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Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Volume 10, Issue 44; December 14, 2011

The Playing Field

Vietnam gives ‘top students’ a free pass..

Abroad Perspectives

Taiwan tallies up its achievements.

Over The Counter

UK quickly becoming newest recruiting ground for overseas unis.

Globe Tipping

All about timing…

***THIS IS OUR LAST O.O FOR 2011 ***


1) THE PLAYING FIELD – Vietnam gives ‘top students’ a free pass.

To encourage excellence, the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training has announced new regulations exempting the nation’s ‘top’ grade 12 students from sitting otherwise mandatory entrance exams for the country’s universities and colleges.

Under the new regulations, any student who has won third prize or above in a national contest will be given the option of going straight from school to university – no exams necessary. Similarly, those winning ‘encouragement’ prizes will be automatically eligible for enrolling in three-year programs at colleges or technical institutes.

Normally, Vietnamese students are required to take three exams of 180 minutes each for whichever ‘group’ of subjects they wish to pursue (one such group contains the subjects of Math, Physics and Chemistry, for example, while another combines Literature, History, and Geography). If students earn an overall pass without receiving a “zero” mark (zero being the lowest possible grade, equivalent to an “F” mark elsewhere) in any one subject, they are given priority in university admissions.

Additionally under the new regulations, any students taking part in the selection exam for international contests, usually known as ‘Olympic contests’, will also be exempt from high school graduation exams. Those actually making the ‘Olympic team’ will be admitted directly into Vietnamese universities or colleges of their choice without sitting any entrance exam, in addition to gaining priority to study abroad on a government-paid scholarship.

In future, the Ministry plans to organize further national contest divisions to acknowledge excellent students in the areas of foreign languages, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology.

Source: “Excellent students exempt from university entrance exams”. VietnamNet, December 7, 2011.


2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – Taiwan tallies up its achievements.

From 2006 to 2010, Phase I of Taiwan’s “Aim for the Top University Program” saw an overall investment of NT$50 billion (over $1.6 billion US) pumped into 12 universities across the country. Sponsored by the Ministry of Education of Taiwan, the program aimed to heighten the international competitiveness of the nation’s higher education institutions. Earlier this month, program outcomes were highlighted at the Tainan-based National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) – and lauded by the university’s President as a major success.

To illustrate the impacts – during Phase I of the program, one recipient institution, the National Taiwan University, was ushered into a top 100 world universities spot for three consecutive years. Additionally, the program has engaged a number of world-class institutes – including Harvard, MIT, the University of Chicago, the University of California, Berkeley, and Imperial College London – as part of Taiwan’s Top University Strategic Alliance. And another proudly proclaimed fact – currently in Taiwan, there are almost 45,000 students from overseas.

With the Program funding, the patent growth rate of participating universities has exceeded 112%, and the number of underprivileged students admitted has increased 117% – all in the past five years.

The next major step? According to NCKU President Hwung-Hweng Hwung, its developing industry-academia collaboration, to better connect universities and the industry. And the Minister of Education, Ching-ji Wu, agrees.

“The Program has helped uplift the international profile of Taiwan’s higher education,” the minster explained, adding that during his recent travels, Vietnam, Thailand, India, and Indonesia had all expressed their high regards for Taiwan’s achievement. Each of the countries, he says, have decided to send faculty and students to Taiwan for professional training of education.

Source: “Top University Program Raises Taiwan’s International Profile”. MarketWatch, The Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2011.


3) OVER THE COUNTER – UK quickly becoming newest recruiting ground for overseas unis.

Within four years, a quarter of graduating students at a leading UK independent school, Wellington College, will be heading for universities in the U.S.

That’s the prediction of the school’s head, Dr Anthony Seldon, who says ambitious UK teenagers are looking further afield than ever before – with a growing number of their sites, he says, set on well-funded US institutions, with their more broad-based course options and world-class reputations. At a recent talk with his students, Dr Seldon says about 40% claimed to want to attend US universities, and he expects many of these will indeed go on to enroll. And it is a trend “rising sharply” across the nation.

According to Fulbright Commission director Lauren Welch (an organization which promotes educational links between the US and UK), about 4,000 students turned up for a US university recruitment fair in London last month – their numbers doubled from previous years. The number in applications from UK students to US universities such as Harvard, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania saw a big increase this autumn, and according to SAT organizers, the number of UK candidates writing the American university qualifier exam has grown 30%.

Especially with the introduction of higher tuition fees at UK universities, up to £9,000 this year, UK students seem to be thinking harder about their options – with the notion of what is comparatively affordable changing quickly. And there to woo the undecided masses are universities from around the world – quickly moving in with tempting offers.

“The whole notion of international student movement, for two generations mostly a one-way direction from the developing to the developed world is changing,” says Mel Broitman, Managing Director of Higher-Edge (, which manages the Canadian University Application Centre (

According to Dr Seldon, for example, students are now being offered courses in Hong Kong for the same tuition price they’d pay in the UK, with change left over to cover their airfares home. Pupils are also looking at universities in Canada, Australia, China, South Africa, and continental Europe, he explains, which are upping their recruiting initiatives to this newest student market opening up in the UK. Particularly in continental Europe (Germany and the Netherlands, for example), universities are rolling out all the stops, offering students English-taught courses with low or no tuition fees, and touring schools in London to invite applicants.

Even stateside – generally considered a pricey overseas study destination (top bracket US institutions cost well above $50,000 USD per year) – means-tested financial support opportunities are helping to lure in British students. Starting next year, for example, students at Harvard from families earning below $65,000 per year will not have to pay any tuition fees – and similar support is available at a number of top institutions. Hungry to attract the brightest students and willing to recruit around the globe, such universities offer growing attraction for the world’s brightest – Brits certainly included.

Although known for years to be a more ‘stay-at-home’ crowd – for every 10 overseas students coming into the UK, only one UK student heads the other direction – soaring tuition fees and fewer places back home are encouraging British students to join in the international trend. And according to experts, it’s a necessary shift.

A report from the Association of Graduate Recruiters and the Council for Industry and Higher Education, published last week, states that UK students are “lagging behind” in competencies such as “global knowledge”, “a global mindset”, and “cultural agility” – all traits necessary to compete in today’s increasingly ‘international’ job market.

The British Council’s Richard Everitt also supports the growing number of UK students heading to destinations like the US.

“Increased mobility between students in both directions can only strengthen our current ties,” he says, “and create mutual opportunities for greater prosperity.”

Source: “UK students switch to US universities”. BBC News, December 1, 2011.


4) GLOBE TIPPING – All about timing….

This week, Globe Tipping looks at the different ways you can use time to your advantage when it comes to travel planning.

1. Fly on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday. Travelling on any of these off-peak days (as well as off-peak times) mean lower fares, less crowded cabins, and a greater chance of snagging one of those elusive mileage-award seats. Heading out for a long weekend? Instead of doing Thursday-Sunday or Friday-Monday, save money by flying out on a Saturday and returning on a Tuesday.

2. Buy airline tickets midday on Tuesdays. As airlines tend to announce fare sales on Monday nights, and other airlines then match them Tuesday morning, it means by 3pm east coast (or noon pacific) time, you have the greatest number of sale prices available.

3. Snag mileage-award seats six months ahead or over a weekend. Statistically speaking, you have the best shot at getting the award seats you want six months before you fly. Airline sites often don’t display all the available award seats, so if you’re not finding what you need, call the mileage-award redemption desk as well. Also, airlines update their inventory on Fridays or sometimes Saturdays (the changes go into effect at midnight), yet most people don’t call until Monday. Calling over the weekend means more availability and less-swamped (aka more helpful) agents.

4. Check out the international business-class sales in January and August. There are four periods when business travel slows and airlines drop business-class fares to lure in other travelers: Easter, summer, Thanksgiving, and the Christmas/New Year holiday. Lately, airlines have been announcing summer sales early in the new year and winter sales in August.

5. Get into a sold-out hotel. Find out when cancellation penalties kick in for the date you want to arrive, then call the property that morning – you may get lucky and snag rooms made available by people who’ve just canceled.

6. Stay over Sunday. Many hotels get Friday and Saturday night bookings from leisure travelers and Monday-through-Friday stays from business clientele, so there’s often a void on Sunday night—which increases your chances of an upgrade.

Source: “Wendy Perrin’s Golden Rules of Travel”. Conde Nast Traveler.


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