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Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Volume 8, Issue 8; March 11, 2009

LET’S GO CANADA

Phuket: all play and no work

ABROAD PERSPECTIVE

Half a million international students in Australia in 2008

OVER THE COUNTER

Off-shore. Off the mark.

GLOBE TIPPING

Mis-stamped visas in the UAE

1) LET’S GO CANADA – Phuket: all play and no work

Some of the most popular destinations for international student recruiters are the ones which can double-up as holiday spots. Rio de Janeiro, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, and Shanghai are a few. But it seems that the Thai island of Phuket is not going to make that list, at least not for the working side of the equation.

The Canadian Education Centre’s recruitment attempt offering in Phuket last Sunday made it three strikes and you’re out for recent forays there. Despite a five-star hotel setting in the busiest location on the island on a Sunday afternoon, only a handful of people showed up to see five Canadian school boards, one college and one university. Last year a New Zealand initiative brought a dozen institutions into a middle range shopping mall on a weekend and attracted a paltry turnout. In 2008 Australia spent by far the most on promotions, and despite dozens of roadside banners, the best venue (the leading shopping mall on the island), and an attractive booth/stall display/installation, the Aussie exhibitors could have spent almost all of their time shopping in the mall.

Phuket has only one international high school on the island which attracts expatriate families – the British International School. There are very few other families with children at other schools who can afford to send them abroad for higher studies.

No question Phuket is a major global tourist destination, but for student recruiting, it’s very minor league.

2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVE – Half a million international students in Australia in 2008

In Australia, international student enrollment increased in 2008 by 20 percent, sending enrollments over the half a million mark for the first time.

Students who enrolled in 2008 did so before the onset of the economic crisis. Education Minister Julia Gillard predicts that student numbers will continue to hold steady for the next two to three years as students who have already enrolled complete their courses.

Gillard also pointed out an increase in the diversity of international students choosing to study in Australia. While Asian sources remained strong, more students from Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas also enrolled in diploma and degree programs.

While most students choose to study business and engineering, the boom has been felt in all faculties.

International students made up the third largest share of the Australian economy last year behind coal and iron ore exports. They were valued at $14.2 billion AUS.

Source: “http://www.smh.com.au/national/overseas-students-pass-record-number-20090226-8j9s.htmlThe Sydney Morning Herald, 27 February 2009.

3) OVER THE COUNTER –Off-shore. Off the mark.

The closing of George Mason University’s (GMU) campus in the United Arab Emirates is yet another story swirling about in Dubai’s higher education world. But GMU’s failure is not a pure Dubai story. It’s not really an economic downturn story either. It’s a reflection of reality for international education initiatives, both on and off-shore. A good university takes time. Slick buildings do not immediately translate into strong students.

from Dubai, depending upon traffic, from where the campus hoped to draw considerable numbers of students. Attracting students to RAK, as the lesser known Emirate is called, is not easy, and at its peak barely over a hundred registered. Media coverage reports that GMU also alleges their local partners reneged on the financial commitment – another commonality in the quick buck UAE environment.

The failing of foreign universities is not new in the UAE. In the last three years alone, from the Higher-Edge perch in Dubai Knowledge Village, we have seen three universities come and go from Australia, Europe and Canada.

Most of those who fade, like GMU, disappear quickly for not turning around a quick profit. This is the crux of the problem for building successful off-shore campuses with academic integrity. As Peter N. Stearns, Provost at George Mason said on the failing to attract enough students, “you cannot give an American degree if you don’t maintain your standards, so in that sense we were doing exactly the right thing.”

“But,” Stearns, acknowledges in the New York Times piece, “it is a real recruitment barrier. Education leaders in the Emirates themselves acknowledge that the preparation is not at the same level.”

George Mason University was founded in 1957 as a branch of the University of Virginia, which has been around for almost two hundred years. A great university takes a century or two to develop, but in the UAE, two years is a long time.

SOURCE: “http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/01/education/01campus.html?_r=2&rThe New York Times, 28 February 2009.

4) GLOBE TIPPING – Mis-stamped visas in the UAE

Keep a close eye on the visa stamp you receive when travelling to the UAE; it may mislead you into thinking you have longer in the country than you’re actually permitted.

The UAE changed its regulations in July 2008 limiting visits by nationals of 33 countries, including most of Europe, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, from 60 days to 30. However, several border officials are still using the old 60-day visa stamps in visitors’ passports.

Those who have been stamped with a 60-day stamp are being fined upon exiting the country if they have stayed longer than 30 days, regardless of what the stamp in their passports say or whether they had any previous knowledge of the change to the regulations.

Fines range from Dh800 ($281 CDN) to Dh3000 ($1057 CDN). No refunds are being offered.

Source: “http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/visa-confusion-dont-trust-that-stamp-in-your-passport,” The National, 9 March 2009.

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