Thursday, 27 October 2011

International Education Market 'Strangled'?

PREMIER Ted Baillieu has accused the federal government of ''effectively strangling'' the international student market, and will join forces with New South Wales to push for wider changes to visa restrictions.
Only weeks after Canberra announced it would fast-track student visas and give foreign students the right to two years of post-study work - provided they graduate with a university degree - Victoria has branded the move a ''knee-jerk reaction'' that will threaten the state's $5.8 billion international education industry.
Mr Baillieu and his NSW counterpart, Barry O'Farrell, share concerns that the reforms focus too much on universities and not enough on the vocational education sector, where falling enrolments are the most severe.

he Liberal premiers are expected to use the next Council of Australian Governments meeting to challenge Prime Minister Julia Gillard to further ease visa restrictions, with Victoria arguing the changes should be based on the type of qualification students get, not just that it comes from a university.
''The Victorian government is concerned that the Commonwealth have effectively strangled the international education market with a knee-jerk reaction that is threatening a $5.8 billion industry in Victoria,'' Mr Baillieu's spokeswoman told The Sunday Age.
''Victoria is developing a number of initiatives to grow our international student market, particularly from key countries such as China and India. However, the Commonwealth's actions have been inadequate and are threatening this important economic sector.''
Under the Commonwealth's changes, adopted from the Knight review into student visas, foreign students who undertake a university bachelor degree will have access to a streamlined visa system and the right to two years' work after graduating, without a restriction on the type of job.
They also will no longer have to prove they have more than $75,000 in their bank account, bringing Australia's system into line with other countries such as the US, where students simply declare they have the means to support themselves.
However, vocational training colleges will have to wait on a second review, due next year, before they see major changes to processing arrangements for their own international students.
Figures from the Immigration Department show offshore grants (visa approvals) for the vocational education and training sector fell by 44.6 per cent between June 2009-10 and June 2010-11 - including a 64 per cent decline from China, and a 90.1 per cent fall from India. University offshore grants fell by 18.3 per cent over the same period.
While universities have welcomed the changes adopted from the Knight review, others in the sector share the state government's concerns. In a letter to the federal government, Holmes Institute director Stephen Nagle said it was grossly unfair the changes did not apply to government-recognised ''university-equivalent'' providers such as his.
He said that without a level playing field, ''Holmes will have suffered irreparable reputational damage and will have lost considerable recognition in the sector'' by the middle of next year.
''Holmes should be entitled to compete equally with Australian universities in the international education sector,'' he wrote.
The fall in foreign student numbers has been blamed on factors including tougher visa rules, a higher dollar, and violent attacks, mostly against Indian students, a few years ago.


Monday, 17 October 2011

International student 'blackmailed' by college

TWO directors of a controversy-plagued Victorian private college for international students allegedly blackmailed an Indian student who complained about the college's standards.
The revelations raise questions about the Baillieu government's vow to clean up the industry, with at least one of the men facing criminal charges, Kanwal Singh, still working at and managing the South Pacific Institute in Melbourne's CBD.

The Indian-born Kanwal Singh, his fellow South Pacific Institute director Gurvinder Singh, who is also an Indian national and a third man, Ayush Gupta, were recently charged by the Victoria Police with two counts of making an unwarranted demand on a person with menace.

The charges relate to allegations that the trio threatened a student to get him to retract complaints he had made in 2009 about the South Pacific Institute.

The student had made complaints about the standard of education at the college and allegations that school staff were taking cash from students to upgrade marks and employing unqualified teachers.

After calling the institute yesterday and asking to speak to the manager, The Age was put onto Kanwal Singh.

When asked about whether it was appropriate he remained at the college while facing criminal charges, he told The Age: ''I don't want to comment on anything, mate. I have to check with my lawyer.''

Victorian education authorities have known about allegations of misconduct involving the South Pacific Institute since at least 2009, when The Age first reported them. The institute has denied claims of impropriety.

After the 2009 reports, the then Brumby government ordered education regulators to audit the institute and more than a dozen other colleges that were considered high risk. After the audits, several colleges closed down, but the South Pacific College remained open.

The 2009 revelations also led to the introduction by federal and state authorities of tougher regulations that authorities hoped would help clean up the industry.
Labor MP Luke Donnellan, who has previously called for Victorian authorities to better support overseas students, said the Baillieu government should ensure college managers accused of criminal offences were suspended until their court matters were resolved.

''It seems strange that a government that was very quick in opposition to condemn Labor over its handling of issues affecting overseas students is allowing a manager of an international college to remain in his post while facing criminal charges,'' he said.

''This does enormous damage to our international reputation and Mr Baillieu must do more to ensure Victoria is a welcoming and safe environment for overseas students.''
The international student industry was a $17 billion industry nationally and brought $4 billion every year into Victoria, but has been hit in recent years by the rising dollar, poor regulation of providers, attacks on Indian students in Victoria and Commonwealth changes to visa and residency conditions.

Kanwal Singh, Gurvinder Singh and Ayush Gupta are listed to appear before the Melbourne Magistrates Court.

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Sunday, 16 October 2011

Why do we care about Times Higher Education World University Rankings?

The Times Higher Education (THE) World University has recently announced the World’s top 400 Universities. American Ivy leagues and traditional British Universities are among the top 10, as one can predict. The World’s top University for 2011-12 is California Institute of Technology, followed by Harvard, Stanford, Oxford and Princeton Universities.

Universities from Asia have improved their performances from the previous rankings. Nine Universities from Asia, mainly from Japan, Korea and China, are listed in the World’s top 100 Universities. They include University of Tokyo (30), University of Hong Kong (34), National University of Singapore (40), Peking University (49), Kyoto University (52), Pohang University of Science and Technology (53), Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (62), Tsinghua University (71), and Korea advanced Institute of Science and Technology (94). Only one University from South East Asia, National University of Singapore (40), has been placed among top 100 Universities.

Compared to most OECD countries, Australia has been performing very well in the ranking system. According to the 2011-12 THE, the University of Melbourne (37), Australian National University (38), the University of Sydney (58), and the University of Queensland (74) have progressed to the World’s top 100 Universities. Some of our non-traditional Universities, such as Charles Darwin University, Flinders University or Swinburne University of Technology, have made it to top 400.

What are the implications of the THE University rankings to Australia? We can interpret the consequences of the THE rankings in our higher education system in various facets. We understand from THE, that they rank world Universities by investigating the learning environment (30%), volume, income and reputation (30%), research influence (30%), innovation (2.5%) and staff, student and research (7.5%). In reality, all Universities are created in different socio-political and academic contexts. One of the classic arguments is the size of economy and its relationship with higher education system. For instance, THE looks at public and industry research income. However, indicators of public and industry research income as proportions of total research income are not sufficiently appreciative of how the size of one's national economy influences results. In this regard, they tend to advantage Western economic models and their higher education systems, and concurrently disadvantage more nations and developmentally oriented models.

Australian Universities may perform well, due to a number of reasons. One is the push from the federal Government on research performance. In the last 24 months, Australian academics were bombarded by the idea of the excellence in Research for Australia initiative (ERA), which adopted a combination of indicators and expert review by committees. In February 2011, an analysis of the government's ERA report (conducted by The Australian newspaper) found that only 12 universities were performing research at or above international standard, with the top four performing at a rate that could be considered well above international standard. Academics are trained to aim for better research performance and it has become culture in (almost) all Australian Universities.

Ranking of Journal and publications, hence, were created to make sure that key research outputs were published in the top (A* or A) journals in each discipline. Resources were spent to make sure that your research findings are disseminated in the top rank outlets. For some academics, research has become their top priority because it can ensure the quality of their scholarships. Questions such as “how do you plan to publish in Nature?” or “Have you published in Journal of Marketing?” have become common issue for discussion among Australian academics. From 2008-2011, all academic conferences I have attended (mostly are in business and management discipline) includes, at least, one session on meeting with the editorial members of Journal of XYZ.

Some academics argue that, because of the strong demand for research and publication, other forms of academic contributions, such as teaching or community services, may have been taken for granted. The university has always been an intellectual community and a forum for discussion and debate. Within the university there are many reservoirs of knowledge to which society at large can have recourse; but it has also been a centre for individuals who have changed society’s perceptions. Not all of its goals are known in advance, and the ongoing ferment is one of its essential characteristic. Clearly, the ranking may not be able to capture some of these aspects.

When we explore the THE rankings, we may assume that traditional universities from the US and the UK tend to perform better than their rivals in Asia, Australia Africa or South America, especially when we explore ‘reputation’ of the institution. In previous years, it was reported that the THE rankings rely on reputational surveys, which involve polling academics about which universities they think are the best in a given field. Hence, it may be meaningless for most academics. Some argue that these assessments often use too few academics, who may not be well informed about all the universities they are being asked to judge the quality and reputation of the University, and that there is a bias towards English-speaking countries, particularly those from the traditional UK and American systems.

Some academics may argue against the methodology and validity of the ranking system. The clear dilemma of the university rankings system, despite its diversity, is that its core agenda is to develop systems or indicators drawn from one reality, and get them to speak to diverse academic contexts across culture. Australian academic contexts are clearly different from those in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa. Therefore, our strong performance may be valid or invalid in the global academic culture. The standard uniform of rankings system may promote the homogenization of academic culture, which is not desirable in education.

Of special concern are the aspects of the method which deal with the difficult-to-measure concept of institutional reputation and research influence. Some academics may choose to ignore the ranking. We, however, must admit that THE is one of the highly regarded publications. Its influence is worldwide. Most governments, academic institutions, research funding bodies and students look at them to judge the quality of the universities.

Because of its influence in the international education market, international governments, students and parents will continue to seek out the best institution and continue to consult the wide variety of available university rankings. Leaders in the Australian higher education system must understand the controversy and rules involved in university rankings. It will help Australian universities to improve their academic performance in the future.

Dr. Nattavud Pimpa is a senior lecturer in international business at RMIT University.

This essay was previously published in online opinion

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Australia and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2011-12

The Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings were developed in concert with the rankings data provider, Thomson Reuters, with expert input from more than 50 leading figures in the sector from 15 countries across every continent.

Their rankings of the top universities across the globe employ 13 separate performance indicators designed to capture the full range of university activities, from teaching to research to knowledge transfer. These 13 elements are brought together into five headline categories, which are:

Teaching — the learning environment (worth 30 per cent of the overall ranking score)
Research — volume, income and reputation (worth 30 per cent)
Citations — research influence (worth 30 per cent)
Industry income — innovation (worth 2.5 per cent)
International outlook — staff, students and research (worth 7.5 per cent).

The overall world top 200 rankings, the banded lists of a further 200 "best of the rest" universities, and the six tables showing the top 50 institutions by subject are based on criteria and weightings that were carefully selected after extensive consultation. We recognise that different users have different priorities, so to allow everyone to make the most of our exceptionally rich data and gain a personalised view of global higher education.

and the top 10 World University Rankings are...

1) California Institute of Technology (USA)
2) Harvard University (USA)
3)Stanford University (USA)
4) Oxford University (UK)
5) Princeton University (USA)
6) Cambridge University (UK)
7) MIT (USA)
8) Imperial College London (UK)
9) University of Chicago (USA)
10) UC Berkeley (USA)

and thos from Australia that appears in the list include
The University of Melbourne (37)
ANU (38)
The University of Queensland (74)

More information can be accessed at

I will write an analysis of the ranking and hopefully I can publish it in the media somewhere.

Nattavud Pimpa is a senior lecturer in international business at RMIT University, Australia.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

My Teaching Trip in Shanghai

I spent 8 days in Shanghai, China in September to teach a group of 94 undergraduate students at Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade. This wasn't my first time to Shanghai because, as part of my teaching plan at RMIT University, I also was there in 2010.

The trip was truly a story of transnational education and I need to share 3 points with you from the perspectives of an academic who experiences the up and down of offshore teaching.

1) Preparation for academic staff who is scheduled to teach offshore is very important. I understand from my previous experiences that we need to understand various aspects of the host country. Simple issues such as how to go to the classroom, how to operate computer in the local language, where to buy coffee or how to approach your students etc. are extremely important. Most academic staff did not get enough preparation from their institutions and may find this aspect of work is difficult to manage.

2) Relationship management with your students and academic/professional staff at the host country. Student-teacher varies across culture. You may be comfortable with the way you are contacted by your students at home and make sure that you don't expect the similar kind of treatment in the new cultural setting. I think it is wise to talk to your colleagues or partners from the host country about this issue before you embark on the new journey.

3) Classroom management in the transnational education is interesting. Classroom can be more than a place of teaching and learning. In some culture, classroom is a place for social interaction and that how people learn very well. I, again, suggest you to talk to your friend from the local institution in terms of student's expectation, practices in the classroom and how to engage students in that cultural context.

nattavud pimpa is a senior lecturer in international business at RMIT University, Australia