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Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Volume 9, Issue 36; October 20, 2010

The Edge

Truth be told. The Globe and Mail uses its front page to question the partners Canadian universities get into bed with.

Let’s Go Canada

Big gains, yet still missed opportunities in Atlantic Canada.

Over The Counter

In UK, new overseas quotas hit universities hard.

Globe Tipping

Beware the fine points of all-not-so-inclusive travel.

1) “THE EDGE” – Truth be told. The Globe and Mail uses its front page to question the partners Canadian universities get into bed with.

Finally ! Some truths are told in the mainstream media about the perils Canadian universities expose themselves to when entering schemes where unaccountable third party agencies market their programs. Of all such schemes, none is more fraught with this peril, than those known as “foundation” or “bridge” or “pre-U” programs, whether in Canada or abroad, that may expressly entice students ill-suited to study in universities.

Two of the most experienced Globe and Mail reporters, (Mark MacKinnon and Rod Mickleburgh), wrote the story (Oct 16) which was highlighted on the front page and comes across like an exposé.

The article plants some of the blame at the feet of a few Canadian universities for aligning themselves with selling false promises of admissions to their university programs. The promise is predicated upon enrollment at a foreign-owned college at, or near the affiliated Canadian university campus, with the impression being the student is in fact studying at that Canadian university. The truth is that most of these alliances place students in language programs and introductory academic programs, with little hope of making it to the degree-granting campus.

The Globe gets much of the story right – but fails to hammer home the big point – the sharpest one which punctures the plans of the participating Canadian universities. The article quotes critics claiming these universities take in students who are not otherwise qualified for admission. That is true. In the UK and Australia, these same private company-run colleges offer foundation years BEFORE students graduate to year one of a three year UK or Australian university degree.

But Canadian degrees are four years. It’s a losing sales pitch to have one year at the private foundation college and only then gain admission to the first year of Canada’s four year degree programs – and thus take five years to get a four year degree. The Canadian spin is that the foundation program articulates into the SECOND YEAR at the partner university. As implausible as it seems, these Canadian universities take students who commonly lack both the English proficiency and the demonstrable academic record normally required for admission in the first place – but in that one year of study at the private college, transform them into good enough scholars to advance to second year university, and thus a four year degree, takes four years. The truth the Globe article alludes to, is that very few of these students can survive a Canadian university program, and the universities’ supposed sacrosanct academic integrity just waives them in.

Why do some Canadian universities propose and participate in, such an outlandish scenario? Of course because it sells. Of course because they want the money. Of course it’s misleading. There is no magic elixir which morphs these mediocre students into what it takes to belong in traditionally accepted (supposedly “high”) academic standards for a Canadian university. Most of these students will never make it to that second year (few of them belong in first year). But in the intensely competitive international education market, you can’t easily sell a $15k tuition fee for an extra year of study. Better to position it as Year One at a renowned university and lead students on that they will go to second year afterwards at the main campus, and thus finish their four year degree, in four years.

It does not take a PhD in Education to question how this is possible. Unless these Canadian universities seriously dumb down their curriculums (that’s coming next by the way in “the great race to the bottom”), then realistically, very few of these students will pass through to year two. The universities, and certainly not their private college partners,
will spell out how few students actually made the grade to move on. What is clear is that most students will drift away and never get the degrees they first came for, but not before the private college and public university, cash in.

“The Edge” by Mel Broitman, Director of the Canadian University Application Centre. Mel is in India this week for the CUAC Education Fairs in four Indian cities (Oct 24-31), and winds up in Bangladesh on November 5th.

Source: “Chinese students pay dearly for Canadian ‘education’”. Globe and Mail, October 15, 2010.

2) LET’S GO CANADA – Big gains, yet still missed opportunities in Atlantic Canada

A recent report, released last month by the Council of Atlantic Ministers of Education and Training (CAMET), has outlined significant earnings when it comes to international students attending institutions in Canada’s eastern provinces.
The report, titled “The Economic Impact of Post-secondary International Students in Atlantic Canada”, revealed that foreign students attending institutions in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island – contributed $565 million to their regional economies in 2009-2010 alone, with as much as $175 million of that being new money to the area.

In other words, for every $1 that the government spends on an international student, that same student pumps an average of $2.68 back into the economy – with their yearly spending while in Canada averaging around $29,000 per international student. This includes tuition (typically double that of what Canadian students pay) and living expenses – with any additionally linked visits from parents or family members not included in this amount (which often happen when the students first enrolls, as well as graduate from university).

However, even though the numbers (and inputs) of international students to the region appear high, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the number of graduates who choose to stay in the region and work there post-graduation, continues to remain as low as 15.6%.

Particularly with the area’s ageing demographic, missing out on such a great opportunity – ie; seeing such large numbers of skilled workers head back off, out of the region – is undeniably a great loss. The study’s main suggestions included ways for the Atlantic provinces to not only keep up their international student population, but also to attract further immigration into the region, while at the same time investing in the students’ future contributions to the area’s labour force and economy.

Sources: “International students generate millions for Atlantic economy”. The Gateway, October 14, 2010.

“Road map to future regional prosperity”. NB Business, October 15, 2010.

3) OVER THE COUNTER – In UK, new overseas quotas hit universities hard.

Since the UK government recently announced its new cap on immigration from non-European Union countries, universities have been facing a serious dilemma – with some institutions facing research setbacks, and others being restricted to hire fewer than 10 overseas academics this year.

The current quotas, which apply to “skilled workers” under Tier-2 of the nation’s points-based immigration system, have been in effect from July 19th this year, and will be until March 31st, 2011 – after which point a permanent cap is likely to be put in place.

For some universities, the caps have meant a 15% reduction in the number of ‘Tier-2’ staff recruits they have been allowed to hire. For others, like Newcastle University, the reduction rate has been up to 50%.
The university, which hired 56 foreign staff last year, was given the new limit of 28 – a cap that applies not only to new recruits, but also to current staff members.

“We are having to monitor this very carefully and day by day,” says Vervan Johnston, Newcastle’s executive director for human resources, “to make sure our heads of faculty and pro vice-chancellors understand the potential impact on their areas.”

Although some universities are trying to alleviate the problem by encouraging staff to apply for Tier 1 visas, which cover “highly skilled” workers, even the number of visas granted in this area is still subject to a national monthly limit. According to Elaine McIlroy, a senior associate at law firm Dundas Wilson, “exceptional circumstances” may also be claimed by universities seeking extra certificates of sponsorship – but she says a “pretty tough test” has to be applied before any institution could qualify.

Source: “Visa stranglehold chokes recruitment”. Times Higher Education, October 7, 2010.

4) GLOBE TIPPING – Beware the fine points of all-not-so-inclusive travel

Whether you’re looking for a cheap package deal for a week away, or trying to find a budget rate that includes all your “travel needs” in one, all-inclusive options have a way of leaping off the page. It may seem “soo perfect”, yes… but you might want to pause and research carefully before you leap right along with it – as often, the fine points (aka, what’s not considered as “all”) can have a way of adding up. Beyond the basics of considering extra taxes and any fine print, below are some tips to keep in mind when considering the offers.

When it comes to hotels, starry eyes don’t always mean starry ratings
Before purchasing any package, make sure you know enough about the lodgings that are included in the deal: What’s the name of the hotel? Have you gone online to see its website? Checked out photos of its rooms? Make sure you ask the packager (or perhaps even call ahead to speak to the hotel to find out) what type of rooms are sold as part of packages – and whether you have any choice in picking what type you get. Also be sure to find out exactly what’s included with the hotel package, and what services are in the actual hotel, versus available “nearby” (whatever that means) for an additional cost (ie: meals, pool, fitness centre, laundry service, etc). Also, if there is any breakfast ‘included’, you might want to check whether that’s a full, hot meal or merely a continental-style buffet (which can range anywhere from being solely coffee and toast to including cereal, muffins, and/or fruit).

Airways, Air, Airlines – what’s the difference, so long as I get there for a good rate?
You may think this initially, but once you start your journey, the tune may change. Hidden baggage costs, exceedingly small size or weight restrictions, unreliable (or perpetually late) local airline ‘partners’ – any of these issues could quickly combine to make the initial “savings” seem significantly less attractive. So make sure you ask questions in advance, just to make sure you know what precisely is involved in your ‘bottom dollar deal’.
The in-betweens
If your package includes a number of elements – ie: flights, hotels, and/.or rental cars, for example – make sure you know how precisely you are getting between said services once you arrive (and who’s paying for the transfer). For example, if your deal includes the flight and the hotel, is there a free shuttle service available? A paid shuttle service? Or is the only option to ‘make your own way there’. Such transfers can definitely add up – sometimes equaling as much as an entire night at a hotel.

The unforeseens
Be sure to inquire before you book about your trips’ policies for delays, cancellations, and refunds. This is important on two ends – first, knowing what happens to your money if you cancel or wish to reschedule (and based on what deadlines), and secondly, what happens if the airline, hotel, or rental company has to delay, change, or cancel for any reason? What happens to your hotel if your plane is delayed? What will it cost to extend your trip in case of air travel delays? These are all questions it may be worthwhile to ask. And, in the case of any stringent cancellation policies – it may be a good idea to purchase a trip interruption and cancellation insurance policy, just to be safe (which, of course, will cost you extra money…).

In the end, all-inclusive may still be your cheapest option. But just make sure you know what’s included in that deal…and what’s not.

Source: “What that ‘all-inclusive’ deal might not include”., September 29, 2010.


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