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Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Volume 11, Issue 23; June 13, 2012

1. THE PLAYING FIELD

More Chinese say “No” to college entrance exam.

2. ABROAD PERSPECTIVES

“Georgia” on the minds of many for study-abroad.

3. OVER THE COUNTER

Update: India’s foreign university bill inches forward.

4. GLOBE TIPPING

Picking the perfect carry-on.

1) THE PLAYING FIELD – More Chinese say “No” to college entrance exam.

In 2008, the Chinese government reported a record high of 10.4 million students sitting for the nation’s infamously difficult college entrance exam. Since then however, the number of test-takers has continued to fall, with this year’s turnout reaching only 9.15 million according to the country’s Ministry of Education.

So why the massive drop? For years, this grueling two-day test – for which students prepare months in advance – has determined the post-secondary educational fate of the vast majority of China’s students. In fact, it is the only real option for students hoping to advance to national universities, unless an individual’s exceptional status (aka exceptional connections or exceptional intellect) excludes them. Yet these days, more and more students are foregoing the exams altogether.

According to experts, there are a number of reasons. To start with, China’s birth rate is continuing to decrease – a result of recent population restriction policies. But beyond that basic factor, it seems an increasing number of students and parents are becoming fed up with the country’s higher education system, and as a result, more and more are looking for ways to avoid it altogether.

According to various Chinese media sources, as many as 430,000 students are expected to study abroad in 2012. It is a number which is growing each year.

“Some students may have little chance of enrolling in a top university in China,” explains one teacher from the Beijing Foreign Language School, “so applying to a university outside the Chinese mainland might be a better choice if the family can afford it.”

Yet even among those who can’t afford the high price of attending university abroad, there still seems to be a worrying shift away from the national entrance exams, largely due to the fact that many are just plain fed up – both with the stressful exams, and with the Chinese higher education system in general.

Taking into account the country’s increasingly competitive job market, fewer and fewer students have faith in the value of attending a mediocre college. With waning hope that such a degree will guarantee a stable or worthwhile job post-graduation, many students are simply deciding to forego college altogether … speaking volumes about the changing attitudes in a country whose people have long been known to value education above all as the key to mobility and success.

Sources: “Exam no longer the only way up”. China Daily, June 6, 2012. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2012-06/09/content_15490005.htm
& “Grueling University Entrance Exams Begin For Shrinking Pool of Chinese Students”. International Business Times, June 7, 2012. http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/349849/20120607/china-exams.htm

2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – “Georgia” on the minds of many for study-abroad.

More and more foreign students are choosing to study in Georgia. Not the US state, but the former Soviet republic and now autonomous nation. Georgia’s popularity is such that its more popular institutions are receiving as many as nine or ten times the number of applicants than they actually have places for.

According to a survey conducted by Georgian media site, The Financial, the nation’s universities accepted far more international students for the 2011-2012 academic year than ever before.

Tbilisi State Medical Universal appears to be leading the pack in terms of having the highest number of international students, with about one thousand of its 5,000 students originating from foreign countries – including many from India, Sri Lanka, and Nigeria. Meanwhile, Ilia State University, or ISET, was quoted as having the largest share of foreign students, with as many as 50% of its scholars coming in from abroad. In fact, demand for ISET places is getting so strong that the university says it will only be accepting one out of every 21 applications it receives for next year.

According to Georgia’s Ministry of Science and Education, some of the most popular faculties – particularly among Georgian applicants – include Engineering, Exact and Natural Sciences, IT, Geodesy, Agricultural Science, and Tourism. With the country’s recent boom in road and bridge construction, as well as general development of infrastructure across the country, there is an increased demand for professionals in the Georgian market. In order to encourage more students to take up related fields, the Ministry has put into place different grants, equaling between 30% to 100% of the course fees.

Other well-represented nations at Georgian universities currently include Armenia and Azerbaijan, with Iran offering a potentially important market for future students. Tbilisi State University, for example, is already accredited within Iran, and travel between the two countries has recently become far easier with a no visa policy being introduced for all nationals.

Source: “University of Georgian Patriarchy Most Popular with University Entrants”. The Financial, July 11, 2012. http://finchannel.com/Main_News/B_Schools/110685_University_of_Georgian_Patriarchy_Most_Popular_with_University_Entrants/

3) OVER THE COUNTER – Update: India’s foreign university bill inches forward.

In the newest edition to the ongoing drama surrounding India’s controversial foreign universities bill, the country’s University Grants Commission (UGC) called a special meeting on June 2nd to discuss two issues. On the agenda was the possibility of allowing foreign educational institutions to operate on Indian soil (either as ‘deemed universities’ or private universities), and the drafting of regulations concerning joint degree programs by foreign and Indian institutions.

Originally proposed in 2010, the officially named ‘Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill’ is still pending in Parliament, due to considerable opposition. Yet while this most recent meeting deferred once more the main proposal to allow foreign educational institutions within the current existing legal framework, it did approve ‘in principle’ regulations allowing twinning and joint degree programs – so long as the links were between “top ranking foreign educational institutions and the best Indian universities”.

In other words, the foreign universities in question must rank among the top 500 institutions by either the Times Higher Education World University Ranking or by Shanghai Jiaotong University. And additionally, any degrees awarded through such a program are to be granted by the Indian university partner.

Panel members, according to The Hindu newspaper, say they approved these newest regulations on joint programs, as they felt it would help curb the ‘fly-by-night’ institutions already operating in the country (currently allowed under rules of the All India Council for Technical Education, or AICTE). Once these newer regulations come into effect, such operators will be forced to shut down.

Meanwhile, the deferred proposal to allow foreign universities is being seen by many as a “sensible” move, “considering that starting universities generally requires Parliamentary sanction” – as detailed by a June 11th opinion / editorial piece run by the highly popular newspaper, The Hindu.

Referring to these newest regulations approving joint programs, the editorial declared the decision “a welcome advance over the present situation”, but maintained that “hard decisions” must still be made “on issues such as registration, transparent accreditation, socially-relevant medical education, faculty training, mutual recognition of degrees by the respective countries, and crucially, a check on profiteering”.

Sources: “Foreign Universities Bill: government trying ‘backdoor’ entry”. The Hindu, June 1, 2012. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article3477233.ece
& “UGC defers plans to allow entry of foreign varsities”. The Hindu, June 3, 2012. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article3483922.ece
& “Opinion / Editorial: No alternative to regulation”. The Hindu, June 11, 2012. http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/article3512521.ece

4) GLOBE TIPPING – Picking the perfect carry-on.

As airlines continue to up the restrictions and fee amounts for checked luggage, a good carry-on (with the ability to save you precious money as well as extra hassle) is becoming increasingly important.

When considering which carry-on to invest in, you should consider three things. Firstly, size. Remember that all airlines limit the size of carry-ons to approximately 45 linear inches or less (meaning that the largest bag you could carry on to any plane will be 22 x 14 x 9 inches – if you’re lucky). They also limit bags by weight, with some overseas carriers offering as little as 8 kilos (or 16 pounds) of carry-on weight per passenger. So be sure to consider the weight of any empty carry-on bag, as every ounce makes a difference. As a rule of thumb, any empty bag weighing more than 8 pounds should probably be given a pass.

Secondly, consider the quality of the bag’s construction, paying particular attention to zippers and wheels – as these are the most common parts to fail first. Other points to test out are the comfort of any carrying straps (as you may be stuck lugging the thing farther than you think), and easy-access pockets for boarding cards, laptops, liquids, and any other items you’ll have to pull out for security check points.

And thirdly, you need to consider how much you want to pay for your bag. Taking into account that quality bags are more likely to last longer (especially for frequent travelers), you may want to invest in a pricier, but sturdier option. If you’re keen to check out what’s available, consider the following articles – which not only provide photos and links to different ‘top carry-on options’, but also list quick-to-compare details about their weights, sizes, and experience-won pros and cons.

http://www.fodors.com/news/story_3042.html
http://goeurope.about.com/od/packingtips/tp/carry_on_bags.htm

Still don’t think you can possibly narrow everything you need down to a measly 16 pounds of carry-on weight? Not to worry! Check out these super lightweight options for checked luggage as well, brought to you by the great people at Good Housekeeping, and designed to help you stay within those free checked luggage limits! http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/product-reviews/travel-products/luggage-reviews/best-check-in-luggage

Sources: “Carry-on Bag Buyer’s Guide: Avoid the new Airline Luggage Fees”. Travel News from Fodor’s Travel Guides, June 25, 2008. http://www.fodors.com/news/story_3042.html
& “Carry-On Luggage – Top Carry on bags” About.com Guide. http://goeurope.about.com/od/packingtips/tp/carry_on_bags.htm
&”Lightweight Check-in Luggage”. Good Housekeeping, http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/product-reviews/travel-products/luggage-reviews/best-check-in-luggage

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