WENR, November/December 2002: Americas
Exam Firm Calls for Benchmark Testing of MBA Skills
A testing company plans to offer an exam it hopes will act as a measuring stick for business school graduates, giving people from second-tier schools a chance to compete with graduates from elite MBA programs.
Despite cautious reactions from schools and corporations, the International Certification Institute is going ahead with a plan to offer the $450 exam in April 2003 at sites across the country. Unlike tests given to law and medical-school graduates, the exam will not be state-regulated.
The purpose of the test, according to test creator Michael Mebane, is to level the playing field for MBA graduates from programs that rank below the top-tier schools, while giving employers a benchmark in evaluating prospective employees.
A number of voices from the academic world have questioned the test, fearing that widespread acceptance of a standardized test will result in the International Certification Institute setting the agenda for MBA programs. Concerns have also been aired about how standardized testing would diminish diversity within MBA programs that some argue are already too narrowly focused.
Supporters of the test believe the exam will serve as a good measure of a prospective employee’s practical understanding of business assumptions and will allow employers to recognize talented students who have graduated from non-brand-name schools.
Pointing out that input from MBA students played a key role in the decision to go ahead with plans to offer the test, Mebane said critics are reading too much into the exam’s impact.
— Associated Press
Sept. 24, 2002
World Bank Report Urges Reform in Latin American
A report from the eighth annual Bank Conference on Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (ABCD-LAC 8) urges Latin American governments to invest more time in education, research and new technologies to spur overall economic growth.
At the conference, which opened Oct. 10, World Bank analysts presented a report entitled “Closing the Gap in Education and Technology.” The report calls for urgent action by the LAC governments to address the region’s deficits in skills and technology and thereby boost productivity, which is essential to improving growth prospects.
Guillermo Perry, the bank’s chief economist for the region, described what he saw as a “productivity gap” as the reason for its lag in income growth. He believes this is caused by the region’s failure to keep pace with new technologies in its production processes and failure to upgrade workers’ skills.
The report calls for a range of policy approaches and strategies to close the gap, depending on the country’s level of development. In countries where there are low levels of skilled labor and market competition and few innovation-related institutions, such as universities and research centers, the report recommends a focus on primary and secondary education coupled with an open trade policy.
Other nations, including Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, El Salvador, Panama and Venezuela, are urged to meet needs for specialized skills by offering incentives to private providers of advanced education while maintaining public spending on elementary and secondary schooling.
The report mentions a third group consisting of countries that have adapted existing technologies and are able to undercut competitors on cost. For these nations, the World Bank recommends expanding higher education, remaining open to trade and foreign direct investment and boosting incentives for private-sector research and development.
— The News
Oct. 15, 2002
UNESCO Pact Boosts Diversity Program
An agreement signed by UNESCO and the Brazilian Education Ministry will secure funds of US$9 million to raise undergraduate standards by running pre-university courses in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Bahia. The project is part of the Diversity at University program, which was launched in September 2002 by the Education Ministry. Funding will come from the Inter-American Development Bank (US$5 million) and the Brazilian government (US$4 million).
— Times Higher Education Supplement
Nov. 6, 2002
New Visa Laws for Foreign Students in Canada
International students now have double the amount of time – six months — to spend in Canada on a visitor visa. Students are also allowed to work part time off-campus as long as they are enrolled full-time at a college or university.
The new legislation has been widely praised by language schools that believe it will open the doors to much increased business, and put Canada on a level playing field with competitor countries.
— Language Travel Magazine
Ontario Colleges Given Degree Status for Some Applied Programs
Nine Ontario colleges of applied arts and technology have been granted the right to offer new bachelor-level degrees. The 12 degree programs are among 24 that will be introduced in the pilot project.
Traditionally, Ontario colleges have awarded certificates or diplomas for one-, two- or three-year postsecondary and postgraduate programs. According to Howard Rundle, chairman of the Committee of Presidents of the Association of Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology of Ontario, the ability to award bachelor’s degrees recognizes marketplace need and the breadth and scope of training that colleges provide.
Examples of applied fields where the Ontario colleges can award bachelor’s degrees include business, computing technology and information sciences.
Concordia University Bans Mid-East Activities
After violent demonstrations in September caused the cancellation of a speech by former Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Montreal’s Concordia University introduced a ban on all campus activities related to the Middle East.
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators smashed windows and harassed people trying to attend the event. When the demonstrators entered the building, Montreal police officers were forced to use tear gas to disperse them.
The university lifted its controversial three-month moratorium in November after an agreement on suitable principles for public expression, including commitments to mutual respect and nonviolent behavior, were reached. The university also said that it will not permit speech and materials that promote racism.
— The Chronicle of Higher Education
Sept. 27, 2002
Phony-Degree Scandal Puts Judiciary Under Scrutiny
In recent weeks the Supreme Court of El Salvador has suspended 38 judges over allegations that they do not have legitimate law degrees. Court officials said the cleanup could affect 40 percent of the nation’s 628 judges.
Prosecutors claim there are law practitioners in the country who have never attended college or even graduated high school, but still somehow hold law degrees. However, the judicial purging has unleashed a host of critics who say the court is going after the wrong people.
The dubious-degree crisis is a legacy of the civil war between the government and leftist guerrillas in the 1980s. The two main universities became very politicized during the war, and the military took over campuses on a number of occasions, forcing them to close classrooms for long periods.
Increasing demand for less politicized and more stable university education, coupled with lax government regulation, resulted in an oversupply of schools. ‘Between 1977 and 1995, 49 institutions of higher education opened, many of which had dismal academic standards. Law was one of the most commonly offered degrees, and a handful of newer universities took to selling degrees to people who never attended a class.
Roberto Vidales, special prosecutor for the investigation, said the great majority of judges under investigation, however, finished most, if not all their coursework at legitimate universities but were prevented from graduating because of the war. Many transferred to questionable universities and completed the coursework that university officials had told them they lacked to graduate.
Part of the current debate centers on whether these people were innocent victims or whether the fact that they transferred to universities notorious for selling degrees denotes a level of guilt. The Supreme Court has decided not to differentiate between shades of fraud.
— Washington Post
Oct. 25, 2002
The United States
Report: India Tops Student Exports to the U.S.
India has become the largest exporter of foreign students to the United States, according to statistics from the Institute of International Education’s annual “Open Doors” report. In the academic year 2001-02, the number of Indian students studying in the United States increased 22 percent, compared with growth of only 6 percent in the number of students from China, the leading sending country for the previous three years.
Overall, the number of international students attending colleges and universities in the United States increased 6.4 percent. The previous year also saw 6.4 percent growth, the largest increase in 20 years. The number of foreign students on U.S. soil was a record high of 582,996, and continued the trend of substantial growth in foreign student enrollments that began in 1997, after a four-year period of minimal growth.
India’s 66,836 students now represent 12 percent of the total number of international students in the United States, topping China’s 63,211 students. The Republic of Korea was the third-leading sender, increasing 7 percent to 49,046 students. Japan, which had been the leading sending country from 1995-96 to 1998-99, when it was surpassed by China, showed a slim increase of just 0.7 percent (with 46,810) and slipped to fourth place.
The data was collected in October-November 2001, suggesting that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks did not cause too many students to return home as a result. However, the numbers do not reflect the current visa problems that many foreign students are now experiencing.
Other highlights of the study show that New York University was surpassed by the University of Southern California as the No. 1 receiving institution, which complements California’s rating as the No. 1 host state. New York City, however, had more international students (35,737) than any other metropolitan area, with 7,000 more than Los Angeles. Foreign students, representing 4 percent of the U.S. student body, contributed nearly $12 billion to the U.S. economy in money spent on tuition, living expenses and related costs. The Department of Commerce describes U.S. higher education as the country’s fifth-largest service sector export.
Exchange the other way also increased impressively, with 154,168 U.S. college students receiving credit for study abroad, an increase of 7.4 percent over the previous year.
More information can be found HERE.
— Institute for International Exchange
Nov. 18, 2002
OAS, Spanish University to Cooperate
The Organization of American States (OAS) and Spain’s National Distance Learning University have joined forces to open the Institute for the Advanced Studies of the Americas. The Miami institute will be a center for professional training and continuing education.
The school will offer courses in social development, tourism and sustainable development, access to markets, scientific development, the exchange and transfer of technology and trade liberalization.
— The News
Sept. 29, 2002
MIT Launches 2 Groundbreaking Internet Resources
The pilot site of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology‘s (MIT) OpenCourseWare (OCW) was launched Sept. 30, 2002. The ground-breaking initiative makes most MIT course materials available on the Web, free of charge, to anyone, anywhere in the world.
Almost 40 MIT courses in 16 academic departments and the Sloan School of Management are now available online. The hope is that OCW will advance technology-enhanced education at MIT, and will serve as a model for university dissemination of knowledge in the Internet age.
Following swiftly on the heels of the OCW initiative, MIT launched a “super-archive” Nov. 4 that makes research from all its academics freely available. Dspace, as the digital repository is known, allows all MIT academics to pool their findings and share everything, from their articles, technical reports, conference papers, data sets and databases to media clips, visual aids and simulations used in class.
The university hopes the initiative will spark a more free and international exchange of academic ideas. MIT and Hewlett Packard, which co-designed the program, will offer and encourage the adoption of Dspace at other research-intensive institutions.
— MIT news
Sept. 30, 2002
Nov. 4, 2002
Falsified Transcripts Concern UCLA
University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) officials said recently they will be scrutinizing transcripts from foreign applicants much more closely after the recent discovery of falsified records submitted by a prospective student from China.
Campus administrators said the investigation will apply to 11 programs in the biomedical and life-sciences field. In the past, UCLA and many other U.S. universities did not verify transcripts, so the recent announcement makes UCLA one of the first universities in the nation to acknowledge it is taking such steps. Penn State University recently announced that it has undertaken similar reviews of foreign credentials from students wishing to apply to its graduate school.
David Meyer, director of UCLA Access, an umbrella organization for doctoral students applying to its graduate programs, said the tougher scrutiny will apply to all foreign students in the 11 departments, but that applicants from China are raising most concern. He said there seems to be widespread practice there of students putting together transcripts and mailing the documents themselves, rather than having the universities send the paperwork.
UCLA Access will try to establish closer ties with the four universities where most of its Chinese graduate students come from: Fudan, Qinghua, Beijing and the University of Science and Technology of China. UCLA plans to send some of its faculty to meet with officials at the four schools in an attempt to establish verification procedures.
Meyer said other graduate programs at UCLA have not adopted similar measures, but all have been advised to take extra caution.
The UCLA controversy comes amid rising concerns about possible cheating by foreign students on entrance exams. The Educational Testing Service recently alerted U.S. campuses that scores on the GRE from China, South Korea and Taiwan may have been affected by cheating.
— Los Angeles Times
Sept. 13, 2002
Fraudulent Applicants Look for ‘Easy Mark’ Universities
According to Edward Devlin, director of special projects for the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), institutions of higher education need to be vigilant in examining suspicious documents from overseas students.
In an article entitled, “Why Verification of Suspicious Records is Important,” Devlin wrote: “The reputation of an institution as an ‘easy mark’ for questionable application documents is a hard one to repair. Once this reputation is public, good students will stay away. Weak ones will apply, fraudulently or not.”
In countries with high numbers of fraudulent applicants, there are a number of institutions in North America that are considered easy marks, according to Devlin. Many of these institutions are working with unscrupulous agents, who will do whatever necessary to secure an admission for their student clients. Visa officers in embassies and high commissions in those countries are more and more aware of which institutions are admitting students with bogus credentials. Institutions that are finding that many of their students are being rejected for visas should be asking if they have become easy marks, Devlin said.
January Doubts Confirmed, INS Extends SEVIS Database Entry Deadline to August
The U.S. Department of Justice introduced its new electronic international student-tracking system in mid-May and put it into operation July 1. Until Dec. 11, all U.S. colleges and universities had been expected to report information about all visiting students to the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s (INS) Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), by Jan. 30, 2003. The deadline for institutions to enter the names of all of their international students into the system has since been moved to Aug.1, 2003.
Jan. 30, 2003, is only the deadline by which institutions that enroll foreign students must sign up for the system. Institutions that fail to comply will lose authorization from the INS to accept international students. As of Sept. 11, 2002, no F, M or J visas may be issued by the State Department without electronic evidence of admission from the institution sponsoring the international student. Institutions must enter basic biographic information about the international student into the State Department’s new Interim Student and Exchange Authentication System (ISEAS). The ISEAS system will remain in place until SEVIS is fully implemented.
Under the new regulations, colleges must now report if their international students acquire practical training related to their fields of study. The institutions must record any work experience that international students undertake while they are studying, and for up to 12 months after they graduate. The INS regulations cover students carrying F visas, for academic students, and M visas, for vocational students.
The State Department also issues J visas, mostly for professors, scholars, and students visiting on exchange programs. The State Department has not yet released regulations for J-visa holders.
— College Bound
University of Phoenix Doctoral Programs Approved
The University of Phoenix received approval from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association to offer three new doctoral programs in business administration, education and health-care administration.
The new programs will be offered through the university’s online campus, and to support these offerings, the university has established the School of Advanced Studies.
— The Business Journal Phoenix
September 24, 2002
Bill Would Allow Border Students to Study in the U.S. Part Time
Students living in Mexico and Canada would be allowed to legally attend college in the United States part time under federal legislation that has passed Congress and awaits action by the White House.
The legislation would create two new visa classifications for part-time, daily commuter students from border towns in Mexico and Canada. The legislation passed the House Oct. 15, 2002 and the Senate a day later.
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Immigration and Naturalization Service initially vowed to outlaw foreign part-time commuter students from attending school in the United States, but then issued a ruling in August allowing commuter study on an interim basis.
Currently, Mexican and Canadian college students are allowed to attend school in the United States with only F-1 or M-1 visas. The new bill would create an F-3 category for part-time students and an M-3 category for vocational coursework. Such students would be subject to the INS online student-tracking system.