Monday, November 13, 2006

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What's going on in international education?

A few odds & ends from the world of international education:

1) It would appear that the U.S. has finally reversed the decline in international students wishing to study in the U.S. Karen Arenson summarizes the latest information in the New York Times:
The number of new foreign students coming to the United States grew this school year, after several years of weakness that followed the terrorist attacks of 2001, according to a survey to be released today by the Institute of International Education.

According to the survey, conducted by the institute and other education groups, the number of new international students at American colleges and universities increased 8 percent this fall over last, to 142,923.

Another sign of a turnaround was a sharp upturn in student visas, said Allan E. Goodman, president of the institute. Dr. Goodman said the State Department issued a record 591,050 student and exchange visas in the 12 months ending in September, a 14 percent increase over the previous year and 6 percent more than in the year leading up to the 2001 attacks.

More than half of the approximately 900 campuses that participated in the survey said they had seen increases in the number of foreign students this fall.

Dr. Goodman attributed the increase to the easing of visa restrictions imposed after the terrorist attacks and to greater efforts by colleges to attract foreign students.

“We’ve been worried for three years that there would be a slow and steady decline in the number of international students studying here,” Dr. Goodman said. “But it looks like the decline is ending.”

Parenthetical thought -- how does Lou Dobbs feel about this info? On the one hand, the increase in student visas means greater flows of foreigners into the United States -- which Dobbs the nativist would surely condemn. On the other hand, the increase in foreign students actually improves our balance of trade ($13.5 billion according to this estimate), since they count as an export of services -- which Dobbs the mercantilist would surely like.

2) The Boston Globe's Jehangir S. Pocha looks at Western educational institutions aggressively courting export markets establishing new satellite institutions in rising economies:

So far, more than 100 Western schools and universities have set up in China, and the number is expected to grow.

A team from Harvard University headed by William C. Kirby, director of the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, was in China over the summer to evaluate how the university could establish a presence in China.

"It's an idea whose time has come," said Matthew Benjamin Farthing, headmaster of the newly opened Harrow International School in Beijing. "As the world is globalizing, it's only natural for education to globalize. Parents everywhere want the best education and while they once had to send their children to places like Harrow in the UK or US, schools like Harrow are now coming here."

While some of the educational institutions, including Harvard, are looking only to set up local centers where students from their home country can come to study China's dynamic economy and evolving society, others are seeking to enroll local students in degree or diploma programs.

"In our first year, we enrolled mostly expatriate children, both from Britain and countries familiar with the value of a Harrow education, but in two years I expect things will be different," Farthing said from his staid office as scores of students in Harrow's trademark ties milled around outside.

The prestige of such traditions and the reputation of schools such as Harrow are luring Chinese students and parents to international institutions....

The price tag for acquiring a education like this from one of the elite Western institutions in China is between $8,000 and $25,000 per year. Expatriates who send their children to these schools are mostly immune to sticker shock since it's mostly their employers that pick up the tab.

But even China's new upper middle-class isn't likely to be deterred by the bill.

Education is highly valued in China and despite the fact that the average American university or private school education costs more than a middle-class Chinese family can save in a generation, there are currently 63,000 Chinese students enrolled in universities in the United States, more than from any foreign country except India, which has 80,000 students in American schools, according to the New York-based Institute of International Education.

That number could be much higher but for the common practice of ensuring geographic balance in admissions, which ensures that Chinese students don't crowd out students from Europe, Latin America, and Africa.

With Chinese students facing steep challenges to study abroad, more and more of the foreign institutions creating campuses in China are hoping to woo locals by marketing their degrees as a Western-quality education in a Chinese setting -- at reduced prices. For example, a year at Harrow Beijing costs about $15,000, about half what it would cost in Britain.

3) Finally, while it's great to see U.S. universities retain their global comparative advantadge, I fear that the Canadians will soon be able to siphon away some of the greatest minds of our generation -- at least, if this Reuters report is correct (hat tip: reader S.S.):
The use of medical marijuana has given two Toronto professors the right to something that many students could only dream of -- access to specially ventilated rooms where they can indulge in peace.

The two, at the esteemed University of Toronto and at York University to the north of the city, suffer from chronic medical conditions that some doctors say can be eased by smoking marijuana. They are among nearly 1,500 Canadians who have won the right to use the drug for health reasons.

Using human rights legislation, the two petitioned their employers for the right to light up in the workplace. They faced a legal struggle, but the universities eventually agreed.

"Without the medication, I am disabled and I'm not able to carry out meaningful and valuable, productive work," said York University criminology professor Brian MacLean, who suffers from a severe form of degenerative arthritis.

First the "sexy sex sex" class, and now pot-smoking? The University of Toronto is going to clean America's educational clock.

posted by Dan on 11.13.06 at 10:58 AM


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