,000 are actually local citizens, according to the Qatar Tribune.

Source: “Qatar Education City prepares for a future without oil”. The Korea Herald, November 7, 2011.

3) OVER THE COUNTER – Online degrees gain popularity in East Africa, while officials warn of ‘fakes’.

With more and more respected universities opening up online/distance learning programs, the stigma once attached to “online degrees” is starting to fade – while the benefits of online study become increasingly clear. In many cases, online degrees are cheaper, more flexible (allowing students to study as they work, and/or study from any location in the world), and are now being accepted by a growing number of employers. And with major advancements in technology and internet over recent years, online options are helping higher education become attainable to more students than ever before – especially in regions such as East Africa.

With institutions like Boston University and the University of Liverpool offering well-respected online options, a foreign degree is more accessible that ever for East African students – and even the local online options are growing. In Kenya and Tanzania, for example, the University of Eastern Africa, Baraton and the Open University of Tanzania are all accredited to offer online courses, and in neighbouring Uganda, various alternatives are being put into place.

While none of the traditional Ugandan universities yet offer online degrees, distance learning options at five different institutions (including the long-established Makerere University) offer students in more remote areas of the country the chance to collect notes and coursework from the university, then return to sit paper exams at the end of each semester.

The growth of online education has largely been held back in Uganda due to the fact that in most of Africa the majority of people, even those living in urban areas, have very limited access to internet. While for those with the access – and necessary skills – the idea of obtaining a foreign degree is highly attractive. But in Uganda, the variety of options may soon begin to grow – especially for those who cannot afford the foreign uni costs.

Beyond Makerere’s own plans to open up online degree programs within the next two years, a fully online university called the Virtual University of Uganda has plans to start admitting students as early as January 2012. Although this is subject to a provisional license from the National Council of Higher Education (NCHE), the directors are confident it will be granted the necessary permissions – making it the first Ugandan university to offer online qualifications.

While this would be the first such legitimate institution, a number of other institutions have been closed by the NCHE in past, after their degrees offerings turned out to be fake. Last year, the council closed down Kayiwa International University, for example, after its partner American universities were found to be fake and/or denied all links to the Ugandan institution. Owned by a renowned Kampala pastor, the ‘university’ had 300 students enrolled at the time of closure. Meanwhile, another online institution operating in Uganda with accreditation in Turks and Caicos Islands, called St Clements University, has been blacklisted in both the U.S. and Australia.

Due to the levels of such fraud present among such ‘online institutions’, the NCHE is encouraging interested Ugandans to check with them first before enrolling in any such institution – either in or out of Uganda. Although the NCHE is legally mandated to accredit only local universities, the organization has offered to help advise any students, by checking accreditation councils in the countries that host the universities in question.

Source: “Online schools: beware of fakes”. Daily Monitor, November 7, 2011.

4) GLOBE TIPPING – Insurance Explained.

Travel insurance is a way to minimize the considerable financial risks of traveling. Each traveler’s risk is very different, depending on how much of the trip is prepaid, where you’re traveling, the state of your health, and what coverage you already have (through your medical coverage, homeowners’ insurance, credit card, etc). Therefore, for some travelers, insurance is a good deal – for others, it’s not. This week, Globe Tipping breaks down the different types of coverage – so you can decide for yourself whether (and how) to insure for your next trip.

Trip Cancellation or Interruption Insurance: This insurance covers losses you incur when you cancel a prepaid tour or flight for an acceptable reason – reasons which might include if you or your travel partner cannot travel due to sickness, death, inclement weather, or layoff, or if your tour company or airline goes out of business. Note the difference of the two types: “Trip cancellation” being when you don’t go on your trip at all, and are fully covered, while “trip interruption” is when you’ve already begun your trip but have to cut it short, so will be reimbursed for only the part you miss. Different providers offer varying coverage for the two scenarios. Also, realize that each provider has very different policies on what constitutes an “acceptable reason”, so be sure to compare the fine prints. Or, if you don’t want to deal with “what if’s”, you can always opt for one of the (extremely costly) “any reason” cancellation policies – which generally give you at least a partial reimbursement (generally around 75%) no matter why you cancel your trip. But before you sign onto any of these options, check with your credit card provider, as many offer some sort of trip cancellation or interruption coverage for any travel booked using the card.

Medical Insurance: This is the most common form of travel insurance. But before buying a special medical insurance policy for your trip, check with your home medical insurer – you might already be covered by your existing health plan, or be eligible for cheaper coverage options (as is the case for Canadians – many of whom can buy cheaper medical travel plans as they’re partly covered by their provincial health care). In the case of medical insurance, you general pay for any expenses out-of-pocket, and bring home your documentation to be reimbursed. With some companies, you may have to contact your insurer for approval before seeking medical help in order to be covered. Also realize that some medical insurance providers cover “emergencies only” – if this is the case, ask what happens if you are moved from ER to a recovery room. If you’re a frequent traveler, it might be worth considering a multi-trip annual policy, which could save you money – check with your agent or insurer before you commit. And if you travel to unstable or developing countries, you’ll want to check whether your medical and/or cancellation policies are still valid if the country goes up to “at-risk” status on your own federal government’s travel advisory warnings. Some insurers won’t honor your coverage if you go to one of these countries, unless you buy supplemental packages.

Evacuation insurance: Covers the cost of getting you to a place where you can receive appropriate medical treatment in the event of an emergency. This is usually not covered by your regular medical-insurance back home. Sometimes this coverage can get you back home (termed “medical repatriation”), but more often than not it only gets you as far as the nearest acceptable hospital. Be sure to ask your provider exactly what is covered both before and after you get out of that ‘major hospital’. Also check into any ‘activities’ your insurer considers ‘dangerous’ or uninsurable – such as skydiving, scuba diving, or even skiing. If your trip involves any such activity, you might want to consider an adventure sports insurance package.

Baggage insurance: This is included in most comprehensive policies, but it’s rare to buy it separately. This insurance puts a cap on reimbursement for such items as jewelry, eyewear, electronics, and photographic equipment – so be sure to read the fine print. First, check your homeowners’ insurance to see if some of your goods are already covered for international travel.

Flight insurance (or “crash coverage”): A statistical rip-off that heirs love. It’s basically a life insurance policy that covers you while on an airplane – but as plane crashes are so rare, there’s little sense in spending money on this insurance. If you’re renting a car, however, you might want to look into collision coverage – which may be covered in some comprehensive policies, or by your credit card company if you book using the card. If you’re not already covered, you might want to consider buying specialized insurance with the company you actually rent the car from, to avoid any coverage discrepancies.

Final Note: Beyond the basic five insurance types above, supplemental policies can also be added to cover specific concerns, such as identity theft, or political evacuation. The most complete version (which can include combinations of the above) is called “comprehensive insurance”. The good news is that most insurers are available by phone 24/7 – and you should always contact them first to ask how to proceed in the event of a claim. Whichever type of insurance you’re interested in, always read the fine print when considering a new provider. Even simple definitions such as “travel partner” or “family member” are interpreted differently by different companies – so if ever unsure, ask first!

Source: “Travel Insurance – To Insure or Not to Insure?”. Rick Steves’ Europe, 2011.


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