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Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Volume 11, Issue 10; March 14, 2012

1. THE PLAYING FIELD

For Canada, China is way ahead of India.

2. ABROAD PERSPECTIVES

Growing tensions (and worry) hit California campuses.

3. OVER THE COUNTER

Cut costs? Dropping $3 Billion Australian is good?

4. GLOBE TIPPING

Flight Rule #1: Try not to piss other people off (cont’d).

1) THE PLAYING FIELD – For Canada, China is way ahead of India.

How to spend millions of dollars in federal education promotion in China and India is what a special task force of university and college leaders are currently deliberating.

But these two giant markets for international education are at distance in terms of impact for Canada. Far more Chinese students are in Canada as well as a myriad of Sino-Canadian collaborations. A big reason for China’s big lead over India is the present state of promotional activities led by the Canadian government.

Case in point this week as Canadian trade offices in Chongqing and Chengdu are leading a delegation of a dozen universities and colleges in southwest China. Four days of school visits and meetings with education leaders in Chengdu are filled with promise and productivity.

Unfortunately, this kind of nationally coordinated and proactive activity is rare in India. Despite a similarly large presence of Canadian offices and officials in India, education promotion has been negligible for years in that country (it’s still almost non-existent in the rest of south Asia).

In Chongqing, the trade mission was led by the experience and expertise of a veteran trade commissioner with more than a decade of contacts in the industry. Canada’s new Consul in Chongqing said his office’s success is a direct result of the efforts and commitment to promote education from the leadership of Canada’s Embassy in Beijing.

But – perhaps success in China may soon be India’s gain. Ivy Lerner-Frank who did much for Canadian education in China, is now driving Canada’s education portfolio in Delhi. Ms. Lerner-Frank has a long way to go, but is working hard to play catch-up.

2) THE PLAYING FIELD – Growing tensions (and worry) hit California campuses.

University administrators from California are speaking out about a quickly growing issue at campuses across the state – specifically, campus “culture shock”.

With state universities mounting new pushes to attract increased numbers of international students (many in a bid to compensate for recent cuts to public funding), representatives from schools including the University of California, Los Angeles (better known as UCLA), UC Berkley and UC Davis are concerned about growing tensions, both on campuses and in the state as a whole.

Speaking out about the issue at last month’s Association of International Education Administrators conference in Washington DC was UCLA’s Bob Eriksen, executive director for the university’s Dashew Centre for International Students and Scholars.

Though international students currently make up only 5% of UCLA’s 27,000 undergraduate body, Eriksen says the school’s goal “is a net increase of 800 undergraduate international students for each of the next three years”, reflecting the recent “complete change in the way that public education is seen in California”.

This quick influx, Eriksen admits, has already led to a number of challenges in student adjustment, including some problems with international students being “highly over-represented in terms of cases of academic dishonesty” – an issue he describes as being “very serious”.

Meanwhile, wider tensions in the state include the growing fear among local residents that this increase will result in even further exclusion from the state’s already highly selective institutions. The results of these tensions have already appeared online, and it is worried that past incidents could be just the tip of the iceberg. As Eriksen recounts: “A year and a half ago, a young woman by the name of Alexandra Wallace – a very attractive blonde UCLA undergraduate in a push-up bra – decided one night to do a YouTube video rant about Asians on campus.”

Although Eriksen stressed that the incident (and subsequent mass publicity) had in fact “pulled the campus together in a really positive way,” he added his expectation that, “at any moment we are just one small incident like this away from something that could totally polarize the campus.”

Source: “Bumpy ride in California’s international student drive”. Times Higher Education, March 8, 2012. http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=419257&c=1

3) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – Dropping $3 Billion Australian is good?

In the aftermath of a rough couple of years for Australian universities – a period of time which saw a massive $3 billion drop in international education-related revenue for the country – Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans has defied the naysayers, calling the whole experience “a good thing”.

Refusing to accept any criticism for the fall in revenue, Evans recently declared that such a drop-off was expected, and in fact necessary for the nation’s universities to uphold their reputation.

“It’s a good thing in the sense that the cleaning up of the education sector has allowed our quality providers, our universities, and our better TAFE (training and further education) and other colleges to promote Australia as a quality international education sector,” he explained. “The fall-off has been in the lower levels of vocational courses and that reflects the government’s decision that I made when I was immigration minister to end the migration rorts. That sector was [characterised] by visa-rorting; people being sold a visa rather than
an education.”

As expected, the minister’s ‘spin’ on the situation has left Australian international education providers fuming. With the actual decline in international students estimated around 20% (as reported by India Today), it is even more upsetting for the providers when headlines like last week’s, in News.com.au, draw further negative attention to the institutions themselves.

“Australian universities are dumb, say foreign students,” reads the title – followed closely by the tagline, “Some Australian university courses are like being “back in grade 2”, the head of an international students group says.”

This ‘head’, president of the Council of International Students Australia, Arfa Noor, reportedly told a recent education conference that “the country would not attract the best and brightest from overseas until universities lifted their game”, according to the article.

This is, obviously, not the best of news. Particularly at a time when the country is busy unveiling its new ‘demand-driven’ system of higher education – where individual universities decide how many students they will enrol, and students are expected to “vote with their feet”, according to Universities Australia chair and vice-chancellor of Melbourne University, Professor Glyn Davis.

Davis’ prediction for the country’s education sector? That fierce competition bred out of this new market arrangement will “profoundly alter the sector” – leading some universities to thrive, expanding their enrolments and quality offerings, while others will, effectively, fail and go bankrupt.

And as for the international arena? While “for some universities, international students make up over half their enrolments,” Davis believes “this may not continue.

“China, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea have built high-quality universities,” he explains. “Their best students may no longer seek education abroad. As the [Australian] dollar continues to rise against major currencies, the cost of study in Australia becomes ever higher. So our universities face competition at home and abroad – from each other, from emerging international alternatives, and from a rapidly growing private sector.”

Sources: “Australia dismisses loss of overseas student as ‘good thing’. India Today, March 9, 2012. http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/australia-universities-international-students-chris-evans/1/176994.html
& “Australian universities are dumb, say foreign students”. News.com.au, March 9, 2012. http://www.news.com.au/business/foreign-students-say-some-australian-universities-are-dumb/story-e6frfm1i-1226294362274
& “Universities face new world of fierce competition”. University World News, March 8, 2012. http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20120308134103535

4) GLOBE TIPPING – Flight Rule #1: Try not to piss other people off (cont’d).

Most of us have battled through those long and torturous flights. While airports often frazzle anyone’s nerves, and there’s not much you can do about long lines or delayed departures, there is one little thing you can do to make any flight more bearable for yourself and others: Don’t be annoying!

From the experienced travel minds at Frommer’s, here are some tips to help you maintain your best behaviour at the airport, as well as on the plane. Continued from last week’s issue:

5. Remember that an airplane is not a sports bar. Yes both serve booze, but try to keep it quiet! It’s hard enough to sleep on long-haul flights without having to drown out extra-loud chatter from the people sitting next to you.

6. Respect your seatmate’s personal space. There is no quicker way to enrage your seatmate than by invading his or her space. So although armrests are, like it or not, shared space, the rest of their seat is not. So be mindful that your shoulders, arms, legs, elbows, coat, magazines, or newspapers do not cross over into their paid-for space.

7. Resist phoning people when you’re still on the plane. Although your loved ones will certainly be happy to hear you’ve landed safely, the people around you probably don’t care – and certainly will not want to listen to you yelling into your phone after they’ve already suffered a long haul. Why not send a nice (quiet) text message instead, or at least wait to dial that number until you’ve walked off the plane?

8. When it’s time to deplane, don’t try to leave before the passengers seated ahead of you. This is how it works. If you’re worried about missing a tight connection, then explain this to the flight attendant before hand, and (assuming you haven’t previously annoyed them), they’ll likely be happy to make a quick announcement to help you out.

9. After retrieving your suitcase from the carousel, take a moment to confirm that yes, the name of the tag is indeed yours. Mix-ups do happen. Avoid them!

Source: “10 Ways to Avoid Being That Annoying Airline Passenger”. Frommer’s, October 25, 2011. http://www.frommers.com/tips/miscellaneous/article.cfm?articleid=7494&id=MISCELLTAT

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