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Author Archives: Ravi Lochan Singh

Say NO to Bullying…

Say NO to Bullying.

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Posted by on March 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

SAT is changing and effort is being made to cut out “test prep services” and let the regular schooling count more. SAT-Khan Academy tie-up could hopefully give similar ideas to IITs / IIMs and put an end to Kota type coaching factories in India that have stolen the school experiences from the students…

The SAT college exam will undergo sweeping changes on what’s tested, how it’s scored and how students can prepare, College Board President and CEO David Coleman has just announced.

CNN reports…

Standardized tests have become “far too disconnected from the work of our high schools,” Coleman said at an event in Austin, Texas. They’re too stressful for students, too filled with mystery and “tricks” to raise scores and aren’t necessarily creating more college-ready students, he said.

The SAT to be released in spring 2016 is designed to change that, he said.

The test will include three sections — evidence-based reading and writing, math and an optional essay — each retooled to stop students from simply filling a bubble on the test sheet.

“No longer will it be good enough to focus on tricks and trying to eliminate answer choices,” Coleman said. “We are not interested in students just picking an answer, but justifying their answers.”

You can read all about the changes to SAT on this linked article.

However what I found quite novel was related to the attempt being made to cut out the coaching factories as is indicated on this clip from the presentation.

Further the article details…

To prepare students for the test, the College Board will partner for the first time with Khan Academy to provide free test preparation materials, starting in spring 2015.

Partnering with the free, online resource is intended to make the SAT more transparent, and cut back on perceptions of inequality around expensive test preparation services, Coleman explained Wednesday.

“If there are no more secrets,” Coleman said, “it’s very hard to pay for them.”

Students’ classrooms are meant to be the best preparation for the redesigned SAT. The College Board’s Khan Academy tools will supplement that learning.

“It’s going to meet students where they are,” said Salman Khan, the Khan Academy creator. “We’ll take you as far back as you need to go or as far forward as you need to go.”

Khan emphasized that he is planning to challenge the existing test prep industry by offering high quality, easily accessible tools.

“This isn’t just a ‘Hey, since it’s free, it’s better than nothing,” he said. “Our intention in this partnership is this will be the best thing out there, and it happens to be free.”

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2014 in education, Education Reforms, Government of India, HRD

 

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MOTIVATION for studying overseas has been highlighted in TWO recent reports. Both can be “red herrings” when talking of “Indian students”.

QS released the Analysis of Student Mobility 2013 report and lists “Would like to work there after graduation” as No. 4 factor which 12% of their respondent listed. The other linked motivator “ Would like to work globally after graduation” is not even listed amongst the options for the student and this is only one of the failings of such a survey. The report that has gained publicity across the world simply because of the QS branding and good packaging does more harm than good. A closer look at the methodology of the survey indicates that the targeted respondents are also already quite selective and further no effort has been made to differentiate between the motivations for students in different parts of the world. There are umpteen studies now that give us a clearer perspective that motivation for Indian students differ from motivation for Chinese student and differ from the motivation of an European student seeking study abroad. Such a generalised report doesn’t deserve the attention it has received simply because of such generalisations can cause more harm and hide the real motivations for an International student when seeking education overseas. The QS report can be accessed from the QS website (http://www.topuniversities.com/student-info/qs-guides/trends-International-Student-Mobility-2014).

The Top 10 Motivations as per QS:

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SANNAMS4, which is a profit making company innovator aimed at wooing International Education Providers seeking a quick-fix short-cut solution to having an in-country presence in India made a presentation at the 2014 Annual Conference of AIEA in USA. The report listed the “Motivations” for an “Indian” student and is certainly an improvement to the QS report as it is focussed on a more defined target group. However, I take this report too with a pinch of salt (or should I say “spice”) as it is not really a survey or solid-research but just a collection of opinions of the “in-country reps” that are working with them. If we look at the profile of the reps and the education providers (and the destinations), we clearly are talking of opinion of a fairly small sample (though the presentation indicates that the collective group has been in touch with a huge number of students which is such a generalisation of totally the number of students who may or mayn’t have met them at various events). A fairly opinionated sample indeed for an institution to base it’s strategy. Education providers from only a few countries actively use Sannams4 and even if the survey went out to a few non-Sannams4 in-country reps, the list of respondents has not been provided. Hence it cannot be a report reflecting “motivation” for all students from India seeking overseas. Having pointed out the folly, the “perspective” is still an improvement to the generalisation that QS report presented to us. As per this report, 19% of the student chooses to study overseas for the value it offers for global employment and another 15% for the chance it offers to settle overseas. I would tend to add these two to indicate that 34% are looking at settling/working overseas. The Sannams4 presentation is on http://www.aieaworld.org/assets/docs/Conference_Materials/2014/docstoupload2/iyer%20presentation.pdf

Top Motivations as per the Sannams4:

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So what is my “perspective”?

  • Surveys should avoid generalisations and should highlight that the motivations vary between a postgraduate (graduate) student and undergraduate student. The postgraduate students are more inclined to be motivated by the post-study outcomes and post-study-work outcomes than the undergraduate students who are more likely to be focussed on “value of the qualification” or on the “repute/ranking of the institution” …
  • The way the motivation for an Indian student (by extension the other sub-continental students) varies from the motivation of International students generally; I believe that even within India or the region, the motivation varies between one region and the other. This should be indicated in any “India-centric survey”
  • I have found that the motivation of a “full fee-paying” student is different to the student who may be funded through a government or institution scholarship. The scholarship student is less likely to turn down a destination because that destination has greater hurdles in the post-study-work or migration options.

So what is possibly the No.1 motivator for an Indian student to study overseas:

Generally speaking Sannams4 says what I have been listing too. However, I am of the opinion that  “majority” of sub-continental students want to work globally or use studies as pathway to migration.  This motivator is much greater than 34% as suggested by them. It can be closer to 60-80% for the fee-paying postgraduates while it is lower for the undergraduate students. It also varies between regions and I would expect that 80-90% of students from Punjab, Gujarat and Hyderabad would use education as a pathway to work or settle overseas.

I have been yelling through my blogs and writings that the “prime” motivator for Indian students to choose a particular destination or a particular institution overseas is not as much the ranking or the quality of the degree (it is a factor but after the prime motivator) but the ability to be able to use the education to larger career goals. In today’s times I often come across faculties and education marketers who are concerned that despite their top-status, they are experiencing a lower “pull” in Indian market and they need to assure themselves that the answer is not so much internal as it is external.

Only this one “motivator” can explain the reason for the dip in “Higher Ed” student numbers that UK experienced from India over the last few years.

See how this contrasts between India and China and further proving that generalised studies (such as the one of QS) of motivators for “international students” can mis-lead policy makers. (Source: UniversitiesUK blog)

First-year-students-from-China-and-India

There is a need for a more substantive research than what has been put out by QS and the Sannams4. It will come later this year as I intend to survey thousands of students from all regions of the country who walk-in to education fairs organised by various entities. There is a need to talk of South Asia (or sub-continent) as a market but also a need to indicate how regions within it differ in its motivators.

 

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If “study-work-migrate” is on your mind, NZ offers possibly the straightest pathway… With lesser Kiwis flying across to OZ, indicates growing opportunities.

NEW Zealand’s inbound net migration has climbed to a 10-year high as fewer people quit the country to cross the Tasman and the number of new migrants continued to rise.

http://www.news.com.au reports (see link)

The country gained a seasonally-adjusted 3,100 net new migrants in January, the most since May 2003 and up from 2,900 in December, according to Statistics New Zealand.

Seasonally-adjusted, there was an outflow of about 2,640 people to Australia, while about 8,210 new migrants arrived in New Zealand.

On an annual basis, New Zealand gained about 26,700 migrants, compared to a largely flat figure a year earlier.

In the year, there was as net loss of 17,400 people to Australia, down from 37,900 a year earlier.

Net gains were led by migrants from the UK at about 6,000, China with 5,700, India at 5,600, the Philippines at 2,400 and Germany at 2,300.

Auckland attracted the biggest gain in net migration at 12,300, followed by Canterbury with 4,800, then Otago at 600 and Wellington at 300.

Auckland and Wellington’s net gains were largely in professionals, while Canterbury attracted technicians and trades workers and Otago community and personal service workers, Statistics NZ said.

Inbound migration is seen as one of the factors driving New Zealand’s accelerating economic momentum as it fuels a bubbling property market.

The Reserve Bank has cited it as influencing its thinking as it prepares to embark on hiking interest rates to head off future inflation.

Thursday’s report also showed a 12 per cent increase in the number of short-term arrivals to 292,400 in January from the same month a year earlier, for an annual gain of 7.5 per cent to 2.75 million.

The monthly gain was underpinned by a 60 per cent surge in the number of Chinese visitors to 30,100 and an almost doubling of people from Hong Kong to 3,100 coinciding with the Chinese New Year.

There is another interesting video from BBC that I highly recommend… on how migrant workers are helping the rebuild of Christchurch… http://www.bbc.com/news/26274555

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Shocker: Better-prepared pathway-led diploma-to-degree returning graduates are deemed unfit for Masters study in India. India (AIU) needs to fix itself and Institutions need to pre-warn the students.

AIU which is responsible for issuing equivalence to foreign qualification just doesn’t get the concept of “pathways” and seems to be deeming students who began their degrees using a pathway diploma to be un-eligible for undertaking Masters study in India. This is sheer ridiculous or should I say reckless or should I say irresponsible or should I say negligent on part of AIU. AIU is under a scanner currently but that is another story (see link).

A growing number of higher education institutions around the world are making use of academic preparatory programs, typically for students that lack the necessary training or language skills to meet given program entry requirements. The use of these programs has become especially prevalent in today’s world of internationalization and cross-border academic mobility.

What is AIU?

The Inter University Board (IUB) was established in 1925 and was renamed as the ASSOCIATION OF INDIAN UNIVERSITIES (AIU) in 1973. The need of an organization in India for equivalence of degrees between the universities in India and abroad was felt since long, after the establishment of three premier Universities (Bombay, Calcutta and Madras in 1857) and therefore, the Inter University Board was formed as an Autonomous Body.

AIU is the only recognized body in India for granting academic equivalence of degrees/diplomas not only within the country but also to other similar bodies in foreign countries. In acknowledgement to the works done by the Division since its inception the Ministry of Human Resource Development notified that the equivalence done by AIU will be valid for the purpose of higher education as well as employment in the country.

Not only to the Universities, AIU also provides its services, for equivalence of degrees to various Central & State Employment agencies viz. Union Public Service Commission, New Delhi and State Recruitment Boards .The Division, besides Ministry of Human Resource Development, GOI, also facilitates to other Federal Ministries of India, to formulate the proposals on mutual recognition of degrees under Educational Exchange Programmes.

What are pathways?

International students undertaking these programs – known variously as bridge, pathway or foundation – are looking to improve their language skills to a level appropriate for higher academic study, as defined by a particular threshold on a standardized foreign-language test. Additionally, international foundation programs are designed to help students meet minimum academic requirements for entry to an undergraduate or graduate degree program, while also preparing them culturally for life and study in a new study environment.

The flow chart below helps to explain how the pathways help student to progress into the degrees.

foundation

Who runs the pathway diplomas?

The diplomas are often run by another division of the same University or can be run by some specialised providers who focus on running such pathways around the world. Some of the prominent “International” diplomas to degree pathway providers are:

Navitas is an Australian company that delivers pathway programs in collaboration with 30 colleges worldwide in seven countries, including all five of the major English-language destinations. It introduced its first pathway program for Edith Cowan University in 1994 but since then has offerings in almost every education destination.

INTO University Partnerships is a British company that was established in 2005, developing its first comprehensive center with the University of East Anglia (UEA) that year and thereafter the company has expanded its partnerships rapidly in the UK, now working with 17 universities, in addition to internationally in North America and China.

Kaplan Inc, a New York-based company, is familiar to most in the United States for its history of offering test-preparation services; however, in recent years it has expanded aggressively into the university sector, both domestically and internationally. 

Study Group was founded in the UK in 1994 (since sold (and resold) to Australian private equity firms). Beyond the UK, Study Group has been expanding aggressively, with some 100 centers across the globe, in Australia, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United States.

What is the reason for AIU not recognising the degrees that have been built upon a pathway?

AIU clearly has not moved with times. They want the student to have spent a certain number of years for a certain degree at “one” institution. Hence if a student is seeking an equivalence for a Bachelor degree that should take three years, they expect that all the three years should be from that one institution. With pathway, often the first year is delivered by the pathway provider and hence the length of study at the University reduces. AIU’s logic needs to be challenged since the finally graduating student has a valid degree and of a very high level. It is in no way inferior to the degree that a student gets otherwise. In some ways, the students completing the degree after the pathway are better prepared in reality.

What is the impact of the non-recognition of pathways?

Students who return to India need to prove that they have a recognised Bachelor degree for the purpose of undertaking a further study in India (say a Masters) or when a student is apply for a job with the government or public sector or when the student needs to provide evidence that he/she has a Bachelors to be eligible for certain types of businesses. This is when they apply for an equivalence certificate from AIU for their foreign qualification and this is when the “shock” is experienced.

What are the Foreign Universities and Governments of destination countries doing?

I am unsure as to what UK or US or Canada is doing in this regard or even if they have come to be aware of the problem that has developed at the end of AIU. However I am told that under the Australia India Education Council, Australian and Indian Governments have formed a Qualification Recognition Task-force and included amongst the issues to be discussed is the issue of “pathway and twinning arrangements”. A copy of the agenda items under discussion of the taskforce can be found on this link

What I desire?

It will be ideal for UK, US, Canada, NZ and Australia to pool their resources together on this issue and pressurize the Indian Government to quickly address this in the interest of thousands of students who complete a diploma-to-degree packaging. It is taking too long for the AIU to understand a simple qualification framework and the way some of the best Universities in the world operate. I also believe that if UK and US Governments prioritise this issue, a solution can be found. A few years ago, I wrote and highlighted the issue of UK’s one year Master degrees being not recognised by AIU. That blog led to media reports which accelerated the discussions. UK PM during his visit to India listed that in his top agenda items. Today we have an announcement of a kind of bridging program that can help some of the affected students. Regarding the issue of pathways too, the prioritisation has to happen from the top. It is unfair to promote such programmes otherwise in India if they will lead to a qualification that will be deemed “unrecognised” in India.

The definition for “pathways” and listing of the named pathway providers has been taken from the article “An Evaluation of Britain’s University Pathway Programs“. 

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Non-University Aussie SVP list finalised. To apply from 22nd March…

The “degrees” of the following “Non-Universities” will also be eligible for SVP from 22nd March:

  • Alphacrucis College
  • APIC (Asia Pacific International College)
  • AIPE (Australian Institute of Professional Education)
  • Avondale College of Higher Education
  • Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School
  • CIT: Canberra Institute of Technology
  • Holmesglen Institute of TAFE
  • ICHM (International College of Hotel Management)
  • International College of Management
  • Le Cordon Bleu Australia
  • Australia College of Applied Psychology / Navitas College of Public Safety
  • SAE Institute / QATM College
  • TAFE SA
  • TAFE NSW
  • Kent Institute of Business & Technology
  • Think Group: APM College, Australasian College, Billy Blue School of Design, Souther School of Natural Therapies
  • Wentworth Institute
  • William Angliss Institute

Full notification of DIBP including the list of their business partners can be downloaded from this link

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Will “Accountant” make it to Aussie SOL in 2014 “again”? Time to wager a bet…

I am often asked by students as to what will they do if “accountant” is taken out of the SOL in 2014… They are of-course a little anxious thanks to the predictions of some of the so-called migration-experts. Not just students, some institutions too are convinced that it will be “out” and some even predict that the program called “MPA” will have to be dropped as it is only patronised by international students who want to “convert their qualifications” to meet the requirements in Australian context.

This is a little worrying… Too much reliance on “migration outcomes” with the programs that are marketed and the linking it has to migration… (and some had begun to believe that education can be marketed without a migration outcome!!!)

Australia has to accept the reality that beyond the rankings and quality, the prime reason why international students from South Asia choose a destination is “ability to be able to work or settle overseas”.  It will be much better if a country promoting its offerings recognises this and finds a suitable format that can promote study-work-settle pathway. Any which does this, will only be removing the camouflage from what they know well to be a fact.

How rumours started on likelihood of “accountant” to be dropped from the SOL?

AWPA has flagged a number of occupations which were borderline in terms of their inclusion on the SOL. These occupations (see the list here) may be removed in future years subject to monitoring of the labour market, education and migration data and evidence from stakeholders in relation to future oversupply issues, migration outcomes and areas of specific need.

This list includes “Accountant” and several other occupations including areas related to IT and also Dentists. I wonder why the migration agents and media has only sounded out “Accountant” and sent out the shivers…

Do I expect that “Accountant” will be removed from SOL?

No. I don’t expect so. I think it will be a blunder. Let me share here the parts from the submission made by ABDC (Australian Business Deans Council):

ABDC supports quality skilled migration initiatives and policies as these are of vital importance to Australia’s labour market, increased productivity, long‐term economic growth and prosperity. In this context our submission argues that the Australian government would gain significant benefit from: 1) retaining accountants on the 2014 SOL; and 2) developing a more flexible and longer‐term approach to retention and review of occupations on the SOL.

ABDC has consistently supported the inclusion of accountants on the SOL and our membership has developed a range of educational offerings and support services, and worked with the professional accounting bodies, to facilitate quality learning outcomes for accounting students, including international graduates. Therefore, our position is that any decision to remove accounting from the SOL would need to be based on accurate market data and sophisticated contextual analysis. Department of Education, Employment and Workforce Relations (DEEWR) analysis indicates that the number of job openings for accountants is expected to be high (greater than 50,000) for the 2012‐ 2017 period. This analysis indicates that labour market growth will place accountants as the third ranked occupation by projected growth.

We would however caution that certain data sources previously used to assess labour market demand for the SOL— e.g. the Australian Graduate Survey (AGS) and recruitment advertisements — are unreliable for assessing market labour demand for accountants. International student response rates to the AGS are typically very low, which is compounded in the case of accounting students, where three quarters are international.

Do read the full submission on this link. The recommendations make a lot of sense and it is high time, that SOL is fixed for three years at a time and not tinkered annually.

What are the views of migration experts that I discuss my thoughts with?

“There is no need to take it off the list. Skill Select and its occupational ceilings are a perfect tool to keep the flow under control. There were 14000 PR visas issued to accountants in 2009. In 2013 that was only 5000 which is half the target set by Skills Select. 

The current “talk” is the same talk each year and usually fuelled by comments from the distinguished Dr —-. I’m surprised Dick Smith hasn’t added his two cents worth about keeping Australia small. 

It serves a purpose for government which is to keep the message alive that there is no nexus between the student visa and PR and hence keeps the point of sale hoardings and banners in Chandigarh , Dhaka and Beijing clear of the old message.”

and from another expert…

“Considering the current capping numbers of Accountants on SkillSelect, there are still many places left. Even 60 pointers are getting invitations within 2-3 weeks. I don’t think Accountants will be taken off SOL in the next review.”

Hence allow me to differ a little from the perception that has been aired in the press and also fuelled by some “so called experts” within the academia. I concur with my friends who have been quoted above and would “wager my bet” on Accountant and also the various IT professions continuing in the SOL when it is released. To conclude, allow me to re-iterate the recommendations made by the collective body of University Business Deans…page2image8688

Recommendations from the Australian Business Deans Council (ABDC)

ABDC urges the Australian Workforce Productivity Agency and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) to ensure any future independent skilled migration occupation list, review system or policies consider the following recommendations:

  1. Retain accounting and finance occupations on the 2014 Skilled Occupation List (SOL) including 221111 Accountants (general), 22112 Management Accountant, 221113 Taxation Accountant, 221212 Corporate Treasurer, 221213 External Auditor, and 132211 Finance Manager.
  2. Move to a minimum three‐year cycle of reviews of skilled occupations. This longer term review cycle would provide greater certainty for labour market planning, potential and existing international students and to university planning.
  3. Transition to a more flexible system, such as the one adopted by SkillSelect to support better quality skilled migration. Applying a flexible threshold would allow for a more strategic response to changes in the labour market for accountants, and would enable a more nuanced management of quality immigration. The reactionary annual ‘on or off’ decision making process could be replaced by a longer term planning vision. 

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Indian Finance Minister woos Indian students in the election year by extending education loan subsidy… Not a bad way to win votes!!!

The Budget speech put forth an extension of the education loan subsidy scheme with a significant benefit for those who may have availed education loans before April 2009. The finance minister has proposed a moratorium wherein students will be excused from paying interest on education loans taken before 31 March 2009. Loans outstanding as on 31 December 2013 will be eligible for this benefit. The government will take over the liability for interest outstanding on 31 December 2013, but borrowers will have to pay starting January 2014.

At the moment, it’s too soon for banks to know the amount of the liability being passed on to the government. “We are yet to calculate the exact impact on our outstanding education loans,” said A. Krishna Kumar, managing director and group executive (national banking), State Bank of India. The government has given an estimated benefit of around Rs.2,600 crore for roughly 900,000 borrowers.

Now let’s assume that a student availed an education loan of Rs.10 lakh in April 2007 for a course which took two years to complete. The loan came at an interest of 12% per annum for a tenor of 10 years with no processing fees. The total equated monthly instalment (EMI) per month is likely to be around Rs.14,347. Now let’s say that on completion, the borrower did get a job and started to repay the loan as per the EMI every month. However, in December 2012, say, the student lost her job thanks to the economic slowdown and was not able to repay the loan EMI since then. In this case (assuming the bank hasn’t invoked the guarantee or declared the loan as a bad debt), the borrower would have an outstanding 12 months EMI ofRs.1,721,164 as on December 2013, out of this the interest amount comes to around Rs.63, 708. If we go by the Budget speech, this outstanding interest payment will be taken up by the government and paid to the bank on the borrower’s behalf. However, the borrower will have to continue paying dues from January 2014. (This is according to a calculation from Punjab National Bank website).

The announcement is referring only to payment of outstanding interest and not the principal portion of the EMI. The above is just an example. The final benefit will depend on the terms of the loan when the loan was taken, the interest rate and the period for which repayment is due.

Given that these loans were taken at least more than 4.5 years ago, the borrowers are likely to have finished their education and moved on to jobs or are at least in the process of looking for one. Given the difficult economic scenario in the country with the gross domestic product growth having fallen from 6.7% in FY09 to a budget estimate of 4.9% for FY14, it’s not surprising if many of those who availed education loans before 2009 haven’t been placed in jobs yet. “This is definitely a good move and will ease pressure from those who are still looking for jobs,” said Kumar.

It would be pre-emptive to say if this move will result in eventual full payment on part of borrowers or lead to an increase in non-payment of dues from this segment since the government is paying partly. But this is not a big portion of banking credit. As on 31 December, the total amount of education loans outstanding with public sector banks was Rs.57,700 crore which is approximately 1% of total credit outstanding across banks.

The above is from http://www.livemint.com/Politics/PiUd2WpbMRNRrRHOeaJJiJ/Interim-budget-FM-proposes-moratorium-on-educational-loan.html

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Why BBC’s sensationalist expose of the abuse with regards to TOEFL/TOEIC in UK makes gross generalisations and affects more?

Why sensationalist journalism lets down international students

On Monday, BBC Panorama aired a segment exposing “student visa system fraud.” The footage showed students being given test answers to English language exams and having “fake sitters” take oral computer-administered exams. It then showed as agents provided students with fraudulent documents.

This is a reproduction of the article by Daniel Stevens. Original article can be found on this link.

Now, Panorama should be commended for exposing wrongdoing and this type of activity should be rightfully condemned and rooted out.  However, without context or balance, such coverage can tar the image of every single international student in the UK with its sensationalism and dramatics. These are quotes from the programme:

“Blantant fraud,” “thriving market,” “wide open to abuse,” “marketplace for fraud,” “students staying on illegally,” “systematic immigration fraud,” “flagrant abuses in the student visa system,” “most of the students come here to work, college is just an excuse,” “bogus students obtain visas through fraud,” “A student tier that was so unselective,” “bogus colleges,” “our investigation proves fraud is rife,” “damages credibility of the entire visa process,” “thriving market in bogus documents,” “it’s clear from our investigation that the student visa system is riddled with fraud,” “such a weak system,” “the Government hasn’t done anything to tackle it,” “free for all,” “the government is determined to stop the free for all,” “whole system appears chaotic,” “it was by no means a one off” “what’s clear is the UK student visa system remains an easy target.”

With very little context about the student visa system, a layperson would watch Panorama and envisage hundreds of thousands of students coming to the UK to abuse the system. At no point did it attempt to describe the numbers of those abusing the system.

I want to put into context what an international student has to do to get a visa to come study in the UK:

  1. Pay over £400 to get a visa if it is a visa extension.
  2. Have their biometrics (fingerprints) taken and be issued with an identity card.
  3. Undertake a credibility interview.
  4. Secure a sufficient number of points through the point-based system to be eligible for a student visa.
  5. Have their attendance consistently monitored by their institutions and be reported for any illegal activity.
  6. Progress academically.
  7. Be required to speak “English near-GCSE level.”
  8. Go to an institution that has a Highly-Trusted-Sponsor status. That means there is an awarding body that checks the integrity of quality of the courses offered.
  9. Register with the police upon arrival.
  10. Show enough funds in the bank to prove that they can maintain themselves financially. This is full tuition and £9000 living expenses.

Even then, if they go to a private college- they have absolutely no working rights. Students in publicly funded further education can only work 10 hours a week. In the programme, Panorama paid £2800 to get the fake documents needed to then be able to pay to go to such a college.

I do not believe there is wide scale abuse. I do not believe the system is “riddled” or “rife” with fraud. I believe that this is an extremely sophisticated, complex and costly system that was rightfully uncovered. It’s ridiculous to make the logical conclusion that because this activity/behaviour is happening the wider system is compromised. First, even if a thousand international students were using this system- that’s only 0.3 per cent of the overall total. Second, they would still not be able to work legally. Third, they would still be monitored by their institution. As one VC put it in an interview, international students are monitored in the UK in a way that would make Stalin proud.

This sad truth is that this simply gives more fuel for the Home Secretary to make further political attacks on the education sector. One which is already barely recovering from her previous volleys. Numbers of international students in further education and private providers have dropped by 80 per cent. The sector has basically been wiped out. Numbers in Universities have fallen for the first time in history. A recent NUS survey found that 51 per cent of non-EU students found the UK Government either unwelcoming of very unwelcoming and 19 per cent would not recommend the UK to a friend or relative. The programme is already being used to defend the Government’s overreaching policies.

I hope the ratings were worth it Panorama. Legitimate international students are the ones who will likely suffer because of it.

 

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Canada fine-tunes its regulations to make it more “welcoming” for international students…

February 12, 2014 — New rules that aim to strengthen Canada’s status as a study destination of choice for prospective international students will take effect on June 1, 2014.

The new regulations will improve services to genuine students, while protecting Canada’s international reputation for high-quality education and reducing the potential for fraud and misuse of the program.

Here is a summary of the changes:

Current regulations New regulations, as of June 1, 2014
Applicants must show that they intend to pursue studies in Canada when applying for a study permit. Applicants must enrol in and continue to pursue studies in Canada.  Failure to do so could lead to removal from Canada.
Applicants may apply for a study permit to pursue studies at any educational institution in Canada. Study permits will only be issued to successful applicants who are pursuing studies at an educational institution that has been designated to receive international students.
Study permit holders pursuing studies at publicly-funded and certain privately-funded post-secondary institutions must apply for an Off-Campus Work Permit to be able to work up to 20 hours per week off-campus during the academic session and full-time during scheduled breaks. Study permits will automatically authorize the holder to work off-campus for up to 20 hours per week during the academic session and full-time during scheduled breaks without the need to apply for a separate work permit. The study permit holder must be pursuing academic, vocational or professional training of six months or more that leads to a degree, diploma or certificate at a designated institution.
Any international student can apply for a Co-Op Work Permit if a co-op placement is an integral element of their course of study. Only international students who are pursuing studies at a secondary school or at a designated institution may apply for a Co-Op Work Permit if a co-op placement is an integral part of their course of study.
Visitors may not apply for a study permit from within Canada Visitors may apply for a study permit from within Canada if they are at the pre-school, primary or secondary level, are on an academic exchange or a visiting student at a designated learning institution, or have completed a course or program of study that is a condition for acceptance at a designated learning institution.
International students who have completed their studies but hold valid study permits can remain legally in Canada until the expiration of their study permit. A study permit becomes invalid 90 days following the completion of studies unless the foreign national also possesses a valid work permit or another authorization to remain in Canada.
There are no references in existing regulations that clearly state that Registered Indians who are also foreign nationals are exempt from the requirement to obtain a study permit. Registered Indians who are also foreign nationals may study in Canada without a study permit as they have the right of entry into Canada.
Study permit holders are not authorized to work after the completion of their studies while awaiting approval of their Post-Graduation Work Permit Eligible international graduates will be authorized to work full-time after their studies are completed until a decision is made on their application for a Post-Graduation Work Permit.

Additional information

  • Education is the responsibility of the provinces and territories. The educational institutions that will be designated will be determined by provincial and territorial governments in coming months.
  • International students enrolling in courses in Canada that will last six months or less do not need a study permit. This is not changing. Students from countries whose citizens require a visitor visa will still need a valid visitor visa.
  • Study permit holders who are studying at a non-designated institution when the new regulations come into effect will be permitted to complete their program of study, up to a maximum of three years after the regulations take effect.
  • International students who are studying at a non-designated institution and hold either an Off-Campus Work Permit or a Co-Op Work Permit will be permitted to continue to use, and renew if necessary, those work permits until they complete their program of study, up to a maximum of three years after the regulations take effect.
  • Additional operational measures to support transitional regulations will be announced closer to June 1, 2014, when the new rules take effect.

Source: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/notices/2014-02-12.asp?utm_source=bitly-eng

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Edinburgh’s “Fixed Fees” initiative is a good move… now all eyes on Scottish referendum and whether it re-introduces PSW.

International students at Edinburgh are to benefit from a new system of fixed annual fees that will last for the duration of their degree.

The changes, which will come into effect from 1 August 2014, will cover all full time undergraduate and taught postgraduate programmes lasting more than one year.

Unlike many other universities, tuition fees will not rise each year in line with inflation. The new system means that international students will be aware of the exact cost of fees during their time at Edinburgh.

EUSA is delighted that the University have taken this step. It will make a positive impact on international students and make it easier for them to budget for their time at Edinburgh.

Hugh Murdoch, President, EUSA

Benefit for students

The new arrangements are the result of University staff working in collaboration with colleagues from the University Students’ Association, EUSA.

The changes will not affect those students already undertaking a taught degree programme at the University.

One of the barriers for international students who are considering studying in the UK is the uncertainty of the total fees that they will be charged. This development will undoubtedly help students, and their parents, better plan for their studies.

Michelle Embury, Associate Director of University Guidance, Collingwood School, W Vancouver, Canada

Tuition fees for international students who started their degree programme before 1 August 2014 remain subject to annual revision.

The announcement reaffirms Edinburgh’s commitment to attracting the best students from a range of backgrounds around the world.

The above information is taken from the University’s website (see link).

This is a fantastic decision on part of the University and customer-friendly (assuming that the students are indeed customers). The impediments for the attractiveness of Scottish offerings is the UK’s withdrawal of the PSW. Scottish institutions tend to remind that it was Scotland that first introduced the FRESH TALENT INITIATIVE and what thereafter UK introduced as POST STUDY WORK was only to ape this for the full UK. Now UK has withdrawn it and the Scottish scheme too remains closed. Scotland as such is eyeing the September referendum which will decide if Scotland continues to remain a part of UK or asserts is full independence. Politicians have also voiced that if Scotland does become independent, it will re-introduce PSW. If that happens, UK will have no option but to also re-introduce PSW and end all this talk of it being “unwelcoming to international students”. Let’s see what unfolds as there are quite a few “if” there.

ADDITIONAL NOTE (13/02/2014) :  The above blog may have given an impression that Edinburgh is the first institution to have fixed-fees. This is not true and there are a few institutions in UK including in Scotland who already have fixed-fees. However for an institution such as Edinburgh to follow this, it will encourage all the others to also make fixed-fees as the norm in the interest of students.

 

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

New Zealand shows the way to Australia “again”… NZ’s SVP is an improvement on OZ’s SVP…

New Zealand has just launched its own version of Streamline Visa Processing for students and has called it Industry Partner Program or IPP. The advantage of having studied what Australia initiated is evident from the fact that it is a clear improvement and hence open to less critique.

Improvement 1: An institution can choose the student to whom it wants the IPP to be applied. (With Australia, all students who have offers from the participating institutions are applied SVP and so even if the institution has not been able to ascertain to its satisfaction on the financial documentation or claims, the SVP is still applied. )

Improvement 2: Institutions have been selected from all the sectors: Universities, Polytechnics and Private Providers and the sole criteria is the track record. (With Australia, only the Universities were invited in the first round and now it is being extended to a few non-Universities but only for select degree programs).

Improvement 3: Institutions selected can apply SVP for all the programs that it offers and this makes sense. (With Australia, only the Bachelors or the Masters degree programs are covered under SVP even of the selected institutions. It makes little sense that a Post Graduate Diploma student may have more difficulty with evidence of funds than a Masters or a Bachelors student).

Improvement 4: Though a pilot at this time, the scheme has no “hidden ammunitions” in the hand of visa officers. (With Australia, the institutions are to do the GTE check (Genuine Temporary Entrant) and still the visa officers retain the right to apply the same check on the student from their own perspective and then without a recourse to cross check with the University under SVP on why the application was made and offer, the visa can still be refused.)

However, the key salient points for SVP and IPP remain identical…

Industry partnerships are designed to help the export education sector grow by offering shared benefits to education providers, international students and INZ.

These benefits could include:

  • first time students seeking to enrol at high quality providers offered faster, lower intervention visa processing

  • immigration industry partners given a marketing advantage and the opportunity to play a greater role in the immigration application process

  • education providers incentivised to strive for high education standards, enhancing students’ experiences and New Zealand’s international reputation as a high quality study destination, and

  • education providers encouraged to select students carefully and take more responsibility for their students achieving good immigration outcomes.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Australia’s DIBP concedes and will allow the switch from SVP to non-SVP without explanation… NOW it is time for it to re-introduce 8206 and put an end to this issue as a win-win to all.

A week ago, I had blogged (see link) on why I felt that the warning letters issued to the students couldn’t be translated to visa cancellations. The reasons were that the regulations were not supporting the warning. The student visa application and the visa grant letters did not differentiate between SVP and non SVP allowing a “benefit of doubt” to the student’s claim that they did not know the difference or the implications of this change.

From one of the comments (of Jag Khairra) on that blog I have learnt that DIBP has agreed to not seek clarifications from the students as long as they moved only between the same sub-class. 573 to 573, SVP or non SVP. I am quoting from the FB page of a Migration Agent (see link)… This is the advise received from DIBP:

As you will recall the department has been directly engaging with students who have arrived under streamlined visa processing (SVP) and then changed to a non-SVP eligible course. These students received an advice letter and have been provided with an opportunity to explain their circumstances.

Over the last few weeks we have received a large number of responses to these advice letters. The department has also received a significant amount of feedback from education providers. From the information provided it is clear that a number of students were unaware of the possible impacts of changing courses, particularly those students who have transferred to another provider or course within the higher education sector (including those students who have transferred to non-SVP eligible courses at a university).
The primary objective of the department’s education campaign is to raise awareness. As such, we consider that it would not be reasonable to penalise students who may have unintentionally breached the conditions of their visa prior to the launch of the campaign. As you will be aware, the department no longer has a mandatory cancellation regime. This provides greater discretion to ensure that we can better target integrity risk but also, deliver fairer outcomes for students.

We are keen to provide as much certainty to affected students as possible. With this in mind and following consideration of the information provided by students and other stakeholders, we have decided that we will not take any further action against students who meet the following characteristics:
• Transferred from a SVP eligible subclass 573 course to a non-SVP eligible 573 course prior to the launch of the 14 January 2014 education campaign (e.g. from a bachelor degree course at a university to a bachelor degree course at a non-university provider); and
• Continue to meet all other requirements and conditions of their visa

We will write to students who meet these characteristics on an individual basis to advise that they will not be subject to cancellation as a result of their course transfer.

We continue to consider whether further action is appropriate for other students who have received an advice letter on an individual basis, this includes students who have transferred from a SVP course to a course in another education sector. We note in this regard that irrespective of SVP such students would likely be in breach of condition 8516. We will provide a further update regarding this cohort at a later stage.

Moving forwards, from a general perspective, students who were granted a visa to study an SVP eligible course will be expected to apply for a new student visa before commencing and transferring to a non-SVP eligible course. We are currently reviewing information provided to students to ensure they are aware of this requirement in future.

While DIBP may be reviewing the information provided to students at the time of visa application and visa grants and may even add a reminder that the student is expected to stay with the SVP provider for the duration of the visa. However, this only addresses the issue in a limited sense. In 2007 the Immigration believed that the change of provider is a educational matter and not immigration matter and that is the reason why they removed the condition 8206. I believe that the insistence that the student stays with the SVP provider is possibly fair to the providers who have done the vetting of the documents prior to the visa. However the current ESOS expectation that the student does not move institutions (even SVP to SVP) till six months of the principle program is faulty. Especially in the case of students who are studying in a packaged program (say 2 year Diploma leading to the final year of Bachelors) and so in such cases even if the student wants to move to another SVP provider for genuine reasons, the student is prohibited from doing so till the six months of the final year is completed and hence only after 2.5 years of the 3 year program. If the same student was not in a diploma to degree packaging and was in the degree itself, the student would have been allowed to move institutions after the six months itself. 

As in the recommendations of my earlier blog, the visa applications and visa grants letters should be immediately modified to indicate clearly to the student that they have applied under SVP and they are expected to stay for the duration of the visa under SVP. If they do want to switch, they will need to apply for a fresh student visa. This should be easy to put in place. However, there is a need to reflect on the confusion and reintroduce 8206 condition on the visa. This will be a win-win for all. The students wanting to move within the first year will need a release letter and the term “principle” program can be done away with. No point confusing a clear “immigration matter” as an “education matter”. Now with the SVP, it is indeed an “immigration matter” since some students have it easier to reach Australia.

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Thanks Satya Nadella (now CEO Microsoft) for proving that even those who don’t get into IITs and those who pay capitation to get their degree… can also shine ahead of the rest…

He “possibly” did not get into IITs; He “probably” paid capitation to get into Manipal BUT He most definitely has gone right to the top… I celebrate Satya Nadella’s success not just because he is an Indian (or Indian origin) but one who has set to rest several stereotypes from the Indian education system.

One such is highlighted by a firstpost article where it states… (see link)

Our system is designed to keep people out, not get them in. The true value of an IIT or IIM is not the intellectual capital they produce, but their filtering expertise – which keeps all but the superlisters out of these institutions. When the people entering the institution are the best among the best, they will shine no matter what the quality of faculty or the curriculum. 

Nadella did not get into the IITs “possibly” but still made it.

I say “possibly” because in the era that he went to engineering college, all Indian students would first attempt to get into the IITs or NITs or other reputed first league colleges before taking admission in Manipal.

Nadella “probably” paid “capitation” to secure admission in Manipal.

I say “probably” because in the era that he took his admission, students would have to pay a “capitation” fee and this is why Manipal was not a very revered institution at that time.

Forbes in an earlier article from 2011 narrates the repute of Manipal of that time… (see link)

There is another bigger issue — one of reputation. The Manipal brand name is synonymous with education as well as capitation. For decades, students and parents have thought of Manipal as a last resort where, if a child is unable to make it on merit, he/she can always get a seat by paying a higher fee. But this is no longer the case. 

In the 1950s, Manipal was the first university to introduce the capitation fee system, where the higher fee paid by students helped fund the university’s infrastructure. As a private university, Manipal did not have any other option. However, though these strategies financed the university, it also ended up smearing its name.

(From 1993, when Manipal acquired a deemed university status, the capitation fee system was removed. Admissions are now strictly based on a candidate’s performance in the entrance test.)

Nadella possibly started his Engineering studies in mid 80s and so most probably his admission was also with a hefty capitation fee. Allow me to also point out that he had a decent schooling where he played games and took part in all activities. This breaks the myth that only those who have locked themselves into coaching setups to get into certain institutions can make it to the big league.

And most definitely there existed a certain social look-down-factor against those who studied in “capitation” colleges. Now so many of graduates from that era can breathe easy as they may not have to justify their degrees or allow it to be looked down upon.

Satya Nadella proved himself through all this and made it.

Now his success means that even the repute of Manipal (of that time) that was so eloquently described by Forbes is now described as something totally opposite in New York Times… (see link)

Graduate of MIT — but not the one in Massachusetts. Got a 1988 degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Manipal Institute of Technology, one of the top engineering schools in India.

Maybe it is time for Chetan Bhagat to pen a new book  and for Aamir Khan to come up THREE IDIOTS PART 2.

And for Brahmins in the Indian Education System (read IITs) to do some introspection on why they are getting more known as the alma mater of political leaders than for global industry leaders.

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

International Students in Australia switching from SVP to non-SVP receive letters… Can the warnings lead to actual visa cancellations and my recommendations to plug the loop-holes!!!

After denying for a year that students switching from SVP to non-SVP as a major issue, finally Aussie immigration realises and issues warning letters siting all-embracing condition 8516. My recommendations…

Almost nine months ago, I raised this as a possibility and a rising concern. The institutions had begun seeing numbers of students from India and Nepal (primarily) seeking releases and where denied, were still going ahead with the switch. When I wrote on the issue of various concerns related to compliance with SVP and when The Australian quoted me on this, the rebuttal from the Immigration at that time was…

However a DIAC spokesman indicated that the department was satisfied with the SVP to date, and was taking a “business as usual” approach to compliance issues.

Around the same time, The Australian carried another article quoting another agent and indicated precisely that the students had been entering Australia using the SVP but then switching. I don’t blame the Immigration for not finding it as a major concern then as often they refer to data, which tends to have a slight lag… However it will always help to keep an ear to the ground and some of us tend to sniff things earlier than when the datas emerge.

Over the last month, over a thousand students (newspapers say 1416) who switched from SVP to non-SVP institutions have received a letter from the Department of Immigration “warning” them that they are in breach of the condition 8516. Students who switched over a year ago and were allowed to change at that time also received these letters. Some are closer to completion of the programs too.

The natural reaction from such letters was as intended. The students panicked and rushed to local migration agents who were foxed too. Some of these “onshore” agents were actually involved in the switch for these students and had pocketed a fee too. They had read the migration act to find that…

  • That the migration act did not prohibit a student from switching institutions especially if it was in the same category. Say subclass 573 to subclass 573.
  • It was an ESOS condition that the student should stick to the same “principle” provider for at-least six “calendar” months. Not a condition for the student visa as such.
  • The migration agents quickly point out that a student was concerned with the student visa and not whether it was SVP or not. Further, there is no way for the student to choose whether his visa should be SVP or non-SVP and even the institutions cannot choose whether they can apply the SVP for some students and not for others.
  • The migration agents point out that the student visa application for SVP or non-SVP did not differentiate. And the visa grant letter for student visas too was identical without any indication that the visa had been processed under SVP and so the student can claim “not to know that his visa is different”. The visa fee is also the same.
  • And the letter received by the students too was not NOICC that is the formal notice for visa cancellation. Hence was merely a kind of warning letters in absence of any real ground for cancellation of the visa. A cancellation, if at all, under this condition for the act of switching institutions, the migration agents believe can be successfully challenged.

But then the Immigration’s official migration blog on this topic has several comments (see link) where students are seeking solutions. Some students appear genuinely to have erred in the switch and were not aware that they were violating any condition of the visa. The advise to such students by the Immigration, as can be seen in the comments is that the students must now depart Australia and apply for a fresh student visa. Is this an appropriate advice? Does the student have no other option but to depart Australia and reapply for a student visa? Migration experts believe that Immigration has not given a comprehensive advise to the student here and the student will possibly make a mistake by departing Australia and applying for a new student visa offshore. In reality, there is a good chance that once they depart and apply for a fresh visa, that visa may be denied and the student is left with no option to appeal. They state the reasons as…

  • Why should the student depart Australia? The warning letter is not an NOICC and further the student can give his/her reasons that can be anything ranging from a more suitable program at the non-SVP institution to being ignorant on how his/her visa differed from other student visas and be still acceptable. Honestly, looking at the visas, one cannot say that one visa is different from the other.
  • Even if the visa is to be cancelled, why can’t the student apply for a fresh student visa “onshore” for the non-SVP institution? Possibly he can.

In reality however, the students who apply to SVP institutions and get visas do have it a little easier and it is not fair for them to arrive onshore based on the status of the first institution and then make a switch.

  • Immigration should edit visa application form and indicate in that the application is with lower fiscal checks as the institution is under SVP.
  • Immigration should edit the visa grant letter too to indicate that the visa has been granted under SVP and so if the student switches from SVP to non-SVP at any time during the visa tenure, the student may be required to apply for a fresh student visa and the current visa will automatically terminate.

However it is also not right that the students who got visa under SVP had no hope to be granted a visa under non-SVP. The student has no choice to apply under SVP or non-SVP and it depends solely on the status of the institution. See today’s article from The Australian titled STUDENTS WHO JUMP UNIS HIT BY VISA RULES.

There is one other thing to fix too for the Government. The important fix required is the ownership to the condition related to “change of provider”.  Prior to 1st July 2007, there existed a condition 8206 on the student visas. This prohibited students from changing providers for one year. However on this date, the condition was removed. Lets look at the rationale for the removal of the condition as indicated on the immigration site…

Condition 8206 limits the ability of student visa holders to change education providers during their course of study. As a result of this change, it will no longer be necessary for students to apply for a new student visa in order to change Education providers.

The removal of condition 8206 and related provisions from the Regulations has been done to reflect changes to the National Code of Practice for Registration Authorities and Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2007 (the National Code 2007). In particular, the obligations set out in condition 8206 have been transferred from the Regulations to become a standard of the National Code 2007. The rationale for this is that the change of education provider is essentially an educational, not an immigration matter.

But since this, “change of education provider” is not an immigration matter, the ESOS provision has been toothless. In-fact, the ESOS condition has shortcomings…

  • From one year under the Immigration’s condition 8206, it became six months under ESOS. This was to protect the student’s interest but failed to do so as the “calendar” six months means that the student has to lose out on some money paid for the second semester of studies at institutions if he or she has to move institutions.
  • The ESOS requirement mentions that if a student desired to move institutions before six months of a “principle” program, then they needed a release letter from the “principle” provider. This has become quite chaotic since students in packaged programs of a pathway leading to a University often has to get a release letter from the University even if the University is to start after two years of his or her being in Australia. Hence the change to protect student’s customer rights works in contradiction.
  • In fact it talks of principal course and not principal provider. Hence if the student is undertaking one year of Graduate Diploma leading to second year of Masters, then the student can only change institution after one and half years (after he has studied six months of the principle program which is Masters) even if he is at the same institution. This too works against the basic arguments for the reduction of the time for changing provider from one year to six months.
  • The ESOS also doesn’t differentiate between SVP and non-SVP providers and hence while Immigration has relinquished its condition 8206 giving rationale that the change of provider is essentially an educational matter and not immigration matter, the situation demands once again that change of provider becomes an immigration matter.

So what am I recommending?

Recommendation 1: Times have changed since 2007 and now that some institutions are under SVP and have easier visas, it is important to understand for the Immigration that earlier rationale for removal of 8206 doesn’t stand now. Change of provider is an “immigration matter” now and hence the earlier condition 8206 that stated that a student could not change providers for at-least one year should be reinstated. If a student has a reason to switch that is genuine, he or she may compulsorily require a release letter from the first institution. There is just no space to complicate this change of provider regulations giving any other rationale as was given in 2007.

Recommendation 2: Look at the recently introduced SVP by Immigration NZ and take its improvements. INZ calls it IPP (Industry Partner Programme) and one massive superiority over SVP is that it allows the institution to choose which applications can be processed under SVP and which may not. Hence two students for the same program may have differing visa requirements subject to the institution’s ability to take the onus on the fiscal background of the candidate. Secondly, it is not linked to only degree programs but more to the status of the institution. While in the Australian model of SVP, a degree student of one institution gets the advantage while another student at the same institution who may be applying with say Post Graduate Diploma doesnot get the advantage. Crazy.

Recommendation 3: Please give comprehensive advise on the migration blog and one that can be backed up with regulations. Otherwise it leads to panic. Remember that the students are already “onshore” and have more access to appeals and solutions than students “offshore” who can simply be denied visas. The immigration department’s migration blog is as official as its website. (Unlike my blog)

And lastly, when some of us with interests in the right places give out warning signals, do take note of them well in advance.

DISCLAIMER: THE ABOVE IS ONLY MY OPINION AND IT IS NOT A MIGRATION ADVICE OR AN INTENDED ADVICE TO A STUDENT WHO MAY HAVE RECEIVED ONE SUCH LETTER. THE STUDENT MAY APPROACH A LICENSED MIGRATION ADVISER. I AM NOT ONE. THE PURPOSE OF THIS BLOG IS TO PLUG THE LOOPHOLE THAT MIGHT EXIST. REFER TO MY RECOMMENDATIONS.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Nelson Mandela… RIP

Nelson-Mandela-Quotes-Wallpaper964003_10153566964765611_595441833_o

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Bad data used in British Council’s Inside India report: Enrolment and Fresh Student Statistics has been used interchangeably. Should I just say LOL!

The higher education supplements around the world are reporting the Inside India report of British Council. The basic statistics quoted in the report is incorrect and so the summaries reported are incorrect too… And British Council would want you to buy that report.

Before I come to why I am saying that the report uses bad data, lets see how it has been lapped up around the world this day.

The Australian’s Higher Ed reports in INDIAN BOOM MIGHT NOT EVENTUATE, SAYS BRITISH COUNCIL

The report ‘Inside India – A new status quo’ says demand from Indian students for British universities dropped by 23 per cent between 2012-13 and by 4 per cent in the US.

However, demand for Australian places increased by 36 per cent during the same period despite Australia being the destination with the highest living costs.

“The recent increase in students studying in Australia has happened when the currency valuation makes living costs very expensive. However, work opportunities seem to have mitigated the effect of high costs of living and the negative sentiment created in 2009-10,” the report says.

 Inside Higher Ed reports from US in A NEW STATUS QUO ?

While the U.K. and U.S. are the top two destinations of choice, students are increasingly applying to universities in Canada and Germany, where they perceive education to be cheaper and employment opportunities to be robust. Canada stands out in terms of perceived opportunities for permanent migration, while students see Germany as offering world-class opportunities in the automotive, engineering, and manufacturing industries. The number of Indian students in Australia, meanwhile, appears to be rebounding after a precipitous fall following a series of violent attacks on Indian students in 2009.

Now let me show the bad data used in the report…

The report quotes the following data for its analysis and for the comments made by the above articles:

2008-9 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 Most recent year percent change
U.S. 103,260 104,897 103,895 100,270 96,754 -4
U.K. 36,105 40,470 40,890 31,595 - -23
Australia 11,266 5,672 4,817 5,699 7,770 36
Germany 3,236 3,821 4,825 5,745 - 19
Canada 9,516 17,549 23,601 28,929 - 23

THIS IS WHERE IS AM GOING TO YELL: LOL…

  • The data above is used the enrolment statistics and fresh student visa grants statistics interchangeably.
  • The enrolment statistics are the number of students of one nationality at that time in that country. So when we say that there are 96,754 Indians enrolled in US during 2013, it means that there are 96,754 Indian nationals on F1 visa in 2013 and this includes students who may have entered US in the preceding years and still enrolled at the Universities. IT IS NOT THE NUMBER OF INDIAN STUDENTS WHO ENTERED USA. The same applies to the numbers shown for UK and Canada.
  • However, the report has provided the Australian numbers of the total student visa granted during the year to Indian students. It is not a cumulative data at all. The enrolment data is much higher.
  • Enrolment and Student Visa grants are not interchangeable.

I can understand journalists falling for it but not British Council. And then they want you to pay for this report using incorrect data.

Further a calculation based on enrolments have been found to be faulty. The duration of programs vary and it is known that a student in US tends to remain a student for a longer period of time. In UK, Masters are for only 1 year and so the Masters students in UK do not get counted for multiple years as in other places. When there is a sharp fall in student numbers, enrolment statistics can hide the fall and give a wrong impression. And wrong strategy and wrong impressions. Sometimes the use of enrolment statistics are with an intent to put a spin to falling student interest for a destination.

If you want to have the actual student trends INSIDE INDIA, you simply have to google and you will find the following…

Screen Shot 2013-05-26 at 10.12.57 AMScreen Shot 2013-05-26 at 9.56.51 AM

It featured in my blog on 26th of May itself…

http://ravilochansingh.com/2013/05/26/breaking-myth-here-indian-student-numbers-going-overseas-not-increasing-reality-fewer-indian-students-are-now-going-overseas-total-numbers-to-big-five-destinations-has-dropped-to-one-third-in/

and the following followup reports including news items from newspapers that cross-checked the data and then reported…

http://ravilochansingh.com/2013/05/30/why-are-fewer-indian-students-travelling-overseas-indian-newspaper-searches-for-reason/

http://ravilochansingh.com/2013/05/28/indian-summer-an-article-in-the-australian-inspired-by-my-blog/

http://ravilochansingh.com/2013/05/30/why-are-fewer-indian-students-travelling-overseas-indian-newspaper-searches-for-reason/

However, the other conclusion that the the earlier projection of unabated growth from India was wrong seems to have been inspired by what I wrote too in my blog where I demonstrated that the total number of students going overseas from India to the big five destinations is actually declining and not increasing…

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For this conclusion, my free blog would take you to the same as the priced British Council report. The reasons for this declining interest can also be found on the links on those said blogs and they are possibly more comprehensive.

British Council, you have disappointed with the kind of research that has been put in… Can expect others to make this error… not you… Please do not compare apples with oranges…

 

UK degree equivalence issue in India; New Bridge course solution & why it is still a half measure… one destined to fail.

Early last year when I blogged on the issue of validity of the 1 year Masters degrees, I did that to seek an equivalence and rectify the situation. I am laying claim at the fact that it was this blog that was the first piece on the issue in public domain. (http://ravilochansingh.com/2012/04/17/shocker-india-states-that-uk-master-degrees-as-not-master-equivalent-british-council-helpless/)

What followed was a series of articles in newspapers and magazines, a series of submissions and petitions by students, intensified lobbying by the UK Government bodies including prioritising of the issue by the British PM. (http://ravilochansingh.com/2012/07/19/one-year-overseas-masters-validity-in-india-issue-not-just-for-uk-to-resolve/)

However what we have now as a solution is still half-baked measure. It is aimed at satisfying the lobbyists that some action has been taken though it is not really a solution. It is also too narrow in focus.

The New Indian Express reports in an article:

The recent announcement of the Human Resource Development Ministry to introduce a six-month bridge course for those who completed one-year post-graduate courses in the UK has received sharp reactions from students and experts.

While some were of the opinion that efforts were finally being made to recognise their degrees here, most others felt that they were unfairly being made to wait for an additional six months before they can take the next step in their career.

Many students who have completed their PG degrees in the UK feel this move would pose an unnecessary hurdle, resulting in time being wasted in proving the validity of their degree.

First the facts:

  1. UK tends to structure all its Master degrees as less than two years in duration. Often of 1 year only.
  2. AIU, which is the body to grant equivalence has deemed that all Masters that are of less than 2 years and possibly all Bachelors that are of lesser duration to what is offered in India, are deemed unequal or not valid as a degree.
  3. If a student is returning after completing a less than equal degree he is only faced with an issue if he is applying for a job that asks for an equivalence certificate. Often in academia or in government jobs. This is when the equivalence gets denied and the student believes that the promotion of the less than equal degree as a globally recognised and respected qualification is only a half-truth in the Indian context.

Now the solution offered by the Indian Government:

  • They say that the degree that is of less duration is still not equal to and Indian degree and hence will not be considered as a degree.
    • Hence a student wanting to make it equal will have to study for a bridging program in India for six months or so and then will only be able to claim to have reached the Masters level.
  • No solution yet offered for non-Humanities students.
  • No solution yet offered for the 3 year British Engineering graduates.
  • The solution for the British MBA is even more bizarre where the returning student can apply for equivalence after working in India for six months.
    • First they say it is not equal and then expect them to get a job as an unequal degree and for the very first time I am hearing that work experience is going to count towards academic assessment of a degree in India.
  • No solution offered for degrees that are done at two locations in parts.

It seems to me that UK has agreed to this solution and has put an end to the lobbying. All have gone back home safely and satisfied and appear to be not complaining any further.

The Telegraph has been reporting and pursuing the issue ever since I first did the blog and in a recent article it confirms…

The matter was discussed during the visit of Cameron earlier this year, and both countries agreed to the bridge course mechanism. The ministry then asked the UGC to suggest modalities for the course.

The Association of Indian Universities, the agency that gives equivalence to foreign degrees, has accepted the UGC formula.

I find this unacceptable since this in other ways is an acceptance by the British authorities that…

  1. Their degrees are inferior to Indian degrees.
  2. Their appeal to Indian students to study in UK since it offers a recognised degree is misplaced.
  3. And this could become the beginning of dumbing down of the UK degree by other countries that will look at how India has judged the qualification and how Britain has accepted the same.
  4. Or it could be a time for UK to do introspection and increase the duration of the degrees in line with the trend around the world.

 What would I have done if I was the one negotiating from the British end:

  1. I would have stuck to the ground that the British degree is differently structured and is accepted as a Masters by several countries around the world where the Masters are generally of two year duration.
  2. I would have insisted that the load of the program is high and there are pre-requisites that are also applied.
  3. I would have insisted that if the system works for other countries then why not for India.
  4. I would have insisted that UK has had issues with quality of output of some of the Indian Universities and has not disadvantaged those students.
  5. I would have brought into focus that it is not just Indian students studying in UK that are affected but also the fact that Masters in NZ is differently structured too and though Australia is gradually offering only two year Masters, it has had students with lesser than two year Masters too. US which traditionally offered two years Masters has in recent times been offering less than two year degrees.
  6. I would have insisted that the world is now more and more global and there is a need for growing mutual recognition of degrees.
  7. I would have insisted that UK and India should have an MOU on the lines that India has with other countries for mutual recognition of the degrees.

At this time, some students desperate for a job in India with the government or to pursue PhD in India will have this new option of the bridging course but over a period of time this bridge course is bound to fail and there will be hardly any interest. A student who wants to study overseas will not want to have spent money on something that will require him to come back and then do a further study just to make their qualification equal, if their intention is to work with the Government or work as lecturers or professors in Indian Universities.

This brings me to the thought that what India has decided as an option for UK degrees is simply because UK lobbied. It should have just made it an option for all the less than two year degrees from around the world and then it would have had more takers. The once it has no takers, the program will be dropped and momentum lost but UK degrees will then remain branded as inferior in content to the Indian degrees. Which is far from the truth, as we all know…

In summary, I believe that both India and UK have only played to the galleries and agreed at something that is just not acceptable and that has hardly any future.

 

Reblogging: Why IB (INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE) still doesn’t fit into the INDIAN scheme of things?

I did a blog last year detailing why I feel that IB may be an excellent curriculum but does not fit into Indian scheme of things. This particular blog continues to be that gets maximum hit even right now and I keep receiving emails on whether what I stated then is still valid from my perspective.

Readers, the fact is that not much has changed since then and now. Entrance Exams for Engineering Colleges still are in May and it clashes with the date for the IB and hence making the IB students more or less ruled out. IB curriculum is great but not in line with the entrance test curriculum for various colleges and institutes in India that run the entrance tests. The results are also declared well after admissions to colleges in India have been finalised and only a handful of colleges may allow a provisional admission based on expected results.

The earlier blog that I have referred to is on the link below… Feel free to critique…

Why IB (INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE) doesn’t fit into the INDIAN scheme of things?.

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Counseling on Careers needs to include family’s aspirations and circumstances. Not just student’s aptitude and grades.

 

Click on the link below to view my earlier post which is so very relevant even now…

Counseling on Careers needs to include family’s aspirations and circumstances. Not just student’s aptitude and grades..

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2013 in Uncategorized

 
 
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