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Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Volume 9, Issue 25; July 7, 2010

Let’s Go Canada

Durham debacle.

Abroad Perspective

Malaysian Scholarships in Decline

Over The Counter

Welcoming Wheels

Globe Tipping

Avoiding Offense [Part III]

1) LET’S GO CANADA – Durham debacle.

In May, 2008, classes began at Durham College’s new Panama campus. The event should have been a celebrated milestone, seeing as it was the first overseas campus that the Canadian-based college had ever had. Yet only a week before the official opening of the new campus, members of the Durham board of governors for the home campus, located in Oshawa, Ontario – were shocked to receive invitations for the opening. According to them, they had no idea that such a campus even existed.

So what had happened?
Two years before, the school had begun in earnest its worldwide expansion program. Which explains why, at the time of the Panama opening, the governors were fully aware that administration had indeed been considering exporting the college’s curriculum to students abroad. What it does not explain is why they had no idea that the plans for expansion had in fact progressed – to the point where students were already enrolled at the Panama institution (which had been founded with $220,000 in seed money), and a $500,000 investment had been made to start up a similar institution in Bangalore, India.

Claiming no prior knowledge of the two foreign campuses, the board of directors demanded an immediate explanation from the university’s director of International Business Development, Ryan O’Grady – who maintained that all plans for the expansions had been thoroughly reported on and evaluated before they were implemented.

“If you read the public minutes of the briefings that were given to the board, that alone tells me those initiatives are under way,” he said. “If I read the strategic plan of the college, I see that it’s under way.”

What followed was a sea of confusion. Resignations, accusations, the shutting down of the Bangalore campus (which never did host a single student), and a $3 million US lawsuit filed against Durham College by it’s one and only Panama-based graduating class.

The President of Durham College, Ms. Leah Myers, resigned immediately on May 15, 2008, citing personal reasons. She is now a high-ranking official with the Ontario government’s Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.
The Panamanian students who claimed they had been falsely lured to study at the college, were angered after the university’s “Trabaja en Canada, Estudia en Panama!” – or Work in Canada, Study in Panama! – promises failed to be realized. Apparently, the college’s (empty) ‘work in Canada’ offers had been featured prominently in many of its recruitment advertisements and brochures.

“Students will have to choose one of the business programs that Durham College offers in Panama jointly with an English program,” one brochure explained. “Upon completion of these courses the student will travel to Canada for a term of six months to a year depending on the demands of the employer.”
According to a college spokesperson, the claim was thrown out by Panamanian courts in April. The Panama campus was shut down soon after.

Durham’s story sounds like one from Dubai a few years earlier. The University of Southern Queensland, at one time one of Australia’s most aggressive marketers of international education – opened a campus in the Dubai Knowledge Village in 2004. It closed a few months after it started classes amidst controversy. The university’s Vice-Chancellor back in Australia claimed no prior knowledge of the existence of the campus and said he only learned of it by reading in the newspaper. The Dubai campus dissolved immediately and three senior USQ staff who had been connected to the Dubai start up, ended up in criminal and legal proceedings in Australia.

True, the Durham College debacle isn’t typical for Canada, a country fairly timid to toeing international education waters.  However Canada has its share of partnership collapses in south Asia.

“It’s mostly a lack of competence and a dearth of due diligence,” says Higher-Edge Managing Director Mel Broitman. “I’ve asked before at the Canadian High Commission in Delhi about actual examples of a Canadian university taking on such a poor partner, one that the Canadian Government admits it would steer clear of.”  According to Broitman – the diplomats, trade and immigration officials all say the same thing. “The universities never asked us.”

Source: “Durham College’s panic over Panama campus”. June 17, 2010.

2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVE – Malaysian Scholarships in Decline

With tougher financial times hitting hard around the world, individuals and governments alike are looking for ways to cut corners in their spending. In Malaysia, it seems that higher education is one of the areas feeling the crunch.
Following recent cutbacks to subsidies helping to cover tuition fees for foreign scholars at Malaysian universities, a new announcement by Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz of the Prime Minister’s Department, has confirmed its Government will also continue to scale down on the number of scholarships given for local students to study overseas.    

Preferring to concentrate more on providing opportunities to postgraduate students, the Government has now stated that undergraduate students will instead be encouraged to study at local universities.

“The intention is, firstly, to reduce expenditure in sending students overseas,” explained Minister Nazri. “Secondly, we must ensure that local universities have bright students. Why are we doubting the quality of local universities?”
This year, the number of Public Service Department (PSD) scholarships provided by the Government dropped from 2,000 to 1,500. And soon, Minister Nazri announced, through a gradual phase-out plan, there will only be 300 such scholarships awarded per year. At which point, only those students wishing to pursue postgraduate studies, or those awarded a place at an Ivy League institution in a critical field, will be supported to study overseas.

Source: “Nazri: Govt to cut down on scholarships to study overseas”. The Star, June 14, 2010.

3) OVER THE COUNTER – Welcoming Wheels

Many North American universities are known for their hospitality in welcoming international students. With foreign students’ clubs, orientation nights, arranged dinners and networking events, institutions often try their best to make newcomers’ transition as easy – and enjoyable – as possible.

Ohio’s Shawnee State University has gone one step further. As a new addition to their Centre for International Programs and Activities’ lending closet – which already loans foreign students everything from cooking utensils to blankets, pillows, phones and winter coats – newcomers are now being given the option of personal transportation as well.

Hopes are that the university’s new International Student Bicycle Loan Program will help give students more freedom, by providing transport to aid them in buying groceries, running errands, and travelling around town. Each student will also be given a training program, developed by two Shawnee State security officers, to ensure they understand American bike laws and general safety measures. Each of the bikes – most of which the university hopes will be donated by community members – will be registered and photographed for identification purposes, and students will also be provided with helmets and bike lights.

This year, Shawnee State is looking forward to receiving its highest number of foreign exchange students yet – including 24 newcomers from nine different countries.

Sources: “Bicycles needed for international students at Shawnee State University”. The Tribune, June 27, 2010.

4) GLOBE TIPPING – Avoiding Offense [Part III]

Different countries, different cultures, different rules of etiquette… and dis-etiquette. Read on for our final installment of some of the world’s top travel ‘faux pas’ – in other words, a collection of offensive actions to avoid:
8. Giving a bottle of cognac in a pigskin holder to an Arab host
9. This would be a double offense. Firstly because, if a Muslim drinks at all, they likely don’t do so publicly. And secondly because, like dog, pig is considered unclean in Arab countries – so however classy the combination might appear to you, it should not be done. In fact, in many countries, gift-giving can be a tricky business. For example, a clock is unlucky in China, anything with a logo is considered cheap in Colombia, and Koreans do not like being given anything “Made in Korea”.
10. Drinking or talking during a toast in Georgia or Azerbaijan
11. In northern Europe, Russia, and the old Soviet Union countries, drinking toasts are a serious business. In Scandinavia and Germany, people should always meet their host’s eye when saying Skal or Prost. In Russia, the vodka should be emptied in a single gulp. And in Georgia and Azerbaijan, it is considered extremely rude to talk over any officiating “toastmaster”.
12. Leaving your chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice in China or Japan
13. The farther away from your food you hold your chopsticks, the more sophisticated you appear – the ideal ‘distance’ being two-thirds of the way up. Never spear your food with chopsticks, cross them, rest them on opposite sides of your plate, point them at people, or (worst of all) stick them upright in the rice – an action that mimics a Japanese funeral rite.

Sources: “Top 10 travel faux pas”. The Guardian, October 15, 2007.

“Top Faux Pas Travelers Should Be Aware of”., August 10, 2009.
“New program provides bicycles for international students”. USA Education Guides, June 27, 2010.



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