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Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Volume 9, Issue 38; November 3, 2010

Let’s Go Canada

Canada & the UAE; a closed sky for the future of international student recruitment?

Abroad Perspectives

A risky bet for Yale?

Over The Counter

In UK, new sentences for student scam artists

Globe Tipping

Not exactly five-stars in India

1) LET’S GO CANADA – Canada & the UAE; a closed sky for the future of international student recruitment?

Earlier this month, Canadian Minister for International Trade, Peter Van Loan, greeted journalists in the United Arab Emirates, stating his country’s interest in exploring new educational ventures in the Gulf region. Two Canadian institutions are already operating programs in Doha – the University of Calgary and the College of North Atlantic (CNA-Q), and the Minister stated keen interest in exploring additional opportunities.

According to Van Loan, more than 10,000 students from Saudi Arabia alone are currently studying graduate and professional courses at Canadian institutions. Growing regional interest will be buffeted with Canada’s newly opened, full-fledged embassy in Qatar.

However, coinciding with Minister Van Loan’s visit to the UAE were ongoing discussions over Canada’s current stance on aircraft landing rights in the country. At present, the only direct air links between Canada and the region are a few flights a week from the UAE.

International education and the movement of students is akin to a great web linking many elements of globalization. Australia has dozens more flights each week than Canada, it’s just as far, and the result is significantly more traffic of int’l students and all areas of economic and social exchange.

In June, the Western Premiers’ Conference in Canada issued a statement: “The lack of Open Skies agreements is currently costing our economies hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.”

In response to the issue, The Consumers’ Association of Canada has also called on Ottawa to side with consumers over the national air-carrier, Air Canada, by allowing Emirates airlines to add direct flights to Canadian cities. Along with providing Canadians more choices for flying to Dubai and other destinations in the Middle East and North Africa, such a change could significantly help to encourage more partnerships and exchange between the two regions in the areas of tourism, industry, and international student education.

But for now, the Canadian skies stay closed.

Sources: “The bigger picture on the UAE’s dispute with Canada”. AM770, October 17, 2010.

“Canada eyes more education ventures”. Gulf Times.

2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – A risky bet for Yale?

Critics are concerned. Is Yale University – which has never before attached its name to an overseas campus – about to make a big mistake?

As announced this September, the plan is for Yale and the national University of Singapore (NUS) to open a new liberal arts college in Singapore – jointly governed and bearing both institutions’ names.

Coming after a decade of small, though increasingly ‘international’ steps (a joint center for biomedical research at Shanghai’s Fudan University, a joint program at Peking University, etc), this would be the biggest stride yet on Yale president Richard Levin’s agenda to “position Yale as a university of global consequence”.

Singapore is already establishing a reputation for quality education – with Duke, MIT, NYU, and Johns Hopkins all hosting programs and/or full schools within the island nation. The National University of Singapore (NUS) has considerable clout – currently ranking 31st in overall QS World University Rankings. What Singapore does not yet have, however, are comprehensive liberal arts offerings. Which is precisely where Yale comes in – grasping a chance for its faculty to create and popularize liberal education in Asia.

But critics are quick to point to Singapore’s international reputation as a somewhat less than ‘liberal’ nation, and one which specifically attracts ongoing backlash over its use of capital punishment (especially in drug-possession cases), use of criminal libel laws to silence critics, and rules against public protest. So the question that many are asking is this; Will the nation’s academic environment be free enough for the school to provide a truly “liberal” education?

According to Amnesty International researcher, Lance Lattig, academic freedom remains in the eye of the beholder: “If you ask people who are on faculty in a country ‘how is academic freedom?’ they’ll say it’s fine, but if you ask people who have had to leave because the authorities have given them problems, they say it’s atrocious.” One example is James Gomez – an academic who left Singapore after running for office as an opposition candidate. According to Gomez, an American-style liberal arts environment in Singapore “is clearly not possible because of self-censorship practiced by academics and university administrators”.

Mark Oppenheimer, director for the Yale Journalism Initiative and lecturer in the university’s English department, has voiced similar opinions against the school’s proposal on his blog. “If you get into bed with human rights abusers, you feel less free to criticize human rights abuse, and if you get into bed with people who don’t take academic freedom seriously, it’s unlikely that you’ll continue to take academic freedom quite as seriously”.

Yale President Levin takes a similar stance on partnering with Singapore as he did when considering China – arguing against the critics that the best course of action is not to avoid, but rather to “engage and hope that through conversation and interaction there’s going to be some advance in mutual understanding and perhaps some liberalization of the society”.

Source: “Singapore Spinoff”. Yale Alumni Magazine, Nov/Dec 2010.

3) OVER THE COUNTER – In UK, new sentences for student scam artists

In the midst of the UK’s newest crackdowns on student immigration scams, two ‘colleges’ which gave false documents and certificates to international ‘students’ in London and Manchester have now been officially closed.

In recent months, action has been taken against nearly 200 such ‘colleges’ across the nation, which provide documents for international students seeking British visas. Many of such institutions have little or no academic credibility.
Connected to the scam at the recently closed (and deemed bogus) Thames College London was Syed Ahmed – a former barrister now jailed for 8.5 years. According to officials, the scam led by Ahmed netted millions of pounds – 2.65 million of which was found stuffed into boxes and suitcases under a bed in his south London flat.

Though cleared of money laundering charges, a three-week long trial at Southwark Crown Court found Ahmed guilty of conspiring to assist unlawful immigration.
Ahmed’s four other London ‘associates’, including his Chinese wife and two Bangladeshi nationals, were jailed this January for a total of 25 years, for conspiring to assist unlawful immigration.

In addition to the ‘college’, the group was also found to be running a corrupt immigration advisory firm in London. Advertising its services in Chinese newspapers, the firm claimed to provide advice and assistance for international students who wanted to apply for or extend visas.

Source: “Asians jailed for UK immigration scams”. Indian Express, October 27, 2010.

4) GLOBE TIPPING – Not exactly five-stars in India.

They came to India – a group of five university representatives – to talk to leading families and at top Indian schools about world-class studies abroad. But what they learned more than anything, is how far even a five-star Indian property has to go, to offer world-class service.

The worst of it at the Intercontinental Hotel Nehru Place in Delhi was breaking glasses over guests in the Bar, cutting one of the guest’s knee, and then not offering any discount, not paying for the clothes cleaning, and doing the usual Indian “Sorry, Sir” with no real accountability.

The “Sorry Sirs” came fast and furious.
Missed wake up calls.
An absolute cock-up at one hotel departure, with cars booked for the airport the night before, but not enough cars showing up for the noon departure. Two guests scrambling for transport for their flights. Two others were dropped at the wrong terminal and then taking a taxi from the international to domestic building (7kms apart in Delhi).

The hotel elevators, for many months not working properly, were again malfunctioning. It could take 20 minutes to descend for breakfast. No proper warnings were posted. No easy access to stairs pointed out. Complaints at the Front Desk were greeted with the usual “Sorry Sir” and no accountability, no offer of compensation, no actual consideration for the guest.

It’s not just that on the heels of the Commonwealth Games disastrous organization that only the Indian Government is letting the nation down. Some of the country’s supposedly finest, are not at all up to world-class quality.
This is not the old India. This is the new India. The problem is quantity and quality. As India expands and attracts more upper-end businesses both domestically and from abroad, more and more hotels are cropping up. But if you build a five-star property, where do you get the five-star staff?

In India – the safest bet for world-class hotels is still an Oberoi. If one wants top-class service, one should check references before booking.


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