WENR, December 2009: Americas


Latin American and Caribbean Nations Sign Diploma-recognition Agreement

An agreement concerning the mutual recognition of higher education degrees and diplomas in the member countries of the Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas [1] – ALBA (Bolivarian alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean) was reached in October 2009. Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela are signatories to the agreement.

News release [2]
October 6, 2009


International Students Will Have to Submit Biometric Identification Data

International students applying for Canadian study visas will be required to provide biometric identification details, such as fingerprints, within two years, according to a senior Canadian immigration official who spoke at the annual conference [3] of the Canadian Bureau for International Education [4] in early November.

Jorge Aceytuno, deputy director of the international-student branch of Citizenship and Immigration Canada [5], said the new requirements would go into effect from “late 2011.”

Other major hosts of international students such as Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom all now require students to provide biometric data as part of their immigration and border processes.

The briefing also revealed that the number of study permits for international students approved this year is significantly higher than last year’s figure, and the processing of applications has been speedier. Pilot projects in India and China have also streamlined the application process, cutting the waiting time for students.

The Chronicle of Higher Education [6]
November 11, 2009

International Students Attracted by Immigration Benefits

International students in Canada are currently eligible to work for up to three years after graduation, a period of time that puts them on an immigration fast track.

The duration of the Canadian Post-Graduation Work Permit [7] was extended from a period of one to two years to a full three in 2008, and it has already proven popular among international students, who have been applying to Canadian institutions of higher education in increasing numbers since the program was introduced.

Canada uses a points system in deciding who best qualifies to be a citizen and a simple university degree, without post graduation work in Canada, earns few points. The new program takes those who have worked during the post-graduation period out of the points system and either passes or fails them although more than 95 percent have passed.

According to the 2009 Survey of International Students [8], released at the Canadian Bureau for International Education conference in Toronto in November, half the students surveyed said post-graduation work opportunities in Canada were an important factor in choosing to study in the country. In 2008, 18,000 work permits were issued by the government, a 63 percent increase on 2007.

University World News [9]
November 14, 2009

Canada May not be Top Choice for International Students, but Universities Deliver

According to a recent study, just under half of all international students at universities in Canada say the country was not their first study-abroad choice, however 90 percent were happy with their Canadian experience. The survey results were released in a 66-page report in November by the Canadian Bureau for International Education [4].

The report, “Canada First: The National Survey of International Students 2009,” shows that Canada’s position as a “first choice” destination has eroded steadily, from 59 percent in 1988 to 53 percent this year. The United States was the top choice for a quarter of the students now studying in Canada, while others were attracted to Britain or Australia before ending up in Canada. However, nine of 10 students surveyed said they would recommend Canada as a place to study.

Students found the opportunity to work anywhere in Canada for up to three years after graduation particularly appealing, according to the report, with 54 percent of university students and 71 percent of college students planning to work in Canada upon completion of their studies. In addition, more than half of the students surveyed said they planned to apply for permanent residency in Canada after they completed their studies.

The 76-question survey drew responses from 5,925 students at 26 institutions. Previous surveys were conducted in 1988, 1999, and 2004.

CBIE [10]
November 2009


Record Numbers Looking for University Places

More than 280,000 students signed up to take the national university admissions exam – Prueba de Selección Universitaria (PSU) – in late November, which according to the Education Ministry [11] is the most ever.

Results from the PSU are the primary admissions criterion at Chile’s 25 public universities, with a current first-year capacity of 51,000 seats. Private universities also use scores from the PSU for admissions purposes, and at both public and private universities, scores determine what fields of study are open to the incoming students and what scholarships, if any, are awarded to students from poor families.

Santiago Times [12]
December 1 2009


Mexican University Embarks on Ambitious Reforms Inspired by Europe

A second-tier Mexican university is engaged in a reform project designed to transform the way its 70,000 students are taught, in a country and region where universities continue to rely on a traditional professor-centered educational model and an emphasis on rote learning. A byproduct of the model is the 30 percent longer on average that Mexican college students take to graduate that than their counterparts in the United States and Canada.

The University of Veracruz [13] is looking to buck the trend with the introduction of an ambitious project to transform the way students at the country’s third-largest public institution of higher education are taught.

The project is one of several major teaching-reform efforts taking place across the region, many of them modeled on the European Union’s Bologna Process, which seeks to establish a common standard for university education and boost student and faculty mobility.

Educators leading the projects in Latin America say that if the region is truly to improve its higher-education system, it must start by changing the way professors and students interact in the classroom, bringing more real-world experience and critical thinking into the process.

Starting in February, 100 professors drawn from the university’s five campuses underwent a semester-long training program in student-centered learning. The participants met for several three-day seminars, during which they were asked to identify specific real-life skills their students should be learning, ways of incorporating technology into the classroom, and ideas for hands-on teaching methods, such as involving students in fieldwork and in leading classroom discussions. Each professor was then required to develop a strategy for transforming one of his or her courses to incorporate those goals, and then to put it into effect by the following semester. The professors are now transferring their knowledge to another 700 colleagues, who will in turn serve as mentors to the rest of the university’s 3,500 professors.

Proyecto Aula [14], or Project Classroom, as the effort is called, has introduced changes that include instituting a flexible and multidisciplinary curriculum, a new emphasis on critical thinking and problem-based learning, and integrating research and technology into the classroom.

The idea for the project, according to officials interviewed by The Chronicle of Higher Education, came from a Colombia-based experiment in higher-education reform that sought to increase scholarly and student exchange between Europe and Latin America. Financed by the European Union, the project involved 150 professors from 60 Latin American and European universities in a three-year training program from 2004-07. Other reform projects in the region include a European Union-led effort to revise university curricula that involves consulting public and business officials and other stakeholders about what university graduates need to know.

That tuning process, which began about five years ago in Latin America, was first done in Europe a decade ago as part of broader higher-education reforms. Several Latin American countries, including Chile and Brazil, are also experimenting with instituting student-centered learning methods in public universities.

The Chronicle of Higher Education [15]
November 22, 2009


New Accreditation Agency to be Established

Nicaragua’s National Assembly has approved a law for the creation of the National Evaluation and Accreditation Council (Consejo Nacional de Evaluación y Acreditación – CNEA). The new agency would take over the functions of the National Center of Universities, which approves all universities in the country and distributes state budgetary allocations. As the law currently stands, six percent of the national budget must go towards public and private universities. Students fear that the new law might affect the university budgetary allocations and they were out on the streets of the capital Managua in November protesting.

Tico Times [16]
November 18, 2009

United States

Students Look Abroad to Dodge the Tough Graduate Job Market

The job market in the United States is not good, especially if you are a recent college graduate, so it stands to reason that many recent graduates are looking abroad for post-college opportunities.

Applications for 2010-11 State Department-sponsored Fulbright [17] fellowships to study, conduct research or teach English abroad in 140 countries rose to more than 8,500 this year, an increase of 1,000 applicants from a year ago, reports the Institute for International Education [18] (IIE) – the group that oversees the program. Approximately 1,500 scholarships are awarded annually.

Fulbright isn’t the only post-graduation option with significantly increased interest. Graduate school applications are up six percent [19] among domestic students; Teach for America [20], a program with wide appeal and thousands of spots, saw applications soar to a record high last year [21] and totals are on track to go even higher this year. The group attributes the growth to the weakness of the job market, as well as its stepped-up recruiting efforts.

And not only are graduates looking abroad for opportunities, but according to recent data from the IIE’s Open Doors report [22], a record number of current U.S. students are choosing to study abroad. Open Doors 2009 reports the number of Americans studying abroad increased by 8.5 percent to 262,416 in the 2007/08 academic year. This latest increase builds on decades of steady growth, with four times as many U.S. students participating in study abroad in 2007/08 than in 1987/88. The data is not however, a reflection of the economic downturn, as the data reflects a period when the U.S. economy was still in boom mode.

IIE [22]
November 16, 2009
Inside Higher Ed [23]
October 30, 2009

IDP Directors Advise U.S. Universities on Opening Up and Competing Globally

Mark Shay and Harmeet Pental, leading authorities on international student recruitment, have called on higher education leaders in the United States to increase their international outreach in light of the growing competition for internationally mobile students from old- and new-destination countries around the world. The two officials from IDP Education [24], a leading recruiter of international students, offer five recommendations to increase foreign enrollment.

For institutions that want to increase their number of foreign enrollments, Shay and Pental recommend the following: Guarantee student housing to allay concerns from parents who will not have the opportunity to tour campuses; guarantee a place of worship; be candid about the diversity of your campus by offering specific details about regions of origin among international students; insist on student activities to assimilate foreign students; provide cost of living expectations and on-campus job opportunities.

To achieve successful internationalization, Shay and Pental suggest that institutions need to invest in student services as well as open mindedness. They believe that if institutions follow these five recommendations, and work proactively to alleviate homesickness, they will have a strong chance of globalizing their campuses and hitting their enrollment numbers.

IDP news release [25]
October 29, 2009

Certification Awarded to 8 International-student Recruitment Agencies

Eight organizations specializing in the recruitment of students from abroad were recently certified by the newly formed American International Recruitment Council [26] (AIRC), in what was reported to be a thorough and tough evaluation of recruiting standards.

The eight companies that received certification were assessed over the course of a month in a process that included an evaluation of their financial sustainability and management, the openness of their business practices, and their knowledge of the American education system, among other criteria.

This was the first assessment by AIRC, which was formed just a year ago in a bid to increase the recruiting competitiveness of US universities who have traditionally been hesitant to use overseas recruiters. The results of the Council’s first round of assessments were announced at a meeting in Miami, which it hopes to make an annual event. Representatives of some 75 colleges and recruiting agencies attended the two-day conference, which focused on best practices for international-student recruiting.

The eight newly certified agencies are: IDP Education [27] (Australia), EDU Danmark [28], EduGlobal China [29], Global Reach [30] (India), IEC Online [31] (Germany), Mentor International [32] (Thailand), Study Overseas UK [33] (Britain), and World Education Group [34] (United States).

AIRC news release [35]
December 4, 2009

International Recruitment Agency Publishes List of U.S. Clients

Although the use of paid international recruiters has traditionally been something of a taboo for U.S. universities, the tide appears to be turning somewhat, with a quality assurance agency issuing its first stamps of approval to eight agencies in November (see above), and with one such agency recently stating that it has been employed by 10 U.S. institutions of higher education to recruit abroad.

IDP Education [27] released the names of its U.S. “charter partners” in early December. The public announcement is an indication that the use of paid private recruiters abroad may be gaining a degree of credibility in the U.S. market.

“As the number of traditional college students drops and overseas institutions advance their recruiting efforts, U.S. universities face unprecedented competition that, if left unchecked, could lead to another iconic American industry succumbing to foreign competition,” Mark Shay, North American director of IDP Education, said in a news release.

The 10 IDP institutional clients are: Ashland University [36], Bellarmine University [37], Chaminade University [38], Dean College [39], Fisher College [40], Keck Graduate Institute [41], Lewis University [42], Saint Francis University [43], St. Michael’s College [44], University of Mississippi [45].

IDP news release [46]
December 5, 2009

Census Shows Rise in Number of Foreign Employees

Nearly one in six American workers is foreign-born, the highest proportion since the 1920s, according to a census analysis released in December and reported by the New York Times.

Because of government immigration measure implemented since 1910, when the share of foreign-born workers hit a high of 21 percent, the number dropped to barely 5 percent in 1970, but has been rising since then to the current 16 percent. In 2007, immigrants accounted for more than one in four workers in California (35 percent), New York (27 percent), New Jersey (26 percent) and Nevada (25 percent).

While the proportion of high school graduates increased from one generation to the next, the share who had bachelor’s degrees or higher declined from the second to the third generations. The proportion with doctorates peaked with the first generation.

In 2007, the census found that immigrants were more likely to be employed or looking for work than native-born adults. The proportion of immigrants without a high school diploma is higher than among native-born Americans, but so is the share of immigrants with graduate degrees. While immigrants constitute 16 percent of the total labor force, the foreign-born (mostly from Asia and Europe) make up 28 percent of workers with doctoral degrees. The labor force figures are from the 2007 American Community Survey [47].

New York Times [48]
December 8, 2009