WENR, Apr. 2006: Americas
Registrars Group Fights to Protect its Reputation
The American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) have filed a federal trademark infringement lawsuit against the American Universities Admissions Program (AUAP) in an effort to protect its reputation, and unmask AUAP as a fraudulent provider of foreign credential evaluations.
The AUAP, based in Sarasota, Florida, guarantees foreign students admission to the “best American universities possible” through their credential evaluation service. While foreign credential evaluators are not regulated by the U.S. government, most credible agencies are members of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES). AUAP, however, is not a member of NACES, nor is it endorsed by the American Council on Education, NAFSA: Association of International Educators, or AACRAO, all of which are organizations that AUAP has cited on its website.
AACRAO’s lawsuit alleges that AUAP is misleading academic institutions into believing that the organization has been reviewed or endorsed by the registrar’s body, and in turn is hurting AACRAO’s integrity within the academic community. AACRAO sees this case as an important step in fighting against the shady businesses of credential evaluation scammers and diploma mill operators, a group that are notorious for escaping legal action by exploiting loopholes in the legal system. The owner of AUAP, Jean-Noel Prade, also manages various alleged French diploma mills that use different forms of the name “Robert de Sorbon,” in their title.
— Inside Higher Ed
Brazil Forges Education Agreements in Middle East
The Brazilian Minister of Education, Fernando Haddad, has been busy meeting with education officials throughout the Middle East. In February, Haddad visited Lebanon and Syria, signing agreements in both countries pledging to increase Brazil’s cooperation in the area of education with the two nations. Lebanese and Brazilian universities will both begin offering courses in the other county’s history, language, and literature. The Brazilian Ministry of Education has also signed agreements with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tunisia to establish exchanges of professors, collaborative scientific explorations, and joint missions for the two country’s researchers.
— Brazil-Arab News Agency
Feb. 15, 2006
Brazil Expands University System
Brazil plans to construct ten new universities, create 42 new campuses, and accommodate 125,000 more students by 2007 according to Nelson Maculan, the Secretary of Higher Education. Funding for the project will come from the Brazilian federal program, Expandir, a US$303 million initiative aimed at democratizing higher education in South America’s largest nation. Many of the new campuses will be located in the education starved interior of the country, established with the hope that they will stem the large number of students who migrate to Brazil’s coastal urban centers.
— Agencia Brasil
Feb. 16, 2006
More Mexican Students Choose Canada
Ten years ago, the vast majority of Mexicans desiring an English-language education looked to their neighbor over the northern border, the United States. Today, more and more Mexicans are choosing to travel further north, to Canada, to pursue tertiary studies. Over the last ten years Canada has simplified visa requirements, offered incentives for graduates who stay in the country, and begun holding education fairs in Mexican cities with an eye to attracting potential students.
Mexican students have started choosing Canada over their American neighbor more and more because of the negative perception some Mexicans have of the United States, as well as the difficulty of obtaining an extended visa in that country. Canada’s reputation for being safe, friendly and cheaper has also helped. Consulting companies like EduCanada, who seek out foreign students for Canadian institutions, promote the country’s proximity to Mexico as a way to offset the unattractiveness of the long, cold winters. According to EduCanada, the market for Mexican students has “matured”, or reached its peak, in recent years. Around 10,000 students visited the company’s three fairs in Mexico this year, down from 15,000 last year.
— El Universal
Mar. 4, 2006
In the January 4 edition of the Asian Pacific Post (APP), a clarification of a Nov. 24 article — UBC, SFU profs in China to track student cheats — was published. The original article was covered in the December issue of WENR under the title Universities Visit Shanghai in Probe of Application Fraud. The following serves as a correction to our original reporting.
Based on the APP piece, WENR erroneously reported that, “officials from seven Canadian universities traveled to Shanghai in November to perform spot-check interrogations of graduate students who may have submitted fake application materials to enter Canada.’ The story named the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University as among those sending representatives to perform the alleged interviews.
In the correction, a UBC spokesperson is quoted as saying, “UBC programs will on occasion travel throughout Asia on recruiting trips, but the intent of these trips would not be to check for fraudulent transcripts. It is our central admissions office in the Faculty of Graduate Studies that is tasked to process and evaluate applications here in Vancouver, and they were not involved in or aware of any such trip to China.”
The original APP piece was based on a press statement issued by the Shanghai Municipal Labor and Social Security Bureau titled Interviews to Reduce Student Fraud, which officials from both Canadian universities have described as inaccurate.
UAE Sends More Student to Canada
Larger numbers of students from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are choosing Canadian universities as their destination for higher education. In 2005, 600 students from the UAE enrolled in Canadian institutions, a seven percent rise from the year before. In 2003, Canada saw a marked upsurge in the number of students from the UAE studying abroad in Canada, a trend experts attribute to fallout from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the United States and the lower cost of living and studying in Canada when compared to America. The increase in the Middle Eastern students has been a windfall for some universities that charge foreign visitors double the tuition that they charge nationals.
— Khaleej Times
Feb. 18, 2006
Government Approves Establishment of New University
The Jamaican cabinet has approved plans for the establishment of the University of Western Jamaica in St. James. The university mission will include catering to students from Jamaica’s western parishes (administrative divisions) as well as attracting students from greater Jamaica, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, and North America. The university will offer programs in English, Spanish, tourism, hospitality management, accounting, environmental studies, information technology, medical sciences and sustainable development.
Jamaica’s new university will also provide a distance learning initiative designed to provide higher education to a wide cross section of Jamaican students, utilizing partnerships with the University of the West Indies and the Jamaican University of Technology’s distance learning program.
— The Jamaica Observer
Mar. 28, 2006
Private Universities Proliferate
Panamanian higher education officials have raised concerns of late over the number of private universities setting up shop across the country, and the risk they pose to the quality of education in the Central American nation. Currently there are forty private universities operating in the country, all of which have yet to receive the constitutionally mandated approval of the Ministry of Education. Only 14 of the aforementioned institutions have solicited approval from the ministry, and all of those institutions are currently awaiting “official” status in regards to their evaluation.
Rector of the University of Panamá, Gustavo Garcia De Paredes, is concerned that the Panamanian Ministry of Education may not be evaluating these education centers carefully enough, and worries about the competition that these private operations create for his own university. According to Paredes, the private universities popping up around the country market their advantages to students such as better facilities or education in diverse course offerings, but when all is said and done do not meet with the most minimum of government university requirements.
Education Minister Miguel Ángel Cañizales has assured educators in Panamá’s state universities that the accreditation process on all private institutions has been suspended until a bill on the creation of a Commission of Evaluation and Accreditation can be approved by the Legislative Assembly. The minister asserted that there is an overabundance of higher education institutions in the country, but that the development of education opportunities must not be brought to a halt.
— El Panamá América
Feb. 23, 2006
United States of America
New Wyoming Legislation Ensures Legitimate In-state Degrees
The State of Wyoming has approved legislation barring private institutions from operating in the state without accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Education Department. Long a haven for businesses peddling phony degrees, Wyoming has liberated itself from a group called the “seven sorry sisters,” or states that allow unaccredited institutions to operate within their borders and award degrees (Alabama, Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, and New Mexico).
The Wyoming Legislature’s Interim Education Committee created a special panel last year that studied the licensing procedures for private schools in the state. The panel’s investigation concluded that existing national and regional accreditation bodies should be in charge of certifying private educational institutions in the state. Three private institutions — Preston, Rutherford, and Halifax — strongly opposed the state’s decision to require accreditation, claming that the accreditation process was expensive and biased against small operators. Preston University, which awards degrees to students overseas through partnerships with foreign organizations, opposed the legislation on grounds that American accreditors would never fairly evaluate an institution that works primarily with foreign students.
Chairman of the panel that investigated private school licensing in Wyoming, Tex Boggs, expressed regret for having to close some of the state’s small businesses, but is pleased the state’s academic reputation is back in tact.
— Inside Higher Ed
Mar. 20, 2006
Government Commission Considering Standardized Tests for Higher Education
In light of concerns about levels of accountability, quality and costs associated with higher education in the United States, the Bush administration has created a special commission to investigate the possibility of a standardized test that measures the extent of learning in each of the nation’s universities and colleges.
Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings, appointed the Commission on the Future of Higher Education last fall amidst reports of high student drop out rates, poor graduate performance in the workplace, and doubt as to the quality of students graduating from institutions with ever-increasing tuition costs. The National Assessment of Adult Literacy, conducted in 2003 by the U.S. Department of Education, reported that less than one third of college grads demonstrated the ability to read complex texts and draw complicated inferences. Business executive and chairman of the commission, Charles Miller, said that measuring collegiate learning through testing would benefit students, parents, taxpayers, and employers and that a national database containing measures of learning for various institutions would improve accountability as well as quality in the higher education system.
University officials in the United States are doubtful about the ability of a single government mandated test to evaluate the quality of education at the county’s numerous and varied institutions. Commission member, Jonathan Grayer, suggested that individual institutions or groups of similar institutions create their own standards to measure average levels of achievement. Regardless of how it is engineered, many academics are skeptical that “bureaucrats and committees” will raise university standards, and would rather receive increased confidence from their government.
— New York Times
Feb. 9, 2006
Number of International Students Applying to Grad School Recovers
After two years of substantial decline, the number of international students applying to graduate schools in the United States has bounced back. The results of the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) annual report on international graduate admissions reveals that the number of applications for graduate study programs coming from abroad rose by 11 percent from 2005 to 2006. The 11 percent increase comes after two years of declining enrollments that resulted in a cumulative drop of 32 percent in the number of foreign students applying to U.S. graduate schools.
The largest increase came from China (21%) and India (23%), traditionally the two largest senders of students to American schools. The study also found that a large percentage of the application increase is attributable to students pursuing studies in the fields of science and engineering.
While CGS is optimistic about the study findings, the total number of international applications is still down 23 percent since 2003. The Council chalks the decline in foreign interest to increased competition worldwide as many countries streamline their visa processes to attract foreign students, and Europe, China, and India pour money into their higher education systems in a bid to retain their top talent. The study suggests that the United States must pursue aggressive policy advances to remain competitive in the market for talented foreign students.
— CGS Press Release
Mar. 23, 2006
Passage of New Bill Expected to Boost Distance Education
Congress approved a federal budget bill this February that includes a change that will no longer require colleges and universities to offer at least half their courses on campus instead of online to qualify for federal student aid. The passage of the new law overturns a 1992 provision that was enacted in order to protect students from degree mills operating over the Internet. The Department of Education has since created the Distance Education Demonstration Program to regulate e-learning programs, but many are still wary that this new arrangement may lead to a surge in for-profit education and a cheapening of the American education establishment.
Many university educators are cautious about online education, believing that the education students receive online is flawed or incomplete. Distance education also presents major risks for the students who choose to obtain their degree through an e-learning program. Accreditation within the distance education industry is still far from perfect and the prospect of transferring credits earned online to a traditional bricks-and-mortar institution presents numerous challenges.
The government feels, however, that the new provision will allow state schools to improve their online course offerings and in turn provide a more diverse education to non-traditional degree-seeking students. Congress has also ensured the public that they will maintain quality control within distance education and make sure students aren’t spending thousands of dollars earning phony credentials from online degree mills.
— New York Times
Mar. 1, 2006
Taiwanese Students Choose United States for Higher Ed
The American Institute in Taiwan, a non-profit promoting intercultural exchange, reports that based on student visa numbers, 32,499 Taiwanese traveled oversees to further their education in 2005. Nearly half of all the students from Taiwan who traveled abroad to study (15,525 or 48 percent) chose the United States over other nations as their destination. These numbers show a 10 percent increase in the number of Taiwanese students traveling to the United States for tertiary studies.
The American International Education Foundation, an agency that organizes American education exhibitions around the world, cites four major reasons for the upturn in the number of Taiwanese students choosing to study in the U.S.: A variety of excellent institutions in various fields, the credibility a U.S. degree offers, the amount of information provided about the prospect of studying in the U.S., and the reasonable costs associated with higher education in America.
— Taiwan News
Mar. 16, 2006
California Law School Deaccredited
The Western Association of Schools and Colleges voted in November to revoke the accreditation of The University of West Los Angeles School of Law. The termination of the schools accreditation will not take effect until June of this year to allow current students to finish their degrees. The school may stay open without the certification, but its students will be ineligible to receive federal financial aid.
— Associated Press
Mar. 6, 2006
New University Inaugurated
The Caribbean and Iberoamerican University of Sports opened in San Carlos, Venezuela, last February, counting 600 students in its initial enrollment. The Venezuelan government says that it will spend a total of US$700 million on the new institution, and that within four years it will enroll 25,000 students. The university offers three five-year degrees in the fields of physical education and health for school recreation instructors, sports training for coaches, and management of sports technology for managers of athletic complexes.
The oil rich Venezuelan government created the Bolivarian University in 2003 and approved investment in a national arts university in November. Many critics believe the government should spend more money on secondary education to halt the high university dropout rate and improve students’ preparedness for higher education.
— The Chronicle of Higher Education
Mar. 3, 2006