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Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Volume 11, Issue 3; January 25, 2012

1. THE PLAYING FIELD

New Taiwan leader wants enhanced education links with the Mainland.

2. ABROAD PERSPECTIVES

Student mobility: World shrinks. Choices Expand.

3. OVER THE COUNTER

LATIN AMERICA: Change demanded, but unlikely in 2012.

4. GLOBE TIPPING

For those Africa-bound… (Part Two)

1) THE PLAYING FIELD – New Taiwan leader wants enhanced education links with the Mainland

As Taiwanese President, Ma Ying-jeou, steps up for another term after emerging the victor of last week’s closely fought elections – it looks as though education relations in the nation will be used to cozy up to China. Known as a consistent advocate for closer relations with China, President Ma promised to take up a suggestion by local university institutions to welcome more students from mainland China.

With rising graduate unemployment in the country, students in Taiwan are particularly concerned about job opportunities. Concentrating on gaining votes among the younger populations, the DPP opposition party tried to incite concerns in Ma’s plan – saying that, by allowing more mainland Chinese students, it will create more competition with local students for jobs.

However, at a two-day conference of university presidents in December, Ma explained the benefits of opening up the nation’s doors to more students – from China as well as other countries around the world. Although the existing University Act and laws governing relations between Taiwan and the mainland are very strict, Ma promised the presidents he would ask the education ministry to find ways to let more students in.

According to Ministry of Education official Tony Lin, Taiwan’s goal under President Ma is to more than double the number of international students, to around 95,000 (or 7.5% of the overall student population) by 2012 – a rate comparable to Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea.

For cultural and linguistic reasons, the largest student pool is likely to be from mainland China – a group of students recently allowed for the first time to enroll in Taiwan institutions starting in 2011. Although these students are not eligible for government scholarships and cannot take up jobs upon graduation (restrictions demanded by the opposition party), the students from mainland China currently number around 1,000 – only half the number allowed under the new rules, which were passed in August of 2010.

With many institutions in Taiwan already battling low enrollment rates – due to the mix of a declining local birth rate, strict enrollment quotas, and high admissions requirements – universities are keen on the idea of allowing more foreign students to enroll. A larger pool of student applicants, they explain, would make it far easier to fill places.

Currently, Taiwan only accepts credentials from some 67 selected universities in mainland China, and allows students originating from only six of the country’s coastal provinces to apply to Taiwan’s universities. Taiwanese Education Minister, Wu Ching-Chi, says negotiations with China would be necessary in order for any changes to these policies to take place.

Source: “TAIWAN: Reelected PM promises more China students”. University World News, January 15, 2012. http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20120113203353909

2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – Student mobility: World shrinks. Choices Expand.

The world of international higher education is changing… and quickly. Not only are more students than ever travelling abroad for university studies, they are also going to more and more diverse locations each year. Over the past decade alone, the number of tertiary students enrolled in programs outside their home countries has basically doubled, going from just over two million in 2000 to nearly four million in 2011. With competition for these higher fee paying students growing each year, the growth trend will continue.

According to a recently published ‘Project Atlas’ report by the Institute of International Education (IIE), there is a continued shift occurring away from the dominance of a few ‘traditional destination’ countries. While the U.S. remained the top ‘hotspot’ for mobile students in 2010, attracting more than 720,000 of the 3.7 million worldwide, this total represents a decline in the US total market share from 28% in 2001 to only 20% at present. Many students are now choosing a more diverse collection of countries to study in each year.

IIE’s executive vice-president, Peggy Blumenthal, relates this phenomenon to an emerging “proliferation of education hubs” around the world.

Another organization to offer insight into new ‘directional patterns’ of student mobility is UNESCO, whose Global Education Digest 2011 revealed that while nearly 60% of all international students travelled to either North America or Western Europe in 2009, the majority of these students actually came from within one of those two regions to begin with.

Moreover, a number of global statistics sources also suggest that this group of students – those from North American and Western Europe – are in fact the least ‘internationalized’, in so far as they are not likely to travel outside their home region for higher education. By contrast, the number of students sent and received by most other countries and regions is more evenly proportioned (minus Sub-Saharan Africa, where countries are apt to send about three times more students than they receive).

What this data cannot chart or predict, however, are the dramatic shifts that occur, often over very short periods of time. Take what recently happened with Indian student numbers as an example. After being faced with visa restriction changes and cases of racial intolerance, many took the opportunity to rethink their study destinations – ultimately leading to a 77% decline in the number of those attending institutions in Australia between 2009 and 2010, according to IIE statistics.

Another interesting trend, notes Blumenthal, is the growing popularity of English-instruction programs in non-English countries – programs which are attracting increasing numbers of both foreign and local students.

“Global English is becoming the lingua academica,” she observes. “A good command of the English language is becoming a precondition for excellence in higher education.”

International student education, estimated to generate between US$80 and $90 billion in revenues for host countries, is obviously big business. Big enough that country policies and multi-million dollar programs are being formulated specifically to attract more students. The biggest hurdle, however, remains exactly this – that, as the competition grows, the industry’s shape and major players continue to constantly evolve.

Source: “GLOBAL: International student choices changing”. University World News, January 8, 2012. http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20120106164011851

3) OVER THE COUNTER – LATIN AMERICA: Change demanded, but unlikely in 2012.

Recently accused by the Economist of being “hardly synonymous with excellence”, Latin America’s higher education systems continue to lag behind much of the world when it comes to quality, teaching techniques, graduation rates, and coverage. And, according to analysts, it is unlikely these issues will be fixed in the near future.

When it comes to international rankings, it is true that Latin American schools aren’t exactly major competitors. In fact, not one university in the entire region made the top 100 list in the Times Higher Education world ranking in 2011, and only one – the University of São Paolo in Brazil – made the top 200 (though we have to state up front that at “Overseas, Overwhelmed,” we see a lot wrong with rankings).

The biggest problem, according to Chilean higher education analyst, José Joaquín Brunner, is the model itself – which he adds, traditionally rests in the hands of one or two large publically funded institutions, with few credible alternatives in the private sector.

But as university student bodies swell in number and government budgets are tightened, it becomes more difficult for public institutions to provide quality education.

“The greatest challenge,” Brunner says, “is sustainability and how our universities can be financed in a sustainable manner – both in the medium and long term – in a way that not only takes into account quality, but responds to the necessities of national development.”

While some stakeholders demand greater taxpayer investment to support and protect their long-standing public schools, others have already turned to the aggressively expanding private sector, looking toward investors to take the burden off public institutions. Already, there has been a considerable growth in the percentage of private university enrolment in Latin America, with online learning, private franchises and cross-border education taking off at impressive rates across the region. But with such a tangle of new private offerings, Brunner says a system of accreditation needs to be developed to protect the student populations – from both sub-par experiences and high price tags.

But not everyone believes the future of the region’s higher education should involve the private sector. Fearing high tuitions and unequal access, thousands of Chilean students launched a movement in 2011, aimed at keeping higher education in the public sector. Though they began in Chile, the protests soon spread across the region – inspiring copycat movements in more than 14 other countries by year’s end, including Colombia, Guatemala, Peru, Venezuela and Honduras, where students called for high quality, free public education.

While many are sympathetic to the students’ cause, the question of how realistic “free, quality education” actually is, remains a major issue.

According to Brunner, it is likely that this debate, over public-private education, will continue well into 2012, as policy-makers particularly struggle to balance issues of private education accreditation, and public university transparency and accountability.

Whatever the outcome, one thing is certain – developing any kind of quality system is sure to take time.

Source: “LATIN AMERICA: Pressures on marred HE systems”. University World News, January 8, 2012. http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20120106163612806

4) GLOBE TIPPING – For those Africa-bound…(Part Two)

With more and more opportunities – both travel and business – opening up destinations across the African continent, it seems only fitting to concentrate on providing a series of practical Africa-centric travel tips… and those that go beyond the often disproportionate fear that travellers’ most common hurdles in Africa will involve dodging armed bandits, war, and murder. Truth be told, for the average African traveller, the biggest challenges (and perils) are sure to be far more mundane. So stop worrying about how you will survive being kidnapped by pirates and give some more thought to the following thoughts and tips, continued on from last week’s edition:

6. Learn to bargain. Especially when it comes to ‘knick-knacks’ (masks, carvings, paintings, etc), start by offering 25-50% of the offering price (depending on how outrageous the first offer was to begin with). But also don’t assume that everyone is ‘out to get you’ – although it’s rare (correction: very rare), there are merchants you’ll find who offer great rates to begin with. These are the ones you want to support.

7. Never carry all your cash / credit cards / IDs in one place. Besides security, this can also help with bargaining – by spreading your money out into different spots and knowing the amounts, you will never pull out too much.

8. Don’t be afraid to try food from roadside vendors … within reason, of course, i.e., if you can see that cooked meat is lying out and then being “re-warmed” for customers, it might be a good idea to avoid that… as well as anything prepared with an iffy water-supply (ie: a roast corncob dipped in ‘salted water’ for taste, or already cut-up coconut slabs floating in water). But in general, street eats in Africa can be a great option, especially if you are on a budget. If you’re worried about a touchy tummy, consider munching down a chewable Pepto tablet first – this can do wonders to ‘coat your stomach’ and help deal with any new germs your system isn’t used to. Not a fan of eating on the street? There are also a lot of great local joints to be found – to find the best ones, just look for where everyone else seems to be gathered. Just don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to eat only at “westernized” establishments.

9. Mosquitoes are evil. No matter what you do to protect yourself against them (body spray, DEET, room spray, mosquito nets), prepare yourself for a battle. And if you’re travelling to a malaria zone, speak with your doctor beforehand about anti-malarials.

10. Find out beforehand what plugs (and voltages) are used where you’re going and pack a power adaptor with you. If you have any particularly expensive / special equipment, you might also consider bringing a surge protector as well (as power sources in Africa aren’t exactly regulated the same as they are in the west…).

11. And finally, drink a lot. You’ll likely end up sweating more, walking more, and you don’t want to deal with dehydration at the end of the day, when you finally realize that you haven’t actually peed once all day…. If you think you’ll have trouble remembering this, bring some sports’ drink powder with you to put in a water bottle (Powerade, Gatorade, whatever) – it can make a huge difference in keeping you hydrated and healthy.

Source: “15 Travel Tips for Africa”. WhiteAfrican, June 11, 2009. http://whiteafrican.com/2009/06/11/15-travel-tips-for-africa/

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