Monthly Archives: August 2018

The Plight of Liberal Arts Institutions in an Era of Nationalism, Spotlight: European University at St. Petersburg, Russia

August 31st, 2018

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The European University at St. Petersburg (Yevgeny Asmolov/TASS)

A headline in a recent article in the New York Times reads “In Russia, a Top University Lacks Just One Thing: Students.” Said institution is the European University at St. Petersburg.

Like it’s counterpart, the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest, the European University at St. Petersburg, founded in 1994, is experiencing similar problems. In the case of the European University, it is the target of attacks from Russia’s reactionary, nationalist forces. As was the case for CEU in its early years, the European University received generous funding from the George Soros Open Society Foundations. It also received funding from the Ford and MacArthur Foundations. And, besides their large endowments and top-notch faculty, the European University is recognized for its outstanding reputation as a research institution. (For more on the CEU, click here)

The troubles for the European University started in mid-2017 when it lost its license over minor building code violations, specifically, plastic windows which were temporarily left outside the building. The building, known as the Small Marble Palace, was built in the 18th century in the Italian Renaissance architectural style and designated a historical landmark. In late December 2017, the university was forced to vacate the premises and moved to a less than impressive building across the street. Critics say the university is being targeted for political reasons because of its liberal curriculum in social sciences and humanities.

Having lost its teaching license, the next obvious casualty were the students who were forced to leave and continue their education elsewhere. In the meantime, the university set off on a frantic search for top-level officials in the Russian government to plead its case and have its teaching license reinstated. Even with support from President Vladimir V. Putin who signed three resolutions ordering officials to support the university, the doors of the campus remain shut and the lecture halls empty of students.

The European University is not the only institution targeted by the nationalists. According to the New York Times, “Last month, the Russian government revoked the accreditation of the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, another highly regarded Western-oriented institution.” The growing influence of Russia’s nationalists has spelled trouble for the European University and any institution seen an intolerable outpost of Western liberalism.

In the New York Times article, Vladimir Y. Gerlman, one of Russia’s leading political scientists is quoted as saying: “The European University’s problem is that it is European. The set of principles followed by our school — academic freedom, self-organization, and international openness — is the opposite of the one followed by today’s Russia: centralized control, power vertical and isolationism. We are not compatible with these principles.”

Immediately following the collapse of the Soviet regime, the European University was set up in 1994 in an effort to stop the brain drain and bring together Russia’s leading scholars in social sciences and humanities with a style of teaching modeled after Western universities which encourage critical thinking and freedom to choose their fields of study.

The university built an impressive cadre of Russian academics who had been teaching at leading universities in the U.S.A. and the United Kingdom. Alongside its permanent faculty, the university regularly invited guest lecturers from abroad. In 2016, it was even named the school the top research university in the country, surpassing the highly respected Moscow State University.

Even with the appointment of a new education regulator who after a survey of the building concluded that the university had not violated any building codes and approved to have its teaching license granted this month so that it can reopen in October, the European University’s troubles have not disappeared. Promises of having its teaching license reinstated were made on and off in the past year and a half and each time it led to disappointment.

The future of the European University at St. Petersburg is uncertain. The question will be if students will return in October, that whether the teaching license will not be revoked just when the University prepares to open its doors.

You may ask what has become of the Small Marble Palace, the university’s former home? The Moscow Times reports that the vacated palace will house a new digital technology academy.

For more detail on the Kafkaesque treatment of the university by the Russian authorities, we highly recommend the links to articles provided below:

https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitry-dubrovsky/closure-of-european-university-at-st-petersburg-dead-cert

https://themoscowtimes.com/news/authorities-take-over-european-universitys-building-in-st-petersburg-60163

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/26/world/europe/european-university-st-petersburg-russia

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Canada and Saudi Arabia: The Tweet that Sparked a Diplomatic Feud

August 24th, 2018

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Image Credit: Alexander Glandien

We recently learned of news that Saudi Arabia has expelled the Canadian ambassador from the country and has decided to recall its students from Canada.

What caused this diplomatic spat between the two countries? The short answer is: a tweet. It started with a tweet sent by Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland criticizing the Saudi government over the detention of human rights activists.

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In response, Saudi Arabia responded by taking the following retaliatory steps:

• expelled the Canadian ambassador and announced that it would pull out more than 15,000 Saudis studying in Canada on government-funded courses or grants at colleges and universities;

• ordered a suspension of patients being transferred to Canada for medical treatment;
announced that it is suspending Saudi state airline flights to Toronto;

• on Monday, August 6th, the Saudi Arabian Cultural Bureau, a division of the Ministry of Education, announced on its website that by the end of the Islamic calendar year in September it will suspend all training and scholarship programs Saudi students are enrolled in at Canadian institutions;

• any accompanying family members of the Saudi students are also expected to leave Canada which according to The Business Insider could bring the number of Saudi nationals departing up to 20,000.

The Saudi government intends to place the Saudi students and their tuition in programs in other countries with similar education systems, such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.

No sooner had the Saudi government announced its plans to withdraw its students from Canadian institutions that we hear of a US university announcing its plans to ease admissions process for the Saudi students. Regardless of this offer, relocating so many students to other countries so close to the start of a new academic year is going to be very problematic.

Academicians also see an agenda in this latest move by the Saudi government. According to an interview in Times Higher Education with Dr. Chris Davidson, professor in Middle East politics at Durham University, he sees the transfer of students from Canada to the UK or elsewhere as complicated and costly. Dr. Davidson adds: “I don’t believe that’s their [the Saudi government’s] intention. They want to trim their bloated higher education budget by reducing the amount of students they pay to send to the West.” The Saudi government’s actions are also seen as a warning to other countries to refrain from publicly criticizing Saudi Arabia as done by the Canadian minister.

Canadian universities, especially the smaller institutions, will feel the effects of the financial loss, but they will recover since they continue to be one of leading top countries in attracting and receiving international students. It’s the Saudi students that are going to be affected the most. In an age of political overreaction, we can see that higher education is affected as much as any other entity and blameless students used as pawns.

Source Links:

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/saudi-removal-students-canada-warning-shot-us-and-uk

https://www.businessinsider.com/saudi-arabia-canada-human-rights-students-2018-8

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-saudi-arabia-to-withdraw-all-saudi-students-studying-at-canadian/

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/us-university-welcomes-saudi-students-canada

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/06/opinion/saudi-arabia-canada

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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20 FACTS ON VIETNAM

August 22, 2018

Vietnam

Vietnam is a Southeast Asian country on the South China Sea. It is known for its beaches, rivers, Buddhist pagodas and bustling cities. It’s capital Hanoi, pays homage to the nation’s iconic Communist-era leader, Ho Chi Minh, via a huge marble mausoleum. Vietnam’s recent history has been largely dominated by headlines of war and oppression. The Vietnamese have a saying that they were dominated by the Chinese for 1000 years, the French for 100 years and the Americans for 10 years. The country is, once more, demonstrating its strength and resilience through its growing economy, tourism and promoting study abroad opportunities for its students.

Country Facts

1. Country size: 95,261,021 (July 2016 est.) Vietnam is about three times the size of Tennessee; slightly larger than New Mexico

2. Vietnamese (official), English (increasingly favored as a second language), some French, Chinese, and Khmer, mountain area languages (Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian)

3. In 1887, it became part of French Indochina. Vietnam declared its independence after World War II, but France continued to rule until its 1954 defeat by communist forces under Ho Chi MINH.

Fun Facts

4. Vietnam is the world’s second largest coffee-producing nation after Brazil, producing 16% of the world’s total coffee (Brazil’s is 40%). http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-25811724

5. Nguyen is the most popular family name in Vietnam, used by around 40% of the population and is also the birth name of the famous Ho Chi Minh.

6. Vietnam is the largest exporter of cashews and black pepper in the world, and the second largest exporter of rice. http://www.travelingeast.com/asia/vietnam/ten-interesting-facts-about-vietnam/

7. An estimated ten million motor bikes travel on the roads of Vietnam every day

Vietbikes

8. Sepak takraw (A.K.A calameae ball or kick volleyball), is a traditional sport in Vietnam. The sport originated in the 15th-century in Malaysia, with its first mention being from an ancient text in Malacca. Players pass a ball by hitting it with the head and feet. Sepak takraw also is widely played in Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia. https://www.rickshawtravel.co.uk/blog/5-strange-facts-about-vietnam/

soccer

9. Vietnam’s flag consists of a golden star with five points to represent farmers, workers, intellectuals, youth and soldiers. The red background pays tribute to the bloodshed during the wars.

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10. Snake wine, which is made by steeping whole snakes in rice wine for their venom or essence, is commonly drunk for health, vitality and restorative purposes.

11. Ong Tao is the Vietnamese God of the Kitchen, advocate of the family and emissary between heaven and earth. http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/top10facts/671594/Top-ten-facts-Vietnam-Ho-Chi-Minh-city

OngTao

Education Facts

12. The country has a literacy level of 94%.

13. Vietnamese students of 15 years of age continue to score high in math on OECD’s latest global education survey, known as PISA. Their score is more on par with Finland and Switzerland than Colombia or Peru.

14. Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) oversees all aspects of education in Vietnam.

15. The education system consists of kindergarten, primary, secondary, upper-secondary (also referred to as high school), and university level, with nationally administered exit and entrance examinations between each.

16. Primary school is five years (6 – 11) and compulsory.

vietnam_classroom

17. Secondary school education is divided into lower secondary (trung học cơ sở) which is four years (grades 6-9, ages 11 – 15) and higher secondary (trung học phổ thông) education which is three years (grades 10-12, ages 15 -18) and neither of them are compulsory. There is an entrance and leaving examination. Students have to choose either the natural or social sciences track.

vietnam_classroom_2

18. Higher education: Institutions of higher education can be universities, senior colleges or research institutes. Furthermore, there are junior colleges, professional secondary schools or vocational schools. The entrance examination is very hard, and according to recent figures, less than one out of three students manage to pass.

vietnam_classroom_3

19. Studying at top tier international universities abroad provides the greatest job security for the future.

20. According to the April 2016 SEVIS report, Vietnam ranks sixth among all sending countries with 28,883 students studying at US institutions, mostly colleges and universities but also boarding and day schools.

For further information on the education system of Vietnam and credential evaluations, visit our website at www.acei-global.org or contact ACEI at acei@acei-global.org.

SOURCES:

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-25811724

http://www.travelingeast.com/asia/vietnam/ten-interesting-facts-about-vietnam/

https://www.rickshawtravel.co.uk/blog/5-strange-facts-about-vietnam/

https://nomadicboys.com/10-interesting-facts-about-vietnam/

http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/top10facts/602241/Vietnam-top-facts

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/vm.html

http://thefactfile.org/vietnam-facts/

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-33047924

http://www.businessinsider.com/vietnams-students-test-well-and-a-new-paper-has-figured-out-why-2016-7

http://www.nafsa.org/Content.aspx?id=50572

http://www.chronicle.com/academicDestination/Vietnam/61/

http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=2016011313585113

https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/ice-releases-quarterly-international-student-data

http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/top10facts/671594/Top-ten-facts-Vietnam-Ho-Chi-Minh-city

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Latest News on India’s Regulatory Bodies: UGC and AICTE

August 10th, 2018

ACEI_Blog_-_INDIA_News_of_Indias_Regulatory_Bodies__Compatibility_Mode_
If you hadn’t heard already, until recently, India’s government was considering an ambitious plan, proposed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Department of Higher Education, to merge the University Grants Commission (UGC) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the two regulatory bodies, into a single higher education regulator. This single education regulator was tentatively named Higher Education Evaluation and Regulation Authority (HEERA). Given that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is in its last year, and India is preparing itself for its next election, new legislation to form a single education regulator to be determined in such a short time does not appear to have been favored by legislators. Instead, the government has decided to wait and settled for a revamp of UGC, AICTE and the National Council of Technical Education.

The UGC is a statutory body established to confer degrees and grant funding and set up quality benchmarks for universities and institutions of higher education. AICTE, also a statutory body, was established to oversee technical institution and ensure they meet quality standards.

AICTE has questioned the need for and feasibility of a single education regulator by bringing to light the measures it has taken to reform much of its regulatory criteria. Altogether, focus appears to have been shifted from the push to merge UGC and AICTE toward an overhaul of each regulatory body. For example, one proposed measure would be to give UGC the authority to be able to shut down institutions that do not and continue to not meet standards but also consider taking away UGC’s powers over funding and handing it over to the ministry. This proposal is intended to allow the UGC to focus solely on monitoring and ensuring institutions of higher education are adhering to quality standards.

At the request of the ministry, both UGC and AICTE have been asked to prepare a list of changes they need in their respective Acts and regulations to become more effective regulators. Read more here.

In the meantime, the Indian government is considering the approval of a regulator for vocational training. The proposal, if approved, means successful ITI graduates will be awarded certificates at par with the ones given to Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) and Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) allowing them thereby to pursue their studies in other schools and colleges. Read more about this here.

Sources:

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/services/education/government-may-soon-approve-regulator-for-vocational-training/printarticle/65278618.cms

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/64416946.cms

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Facts on CENTRAL EUROPEAN UNIVERSITY, Hungary

August 3rd, 2018

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The Central European University in Budapest has been the subject of an intense battle in Hungary. CreditDaniel Vegel/Central European University

The Central European University (CEU) has been at cross hairs with the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán since last year, when Hungary passed a law that imposes stringent conditions to license foreign universities.

The new law requires CEU to open a branch in its “home state” of New York alongside its campus in Budapest. It also requires CEU to secure a bilateral agreement of support from the U.S. government.

The law was met with criticism from universities around the world, the United States and the executive arm of the European Union. Mass protests filled the streets of Budapest, the Hungarian capital. Critics said the law was aimed at CEU and specifically at its founder, the Hungarian-born George Soros who has spent millions backing organizations that promote liberal democracy and open borders in Europe.

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A 2017 protest rally to support Central European University as Viktor Orbán visited Tbilisi, Georgia. Photograph Zurab Kurtsikidze/EPA

CEU prides itself on the diversity of nationalities, ethnicities, and cultures examining such subjects as emerging democracies, transitional economies, media freedom, nationalism, human rights, and the rule of law. The University is often seen as a bastion of liberalism, where thousands of students from across central Europe and the former Soviet Union have a received education in English over the past two decades.

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at a Fidesz party rally in Szekesfehervar, Hungary, on April 6, 2018. LASZLO BALOGH/GETTY IMAGES

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Mr. George Soros. Source: CEU website

Mr. Orbán, who himself was among the recipients of scholarships from foundations sponsored by the financier George Soros during the transition to democracy, now holds a very strong anti-immigration position and has accused Mr. Soros “of plotting to destabilize the continent by allowing millions of migrants to settle in Europe.” Source: The New York Times.

Mr. Orbán has championed the concept of “illiberal democracy” as part of his political platform. After winning re-election, declared: “The age of liberal democracy is over.”

In early May, the Open Society Foundations (OSF) – an international grant-making network also founded by Mr. Soros – announced it would close the Budapest office from which it has disbursed more than €400-million ($605-million) for democratic and civil initiatives over 34 years. Source: The Globe and Mail

Let us take a look at the origins of CEU and an overview of its programs:

History of CEU and its founder, George Soros

According to the information provided by the University’s website, “in 1989, a group of visionary intellectuals—most of them prominent members of the anti-totalitarian democratic opposition—conceptualized an international university that would help facilitate the transition from dictatorship to democracy in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Among them was George Soros, the Hungarian-American financier and philanthropist, who founded Central European University two years later.” The generous endowment given to CEU by Mr. Soros today stands at 500 million euros, or about $610 million making it one of the most successful and revered centers for social sciences in Hungary and eastern Europe.

The CEU website continues, “Soros championed the project because he understood that open societies can flourish only with people in positions of responsibility who are educated to promote them. His vision was to recruit professors and students from around the world to build a unique institution, one that would train future generations of scholars, professionals, politicians, and civil society leaders to contribute to building open and democratic societies that respect human rights and adhere to the rule of law.”

In 1991, starting with a little over than 100 students from 20 countries, CEI held its first classes in Prague. In 1993, the University relocated to Budapest.

CEU’s Accreditation

In the United States, CEU is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. In Hungary, CEU is officially recognized as a privately maintained and operated university. The university was accredited by the Hungarian Accreditation Committee in 2004.

CEU’s Membership

CEU is an active member of the European University Association and of the Council of Graduate Schools in the US.

CEU Schools and Departments

CEU has 13 departments, two schools, and 17 research centers that focus on the social sciences, humanities, business, law, and public policy.

Central European University is a graduate-level university offering a wide range of degree programs at the Master’s and Doctoral levels. It has 370 faculty and approximately 1,400 students from more than 130 countries.

For a list of degree programs offered at CEU that are accredited by the Hungarian Accreditation Committee and registered by the Educational Authority, click here.

CEU’s Worldwide Rankings

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2014-2015 placed CEU among the world’s top 100 universities in the social sciences category.

According to the 2015 QS World University Rankings, the university is placed 29th worldwide in the field of politics and international studies, among the top 51-100 worldwide in philosophy, and among the top 51-100 worldwide for sociology.

The Economics department of the university has recently ranked eighth in Europe by the ERC (European Research Council), based on research excellence.

On the 2012 QS TOPMBA survey, the CEU Business School is ranked thirteenth as best MBA program in Europe.

And, according to a study published by German newspaper Die Zeit, the CEU Department of Political Science is among the top 5 political science departments in Europe.

English as the Medium of Instruction

The language of instruction for all master’s, doctoral and non-degree programs offered by Central European University is English. Candidates whose first language is not English must demonstrate proficiency in English by submitting standardized English language test scores.

Latest News on CEU’s Status

On April 9, 2018, CEU announced  that it had signed an agreement with the City of Vienna to open a new satellite campus there.

CEU has since set up a U.S. site at Bard College in New York State. A Hungarian delegation inspected the New York campus in March 2018.

CEU is still waiting for its agreement with New York to be signed by the Hungarian government, prolonging a period of uncertainty over the Budapest operation.

If CEU is pushed out of Budapest, the university could move to neighboring Austria and make Vienna its new home.

As of the posting of this blog, CEU students and staff are unsure of what the future holds. The university’s fate remains up in the air.

Links to additional sources:

https://courses.ceu.edu/programs

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39493758

https://www.bbc.com/news/education-43300785

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-michael-ignatieff-fights-for-central-european-universitys-future-amid/

https://sciencebusiness.net/news/central-european-university-talks-open-campus-vienna

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/15/central-european-university-ready-to-move-out-of-hungary

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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