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Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Volume 11, Issue 29; August 22, 2012

1. THE PLAYING FIELD

The worst of times? Russian univs prepare for a rough road ahead.

2. ABROAD PERSPECTIVES

Capitalism comes to North Korea (university).

3. OVER THE COUNTER

More visa fraud in America.

4. GLOBE TIPPING

Go Green!
****
1) THE PLAYING FIELD – The worst of times? Russian univs prepare for a rough road ahead.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced a reorganization of state universities – which, according to the country’s Minister of Education and Science, could lead to as many as one in five universities being shut down or forced to merge over the next two to three years.

Citing a need to eliminate inefficiencies, Putin has ordered that the implementation of these plans as early as this month – with in-depth monitoring for the identification of any such ‘inefficient’ universities or branches, to be completed before the end of the year. The evaluation will be based on several criteria, including the quality of admissions procedures, research and development activities, and the competitiveness of graduates in the labour market.

Currently, Russia has some 600 universities, with more than 1,400 branches. According to education minister, Dimitry Livanov, the new plans are to cut up to a fifth of these domestic universities and about 30% to 35% of the associated branches – closures that are tentatively scheduled to take place between 2013 and 2014. After that, the government says it will start the process of consolidating the remaining universities, with the aim of creating more powerful research and scientific centres.

In general, most higher education experts in the country have cautiously accepted the new state initiatives. But some individuals, such as the chair of the Russian Students’ Union, Artyom Khromov, warn that the mergers could result in massive lay-offs of teaching staff, and the leasing of premises to commercial organizations.

“This proposal is controversial,” he says. “We support the process of closing inefficient universities, but are concerned that this restructuring could be used by some people to make money. The merger process should take place for the sake of science, not business interests.”

A number of prominent analysts also believe the plan may increase the risk of corruption. For example, as Vladimir Rimsky, head of the ‘Indem’ Sociology Fund explains, final decisions are more likely to depend on relations between university administrations and the state officials who will be directly responsible for the closures, rather than the actual criteria being cited.

“Those universities which have bad relations with authorities will have a higher chance of being closed,” Rimsky explains. “In contrast, those higher education institutions which have well established relations with the state will continue to operate, even if their academic performance is poor.”

Source: “One in five universities will be forced to close or merge, minister says”. University World News, August 14, 2012. http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20120801172612441

2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – Capitalism comes to North Korea (university).

Korean-born American, Park Chan-mo, is making history in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or ‘North Korea’, as it is more commonly known. As head and co-founder of Pyongyang’s only private university, Park is trying to teach local students about modern market economies – something the state has managed for decades to avoid.

“I want whatever they learn to be used to revive their country’s economy,” says Park. “We emphasize practicality and commercialization of their knowledge.”

At 77 years of age, Park is a computer scientist by trade, and former president of university in South Korea… that is, until he co-founded the new Pyongyang University of Science and Technology at the turn of the century when relations between the two Koreas had warmed after decades of bitter divide.

Officially opened in October 2010, Pyongyang University now hosts 300 undergraduate and 70 graduate students, currently completing degree in three departments: electronic and computer engineering, international finance and management, and agriculture and life sciences. The students themselves are handpicked from those who have studied at least two years at one of the country’s top state colleges, and all tuition costs, residence fees, and living expenses are free.

According to Park, the students are industrious and very eager to learn – especially when it comes to market economies.

“International finance and management study is very popular. Maybe it is because the dean (of that department) … told students in a seminar: ‘If you do this, you can make lots of money’,” Park says, jokingly. “Students study very hard to learn (about the Western economy). Although they have some weaknesses in basics, they have no problem to catch up because they are good at math.”

Asked if they found the market economy an ‘alien concept’, Park said: “Even students from the information technology field already know they should learn about the economy to make money.”

Sources: “University brings capitalism to reclusive North Korea”. Swissinfo, August 5, 2012. http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/news/international/University_brings_capitalism_to_reclusive_North_Korea.html?cid=33245654
& “University teaches market economy in DPRK”. China Daily, August 14, 2012. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2012-08/06/content_15645905.htm

3) OVER THE COUNTER – More visa fraud in America.

Just one year after news of the Tri Valley University immigration scam hit the headlines – after which hundreds of international students were left in the lurch and/or threatened with deportation – another American campus has run into serious trouble, after its CEO was charged with visa fraud.

Jerry Wang, CEO of Sunnyvale, California’s Herguan University and the University of East-West Medicine, was charged earlier this month with a 15-count indictment on visa fraud, including allegations that he forged federal documents to allow foreign students to enter and stay in the US. If convicted on all charges, Wang faces a maximum penalty of up to 85 years in prison, and could have to pay a fine of up to a million dollars.

Although Herguan University has appointed an interim CEO and made a statement that it continues to be “open and conducting classes as usual”, the case could spell trouble for about 450 of its international students, many of whom hail from India.

“Not all students are innocent victims here,” says Mel Broitman, Managing Director of Higher-Edge, a leading global education strategies company (Higher-Edge.com is also the publisher of this newsletter). “There are tens of thousands of potential applicants in India who want to get to America by hook or by crook. The Herguans of the world are just one such avenue and they are no shortage of education agencies as willing accomplices.”

While the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has announced that the foreign students currently enrolled at these universities “may continue to attend classes as long as the schools remain SEVP-certified and the students are able to maintain their lawful immigration status”, it has also stated that, in light of the allegations, Herguan and the University of East-West Medicine could lose their authorization to enrol such scholars.

Already, the ICE has issued both schools a notice of intent to withdraw, which is the first step in revoking the schools’ SEVP certification. Now, the schools have 30 days to respond to the notice, and request an interview to contest the action.

Source: “Another US university in visa fraud row; fate of 450 students, mostly Indian, uncertain”. Times Of India, August 4, 2012. http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-08-04/us-canada-news/33034618_1_visa-fraud-foreign-students-valid-visa-status

4) GLOBE TIPPING – Go Green!

This summer, why not make a goal to reduce your carbon footprint while on the road? Straight from the folks at the Travel Channel, here is a list of their top 10 tips to help you plan your next eco-friendly trip!

Go Biking – Whenever possible, choose Earth-friendly transportation options like biking, walking and taking public transit. In addition to helping reduce your carbon footprint, these alternatives also tend to be cheaper than taking a cab or renting a car.

Reusable Bottles – Plastic bottles often travel thousands of miles before you buy it (ie: from the mountains or springs of wherever), so carry a reusable container or drink locally sourced water whenever you’re on the go.

Go Non-Stop – As a significant percentage of a plane’s carbon emissions come from takeoff and landing, book non-stop flights whenever possible.

Buy Local – When and wherever you travel, try to buy local products, rather than those that have been flown in or shipped from overseas. Just steer clear of the souvenirs made from endangered animals or plants!

Working Farms – Consider staying at a working farm that also functions as an inn or guesthouse. This unique experience helps travelers connect with (and support!) an area’s agricultural heritage, and typically cost less than hotels.

Recycle Trash – If you’re staying at a hotel, ask about it’s recycling program, and try to sort your trash accordingly. If your hotel doesn’t recycle, consider taking your empty bottles or other items home and recycling them there (or dropping them off at a nearby recycling bin if the city provides them).

Hike Marked Trails – Don’t veer off marked trails when hiking, and maintain a safe distance from any animals you see along the way. Deposit your trash in marked bins or take it with you when you leave. And as for campfires – only light them in permitted areas, and make sure they’re completely put out before you head off.

Choose Hybrid – When rental a car for travel, be sure to choose the smallest vehicle or a hybrid. Decline any “free” upgrades, which can cost you more in gas.

Stay at a Green Hotel – A growing number of hotels around the world are ‘going green’ – building with recycled materials, using solar power, etc. When visiting hotel websites, check for LEED or similar environmentally friendly ratings. Surprisingly enough, Las Vegas is actually one of the travel destinations leading the way in green building!

Eat local – Eating locally is one of the best ways to support a community. Whenever possible, try to dine at restaurants with locally sourced ingredients – or drop by a farmers’ market for a taste of local fare and community culture!

Source: “Top 10 Green Travel Tips”. Travel Channel. http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/travel-tips/photos/top-10-green-travel-tips

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