Tag Archives: studyabroad

Beautiful Green and White Balloons!

August 20th, 2015

BGWB
The author of this blog: Emmanuel Kwabena Tetteh

When I was younger I had dreams of becoming the president of Ghana until my mum told me being a president isn’t a profession. She said to be a president in Africa, you either have to be a cruel dictator or you’ll get assassinated.

Now before you even start to wonder why a 9 year old boy will have such dreams, allow me to explain. I was born into a middle class royal tribe/family in Ghana but lack was not unfamiliar to me. Along with it, came the keen ability to become aware of the poverty of those around me and I always questioned my mom as to why we couldn’t afford everything we needed and why the president wasn’t giving everyone enough money to live comfortably. That was his job I thought, and if he wasn’t willing to do it, I was ready to step in so that I could change the system and make everyone feel comfortable.

I no longer have plans of being a president; but, my desire to create a positive change still burns deep inside of me.

Longing for a change after high school, I decided to study abroad. Shall we say, Russia? Yes I know you are asking ‘why Russia’? Honestly, it was simply the only option available to me at the time. But now I prefer to say it was ‘fate’. If you’ll agree with me, not everyone just wakes up one day and decides to move to Russia. My mother was very unsure about my decision and told me it wasn’t too late to change my decision even the day prior to my flight.

Well, you could understand her concern, for the first time in her life, her last baby was going to flap his wings and fly away from her nest to find shelter in a foreign land. Talk about cultural differences, the famous Russian stereotypes, the language, the weather and oh yes the snow. I had never experienced a snowfall in my life! I, however, welcomed the experience because I thought I was a full grown man and I had growing facial hair to prove it.

Low and behold, it didn’t take too long for me to experience the biggest cultural shock of my life. I arrived in my hostel room where I lived with a Portuguese and an Arab. None of them spoke English. We were so different to the extent that even the way we cooked rice was even different. Can you just imagine that? Before I got there I didn’t even know there were different techniques of cooking hard boiled rice!

My roommates and I vowed that we were going to learn the Russian language in the shortest possible time because we were tired of looking silly in the shopping malls. All we ever did was to point and pay. I wonder what the Russians thought.

This decision I made, changed my life. It gave me to opportunity to participate in the “Many Languages, One World” 2015. I wrote my essay in Russian and got chosen as one of the winners. This gave me the opportunity to visit New York City for the first time in my life, and the icing on the cake was when I had the opportunity to share my ideas at the United Nations general assembly. I felt like the president of Ghana. The time I spent in New York with MLOW was indeed the best week of my life. I can hardly find words to describe the wonderful experience. I might have to write a book on it just so you have a little idea of what I’m talking about.

Sometimes not everything in life makes sense and life itself can be very unexplainable and random just like the title of this blogpost. Although the future is still unpredictable like a girls’ mood, I remain hopeful. From now onwards and even after I graduate from medical school, I’m going to use my experiences and skills to help bring positive changes to Ghana my motherland, Africa my home, and the world as a whole.

Dear friend, what do you think you can also do to promote change? Maybe you can learn a new skill or language, maybe you can travel or study abroad, or maybe you can just share this post to motivate someone else. I believe the time is now or never.

by Emmanuel Kwabena Tetteh

Emmanel was born and raised in Ghana. He is currently studying medicine at the Volgograd State Medical University in Russia. Here’s more from Emmanuel: “I love poetry and sports. In the future I want to be a public health doctor. My dream is to volunteer my skills and serve all humanity in every way possible.” flowdelly22@yahoo.com

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My Once in a Lifetime Trip

August 13th, 2015
Trip_1
Image: Siwathep (Thep) Singh Khaderpor (center with blue tinted sunglasses) and friends

When I realized that I won “Many Languages, One World” essay contest and that I’m going to New York, I was really excited. I packed all my nicest shirts, pants, and shoes hoping that I would look my best on this once in a life time trip! As soon as I got down from the plane at the New York airport, of course we took pictures and posted to our various social media since we were really happy! However my happiness didn’t last for long, 10 minutes later I realized that the airline lost my luggage. I had nothing with me apart from my passport and a selfie stick. My money, my clothes, my speech were all lost. “This is going to be the worst trip ever”, that’s all I could think of.

Trip_2
Image: @ American Museum of Natural History, New York

As soon as I got to Adelphi University, I started making friends with people from so many different countries. They came to know about my “losing luggage” story. Each of them agreed and decided to lend me a different thing. For example, Jefferson, my friend from Brazil, lent me his pants every day! Eric, my friend from Uruguay, lent me his socks every day! Alline my friend from Mexico lent me her hair dryer every day! And of course so much more people lent me their stuff. My “losing luggage” story wasn’t becoming that depressing anymore, in fact I’m glad that it brought me to get to know so many friends and to be able to quickly become so close to each of them.

For the first 3 days, we were so busy with meetings and we needed to separate into our language groups so that we can prepare our speech at the UN. Our Chinese group topic was focusing on developing a healthy life at all ages. Everybody did a really great job there at the UN which was held on July 24th, 2015. We all needed to give a speech for no more than 2 minutes. Personally, I think everybody did so great and I’m so happy for all of them.

Trip_3
Thep at the UN

After the speech, we all went to the New York Times Square and had dinner at a beautiful restaurant: Hard Rock Café. As for the next day, we went to the 9/11 Memorial Park, then had a wonderful boat ride to have a look at New York’s beautiful scenery, the Statue of Liberty, and so much more. After the boat ride, we went to the American Museum of Natural History. We came back to the Adelphi University around 6:00 that evening, all of us then went to our own individual’s room to get ready for our last dinner together.

Trip_4
Image: At New York Times Square, and at United Nations Headquarters building.

At our last dinner together, Mr. Mark W. Harris, the President of ELS, gave us a wonderful speech and awarded each one of us a certificate. Mr. Harris is such an inspiring person, his speech made all of us realize that from now on we all have a responsibility to make this world a better place. We are now brothers and sisters and we will always have each other no matter where life takes us. As I looked at my friends at the dinner table, I can feel how 6 days totally makes a difference, now it is so hard and painful for all of us to say good bye. Thank you ELS group people who were so amazing and gave us this wonderful experience. Every single memory of this trip will never be forgotten. I am so lucky to be able to meet and become your friends. Every single one of you will always be in my heart, missing you so much my friends.

PS. I found my luggage! Yay! I can lose my luggage a hundred more times, but can never lose those beautiful memories I had with you beautiful people.

SSK

Siwathep (Thep) Singh Khaderpor

Thep is an international student from Thailand who was visiting the U.S. this summer as one of the winners of the “Many Languages, One World” and it’s UNAI (United National Academic Impact)” essay contest sponsored by ELS Language Centers. He is currently a student at Jiangsu University in China where he is studying Medicine. Thep says his professional goal is to “become a heart surgeon to fulfill my love of the sciences and medicine, and to help my fellow human beings. Furthermore, I hope to volunteer my skills to provide heart care to those in need regardless of race and economic status.”
2648988959@qq.com

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Scotland and the Three-Year Bachelor degree

January 22nd, 2015

Scotland_bagpiper

The four-year undergraduate degree for Scotland’s universities, as noted in the Times Higher Education is the “gold standard” and seen as a “broader and more flexible” alternative to the narrow, focused three-year bachelor degree programs offered by universities in the rest of the UK. This viewpoint may be less of the norm as there is now a push to introduce three-year programs in Scotland as demonstrated by the University of the Highlands and Islands.

By introducing what the University of the Highlands and Islands refers to as the “accelerated” B.Sc. in geography to be introduced in September 2015, the goal is to allow students to complete their degree in a faster and shorter time-line and save on tuition. It appears that other institutions, such as the University of Dundee, Abertay University and Queen Margaret University share the same sentiment having already adopted the three-year Bachelor degree structure.

Late last year, the University Grants Commission (UGC) in India put the kibosh on the four-year degree movement spearheaded by the likes of the University of Delhi and several other technical universities. The UGC threatened to cut funding support should the institutions pursue the four-year degree structure despite the arguments raised by faculty and academicians championing the idea of expanding the three-year program by another year to include a research component and additional courses at the advanced level, particularly in the sciences. They viewed this move as essential if India intended to be competitive globally in the area of scientific research and development. The UGC, however, viewed the additional year as a financial burden.

Affordability and efficiency of four-year degrees versus the three-year degree is an issue being discussed by policy and decision makers in education and institutions of higher education.
Looking at India and now Scotland, one begs the question: Is the four-year degree too time-consuming and expensive? Or, is the push to do away with the four-year degree and justify the efficiencies and affordability of the three-year degree a marketing tactic to attract students who find the shorter and less expensive program more attractive? The elimination of the fourth year will also mean a reduction in revenue for institutions that adopt the three-year stream, but would it be compensated by an increase in student population finding the three-year Bachelor more palatable?

Supporters of the four-year Bachelor’s degree in Scotland echo the sentiments of their counterparts at India’s institutions of higher education. Both groups see the importance of the fourth year as offering a more holistic approach to teaching and learning, allowing for broad-based training in the humanities and sciences. Reverting to a three-year program is seen by those in Scotland’s historic universities as a step back and diminishing the graduate’s competitive edge in the job market, especially globally. After all, the four-year degree is still preferred over the three-year degree on the global job market.

What is interesting is that though some universities in Scotland have launched the three-year programs, they are still using the four-year degree credit structure as their model. While in the rest of the UK, a three-year degree requires completion of 360 credits for the bachelor’s, the three-year programs in Scotland require 480 credits that is the requirement for the four-year degree. Typically, students in the three-year programs in Scotland take an additional module per semester to meet the 480 credits. Some universities in Scotland have adjusted their academic calendar by shortening the holidays in the second and third years so that students can complete the additional modules and credits within three-years.

Scotland’s universities are also seeing that certain three-year degree programs may be more attractive to students while popularity for traditional four-year degrees continues to attract a higher number of students. This is mostly because university tuition remains free and for that reason Scottish students are more likely to sign up for the four-year degrees. The three-year degrees may be an attractive option for international students faced with higher tuition fees and additional costs related to travel, room and board and living away from home.

Though Scotland’s universities are pushing the three-year degree, at this time, it appears that they have not yet cut out a year of coursework but rearranged the academic calendar to accommodate completion of the same number of credits required in the four-year degree. The three-year degree to me appears to be an “accelerated” four-year program, at least for the time being, and will probably be an attractive alternative to students who have a clear idea of their career goals and mature students who wish to complete a degree in less time to return to the workplace.

While Scotland is entertaining the adoption of the three-year Bachelor’s and India is putting a stop to the movement to expand the three-year to a four-year degree, here in the U.S., Community Colleges will soon be introducing four-year bachelor’s degree. This move will definitely make the community colleges offering the four-year bachelor’s an affordable, accessible alternative to higher education. I’ll have more on the US community college four-year bachelor’s in my next blog.

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
President & CEO, ACEI

ACEI

http://www.acei-global.org

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UNITED KINGDOM: 6 Facts about the New GCSE Grading System

April 10th, 2014

students

When I was a secondary student in the UK, we were preparing ourselves in Form V for the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Examinations at the Ordinary Level and the Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) Examinations. Several years later, when I returned to the UK as a member of a U.S.-based research group, we gathered data and information on the sweeping changes that ended the GCE O’levels and CSEs and introduced the GCSEs and a new tier of exams known as Advanced Subsidiary that were introduced in concert with the General Certificate of Education Advanced Level examinations. Soon, the system will undergo another series of changes and this time it is a shake-up of the GCSE grade system as well as the content of the examinations. Starting in 2015, students in Form IV/year 10 will be subject to a new grading system. A key goal of the new grading system is to offer more differentiation, especially among the highest achievers and the large number of students who hover in the middle grades.

Under the new system, students will be graded on a numerical nine-point scale replacing the current seven-point A*-G grading system. In the new system, nine will be the top grade and one will be the lowest. The main goal of these reforms is according to a post in The Guardian “to bring England’s exam benchmark up to the level of students in the world’s leading economies such as China, as measured in the international Pisa education survey.”

Here are some key points, dry that may be, that are being considered for the new grading system:

1. The changes will be introduced starting in From IV or Year 10 in September 2015 and the first examinations under the new system will be held in summer 2017.

2. New GCSEs in England language, English literature and Mathematics will be the first set of subjects introduced and graded under the new system, with more new subjects to follow in September 2016.

3. The boundary for the new grade five will be set at about half to two thirds of a GCSE grade higher than the current requirement for a grade C.

4. The new grade four will correspond to the current grade C. Under the new system middle and top performing candidates will be better distinguished as they will be spread among six different grades (four up to nine), and not the present four (C up to A*).

5. Under consideration is equating the new grade seven boundary to the current Grade A baseline which provides three top grade bands instead of two and keeping Grade 9 as a supergrade for exceptional performance.

6. Students receiving a grade one in the new GCSEs will be at the same achievement level as those with a grade F or G in the current system.

For more information on the new GCSE grading system, please visit The Guardian’s post on this link: http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2014/apr/03/gcse-grading-system-shakeup-teachers.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI
www.acei1.com

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International Credential Evaluations: Standards and Best Practices

March 27th, 2014

Paperwork

Throughout the years, several U.S. international education individuals and organizations generously applied themselves in establishing guidelines for applied research and the evaluation of international educational credentials, while at the same time outlining the professional ethics and principles for the profession. Since its inception, the development of Standards and Best Practices has been the mission of the Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE). We are committed to addressing the needs of the international credential evaluation profession and the first association to publish and enforce consistent standards for its members.

What is AICE?

The only U.S. membership association concerned primarily with:

1. ensuring quality assurance in international credential evaluations.
2. setting standards and offers certification for international credential evaluation professionals.
3. providing best practice guidelines and training for its members.

The Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE) was created in 1998 as a non-profit organization in order to address known deficiencies in the international credential evaluation marketplace through the adoption of ethical standards. AICE works to safeguard the interests of both international students and the newly-arrived immigrants in the U.S. as well as schools and institutions of higher learning, professional licensing and regulatory boards and employers, through the promotion of ethical, standards-based international academic credential evaluations.

AICE’s purposes are to:

1. Develop standards of ethical practice pertaining to the evaluation of international academic credentials and conversion of these studies into their U.S. equivalent.
2. Develop best practices and training for its members to serve more proficiently those with international credentials seeking admission to U.S. educational institutions, employment, or professional certification with a regulatory board.
3. Establish a framework through which its members can become certified.

AICE takes pride in being the only U.S. Association to publish and enforce standards for expert qualifications, methodologies and reporting outcomes in international credentials evaluation. The Association’s members provide U.S. equivalents of international educational documents that are utilized by institutions of higher education, USCIS, state/local/national government departments, personnel departments such as teacher credentialing and other employers. AICE members are responsible for developing and implementing the ethics and correct practices required by a profession that touches the individual lives of each of our clients as well as our society as a whole. AICE’s Standards are posted on the website’s home page. www.aice-eval.org.

AICE Members:

Each member of AICE must submit to a rigorous application process to indicate that it fulfills the Association’s standards for expertise, methodology and documentation. Evaluations completed by organizations and individuals that meet AICE standards are accepted as reliable and complete within the field of applied comparative education.

AICE members assist those with education from abroad who are seeking residency and employment, professional licensure or further education in the United States. Individuals with foreign education are referred to AICE members by immigration attorneys, managers and educators who need information. AICE member evaluators provide practical and up-to-date knowledge on foreign ministries of education, institutions of education, educational areas of study, diplomas and transcripts.

AICE-certified member organizations are: Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute. (ACEI); American Education Research Corporation (AERC); Foreign Credential Evaluations, Inc.; Globe Language Services, Inc. International Evaluation Services; Lisano International; SDR Educational Consultants.

A major part of AICE’s mission is to provide the general public with access to trustworthy credential evaluation research and experts. AICE members satisfy this mission by meeting the Association’s requirements for expertise, evaluation methodology and thorough evaluation report by following stringent guidelines in the preparation of credential evaluations.  We will continue our collaborative efforts with our members as well as those organizations who share the same mission.

David A. Robinson, Ph.D.
President
AICE
www.aice-eval.org

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20 Facts about the Education System of Russia

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10 Newsworthy Items on Education in the United Kingdom

July 11, 2013

Oxford University

Back when I was in school in England, the benchmark of completing secondary education was taking the external examinations known as the General Certificate of Education, Ordinary Level (GCE O’level) and /or the Certificate of Secondary Education. (CSE). By the time I was in Form V (11th year of secondary school), my classmates and I were deep in preparation for the GCE O’levels and CSE examinations. Our boarding school, Charters Towers School (CTS), in the sleepy beach town of Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex, followed the University of Cambridge GCE O’level curriculum, implying that we were preparing for tougher exams. All I remember is being sick with a serious case of laryngitis and having to suppress excruciatingly painful coughs induced by the illness so as to not disturb the other girls furtively scribbling their answers on the exam papers. The fact that I managed to score well on the exams given my poor state of health is a wonder I can’t explain to this day. I left CTS and the UK after finishing the first term of Form VI after being accepted to university in the U.S. Much has changed in the UK education system since then, especially with the GCEs and CSEs which were combined into the GCSEs. And there’s still talk about revamping the secondary and Form VI curriculum and even extending school leaving age to 18.

Thanks to The Guardian newspaper, below are highlights of 10 newsworthy developments in education in the UK:

1. Raising school leaving age from 16 to 18

To combat the rising unemployment numbers, the government is considering to raise the school leaving age from 16 to 18 and offer apprenticeship and training programs. “Latest figures show that of the 137,000 rise in unemployment in the three months of October, 55,000, or 40%, were in the 18-24 age bracket. While the country’s overall jobless rate is currently 6%, among 18-24-year-olds it is 14% and among 16-17-year-olds it is 26%. Unemployment in Britain stood at 1.86 million at the end of October, and many experts predict it will rise to around 3 million over the next 12-18 months.”

(Source: “School-leaving age may rise to 18 in effort to tackle unemployment”)

2. GCSE overhaul, again

Harking back to the days when the GCE O’levels and CSE’s were scrapped and replaced by the GCSEs (taken by students in England), now there’s talk of revising the GCSEs to make them, in the words of Michael Groves, Secretary of Education: “more demanding and rigorous.” The new exam, tentatively known as “GCSE (England)” recommends a new grading system of 1-8, with 8 as the highest grade and 1 as the lowest, replacing the A* to G grade scale of the current model. The new GCSE curriculum for English literature requires the study of at least one Shakespeare play (which I believe existed in the former GCE O’level course), selection of Romantic poetry, a 19th century novel (I still remember slogging through DH Lawrence’s “Sons and Lovers”), a selection of poetry since 1850, and British fiction and drama written since the first world war.” GCSE history will also experience a makeover and include a minimum 40% British history (covering medieval, early modern or modern periods) and a minimum 25% content on world history. (I remember on days we had history classes, how we all dashed to the school library to pour over newspapers gleaning news of current world events in preparation for the inevitable pop quizzes our history teacher was prone to give.)

(Source: “GCSEs to become more demanding and rigorous, says Michael Gove”)

3. Counting the 1st year toward the Bachelor’s degree

Unlike the United States, where every course taken with credit and final grade earned counts toward ones overall grade point average qualifying for the award of the Bachelor’s degree, students at UK universities did not face the same assessment methodology, at least until now. Debate is currently underway in the UK as to whether the 1st year of university studies should be counted toward the degree and in so doing to adopt a grading system similar to the grade point system of the U.S. This would mean doing away with the traditional degree classification model (First Class, Second Class, Third Class, Pass, etc.).

(Source: “Should first year count towards your degree?”)

4. Revamping A’levels with help from the Universities

It’s not just the GCSEs that are about to get a makeover, the GCE Advanced Level examinations have also been under scrutiny. The Department of Education has accepted to allow the universities to have more of a say in the redesigning of the A’level curriculum, though some feel this involvement will make the A’levels look nothing but a university entrance examination. (Currently, the A’level examination content is developed by the examination boards and the Department of Education.) As a result, the A-level Content Advisory Body (Alcab) has been formed to co-ordinate input and advice from specialists and university experts. Alcab’s role is ensure the A’levels in mathematics, advanced mathematics, English literature, physics, biology, chemistry, geography, history and modern and classical languages offer students “adequate preparation” for higher education admission. Universities don’t feel the students entering their institutions with current A’level examinations have sufficient preparation to tackle undergraduate coursework, especially in writing and research skills.

(Source: “Top universities strike deal with DfE to have say in redeveloping A-levels”)

5. A Green Competition

Universities in the UK are competing for #1 ranking in sustainability. Manchester Metropolitan University grabbed this year’s “People and Planet Green Leagu” #1 spot followed by Plymouth University in 2nd place and Greenwich (last year’s #1) in 3rd. Both Cambridge and Oxford ranked abysmally this year, even worse than last year. Cambridge dropped 17 places and is now ranked at 113 out of 143. Oxford didn’t fare well either. Institutions are judged on their strong sustainability programs, from food to design, carbon-reduction efforts, ethical investments, staff resources, and environmental management, to name a few.

(Source: “The firsts and the ‘fails’ in the 2013 Green League of universities”)

6. University of Sussex dips low in the charts

The Guardian pushes the “university league table” that charts the rankings of universities in the U.K. and earlier this month, the institution that suffered the most with the poorest ranking was the University of Sussex. According to the table, Sussex dropped from 27th place to 50th, “its lowest ever position since the table’s establishment.” Some of the reasons attributed to the University’s dip in the rankings are: poor employment rates (perhaps caused by conflict between students and management over plans to outsource campus services) and students concerns over assessment and feedback. Sussex pro-vice chancellor Clare Mackie explains the drop a mere “blip” in the data, when graduate unemployment rates reached double figures for the first time and that students have now been addressed.

(Source: “Sussex University’s league table tumble: blip or catastrophe?”)

7. Oxford University Sued over Selection based on Wealth

After his application for admission was denied for not having access to £21,000 for tuition fees and living costs, Damien Shannon, a 26-year old student, sued St. Hugh’s College, Oxford for “selecting by wealth.” In his suit, Shannon claimed that since its founding in 1886, the college was discriminating against the poor by asking “students to prove that they had liquid assets sufficient to cover £12,900 a year in living costs, in addition to potentially tens of thousands of pounds in tuition fees. Under the university-wide policy the college refused to take into account projected earnings from students who planned to do paid work during their course.” Shannon has met the University’s academic requirements for admission but not its financial criteria. St Hugh’s has filed a defense and refutes the claim arguing “that the test of a student’s financial health is to ensure that they will be able to complete their courses without suffering financial difficulty and anxiety, according to its lawyers’ defense papers.” Friends of Shannaon and even a cabinet member of parliament Hazel Blears (a former Labour cabinet minister who is now chairwoman of the all-party parliamentary group on social mobility), see Oxford University’s criteria for a guarantee on living expenses by students who have met the academic requirements, as deeply unfair. According to Blears: “It is ludicrous that a student deemed to be of sufficient academic merit is deemed incapable of budgeting to ensure they have enough money to live on. Even in an expensive city like Oxford, a student can live on far less than £13,000 a year with careful budgeting. In any case, living costs should be a student’s personal responsibility and many get part-time jobs to help make ends meet.

(Source: “Oxford University settles ‘selection by wealth’ case”)

8. Immigration crackdown leads to a loss of international students

International students, as it is for the U.S., are one of the UK’s most successful revenue-
generating economic resource contributing an estimated £8bn to the UK economy every year by paying high fees to universities and colleges and making a valuable contribution to local economies.
As universities faced drastic funding cuts, they were relying on growth in the international student market as a financial reprise, but the decline in the number of students looking at the UK to further their education has hurt universities financially. The immigration crackdown and focus on students has much to do on abuse of the visa system, “bogus-colleges,” and students arriving in the UK with no intention of studying. However, the crackdown also means that those students who genuinely are intent on getting an education are being barred from entering or choose not to apply to universities in the UK and instead turn their attention to Australia, Canada and the U.S.

(Source: “The UK’s immigration crackdown will lead to a loss of international talent”)

9. International education agents: separating the good from the bad

Across the pond, concern over international education agents and their commission-based recruiting of students is a subject of discussion as it is here in the U.S. More and more UK institutions are relying on international education agents to recruit students from them by paying the agents commissions. The University of Nottingham paid £1m in commission to education agents for successfully recruiting international students in 2012. In fact, nearly 58% of international students in the UK and Australia were recruited through agents. There is little transparency over whether agents are used in the first place and how much commission universities pay agents for each recruited student. Transparency, ethical and best practices, and a voluntary quality control program abided by international education agents are steps discussed by educators in the UK to protect the international students, their families and the institutions against fraud and misrepresentation in the marketplace.

(Source: “International agents: how can students and universities tell good from bad?”)

10. Poor students getting the shift in higher education

According to official data reported by Les Ebdon, the access ombudsman for higher education in England, universities and colleges must do what they can to attract students from disadvantaged backgrounds as affluent applicants outnumber those from deprived areas by three to one. (See item #7, which gives Damien Shannon’s suit against Oxford University a heads up.

(Source: “Universities and colleges told to do more for disadvantaged students”)

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI
www.acei1.com

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China: Taking steps to ensure academic document legitimacy

Cooperative Agreement between CDGDC and ACEI

April 18, 2013

photo

According to a recent IIE Open Door report “International Student enrollment increased by 5% in 2010/11, led by strong increase in students from China.” The report cites a 23% increase in the number of Chinese students of which 43% are studying at the undergraduate level.

According to the US Department of Commerce, international student contributes more than $21 billion to the US economy, through their expenditures on tuition, living expenses such as room and board, books and supplies, transportation, health insurance and covering the financial cost of their accompanying family members.

In the same breath, a 2010 report published by Zinch states that in China “the cultural norm is that there is no harm in creating false documents.” As credential evaluation professionals, we recognize the importance of supporting the U.S. position as the number one destination for international students and are always striving to find ways we can help bolster and improve our service to complement the needs of the U.S. institutions requiring international transcript evaluations. We are also cognizant that doing our due diligence by ensuring the legitimacy of documents is, first and foremost, an integral component of evaluating academic credentials.

One step we have taken to address the growing number of Chinese student applications for college/university admission and even professional licensing is through our cooperation with the China Academic Degrees and Graduate Education Development Center (CDGDC) in Beijing. CDGDC is the legal entity, authorized by the government in China that provides verification of degrees, certificates, diplomas and other related educational document conferred by Chinese colleges and universities as well as secondary credentials.

I had the good fortune of being introduced to the CDGDC Director, Mr. Wang, through our contact Mr. Chenguan (Alex) Lu with EducationUSA in Beijing. Through this introduction, I was able to secure a meeting in San Francisco on April 14, 2013 with Mr. Wang and a delegation from CDGDC where we signed the Cooperative Agreement between our two organizations to carry out comparative studies of Sino-U.S. degrees and other educational credentials through verification and evaluation.

photo (1)

For the past two years, ACEI has been referring its Chinese students seeking an evaluation of their academic credentials to the CDGDC for document verification. By signing the Cooperative Agreement, ACEI will continue to use CGDCD’s educational credential verification services in its educational evaluation work. Chinese applicants are advised to contact the CDGDC and request the verification of their academic transcripts, certificates, diplomas and/or degrees. CDGDC in turn submits its verification directly to ACEI certifying the legitimacy of the academic documents. The verification of academic documents from China will further ensure that the evaluations prepared by ACEI are based on educational documents that have been properly vetted by a legal entity.

We can continue to be the number one destination for international students and we can do so without loosening our requirements and lowering our standards.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI
www.acei1.com

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Dispatches from the 2013 APAIE Conference in Hong Kong

March 14, 2013

Hong Kong

There’s nothing like beating jet lag after a 17-hour flight from Los Angeles-San Francisco-Hong Kong, with a ride on the Star Ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island first thing in the morning for a meeting. It actually proved to be a relaxing way to get a start on the next two weeks as Zepur Solakian, Executive Director of CGACC and I make our way through Hong Kong at the APAIE Conference and then onto Tokyo, Japan, for a continuation of our discussions on the 2+2 model of US community colleges and universities and importance of international credential evaluations.

We met up with Angel Lau, Senior Advisor with Education USA, a service of the US State Department, at the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong. Ms. Lau had arranged for us to meet with Ms. Ellie Tang, Higher Education Adviser at West Island School, a multi-ethnic international school funded both privately and by government offering Grade 6 to 12 lower and upper secondary education. We learned that WIS offers secondary curriculum intended for the IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education), the International Baccalaureate Diploma and the Business and Technical Education Council (BTEC) International Diploma. Ms. Tang’s main concern was to help U.S. colleges and universities have a better understanding of the BTEC qualifications and their equivalence to the British General Certificate of Education Advance Levels. Ms. Tang was happy to learn that it is in fact through the actual credential evaluation process that U.S. colleges and universities will learn of the approximate educational equivalence of the BTEC qualification.

Our next meeting began with a lunch hosted by Mr. Peter P.T. Cheung, Secretary-General of the Federation for Self-Financing Tertiary Education (FSTE). We were joined by two members of the Federation: Professor T.S. Chan, Associate VP of Lingnan University and Professor Reggie Kwan, President of Caritas Institute of Higher Education, as well as Ms. Dorothy Hon, Senior Executive Officer (Projects) at the Federation. Both Professors Chan and Kwan shared with us their own personal experiences as international students at U.S. universities during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Professor Kwan, a graduate of Montana State University spoke fondly of his undergraduate and graduate years and his love of nature and American football. Professor Chan’s academic experience began at Whittier College in California and continued onto the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Our hosts all stressed the value of studying abroad and wished to see the same pathway opened for their students. They saw the 2+2 model as a cost effective approach to access U.S. higher education. We later presented the 2+2 model with an overview of the international credential evaluation process at a workshop hosted by FSTE to several of its institutional members. Our presentation was well received helping clarify some of the myths the attendees had about U.S. community colleges. The concept that students in the U.S. can complete two years of general education at the community colleges for a fraction of the cost of what it would be at a four-year institution and then transfer to a university to complete the remainder of their undergraduate education for the Bachelor’s degree is contrary to their counter parts known as “self-financed tertiary institutions” in Hong Kong. “Self-financed,” means that these institutions charge tuition that are, in fact, higher than fees charged by the universities. These self-financed tertiary institutions are seen as a last resort option for those unable to enter the university system with little upward mobility. Unlike the U.S. community colleges, completion of studies at the self-financed institutions in Hong Kong does not guarantee transfer credit to university degree programs. Seeing that Hong Kong students can look at the U.S. community colleges to further their education at the university level as an alternative is beginning to be seen as a viable option.

No trip to Hong Kong is complete without a walk through the Night Market in Kowloon, Stanley Market, Victoria Peak (for a magnificent panoramic view of the HK skyline), and the Big Buddha on Lantau Island. I’m happy that I had the weekend in between meetings and the start of the APAIE Conference to do some sightseeing before transferring to the conference hotel near the convention center miles and miles away from the city center.

At the conference, I served on a panel with Dr. Reza Hoshmand of Hong Kong Baptist University, Zepur Solakian, and Angel Lau (EducationUSA) discussing the 2+2 model and seeing how through Dr. Hoshmand’s efforts the 2+2 model has been implemented at HK Baptist University. We presented our session in the form of a round-table discussion and heard from attending colleagues from Australia, Poland, China, and Canada. Clearly, the U.S. is unique in its 2+2 model and making access to four-year universities possible through the community college route.

A walk through APAIE’s Exhibit Hall brought me in direct contact with the many Asian universities ACEI has been receiving transcripts from for evaluation. It has been a wonderful experience connecting with universities from S. Korea, Japan, Thailand, and China, to name a few.

Friday, March 15th marks my last day in Hong Kong. I’m scheduled for a site visit to the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University. I’ve had an amazing time in Hong Kong and at the conference. I look forward to continuing the exchange of ideas at the next APAIE Conference in 2014 to be held in Seoul, Korea.

I leave for Japan this Saturday for another round of meetings with educators. Stay tuned for news of my visit to Tokyo in next week’s blog!

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI
www.acei1.com

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Dispatches from the 2013 AIEA Conference in New Orleans

February 21, 2013

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It’s been almost a decade since I last visited New Orleans. I have to thank the AIEA (Association of International Education Administrators) http://www.aieaworld.org/ for hosting its annual national conference in the Big Easy this year. No visit to New Orleans is complete without a stop at the world famous Café du Monde for a plate of its freshly baked powered sugared confections and cup of café au lait. Given that most of my days at the conference were booked with meetings and sessions, I still managed to enjoy the city’s culinary fare (charbroiled oysters at Dragos, bananas Foster’s at the Palace Café) and even took a 45 minute cruise on the Natchez Steamboat with colleagues from various universities in the U.S. and around the world.

This year the conference theme was “Re-imagining Higher Education in a Global Context,” and several of the sessions I attended attempted to address this issue in roundtable or speaker settings. The keynote speaker, Eric Liu http://guidinglightsnetwork.com/bio, former White House speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, set the tone for the conference by emphasizing that innovation begins with imagination.

I attended sessions on topics like “Using Accreditation Standards to Internationalize,” “Global Changes and Challenges: Is the United States Doing Enough to Stay Competitive as a Study Destination.” But the session that I found most relevant was one about the “Pursuit of Academic Diplomacy in Iran: Challenges and Opportunities.” Gregory Sullivan and Kristen Cammarata with the U.S. State Department and Sara Kurtz Allaei from Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis presented the session. According to the session’s presenters, it appears that the number of students from Iran seeking visas to study in the U.S. has risen from the low 1000’s in 2007 to the high 6000’s in 2011/12. The number of Iranian students enrolled at US institutions prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution was about 45,000. The EducationUSA https://www.educationusa.info/ advising center focusing on Iran reports an increase in the number of Iranians querying about studying at U.S. institutions. Sullivan mentioned that 14 specialists at the State Department are dedicated to the Iranian student project.

Specific conditions are in place for granting visas to Iranians planning to study in the U.S. According to Sullivan (paraphrased in this report): “visas are not granted to students or exchange programs relevant to sciences with a clear military, nuclear/energy component” or to groups or agencies with ties or affiliations to the Iranian government, terrorism or human rights abuses, or programs with commercial value that will benefit the Iranian government.” At this time, Iranian students accepted to U.S. colleges and universities must leave Iran for Dubai or Istanbul, Turkey to apply for their U.S. student visas, since U.S. and Iran do not enjoy diplomatic relations and have no embassy presence in their respective countries. We can look at the number of visas reportedly issued in 2011/12 as an indication of the U.S. State Department’s willingness to exercise openness in the visas granted to Iranian students and the Iranian government’s loosening of its hold on the youth.

Another interesting fact shared by Kristen Cammarata was that since the SAT is not offered in the region, many Iranian high school graduates instead take the GRE (Graduate Records Examinations, a test taken by students intending to apply for graduate school admission in the US) and scoring very high on the math section; further proof of how seriously motivated these young Iranians are in their pursuit of higher education in the U.S. Cammarata indicated that her office receives much of the inquiries from young Iranians via email and Skype. She also commented that the Iranian population in the U.S. has proven to be one of the most educated and successful of immigrants in this country’s history.

Sullivan mused that perhaps the government in Iran recognizes its shortcomings in satisfying its youth population with education and job opportunities by relaxing its grip and releasing the pressure valve and allowing some exchange through education (studying abroad in the U.S.). The pressure valve may be temporarily tightened during Iran’s upcoming Presidential elections, but to be relaxed once again after the new President has been elected.

Sullivan also noted that the US in turn will grant specific licenses to U.S. institutions wanting to engage in education, cultural, and sports exchange programs as well as topics concerned with human rights, the environment, health and medicine. Perhaps through academic diplomacy we can begin to see a thawing of the icy relations between Iran and the U.S. But I can’t help wonder how concerned the Iranian government may become when its youth heading west to the U.S. returning not only armed with their university degrees but an arsenal of information.

Partnering with my colleague Zepur Solakian, Executive Director of CGACC (www.cgacc.org), we held joint meetings with representatives from Washington State University (USA) http://www.wsu.edu/, Istanbul Bilgi University (Turkey) http://bilgi.edu.tr/en/university, and Swinburne University of Technology (Australia) http://www.swinburne.edu.au/. We discussed how the U.S. community colleges serve as a viable route to the four-year institutions for international students and the added benefits of international credential evaluations in the admission and transfer credit processes. With more exchanges on these topics, we feel community colleges can begin to become a significant venue for higher education in the international market alongside the four-year institutions.

The exhibit hall showcased exhibitors from China, South Korea, Italy, and companies like Zinch http://www.zinch.com/ a website connecting students with colleges, and Mezun http://www.mezun.com , an educational portal for Turkish students studying abroad.

Stay tuned for next week’s dispatch from Atlanta, Georgia where I’m co-presenting a workshop on “Best Practices in Recruitment and 2+2” at the CCID (Community Colleges for International Development) https://programs.ccid.cc/cci conference.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI
www.acei1.com

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