Wednesday, November 17th, 2010
What’s a Visa Officer to do?
Are booming Canadian universities headed for a bust?
New Zealand plans to shrink first, then expand.
Think before you point and shoot, Pt II
1) “The Edge” – What’s a Visa Officer to do?
So the Toronto Star reports (Nov 9) that an Indian Punjabi immigration/education agent collects hundreds of thousands of dollars facilitating hundreds of admissions to Canadian colleges where almost all the Study Permit (visa) applications are fraudulent. What’s new?
A publicly funded community college in northern Ontario responds to the report saying it’s not to blame for working with the allegedly crooked consultant in issuing hundreds of admission letters for which almost all are refused visas. Again, nothing new here. Publicly funded colleges have been claiming for years that they don’t decide on visas, so they can’t be faulted for bogus applicants. They say it’s the student’s responsibility to apply honestly, and it’s up to the Visa Officer to decide. And by the way, the College would never admit accountability for hiring the crooks in the first place! Nor for offering hundreds of admission letters to frauds, which is handing a de facto invitation to Canada to someone intent on breaking the law.
Nope. Instead they rant about refusals at Visa Offices. Three years ago when BC Colleges came to India to complain that their Punjabi applicants were being denied fair access to Canada, the Visa Officer told them frankly that they have engaged with crooks and people smugglers and the bulk of their applicants were bogus. It was a fact, but the Colleges screamed it was a racist comment (in fact the colleges were entirely unjustified in making their allegations. The reality is a dark truth the Chandigarh Visa Office deals with daily). But Canadian governments moved to appease the Colleges and quiet the claims of prejudice, always a peril for politicians. Two years later the Colleges got a special student visa allowance, driving more applications, more admissions, more Colleges contracting with crooks, and the result is student visa fraud in Punjab has doubled. The Toronto Star could report daily for a month. There’s no shortage of stories on visa fraud.
Canada’s Consulate in the Punjab is pressing Indian authorities to clamp down on crooked education/immigration agents. That’s not likely to be heeded in a place where I just had a cop stop our car two weeks ago in Chandigarh for a seat belt violation which is a ten dollar fine, and demanded 200 dollars from us.
Corrupt officials are so endemic in India, at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games in Delhi, it’s on the record that hundreds of millions of dollars were misappropriated by Indian officials, with little hope of returning the funds to the public purse. There is so little accountability.
In Canada, it’s just as unlikely to have Canadian institutions take responsibility for their own actions. Much easier for everyone to deflect blame and take cheap, unfair and wrongly placed shots at an easy target, the Visa Officer.
2) LET’S GO CANADA – Are booming Canadian Universities headed for a bust?
For many Canadian universities, recently announced increased enrollment numbers for both local students as well as international recruits have been a point of pride.
However, “Boom, Bust and Echo” author David Foot believes the upward trend may be reaching its end. He recently told a Ryerson student newspaper that, due to Canada’s changing demographics “over the next two, three, four years the number of enrollments will start to decline”.
In some places, it seems the writing may already be on the walls. As Macleans ‘oncampus’ writer Jacob Serebrin recently explained; “We’re already seeing this to a certain extent here in Quebec. English universities are increasingly attempting to attract Francophones because there is little room for growth in the Anglophone community. As well many Canadian universities are recruiting more and more international students to keep growth rates high. While the recent economic slowdown has pushed enrolment rates up, as the economy slowly recovers, and as those returning to school graduate, this factor will diminish.”
Already, it is not uncommon for universities to advertise their competing courses right within other Canadian university’s newspapers – adopting basic “poaching” techniques. As many institutions continue to carry long-term debts into the millions of dollars, decreasing enrollment fees would indeed contribute to fiercer competition in future – with universities struggling to increase enrolment enough to keep up their basic teaching and maintenance costs, as well as pay off their big debts.
Specifically pointing out all the new building projects currently underway at campuses across the nation, Macleans’ Serebrin poses a particularly gloomy question: “If enrolment drops will our expanded universities start to look like ghost towns?”
Source: “Universities to become ghost towns”. Macleans OnCampus, October 27, 2010.
3) OVER THE COUNTER – New Zealand plans to shrink first, then expand.
New Zealand currently spends $15.6 million a year on marketing its education to international students – most of which is conducted through three organizations; Education NZ, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, and the Ministry of Education.
However, according to the New Zealand Herald newspaper, a new proposal is currently underway – which, if put into action, will involve scrapping Education NZ and creating a new, more focused Crown entity to handle all of the nation’s export education marketing.
With international education contributing about 32,000 jobs and over $2.1 billion to New Zealand’s economy each year, Tertiary Education Minister Steve Joyce says he hopes a new marketing makeover will help the country to “get the best bang for [its] buck”.
Confirming that they are indeed considering disestablishing Education NZ and its current role, Minister Joyce says they hope to make a final decision about a new marketing scheme in the next few weeks.
“If you split your investment money and resources across three organizations when you are already a small country with a small budget, are you going to achieve as much in a place like India or South America as you would with one focused agency that has the whole of our necessarily small budget at its disposal?”
Source: “Makeover for marketing of NZ to students”. The New Zealand Herald, November 15, 2010.
4) GLOBE TIPPING – Think before you point and shoot, Pt II
Although salespeople might disagree, the fact is you don’t need an expensive digital SLR camera in order to take an impressive photo. Continued from last week, here are some tips to help get the most out of even your most basic point-and-shoot camera – helping you to capture all those great travel memories, just by knowing the function of a few basic settings.
4. Focus First. Most compact cameras have a significant delay between when you press the button and the picture is actually taken – this being the time it takes for the lens to focus. Sometimes, this delay can actually be long enough for you to miss the shot, creating frustration. To avoid this from happen, prefocus your image; press the shutter-release button halfway down and hold (this will focus the lens and lock it into place), and then when you’re ready to take the picture, just push the button down the rest of the way.
5. Presetting the scene. Compact cameras have a range of picture ‘scene’ modes, which basically tell your camera what you’re taking a photo of so that it can change its settings accordingly. For example, a ‘snow’ setting will bias the white balance and lengthen the exposure so that the snow looks as white as it does to you. In action mode, faster shutter speeds will help you to freeze movement. And so on. Use these to their full advantage!
6. Camera compensation. If you’re disappointed with your exposures (how light or dark the photo is) when you view your pictures on the LCD screen, you can go into the exposure-compensation facility in order to override the setting that the camera thinks is right. If the picture looks too light, then set the compensation to minus one stop – or plus one if it’s too dark. Try again until you can capture the photo just right. Or, for after-the-fact fixing; Adobe Photoshop and iPhoto also both have built-in exposure editing capabilities.
Source: “Get creative with your compact camera – top 5 tips”. Wanderlust, November, 2008.