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Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Volume 9, Issue 19; May 26, 2010

Let’s Go Canada

The price of quality?

Abroad Perspective

North Korea brings the world a bit closer to its students

Over The Counter

Degrees, Careers and Entitlements

Globe Tipping

The Great Anti-Malarial Debate: to take or not to take?

1) LET’S GO CANADA – The price of quality?

Canada is bulking up its research reputation with real dollars, and hopes it will make the country more attractive to leading and cutting edge global expertise.

A recent $200 million commitment (to be paid over seven years) by Canada’s federal government has ensured 19 world-class researchers for Canadian universities – including the University of Alberta, where four of the researchers will be based. But it is a move that, although warmly welcomed, has also raised a number of questions about university priorities within the country.
In a recent opinion piece run by the Edmonton Journal*, the move was criticized for its lack of consideration for undergraduate education – an area which, according to a new report by Canada’s TD Bank, the nation is lagging behind in.

As the authors of this report point out, emerging economies are rapidly increasing their access to post-secondary education – and, in order to keep up, Canada must strive to provide more (and better) education.

The Edmonton Journal agrees: “World-class researchers are important. But by definition, most people don’t breathe the rarefied air of “world class.” Over the next 20 years, having a strong undergraduate education system will be just as important to Canada as luring top talent.”

*Source: “Don’t forget undergraduates”. Edmonton Journal, May 20, 2010.

2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVE – North Korea brings the world a bit closer to its students

US citizen James Kim is now the founding President of a Pyongyang university – the first foreign-funded university to be established within North Korea.
As Kim explained at a GoogleTech Talk back in February, since the collapse of the Soviet Bloc 20 years ago, the nation has run into difficulties when it comes to university education. With faculty shortages and dwindling options for suitable “brother” countries to send students away to, Kim says that offering the invitation to start the new university likely seemed the government’s best option.

“Probably they figured that, rather than sending their students abroad over which they do not have any control… they asked us to come in,” he explained. “Inside this fence they have a better control of us and the students.”
Constructed using completely imported materials and furnishings shipped in from neighbouring China, the institution is predicted to eventually serve up to 2,000 undergraduates and 600 graduate students – all of whose fees will be paid for by the government.

Modeled after the Yanbian University of Science and Technology – the first foreign-funded university in China (which Kim also helped found, 20 years ago) – this university will be unique in a number of ways. Along with controversial advanced IT equipment shipped in from abroad, it will also offer intensive English training, and provide students and academics the (very rare) opportunity of using the internet – unlike other universities within the nation. Even if sites are likely to be subject to government controls, Kim says this is still a big step: “Even a filtered internet access will be a great thing,” he explained to the GoogleTech meeting earlier this year.

With UN and US sanctions against North Korea, however, internet is not the only obstacle for the university to overcome – particularly with IT and engineering being such sensitive areas. But Kim says that they are being extremely careful to comply with all international laws, and that he’s been reporting to the US State Department on a regular basis as well.

Source: “NORTH KOREA: University opens students to the world”. University World News, May 9, 2010.
3) OVER THE COUNTER –Degrees, Careers and Entitlements

The challenges of realizing an immediate “return on investment” is slowing down international student recruitment. Fathers, mothers and their children want to know there is a job and a significant salary which goes with the degree they are seeking. If not satisfied, then it’s less likely that the high cost of study abroad will be funded.  Of course there are no guarantees, yet in today’s extremely uncertain and volatile economic environment, there is an expectation, and even a feeling of entitlement, that big dollars should be just around the corner after convocation.

According to a University of Guelph study of Canadian undergraduate students on their career expectations, the current crop of prospective graduates anticipate their starting salaries to hover around $43,000, and expect their salaries to rise to nearly $70,000 within the first five years. Seventy percent of respondents expect to be promoted within the first eighteen months of working, and thirty-five percent anticipate moving up in less than a year. The study also shows that these high expectations are not based on grade performance.  Those with lower grades had the same assumptions about salary increases and promotions as students with higher grades.

The University of Guelph researcher says the study findings corroborate the stereotype of this new generation feeling entitled.

4) GLOBE TIPPING – The Great Anti-Malarial Debate: to take or not to take?

For much of the Southern hemisphere, rainy season is quickly on its way, if it hasn’t already arrived.  Rainy season – meaning standing water, meaning mosquitoes, meaning … Malaria. The disease responsible for between one and three million deaths around our world each year, and the source of constant discussion (and often worry) among travelers and expats in most tropical destinations. With their biggest question often being: ‘to take or not to take’? Anti-malarial or ‘prophylaxis’ pills, that is. And if to take, then which kind to take?

Generations ago, the early European visitors to the tropics spent much of their time drinking quinine – the first known malaria treatment as well as the flavouring still used to create tonic water – which is also widely known to cause, when taken in large doses, an intense ringing in the ears. Thankfully, however, many advances in the chemical prevention of malaria have been made since those days.

After the onset of widespread resistance to another anti-malarial drug, chloroquine, however, there are really only three main anti-malarials currently on the market. And, until the sure to be much celebrated day when a malaria vaccine (currently in development) is perfected, they are the best bet at preventing malaria for travellers – along with avoiding mosquito bites and standing water, that is.

Doxycycline: This multi-purpose antibiotic is used to treat a number of ailments, including acne, lyme disease, and even syphilis. Taken once a day, at the cost of roughly $1 a pill, it is also known to help fight off malaria – though many people face considerable sun sensitivity as a result of taking it. Also, for this pill in particular, make sure you drink a lot of water with it, and whatever you do, don’t lie down immediately after swallowing one – they’ve been known to create permanent burning sensations in the esophagus.

Mefloquine (also sometimes known as “scary Lariam”): It’s potent, only needs to be taken once a week, is a bit more forgiving over mistakes made by those who forget to take it on time, and, at around $7/week, it comes as cheap as Doxy. These are all good things. The side effects, on the other hand…vivid dreams, depression, acute anxiety, paranoia, and/or potential thoughts of suicide. However, for the lucky who don’t experience these symptoms to their extreme, it often becomes the drug of choice (for all the reasons stated before).

A couple things to ponder if you’re considering larium: ask your doctor about doing a “trial run” before you leave home to see if you have any immediate side effects. Some health care professionals have also been known to prescribe it to be taken half a pill at a time, twice a week, to cut down on adverse effects – however, do note that this is not the recommended dosage.

Malarone: Often a favourite due to the fact that, out of the ‘big three’, it has the least common side effects. However, it is pricey, and at around $5-$6 a pill, it needs to be taken like Doxy, on a daily basis.

There are varying opinions as to which drugs are safe(st) for longer-term use, and each certainly comes with its own pros and cons. But in general, a rule of thumb: whether you decide to take prophylaxis or not, and whether you take it precisely or not, you can still get malaria. So, if you think you might be experiencing any symptoms – either while in the malaria zone or during the months immediately after leaving one – don’t wait: get yourself tested.

Don’t like the sound of any of the above options? Here’s another alternative – there’s apparently a brand new $50 laser that can “shoot down” up to 100 mosquitoes per second:
Now that’s something worth considering.


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