WENR, June 2013: Americas
Failing to Attract Enough Qualified Students for International Scholarships
Brazil launched a new study-abroad program in 2011 that was described as a pioneering plan to improve science and technology innovation. In total, funding would be provided for 101,000 top students to be sent to universities across the world.
But two years after the Science without Borders (SwB) initiative was launched, questions have been asked about its success in attracting the desired numbers of participants. It has now been claimed that a number of students in receipt of other scholarships have been included in the program to meet the government’s ambitious targets, despite not having undergone the selection process. Of the 280 Brazilian students approved for Ph.D. programs overseas in 2012-13, at least 60 appeared on the list of SwB participants without having been officially selected, Folha de São Paulo, a newspaper in Brazil’s biggest city, reported.
A spokeswoman for the SwB program denies that the apparent merging of the scholarships is an attempt to boost numbers. In a statement, she says: “Since [SwB’s] launch in 2011, all grantees who have the profile and belong to the priority areas of Science without Borders are considered adherent to the SwB scheme, since it makes no sense to give different treatment to applicants in identical situations.”
The Ministry of Education added that it is on course to surpass its target of 45,000 scholarships offered through SwB by the end of this year.
– Times Higher Education
May 16, 2013
Education System Hindering Economic Growth
As a new middle class rises in Brazil with aspirations for better education, it is finding poor conditions and low standards of education at many colleges and universities across Brazil. That has experts warning that the country’s strained education system could stymie development, even as Brazil emerges as an economic powerhouse.
Thanks largely to a decade-long boom in commodities, Brazil last year passed the UK to become world’s sixth largest economy. To maintain its spot, the country needs well-trained professionals, especially engineers to help tap the vast deep-sea oil deposits off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state that Brazilian officials are counting on to fuel future development.
Experts are warning that colleges and universities are simply not up to the task.
“Without qualified professionals coming out of our universities in the numbers we need in the next 10 or so years, Brazil is running a great risk of losing its new position as the world’s sixth economy and with it the pretensions of playing a bigger role on the world stage,” said Antonio Frets, a veteran member of the Brazilian Academy of Education. “If there’s not a real and meaningful education reform, Brazil could be left in the dust.”
Just over 17 percent of Brazilians aged 18-24 were enrolled in a university or had already obtained a diploma in 2011, according to a study by the Education Ministry. While that number is way up from 7 percent in 1997, it still lags far behind the average in developed countries and even that in many of Brazil’s Latin American neighbors.
The average Brazilian has completed an average of just 7.3 years of schooling, according to census data. Under half of the country’s workforce has finished high school and just around 12 percent of workers have a college degree. Nearly 13 million people, or 8.6 percent of the population, are illiterate.
All that could prove a major stumbling block to development for Brazil. The past decade of booming growth has seen the number of unskilled jobs shrink, replaced by semiskilled and high-skilled positions, which observers say the country is already hard-pressed to fill. And as the economy continues to develop, so will the need for skilled labor.
– Associated Press
May 15, 2013
U.S. For-Profits, Venture Capital Firms View Brazil as Growth Market
Institutions of higher education that face declining growth at home are increasingly looking to Brazil as a market for enrollments. Not only are more Brazilians studying in the U.S., but also U.S. for-profit education companies such as DeVry, Whitney International and Laureate International have acquired assets in Brazil and are seeking to expand. U.S. private equity funds are also eyeing education opportunities.
Such groups aim to take advantage of the expansion of Brazil’s middle class, which has led to a surge in demand for higher education. By way of example, Kroton, Brazil’s biggest listed education group, saw a fivefold increase in net profit last year, while Anhanguera, its closest rival, more than tripled its 2012 net profit over the previous year. Last month, the two companies agreed to merge, creating the world’s largest for-profit education group by market capitalization.
The hand of U.S. private equity funds and asset managers lie behind many of such growth stories. Kroton is 10.2 percent owned by Advent International and 5.48 percent of Anhanguera belongs to BlackRock. Capital Group has invested in Ibmec, a Rio-based business school, helping it develop a niche in the for-profit education sector by targeting wealthy Brazilians who have traditionally opted to study abroad.
Two new Ibmec campuses will be modeled on Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Cartesian, another US private equity group, owns a minority stake in Ser Educacional, which has focused on Brazil’s under-developed but fast-growing north and northeast regions.
Arizona-based Apollo Group has had similar ambitions. In 2008, it offered US$109 million to buy University Paulista (Unip) in order to expand its distance learning system in Brazil. The bid was rejected by Unip because it was considered too low. However, talks with Apollo have continued as the Brazilian group has expanded its distance-learning program. Meanwhile, Pearson, owner of the Financial Times, paid US$500 million for the learning systems division of Brazilian company Sistema Educacional Brasileiro in 2010.
– Financial Times
May 16, 2013
Saudi Arabia Ranks Fourth as Source of International Students
Speaking recently with Arab News before the opening of the International Exhibition and Conference on Higher Education in April, Canadian Ambassador Thomas MacDonald said that Canada now hosts 16,000 Saudi students, the fourth-highest number of international students in the country. “Our network of Saudi alumni is growing rapidly every year.” Adding that between 4,000 and 5,000 Saudi doctors had completed part of their studies in Canada.
He continued “International students in Canada have access to academic programs, which allow them to gain valuable work experience through work placements and cooperative education, and the most sophisticated and state-of-the-art technologies and facilities. In 2012, five Canadian universities ranked among the world’s top 100 universities.”
– Arab News
April 18, 2013
U.S. Students Head North in Increasing Numbers, Lured by Affordable Degrees
The number of U.S. students at Canadian colleges has risen 50 percent in a decade, and now about 10,000 Americans attend Canadian colleges, according to the Institute for College Access & Success.
That institute also says graduates from an American university can expect, on average, to carry more than $26,000 in debt. And about 9 percent of those graduates default on student loans within two years. The biggest expense for college students in the United States is the tuition, which is astronomical compared to Canada. At schools such as the University of Chicago and New York University, the annual tuition tops $40,000, far above their Canadian counterparts, which benefit from a tradition of robust government support.
– NBC News
April 25, 2013
U.S. and Mexico Announce New Education Partnership
U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexico’s president, Pena Nieto announced in May a partnership designed to expand economic opportunities for citizens of both countries and to develop a workforce for mutual economic prosperity, according to a statement from the U.S. State Department.
Through a new Forum on Higher Education, Innovation, and Research, the U.S. and Mexican governments will encourage broader access to quality postsecondary education for traditionally under-served groups, especially in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. They will also expand educational exchanges and share best practices in higher education and innovation, the statement said.
The forum’s mission is to bring together government agency counterparts from Mexico and the U.S. to deepen cooperation on higher education, innovation and research. It will also draw on the expertise of the higher education communities in both countries, according to the State Department. Currently more than 18,000 Mexican and U.S. university students study in each other’s countries annually.
– The Deseret News
May 6, 2013
Customs Officers to Verify Visas of All Incoming Students
The Homeland Security Department has ordered border agents to verify that every international student who arrives in the United States has a valid student visa. Introduced in early May, the new procedure is the government’s first security change directly related to the Boston bombings. The order from a senior official at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, David J. Murphy, came one day after the Obama administration acknowledged that a student, Azamat Tazhayakov, from Kazakhstan accused of hiding evidence for one of the Boston bombing suspects was allowed to return to the United States in January without a valid student visa.
Under existing procedures, border agents could verify a student’s status in SEVIS (the Homeland Security Department’s Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) only when the person was referred to a second officer for additional inspection or questioning. Tazhayakov was not sent to a second officer when he arrived. Under the new procedures, all border agents are now able to access SEVIS and will verify a student’s visa status before the person arrives in the country using information provided in flight manifests. If that information is unavailable, border agents will check the visa status manually with the agency’s national targeting data center.
– Associated Press
May 3, 2013
Penn State Launches World Campus Online Enrollment Push
Penn State World Campus will invest $20 million over the next five years in an effort to boost online enrollment to 45,000 — about triple the current number.
World Campus, the online education wing of Pennsylvania State University, currently enrolls about 12,000 students, which has slowly been built up from an initial enrollment of 41 students in 1998, according to information released by Penn State. The university primarily serves part-time adult students and currently reaches learners in every state in the United States plus the District of Columbia, three U.S. territories, and 72 other countries.
– Campus Technology
May 2, 2013
Georgia Tech Offers a $7,000 Computer Science Degree
While a new report puts the average debt load of new college graduates at a massive $35,200, the Georgia Institute of Technology is getting ready to offer an alternative program experts say offers hope for both students and employers: A three-year master’s degree in computer science that can be earned entirely online — and that will cost less than $7,000.
The school is partnering with Udacity, a for-profit provider of MOOC (massive open online course) education, and AT&T, which is contributing $2 million and will provide connectivity tools and services. “We believe this program can establish corporate acceptance of high-quality and 100 percent online degrees as being on par with degrees received in traditional on-campus settings,” a statement from the school says.
This isn’t academia’s first foray into offerings that promise some combination of low cost and high tech education, of course, but it’s the first one that industry observers say has the potential to shake up the status quo. “Georgia Tech’s announcement probably is a game changer that will have other top-tier universities that offer degrees in computer science scrambling to compete,” says Asa Sphar, vice president of recruitment and profiling at tech recruiting company CSI Executive Search, LLC.
According to research by GetEducated.com, the average cost of an online computer science master’s degree program is just under $25,000. Georgia Tech undercuts that average by more than two-thirds.
May 21, 2013