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Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Volume 9, Issue 37; October 27, 2010

Abroad Perspectives

Edinburgh U. offers online M.B.A. opportunities to deserving African students.

Over The Counter

Widespread cheating threatens China’s research future.

The Edge

Bogus in Bangladesh

Globe Tipping

Carry-On Comfort


1) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – Edinburgh U. offers online M.B.A. opportunities to deserving African students.

“[This] is no easy ride,” says Alick Kitchen, business director at the Heriot-Watt University’s Edinburgh Business School. But it is a great opportunity.

The ‘ride’ Kitchen refers to is a new scholarship on offer by the school, offering 250 deserving students from across Africa the chance to earn a top quality M.B.A. degree – all while never having to leave their homes (or their jobs, or their families) behind.

The school’s online M.B.A. program, currently hosting more than 8,000 students around the globe, is made up of nine courses – already offering reduced fees for those students from Africa, India, or China. So, why the additional full-ride scholarship opportunities for African students?

“We wanted to establish an initiative to promote life-long learning across the continent,” explains Professor Keith Lumsden, director of Edinburgh Business School. “Africa needs assistance to help develop its full potential, and with these scholarships we are offering 250 individuals the chance to make a difference – not only to their own lives but to the wider communities around them.”

Chosen for their future potential, candidates eligible for the scholarship must not only demonstrate financial hardship, they also need to show how they plan to use their degrees to benefit their communities later on.

By having all course lectures and materials formatted to be downloadable, school organizers ensure that students, no matter what type of environment they are studying in (facing issues of unreliable or costly internet provision, intermittent power cuts, etc) – can keep up with the coursework. Although many African universities continue to face debilitating issues regarding a lack of resources and/or infrastructure, this unique program ensures that students have everything they need, right at their fingertips. Particularly for women, this approach – bringing education to the student, rather than requiring the student to leave home to study – has great advantages.

Along with the M.B.A. program itself, Edinburgh and its scholarship partner, the Canon Collins Trust (an African educational charity which helps the university identify deserving candidates) offer recipients special additional mentorship throughout their studies. With current mentors including such respected figures as Graça Machel (wife to Nelson Mandela and veteran political activist in her own right), scholarship students are ensured the extra guidance needed to help them follow their plan for community improvement and service post-degree.

Source: “Edinburgh School Takes Online M.B.A. to Africa”. New York Times, September 19, 2010. 

http://nyti.ms/9qS3RT


2) OVER THE COUNTER – Widespread cheating threatens China’s research future.

A hundred pilots with falsified flying histories, a head of Microsoft with a padded resume, a celebrated computer scientist who scratched the Motorola name off a microprocessor to call it his own creation… Fraud in China is not a ‘new’ phenomenon. Nor is fraud anywhere else, for that matter. However, for China, fakery in one area in particular – education and scientific research – is becoming a big enough problem that many worry it could make it harder for the country to take the next step up the economic ladder.

With significant resources being devoted to building a world-class education system, as well as pioneering research efforts in various competitive industries and sciences, it is no wonder that China has made notable successes in the fields of network computing, clean energy, and military technology. However, with a widespread lack of integrity among the country’s researchers, it also makes sense why many critics are now warning that such rampant plagiarism and fakery could pose a serious threat to President Hu Jintao’s vow to make China a “research superpower” by 2020.

“Clearly,” read a recent editorial in The Lancet British medical journal, “China’s government needs to take this episode as a cue to reinvigorate standards for teaching research ethics and for the conduct of the research itself.”

Zhang Ming, a professor of international relations at Beijing’s Renmin University, agrees that the situation is dire.

“If we don’t change our ways, we will be excluded from the global academic community,” Zhang says. “We need to focus on seeking the truth, not serving the agenda of some bureaucrat or satisfying the desire for personal profit.”
But with pressure on scholars strong to rack up journal citations – as well as beat out competition to achieve new research grants, housing perks, and career advancements – a deluge of false and/or falsely-claimed research is being produced. In fact, such occurrences are so common that a recent government study found that a third of the 6,000 scientists at six of the nation’s top institutions actually admitted to engaging in plagiarism or the outright fabrication of research data.

Although many claim that the seeming ‘culture’ of plagiarism and cheating in China begins in high school – where many students use high-tech gadgets and underhanded methods to earn good grades and enter top universities – the problem continues to grow at the higher levels of education and research.

Fang Shimin, more commonly known by his pen name of Fang Zhouzi, is a writer whose website, New Threads (http://www.xys.org) has exposed more than 900 instances of academic fakery – including some involving nationally-renowned researchers and university presidents. According to Mr. Fang, when plagiarism is exposed, colleagues and school administration often protect those accused – partly to preserve the reputation of the institution, he explains, but also because few academics are clean enough themselves to point fingers at others. And particularly with plagiarism in the country largely going unpunished, he says the practice then continues to flourish.

Source: “Rampant Fraud Threat to China’s Brisk Ascent”. New York Times, October 6, 2010.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/07/world/asia/07fraud.html?pagewanted=all


3) “THE EDGE” – Bogus in Bangladesh

Two young men came to see me in our Dhaka office on October 11th. They showed me their admission letters to a Canadian college and their visa refusal letters from the Canadian High Commission’s Visa Section in Bangladesh.

They were quite disappointed and said they badly wanted to go to Canada for further studies. Though it was clear to me from interviewing them (and the regular interrogation I do !), that basically they wanted out of Bangladesh. As the older of the two eventually admitted, “I want out of Bangladesh as soon as possible,” he told me.

Their first choice was Canada for a fresh start, and to obtain a Canadian Study Permit. One “student” had an MBA already and some good work experience. The other was a mediocre student who had done two years of an undergraduate Business degree. They had gone through an education agent in Chittagong (the second biggest city in Bangladesh, and in the south) and they had been convinced to apply to a diploma business program at one of Ontario’s largest provincially funded colleges.

No question they would get admitted. Almost everyone who applies does. If the college does any due diligence it would be shocking (virtually no one in Canada does). So they were admitted. The agent was happy. The students told me that the agent collected 800 dollars from each of them for the admission letter. The College was happy. Their admission letter says students must pay a little more than one thousand dollars to hold their admission. The agent collects another three thousand dollars from each student if they get a visa, and as is common in South Asia – the agent holds back the visa as a sort of blackmail for the last big payday.

Of course – very little chance this gets past the visa officer.
The agency probably has a track record of sending fraudulent applications to the visa office. But the agent does not care – at 800 bucks a pop for an application, that’s great business in Bangladesh. Heck, that’s a great business in Toronto ! The academic profiles did not make a lot of sense. The MBA graduate was overqualified for the diploma, and the undergraduate was underqualified.
A closer examination of their IELTS certificates indicated they were fakes. We could see that the formatting of the lines and boxes of the two were different, a dead give-away on what is a standard form. Back when we opened our office in Dhaka in 1997, we sat with the Canadian visa officer then, and he would take out his magnifying glass and show us all the signs of forgery. It’s usually quite tell-tale, if one knows what to look for.

I made it clear to the two men that there is nothing we can do at the CUAC to help them (we turn away over 90% of the drop-in traffic to our office in Dhaka. Juxtaposed to the agents in Bangladesh who accept 100% of their traffic (their end-game is in churning service fees through volume whether genuine or fraudulent). I told the men that if Canada was an option before, it is not now, with their record at the Canadian Embassy’s Visa Section.

The day before I had met with the Canadian High Commissioner in Dhaka and the Canadian Visa Manager. I was asked if Canadian institutions check on who they work with in Bangladesh. I said it’s not only rare that any due diligence is done, but what’s even worse, many Canadian colleges (and some universities) empower the unscrupulous agents. When the two men walked into our office the next day, it was a perfect example of collecting application fees, tuition deposits, and fostering more fraud.

It’s the way it is. For agents in high fraud environments this is their version of success. They are never going to change, as long as they can charge – and get paid, and of course, as long as Canadian institutions keep entertaining them.


4) GLOBE TIPPING – Carry-On Comfort

A long trip can easily wipe a person out, even before they land at their destination. So for those looking for ways to help arrive more relaxed and in better shape to start a trip, here are some tips to help you endure those long flights.

Pack Right: Pack light, know and follow the carry-on guidelines for the countries and airlines you will be flying through, and keep your essential documents handy at all times. Apart from the essentials, such as any medications you may need, also think ahead about any items you might want to have with you on-board: moisturizer, breath mints, tylenol, any anti-indigestion pills, etc. Having (or not having) any of these items could make (or break) your overall flight experience.
Choose the Best Seats: As anyone who has ever gotten stuck in the aisle with seats that don’t recline can attest, seat selection can often play a big role in your trip. So to be sure you have a choice between aisle, window, or centre, make use of online check-in options, or arrive early at the airport desk. Also useful is www.seatguru.com, which can help travelers determine the best (and worst) places to sit.

Eat up: Let’s be honest – most of the food served on flights leaves much to be desired. So to make sure this isn’t a problem, treat yourself to a large meal beforehand (the healthier, lighter the option the better), and pack some snacks for the ride. Granola bars, roasted nuts, and whole-grained crackers are all great options that won’t be confiscated at security. It also might be worth buying a bottle of water to carry on-board, so that you can fill it up throughout the flight in order to stay hydrated.

Sleep is Important: For those who have trouble sleeping on planes, simple aids can be a huge help – inflatable travel pillows, noise-cancelling headphones, face-masks, wooly socks for those who suffer from chills while they sleep, or a simple over-the-counter sleep aid are all commonly sworn-by items.

Keep Moving: Although the thought of repeatedly squishing past your seatmates and through the sometimes crowded aisles may not be a very tempting one, movement during flights is highly important – not only for warding off potentially dangerous afflictions such as blood clots, but also for reducing the likelihood of annoying muscle cramps and soreness upon arrival.

Arrive Refreshed: It is amazing what a quick brush of the teeth, wash of the face, and swipe of the deodorant can do to make you feel somewhat human again at the end of a long journey. So be sure to pack any of the necessary items to help ‘pick yourself up’ off the plane.

Source: “Flight Survival Guide: Tips to Airplane Comfort, Packing and Food”. ABC News, October 21, 2010.

http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/flight-survival-guide-tips-airplane-comfort-packing-food/story?id=11928439

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