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Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Volume 11, Issue 21; May 30, 2012


Buffet 101 for the academic world.


Warning to all India newbies: do your research well.


Pakistani campuses overwhelmed by clashing student groups.


Kill the delay time.

1) THE PLAYING FIELD – Buffet 101 for the academic world.

According to the director of the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s [ONA] School of Communication, Jeremy Harris Lipschultz, academic administrators around the world would do well to take a note from the teachings of business heavyweight, Warren Buffet. After having spent years studying the man and working on the upcoming documentary, “Mr. Buffett the Teacher”, Lipschultz recently hashed out some of his top teachings in a column for the Huffington Post:

“The central message that Buffett offers is to know how to value companies, buy into them when prices are low and sure to rise, and then sit back and watch your investment grow,” Lipschultz wrote. “Great companies have excellent managers who have built moats around their businesses.” Great companies, and, according to Lipschultz, great universities too.

“Academic administrators would do well to consider this philosophy and what it means for their campuses,” he says. “In order to do this, we need to for a moment set aside the daily higher education headlines: soaring tuition, aging faculty, increased reliance on part-time instruction, private competition, global universities, and technological change. I am not saying forget these factors, but set them aside when evaluating your department, school, college, campus or system.”

Instead, Lipschultz urges administrators to consider their “moat”, as Buffet would say, on its own. In other words, what does the university offer students and their families that makes it unique? Ignoring, that is, the “data” or statistics (which every university has), what does it have in the ‘bigger picture’?

As for his own university’s School of Communication, Lipschultz points out the following elements: their hard-working and unique faculty, individual student accomplishments in state and national competitions, and other school prizes and distinctions that show just how competitive the school really is. Which leads Lipschultz to his next point.

“Once you have brought distinction to your campus, Mr. Buffett might ask: What are the prospects for being a great academic institution 10 or 20 years from now?” Besides the obvious answer of continuing to hire, encourage, and tenure successful faculty, Lipschultz reaches for a metaphor.

“Mr. Buffett has told my students to try to be like the hockey great Wayne Gretzky. Instead of going in the direction of the puck, he went where the puck was headed. For me, this means that progressive academic institutions must make tech savvy decisions that point them toward the global market of students in China, India and other growing countries. Yet, the emphasis cannot be on growth for the sake of numbers, but rather development of international opportunities that bring unique academic experiences to students in the United States and elsewhere.”

“Academic leaders, then, must create experiences and an overall atmosphere of buzz and excitement,” Lipschultz surmises – pointing universities towards the use of networking sites like Facebook to help connect current and future students to alumni. To help them connect with university events through photo albums, alumni updates, student achievements, and other news. Ie: The stuff of the moat.

“Prospective students, current students, family members, alumni and others will want to get close to those bringing and growing value to the degrees conferred by the university. To paraphrase Mr. Buffett, this does not happen in a day, week or month. The stature of great universities happens over many years of focused, daily effort. Learn how to create value and grow it over the long haul.”

Source: “Jeremy Harris Lipschultz: What Academic Administrators Could Learn From Warren Buffett”. Huffington Post, May 9, 2012.

2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – Warning to all India newbies: do your research well.

As more and more overseas universities battle to stake out their territory in up-and-coming educational ‘hubs’ around the world, new research by the Parthenon group stands as a bit of a warning. Specifically, the group advises, these institutions must be careful to understand the local job markets of countries they want to launch joint degree programs or branch campuses in … or their initiatives will fail.

Karan Khemka, partner and head of education practice at Parthenon, warns that India in particular – despite being an increasingly attractive destination for foreign universities looking to set up affiliated degree programs – may not bring the returns hoped for.

“Despite the view that India offers a huge market for foreign providers, growth [of enrolment in foreign-linked courses] in India is less than 5%, with many affiliated programs operating below capacity,” Khemka explains. “[I]nvestors behind these programs are constantly evaluating what’s wrong and whether or not to shut them down.”

What these schools need to realize, Khemka explains, is that, in India, the debt incurred to take part in an internationally affiliated program takes local students roughly three times longer to clear than that from a local program – almost six years, compared to only two. And it is a similar story when lifetime earnings are calculated, with graduates from international degree programs earning only marginally more than those from local ones. So unless schools have an “Ivy league reputation”, Khemka says many students may be better off sticking with local institutions instead. And, it seems, local employers agree.

“HR managers at companies have a list of universities,” reasons Indian HR consultant Yogesh Saigal. “If a particular university is not on their list of qualified universities, the candidate will not be considered for selection,” he says, adding that many universities based out of London, Eastern Europe, Russia, and/or Australia are among those steered clear of. “No one knows about these universities and companies don’t trust them.”
“A foreign degree does not ensure a job in India,” agrees Kris Lakshmikanth, CEO of search firm HeadHunters. “Currently, the market scenario is down…. Many of these [less-known foreign] universities don’t offer placement opportunities in India and students are left to look for jobs on their own. They have to try random companies and many end up in the BPO sector. Getting a job is not easy at all, unless they have connections.”

Khemka’s summation? Unless foreign schools can manage to differentiate themselves from the bulk of private universities already in India, and actually secure graduates higher starting salaries and/or higher lifetime salaries, the Indian market will likely be unkind.
His advice? Consider the markets of Vietnam or Malaysia instead – where much higher enrollment growth rates and demand for foreign courses in English are likely to provide better results.

Sources: “Growth in foreign degrees – But are they worth it?” University World News, May 27, 2012.
& “Foreign degree: Will it get you a job in India?” DNA, May 21, 2012.

3) OVER THE COUNTER – Pakistani campuses overwhelmed by clashing student groups.

On May 13th, a student activist at Lahore’s Punjab University was murdered by a rival student faction. Three days later, retaliation for his murder began – leading to more than a week of attacks on university buildings, widespread beating of professors, and boycotting of classes. The worst part? That this is far from an isolated incident.

In February, 12 students were injured during an armed clash at Karachi University – the same campus that was the site of a student bombing just two months earlier. And in April, a rally at Islamabad’s Quaid-e-Azam University turned nasty as student groups marched on the vice-chancellor’s office, causing serious property damage and assaulting at least one professor. And the list goes on.

As the cases of violence – including kidnappings, shootings, killings, and property damage – continue to increase across Pakistani campuses, academic officials are desperate to find a solution to what they explain as an issue fuelled by national politics.

Although 2008 saw the government lift a blanket ban on student unions in Pakistan, they are still not officially allowed at the nation’s universities. So without any clear, central unions, dozens of unofficial student groups have formed in their place – many of which are linked to larger political parties, who provide them with protection, money, and weapons. Although these links are unofficial, they are widely known about, and influential parties currently include both the country’s ruling and main opposition parties.

“The role of weapons has drastically increased in national politics and these young students are an easy target of politicians,” explains Anis Ahmed, vice-chancellor of Riphah International University. “They provide them with protection and resources to gain political influence. Young ones are lured into a thrilling life and then exploited for larger political benefits through illegal means.”

Meanwhile, other student groups are being linked to language-based and religious parties, as well as militant movements such as the Taliban and Jamat-ud-Dawa (the group behind the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India). And as Karachi University student Arif Azeem explains, it doesn’t seem likely that these groups’ influence will end any time soon.

Although academic officials know, for the most part, who the “problem students” are, Azeem says they “cannot do anything against them, for they fear for their own security, as the masters of these thugs are big political leaders”.

Source: “Universities reel under rising student lawlessness”. University World News, May 27, 2012.

4) GLOBE TIPPING – Kill the delay time.

Especially if you’re a frequent traveler, flight delays are bound to happen once in awhile. So to better prepare yourself for a few unplanned hours in any terminal, here are a few smart phone apps to help you kill the time… and perhaps even make your way out!

TripIt – Besides being a great (and free!) multiplatform travel itinerary manager, TripIt also has a smartphone app that offers a dedicated tab for “alternate flights” to subscribers of its Pro service ($49 per year). With this tab, you can look up alternate flight options, either on the same airline or another – so if you’re in a rush, you may still be able to make it on time. iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7

AirportAce – (free; $4.99) Offers terminal maps and points out all your dining choices, as well as transport options out of the airport, and WiFi info. FlySmart (free) is another option – it has great maps, but covers fewer airports. Airport Ace – iPhone, iPad / FlySmart – iPhone, iPad, Android

FlightTrack – (free; $9.99) Offers even more up-to-the-minute flight change updates than TripIt does, while at the same time syncing with TripIt to access all your ‘my flight’ details. iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry

Crackle – A great selection of movies and TV shows that stream over 3G or WiFi. Although the selection is somewhat limited, and slightly ‘older’ than those on Hulu or Netflix, the good news is that these are completely free! iPhone, iPad

This American Life ( – ($2.99) This app lets you stream or download any of hundreds of episodes from the classic This American Life radio series – and even the short-lived TV version. Great for some quick entertainment. iPhone, iPad, Android

MyWi – ($19.99) Turns your iPhone into a WiFi hotspot, and helps you avoid paying those annoying Boingo fees. Though it probably won’t be fast enough to stream video, it can still get your laptop online – you just need to make sure your phone is jailbroke. iPhone, iPad

Crossword – (free; $9.99) For some great puzzles that’ll help keep you sharp! iPhone, iPad

Simplenote – (free) A basic text editor that syncs flawlessly with the web, so you never have to worry about losing that oh-so-important spur of the moment thought. iPhone, iPad

Source: “Top 10 Apps for When You’re Stuck in an Airport”. Conde Nast Traveler, November 1, 2011.


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