WENR, November 2015: Americas


Exposing the dangers of fictitious study abroad programs

Students visiting a BMI [1] fair in Brazil last month were offered fictitious study abroad options by children’s charity UNICEF [2], in order to highlight the struggles young people face in other parts of the world.

As part of a promotional campaign, UNICEF created an agency booth at the fair in Sao Paulo and offered students fictitious programs overseas to see how they would react.  Students were offered various trips including a chance to go abroad and be kidnapped, or to experience life as a guerrilla, by actors in the disguise of salespeople.

Child violence and trafficking have been prominent themes of past campaigns by UNICEF. Its End Violence campaign, which called on governments around the world to commit to keeping children safe in the lead up to the adoption of new global development goals in September 2015.  The goals, which set out the world’s priorities for the next 15 years, include for the first time ever a target to end violence against children.

Double sided mirrors at the back of the booth allowed for it all to be filmed as part of the campaign, which will be made into a promotional video, and is expected to launch in the near future.

The PIE News [3]
October 7,2015

Brazil predicts dip in international enrollment

Just under two-thirds of education agencies in Brazil surveyed by BMI, international student recruitment fair organizers, believe that their sales this year will be lower than last year as a result of the currency depreciation.  The survey, which was conducted in July and August, is based on responses from 71 agencies across Brazil.

The survey also found that 90% of respondents said that the exchange rate and economic crisis is responsible for an increase or decrease in numbers.  In addition to the currency depreciation, 22% of agents said that new visa regulations are also having an effect on Brazilian students going abroad.  Samir Zaveri, CEO and president of BMI, said that when it comes to visa regulations, work rights are the key factor affecting students.

The Salao de Estudante fair took place last month in seven different Brazilian cities, with almost 34,000 visitors in attendance.  Of the prospective students who registered for the September fair, 32% said they want to go to the US, with Canada (30%) and the UK (28%) being the next most popular destinations.  Nearly two thirds of registered participants said that they are looking to study abroad in six months or more, which Zaveri said is because they are likely waiting to see if the currency stabilizes.

Despite the current recession, agencies across Brazil have acknowledged that while the situation is bad [4], they have seen worse.

The PIE News
October 8,2015


A teaching class citizen

Many Canadian universities are seeing a sharp increase in the number of professors hired to primarily teach rather than research.  While that may be good news for students, the change could threaten the mission of universities.

More than 40 Canadian universities provided The Globe and Mail with data on their faculty ranks. In spite of differences among universities, what becomes clear is that teaching-focused positions have seen consistent and sharp increases at many of the country’s most prominent postsecondary institutions, and the model is growing at smaller schools as well.

To many institutions, teaching-focused appointments can reconcile seemingly incompatible goals: improving learning quality, containing tenured faculty salaries and advancing research.  For more than a decade, universities have struggled to do all three. Student enrollment across the country has grown 40 percent since the turn of the millennium, and in that time, students have also sharply increased their contribution to university coffers to make up for declining government funds.

For faculty unions, that reality – of professors who continue their research while they have teaching, or even contract, appointments – is one reason they have been reluctant to embrace this new type of academic.  Universities, they say, are moving to a future where there are fewer tenure-track jobs and more contract instructors – one of the main points of contention in this spring’s strikes at York and the University of Toronto. They say teaching faculty are an improvement to this kind of precarious labor situation, but not a solution.

The promise of improving educational quality makes professors who are teachers first and researchers second an easy sell. The danger, particularly as tuition continues to rise, is that parents and students could begin to ask a simple question: What makes university education so different after all?

The Globe and Mail
October 6,2015


International insurance provider, guard.me [5], has announced it is donating CAN$400,000 to Georgian College [6] in Canada to help expand its international offering.

Work on a new center will start in the spring, and the finished building will span over 5,000 feet.  It will include a student lounge for orientation and information sessions, as well as facilities for advising and counseling services, and study visa/work permit support.  The college currently has 1,100 international students from 60 different countries studying there this autumn, and the existing center has reached its capacity as the number of international students at the institution rises.

Georgian College has over 125 career-focused programs across seven locations in central Ontario in Canada. It currently sees around 11,000 full-time student and 28,000 part-time student registrations a year.

President and CEO of the college, MaryLynn West-Moynes, said she is grateful to guard.me for their support stating, “Internationalization is an essential part of the overall postsecondary experience.”

The PIE News
October 14,2015

E-learning-where are the lecturers?

While universities and other tertiary institutions increasingly expand their e-learning and online capacities, they often fail to back up the educational technology with adequate lecturer knowledge to deliver it effectively and sustainably.

A solution to this dilemma was offered at the conference of the International Council for Open and Distance Education by Joy Mighty, associate vice-president for teaching and learning at Carleton University in Canada, in a presentation titled “cuOpen: Building capacity for blended and online teaching and learning in Canadian post-secondary institutions”.

One barrier is educators themselves, argued Mighty. Lecturers often exhibit negative attitudes towards online teaching while also having few opportunities to teach in online and blended contexts.  In addition, there are often no professional certificates available for such teaching.

In order to address this failing the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities awarded Carleton University CAD225,000 (US$172,000) in funding in February 2014 to create a Certificate in Blended and Online Teaching program.

Mighty and her team developed the certificate program cuOpen [7].  Carleton’s repository of open educational resources includes materials and modules licensed under Creative Commons available on the cuOpen website in editable formats which can be adapted according to the needs of other institutions.

University World News
October 23,2015

Grenada (Caribbean)

Retention rates on the rise

The availability of credits for a MOOC – massive open online course – at St George’s University in Grenada in the Caribbean was a prime driver of a more than five-fold rise in student retention, from 11% completion in 2013 to 58% the following year, the International Council for Open and Distance Education conference heard last week.

Professor Glen Jacobs outlined this exception to the rule of alarmingly low completion rates for online MOOCs compared to those of bricks-and-mortar universities, achieved by a St George’s MOOC titled “One Health One Medicine”. The low student retention rates was one of the topical issues at the conference, viewed as one of the foremost challenges for the online learning format.

“We gave credits for the course the second time around,” said Jacobs. “The course was introduced as a requirement in a lot of degree programs, and as soon as that happened, student commitment went way up.

Other changes made to the course endeavored to reduce the level of isolation that a student feels when studying from a remote location.  Even the time zone can be an obstacle, where students can’t immediately find answers to immediate problems.

This case showed that by increasing the time commitment required for the course, there were fewer students enrolled in the MOOC but quality was improved in terms of level of student commitment.  While the case study MOOC may not be fully applicable in general, it still serves as a useful guide for improving retention rates, which average 13% at St George’s University.

University World News
October 16,2015

United States

New York inmates 1, Harvard 0

Last month, inmates at the Eastern New York Correctional Facility challenged the Harvard team to a debate at the maximum-security lockup.  The friendly competition ended in a win for the prison’s team.

In the match, inmates defended the premise that students whose parents entered the US illegally should be turned away from schools.  The debate was judged by a neutral panel.

The prison offers courses taught by faculty from nearby Bard College and the inmates have formed a popular debate club. The initiative allows inmates to earn a range of degrees mostly taught by Bard professors all taught without access to the internet.  About 15% of all prisoners at Eastern New York Correctional are registered and some graduates have continued their studies at Yale and Columbia universities, according to Kenner.

In the two years since starting the club they have challenged and beaten teams from the University of Vermont and the US Military Academy at West Point, with whom they have established an annual match and a budding rivalry.  The Harvard victory may be their biggest success; the Harvard team have won both the national and world championships.

October 7,2015

Initiative boosting ability to study abroad

Some 77,000 more students from the US will study abroad annually over the next five years as a result of a groundswell of support for the Institute of International Education or IIE’s Generation Study Abroad initiative.

Since the Generation Study Abroad, or GSA, initiative was launched last year, higher education institutions, study abroad organizations and other partners have pledged an additional US$185 million in support over the next five years to make study abroad accessible to all, the IIE announced.  The aim is to triple that increase in numbers to reach a target of 600,000 students from the US studying abroad each year by 2020.

Daniel Obst, IIE’s deputy vice-president for international partnerships, says the number one obstacle is the cost to the individual. He said there are a lot of innovative fundraising models, such as raising funds from local alumni, businesses or parents to support scholarships, and also interesting fee models, such as reducing or cancelling the fee for particular individuals studying abroad or charging a small study abroad fee to all students to provide a scholarship fund for those who can’t afford it.

At the GSA summit there was a lot of discussion around finding innovative ways to increase participation in study abroad. These included rethinking how to market the idea to Generation Z students – those born after the Millennium – for instance, by using new channels such as social media platforms.  Another aspect being explored at the summit was the role of the private sector, and how the GSA partners can engage with them to be advocates for study abroad and encourage them to provide internships or financial support.

University World News
October 1,2015

MIT offers “try before you buy” promotion

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology will next year launch the first of what could be several pilots to determine if pieces of what it has provided face-to-face can be delivered through massive open online courses.

The institute on Wednesday announced an alternative path for students to enroll in its supply chain management program and earn a master’s of engineering in logistics degree. Instead of students being required to move to Cambridge, Mass., for the duration of the 10-month program, MIT will offer half of the program through MOOCs, saving students tens of thousands of dollars in tuition.

MIT has for years expressed an interest in using MOOCs and other technologies to cut down on the time students spend on campus.  By letting students complete their first semester through MOOCs, MIT is effectively offering a “try before you buy” promotion. The institute calls this inverted admissions — taking courses and then applying, as opposed to the traditional other way around.

The pilot will hopefully provide MIT with answers to questions about admissions, course quality and need-based financial aid, said MIT President L. Rafael Reif.  The institute is also searching for corporate partners that would be willing to offer financial aid. MIT expects many of those who choose the MicroMaster’s path to come from outside the U.S., meaning they will not be eligible for federal aid.

Inside Higher Ed
October 8,2015

Latin America

Australia Rallies to recruit Latin American students

International student recruitment fair organizer, FPP EDU Media [8], has signed an agreement with the Australian trade commission, Austrade [9], to provide Australian government-led pavilions at its fairs in Latin America.  The pavilions will be part of Austrade’s Australia Future Unlimited [10] campaign, and will feature Australian state government bodies as well as education and training institutions.

Last year, over 7% of Australia’s international students came from Latin American countries.

“The Australian pavilions at the FPP fairs will ensure prospective international students gain a rich understanding of the quality, diversity and relevance of Australian education and training to a Latin American audience,” said Sofia Pereira, Austrade’s education manager for Latin America.

The fairs will be held in Bogotá and Medellín in Colombia, Lima, Peru and Santiago, Chile.  FPP EDU Media has worked with other states, including organizing the New Zealand government’s fairs in Latin America, and the Canadian government’s fairs in the Middle East and Latin America.

The PIE News
October 20,2015