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Aus bushfires: stakeholders speak out to reassure students, agents

The PIE News - lun, 01/20/2020 - 02:58

The international education community across Australia has spoken out to reassure agents and international students regarding the bushfire crisis – reiterating that most study destinations remain safe, unaffected and continue to offer the “incredible study experience” the country is known for.

With education being Australia’s third-largest export industry, the continued international focus on the bushfires has raised concerns that the country’s reputation as a top study destination might be damaged due to the associated health and safety implications of the bushfires and smoke haze.

“One of the best ways you can help affected communities is by continuing to visit, study and do business with Australia”

In a post on the Study In Australia website, the government stressed that the industry is working together to ensure the safety and support of all current and incoming international students.

“One of the best ways you can help affected communities is by continuing to visit, study and do business with Australia,” the post read.

It stressed the importance of seeking the most up-to-date information prior to arrival: “due to the rapidly changing conditions, your university or institution is best placed to advise you on how fires may impact your studies and their operations.”

According to reports, the universities of Sydney and Wollongong were both forced to close some of their satellite campuses due to fire danger and Australian National University closed its main campus in early January because of the smoke.

The government’s message was reiterated by ELT association English Australia. CEO Brett Blacker noted that while fires have brought devastation, “they have also shown us the incredible resolve and strength of Australians, especially those working in our emergency services”.

“We are working closely with key government agencies to ensure that students and agents receive the right messages during this time,” he said.

“In our key markets, we will convey the message that most study destinations remain safe and unaffected by bushfires, emphasising that Australia is still a great place to learn English.”

Speaking to The PIE News, Blacker said the association was in close talks with government to ensure students are supported and safe.

“I fly to Melbourne next Tuesday to meet with Australia’s Education minister, the Hon Dan Tehan, and participate in a sector roundtable to discuss the current bushfire emergency from an international education perspective,” he said.

Blacker added that Australia’s international students have been involved in some incredible acts of kindness during the fires.

“We have seen Sikh volunteers donating meals and support in Gippsland and an international student who is a volunteer firefighter: Mark Yeong, a 22-year-old Singaporean studying at the University of Sydney,” he told The PIE.

The overwhelming majority of institutions are unaffected by the fires”

“‘To any students who are asking, “How can we help?” we say: continue with your plans. The overwhelming majority of institutions are unaffected by the fires and will continue to offer you the incredible study experience that our country is known for.”

In a social media post, Study Sydney reiterated: “The metropolitan areas of Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong are not currently threatened by fires but have experienced smoke haze on some days.

At this stage, we are expecting commencing and current international students to enrol with their education institution as planned at the start of the academic calendar.”

The devastating impact the fires are having on Australian wildlife has also prompted support from the sector, with Study Gold Coast announcing that each team member would be “sponsoring a koala.”

The @CWHFAU is one of the busiest in the world. With the current bushfire crisis stretching their resources like never before they desperately need our help. That’s why our team members are each sponsoring a koala. #AustralianBushfires

— Study Gold Coast (@StudyGoldCoast) January 14, 2020

Blacker added that English Australia would “encourage all students to visit for up-to-date advice on destinations in Australia and an interactive map of the fires.”

To support emergency service agencies or charities across Australia visit: 

The post Aus bushfires: stakeholders speak out to reassure students, agents appeared first on The PIE News.

McGill professor resigns over university's investment in fossil fuels

Inside Higher Ed - lun, 01/20/2020 - 01:00

A professor at McGill University is voluntarily leaving his tenured job next month, in protest of the campus governing board’s recent vote against divesting from fossil fuels.

Gregory Mikkelson, the associate professor, is a philosopher and environmental scientist, which puts divestment squarely within the realm of his own research. But in an interview he said he also based his decision on what he calls McGill's antidemocratic governance system.

“Being in a school environment, you’re immersed in all these facts about the accelerating deterioration of our planet and how urgent it is to take strong measures to try to relieve and reverse these trends,” Mikkelson said, yet “my own institution refuses to take this small step.”

More than that, he continued, “this is the third time in seven years that the board has refused to divest from fossil fuels.” The first two times, Mikkelson said, McGill’s Board of Governors did so against “the strong basis in the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities” for divestment.

Most recently, in a decision announced in December, he continued, the Montreal board did so “in defiance and denial of an overwhelming mandate” from campus groups. Indeed, every employee and student organization that has considered divestment in recent years -- including the large, representative University Senate -- has voted in favor. Two other professors on the Board of Governors resigned as elected faculty representatives over the fossil fuel issue last year.

In a report that informed the recent vote, a commitee of the McGill board wrote in favor of  decarbonization, or reducing "overall carbon emissions of the endowment portfolio, by a percentage to be set against a determined reference index or benchmark," over divestment. Mikkelson argued that that is decarbonization is a murky goal that centers on the process of pulling fossil fuels out of the ground and not the far more deleterious effects of burning fossils fuels as a product. 

Cynthia Lee, McGill spokesperson, said via email that the university "is moving forward reducing the overall carbon footprint of its investment portfolio, including those within the fossil fuel industry." McGill also plans to "look at increasing its investments in clean technologies, renewable energy infrastructure and fossil-fuel-free funds to enhance its low-carbon investments."

Some 8.7 percent of the university's $1.7 billion Canadian, or $1.3 billion U.S., endowment fund investments are in the "larger energy sector," which includes renewable fuels, wind and solar, Lee said. About 1.9 percent of the portfolio includes investment in the equity of the top 200 coal, oil, gas and other companies listed in the Carbon Underground 200 index.

"Adopting a more carbon-conscious investment approach complements McGill’s far-reaching climate change and sustainability goals, including institution-wide efforts to achieve carbon neutrality across the University’s operations by 2040," Lee added.

Mikkelson, who is American, also described the “McGill problem” as part of a bigger “Canadian problem,” in which the country has adopted various environmentally friendly policies while continuing to allow and profit from increased production of fossil fuels, particularly via Canada's western tar sands.

That Mikkelson doesn’t have a plan for what’s next speaks to his conviction: tenured faculty positions are hard to come by. But he said he hopes to continue studying and speaking on the intersection of the natural world and economic growth, including biodiversity law. His faculty colleagues, meanwhile, have been “very supportive,” he said, acknowledging that his decision means “disruption” for them and for his students.

Asked what might move the dial on the fossil fuel issue, Mikkelson said the dial is already moving. Several large Canadian universities already have divested from fossil fuels, including the University of British Columbia, just this month. That endowment is roughly the same as McGill’s, he noted.

Mikkelson also contrasted McGill’s response to faculty calls for divestment with that of the University of California: in September, the massive system said that it was making its $70 billion pension fund and $13.4 billion endowment "fossil-free."

The California move followed years of campus protests and other campaigning against fossil fuels. But the university has said its ultimate decision was more about money than politics. Fossil fuels in the portfolio at this point amount to too much risk, it said.

McGill, meanwhile, has said that dropping fossil fuels is too risky. Yet that also conflicts with a recent working paper finding that colleges' and universities' financial concerns about divestment are overblown, if any risk exists at all.

Chris Marsciano, a co-author on that paper and a visiting assistant professor in education studies at Davidson College, said that four of about 100 Canadian colleges and universities have divested or plan to, in addition to British Columbia. About 45 of the approximately 1,400 colleges and universities in the U.S. have done the same or plan to, at least in part, he said.

Marsciano said he’d never heard of anyone resigning from a tenured position over fossil fuels, but that it would be a “brave move.”

“I expect that anyone with a track record strong enough to get tenured would have many options after resigning,” he added. “People with integrity and those who stand up for their beliefs tend to land well.”


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How SNAP rule changes could affect college students

Inside Higher Ed - lun, 01/20/2020 - 01:00

Upcoming changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the federal food stamp program, are expected to affect nearly 700,000 Americans.

College students -- among the neediest -- will be among them.

Some higher education policy experts argue that it's already complicated for students to decipher whether they qualify for public benefits, and the rule change from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs SNAP, scheduled to take place in April will only make matters more difficult.

Students who are enrolled at least half-time wouldn't be affected by the rule change, but those who are enrolled less than half-time could lose access to the benefits. These students are subject to time limits, meaning they can't receive benefits for more than three months during a three-year period unless they work at least 20 hours per week. States can waive the time limit when unemployment is high, but this change would make that more difficult.

For example, Pennsylvania lets students count taking college classes toward the work requirements, according to Carrie Warick, director of policy and advocacy at the National College Access Network. It's unclear if that waiver will be allowed once the rule change is implemented.

"The SNAP eligibility for students is really confusing already," said Parker Gilkesson, a policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy. The rule change would only "add confusion" to a program that's underutilized, as only four in 10 eligible students are enrolled in SNAP, she said.

The students most affected by the change -- those attending less than half-time -- are also likely those who need the benefits the most, according to Warick.

These students "most likely still need to work to support families, and therefore it’s taking them a long time to finish a degree, which means the ability to increase earnings is delayed," Warick said.

While it's unknown exactly how many students this change would affect, advocates see this as yet another hurdle for students to get the help they need to complete their degrees.

"Would you be able to study or look for a reputable job if you’re hungry? No," Gilkesson said. "We shouldn’t be using work as a means to justify if someone can get a necessity of life."

While the estimated rate of food insecurity on college campuses varies across studies, there's agreement that it's a problem.

Some colleges attempt to assuage the issue with food pantries and one-stop service centers, but some say that is a short-term solution.

For every one meal food banks provide, SNAP provides 12, according to Victoria Jackson, senior policy analyst for higher education at the Education Trust.

"We really should be looking at SNAP and better, more comprehensive financial aid policies," Jackson said.

Warick said she would like to see the required work hours reduced, as students who work 20 hours or more per week are more likely to fall behind in their classes. It can also be difficult to maintain those hours, as part-time jobs often have inconsistent scheduling, she said.

Policy makers and the Department of Agriculture also need to understand who today's students are, Jackson said. Eligibility requirements for college students were designed with the idea of 18-year-olds who went to college straight from high school and can depend on their parents for help. But that's often not the case today, as many students are older, parents, low income or all of the above.

"It’s so important that, in this time when SNAP and other public benefits programs are being attacked, that we really put the message out there that people need food, health care and cash to be able to live, thrive and operate in this world," Gilkesson said. "Until we change our mind-set about how we look at public benefits in this country, we will not be able to help people with their real need."

Editorial Tags: Federal policyImage Source: Getty Images / Derek Davis of the Portland Press HeraldImage Caption: Leanna Shields organizes items on the shelves at the Captain's Cupboard Food Pantry on the Southern Maine Community College campus in this 2014 file photo. Advocates say that food pantries aren't enough to combat food insecurity on campus.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box: 

Colleges prepare students for 2020 Census

Inside Higher Ed - lun, 01/20/2020 - 01:00

As colleges across the country begin efforts to “get out the count” and energize students before the 2020 Census gets underway nationally in March, civic engagement advocates have identified numerous hurdles ahead.

There’s the challenge of simply informing students, a majority of whom have never participated in the decennial census, about the detailed questionnaire they will be receiving from the federal government and why it's important to fill it out.

The spread of misinformation on social media, misconceptions on how students are counted and propaganda campaigns that generate mistrust in government are also barriers that could impact student participation, said Carah Ong Whaley, associate director of the James Madison University Center for Civic Engagement. A controversial plan by the Trump administration to add a question about citizenship status on the census questionnaire, while ultimately struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, has already made some students and immigrants distrust the government's motives for doing the count and will likely discourage participation, Whaley said.

Another concern is that the 2020 Census only offers male and female options for respondents to report their gender, which excludes the identities of some in the LGBTQ community, she said. Whaley, who is a commissioner for Virginia’s Complete Count Committee, said she is telling Virginians to skip the question if it makes them uncomfortable.

Kell Crowley, a junior at Georgetown University, conducted research on the 2020 Census for the Beeck Center, the university's multidisciplinary center for the study of societal needs and challenges. She said she has seen calls to boycott the census because of the proposed citizenship question. While people are very open to the message that the census is fundamental to democracy and counts everyone, including noncitizens, constant news headlines about the citizenship question generate feelings of “risk and fear,” Crowley said. This in turn confuses students’ understanding of how the census is used, she said.

“Well-intentioned groups think that we should boycott the census because we shouldn’t be using it for partisan processes,” Crowley said. “Mostly I encountered apathy rather than students having direct negative opinions of it.”

Not participating in the census could disrupt the government's system for determining states' representation in Congress and federal funding for education, policing, health care and a host of social services. Whaley said it could hurt “hard to count” communities, which would receive fewer services and less representation as a result of an undercount. These communities include college students, undocumented and legal immigrants, non-English speakers, low-income people and others who have been historically less likely to complete the census. Whaley said that boycotting the census is counterproductive; those who aren't counted aren't considered in policy decisions by lawmakers.

“Participation is resistance,” Whaley said. “Seeing the way things have worked or not worked at the federal level, this is the system that we have, and if you don’t participate, you are not going to be represented … at various levels.”

This year will be the first time many traditional-age college students have even heard about the census, Whaley said. Many were children when the last census was taken a decade ago.

Census count committee members on college campuses have developed ways for individual students and student organizations to educate and encourage their peers to participate.

Los Angeles County's Complete Count Committee formed a coalition of local government officials, U.S. Census Bureau representatives and leaders from the area's colleges and universities. The group developed tool kits with messaging and strategies for student organizations and administrators to spread information about the census, said Marcus Rodriguez, director of student leadership, involvement and community engagement at Occidental College in Los Angeles.

The kit for student organizations suggests asking “the student government … to adopt resolutions about the importance of the 2020 Census” and “arrange for the student newspaper and other student media outlets to report on the census.”

The kit also provides information on Census Bureau job opportunities. About 500,000 jobs are available, including for enumerators who go door to door to help community residents complete the census, which the bureau has advertised directly to students, said Marissa Corrente, deputy director of the Students Learn, Students Vote Coalition, or SLSV. For community college students who often work while attending classes, positions with the bureau can be a great opportunity, said Martha Parham, senior vice president of public relations for the American Association of Community Colleges, or AACU.

“They’re seen as those trusted messengers to engage their peers and community members,” Corrente said.

James Madison introduced a course this semester called Democracy Counts, which involves students from multiple disciplines participating in efforts on campus and in the Harrisonburg, Va., community to get out the count, said Whaley, who is co-teaching the class with five other professors. Students in the course will put door hangers on off-campus housing to remind students about the census and visit classrooms to speak about its importance, Whaley said.

Kearstin Kimm, a student in the course, is hoping to learn more about the security measures the Census Bureau has to combat fraudulent submissions and false information.

“Combating disinformation is extremely difficult,” said Kimm, a senior majoring in computer science. “It’ll take a lot to overcome it, especially because of online submissions. There’s a lot more opportunity for people to misrepresent it, and that’s scary.”

This year will be the first time that respondents will be able to submit their answers to the questionnaire through the internet. Households will receive up to five cards in the mail in mid-March inviting them to respond to the questionnaire online, by telephone or through traditional mail, according to the bureau. In theory, internet responses could be beneficial for counting students because of their digital literacy, but it shouldn’t be assumed that young people will respond just because it seems easier, Whaley said.

“People think at all different levels that if we put something on social media, if we put this online, people are just going to do it,” Whaley said. “We have to focus on that education piece.”

The bureau is also working with the Public Relations Student Society of America, a national organization for college students studying public relations and communications, on a student-centered information campaign "to help spread the word about the 2020 Census, the importance of completing it, and targeting those messages towards specific hard to count groups as well as their college campus and communities at large," a Census Bureau official said.

Corrente of SLSV said the low level of participation by college students in past censuses is comparable to their voting record. But compared to voting, students have very little baseline understanding of how the process works and why it matters, she said.

The Pell Grant program, which provides need-based federal financial aid to qualifying low-income students, is one of the top five federal programs with funding determined by census data, according to the Census Bureau. The census provides indicators -- income level, degree completion, occupation -- for the number of people that will be seeking a college degree in the future and will need Pell Grants, said Luis Maldonado, vice president of government relations and policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

“I believe that the census drives the underlying conversation and structure of how much money are we going to need, based on how many needy students we have,” Maldonado said.

Population counts also shape the budgetary decisions of college leaders, business owners and local government officials, all of which can indirectly impact students, said Parham of AACU. The census gauges a community's fiscal health and can shift the focus of job-training programs at community colleges as employment opportunities are created or disappear because of demographic changes, Parham said.

"It could impact the manner in which a community works," Parham said. "It could impact the local economy, the workforce, the ecosystem, if you will … It’s all connected."

Community college students make up a "large swath" of all college students, and AACU is working closely with the Census Bureau to ensure an accurate count of those enrolled in community colleges across the country, Parham said.

Corrente said there’s a misconception that all students are counted by university officials. Only a small percentage of students live in residence halls, and they can be counted by an administrator based on the Census Bureau’s guidelines for group quarters, she said. Students should complete the census where they “live and sleep most of the time” and should not be counted by their parents if living away from home, according to the bureau. Students living off-campus with roommates will need to elect one representative who will complete the census questionnaire for all who live in the residence.

"That’s a reason why it’s confusing for students, because we don’t have a 'head of household,'" Crowley, the Georgetown student, said. "Many, many people will be double-counted because their parents count them at home. I still consider myself to be living in Boston, but I’ve made it very clear to my parents not to count me on their census. I doubt many students are having that conversation with their parents, especially this early."

Corrente said SLSV, which is a project of Young Invincibles, a national organization working on increasing youth civic engagement, will share best practices throughout January and February for educating students about the census with partner institutions and community organizations helping to lead campus counts. The focus now is communicating to students why the census is important, she said.

“It doesn’t just impact their community this year -- it impacts their community for the next 10 years,” Corrente said. “The census impacts power -- your political representation and the resources you get. We break it down to power and money.”

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Bryan Alexander answers questions about his book 'Academia Next'

Inside Higher Ed - lun, 01/20/2020 - 01:00

Bryan Alexander is a researcher, writer and frequent commentator on higher education. He is also -- as he reminds readers of his new book -- a futurist, meaning he examines trends to predict future outcomes. In Academia Next: The Futures of Higher Education, Alexander describes a few potential scenarios for the higher ed landscape in coming decades. Alexander is currently a senior scholar at Georgetown University.

He responded via email to questions about his book.

Q: Who is your book for and what do you hope it will achieve? Is it your goal to help colleges and universities survive into the future? If so, why?

A: I wrote Academia Next for everyone thinking about higher education’s future. That includes students, faculty, staff, alumni and trustees, along with directly interested parties: parents of younger students, and state legislators, along with academically involved foundations, nonprofits, relevant government agencies and businesses.

My goal is to help readers think more creatively and effectively about the future of higher education, aiding them as they plan for and make the next generation of colleges and universities.

I hope futures thinking can help institutions survive, because at its best, the academy represents an extraordinary combination of learning, discovery, inspiration, knowledge accumulation, personal transformation and social service. I fear that the futures I derive tend to forecast a very challenging time ahead for these amazing institutions -- which is ironic, because in contrast the future looks very bright for learning.

Q: What is your approach to predicting the future? What does the process entail?

A: I don’t offer a single prediction. Instead, I explore multiple futures which higher education might inhabit.

Methodologically, in this book I focus on two approaches. The first chapters are a form of trends analysis, which looks to the present day and very recent history for signs of forces likely to change higher education in the future. They consider a broad range of trends, from enrollment patterns to demographics and macroeconomic forces to emerging technologies. Each of those trends is backed up by research, showing how they played out so far in the real world. Assembling that research entailed a nearly decade-long process of continuous environmental scanning, examining a wide and diverse range of sources for what Amy Webb calls “signals” of the future, and published regularly through the "Future Trends in Education and Technology" report. Chapter six (“Connecting the Dots”) then directly extrapolates those trends into the short- and medium-term future, creating a first-order forecast.

Next, the second part of the book uses another approach by generating scenarios, or seven possible forms for higher education. Each is based on one or two trends identified in the first part of Academia Next.

Trends analysis has the advantage of being grounded in material evidence. Scenarios are powerful because they are narratives, allowing us to easily imagine ourselves in their possible worlds. Both give us insight into the futures of academia.

Both of these methods are improved by the help of many people, often through social media. First, I use social media as one source for horizon scanning. Second, readers ping me to share stories they found fascinating. Third, I share stories and thoughts with many different people, including through social media, seeking feedback, improving my thinking and enhancing the results. Over all this is a very collaborative and social process -- and you can see more about this in the book’s acknowledgments.

Q: Some of the scenarios you present in the book describe a challenging future for American higher education. Which of these scenarios do you most fear or are you least excited about?

A: "Peak Higher Education" (chapter seven) is the darkest one. It posits a higher education sector that is smaller than it is now -- or was when I first published the idea here in Inside Higher Ed in 2014. Total student enrollment declines for a variety of reasons (demographics, geopolitics, low unemployment, student debt anxieties), leading to a shrinkage in campus budgets and an acceleration in the number of institutional closures and mergers. Competition heats up, and inter-campus collaboration becomes even more difficult than it once was. The 20th-century American idea that the more college and university experience people have, the better, begins to give way.

My slightly tongue in cheek “Retro Campus” (chapter 13) rejects the digital world almost entirely, and I fear that such an institutional design would lose the many benefits offered by modern technology.

Q: One of your chapters is on the “Augmented Campus,” where augmented reality is mainstream and everyone on campus is constantly viewing virtual content on their eyewear. What trends might drive this development?

A: The rise of augmented and virtual reality technologies, then their combination in what some call mixed or extended reality. Mobile devices and speedy internet connections allow for the intertwining of the digital and physical worlds. The creativity we normally demonstrate when faced with new technologies then drives new interfaces, content, experiences, expectations and storytelling.

Q: I noticed that you dedicated your book to adjuncts, who, as you write, “do more than anyone, with less than anyone, to build the future of higher education.” What does the future look like for adjuncts and why is the book dedicated to them?

A: I am very glad you caught that dedication. Right now, it looks like adjuncts will continue to represent the preponderance of the American professoriate. They do so now, and there is very little in the way of countervailing trends. Adjunct unions are a good step forward, but the forces driving adjunctification -- research universities overproducing Ph.D.s, campuses facing fierce pressures to keep costs low -- seem likely to persist.

Academia Next is dedicated to adjuncts because they are in many ways a humanitarian disaster that higher education has created. Their labor powerfully shapes the emerging future of the academy, usually without the recognition of others, and I wanted to draw the reader’s attention to their work and situation.

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Colleges start new academic programs

Inside Higher Ed - lun, 01/20/2020 - 01:00
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Chronicle of Higher Education: Saving History at College Radio Stations, One Tape at a Time

Jocelyn Robinson wants to preserve the invaluable audio left behind at historically black colleges and universities. First, though, she has to find it.

Chronicle of Higher Education: Administrators Who Help Keep Students on Track

Student-success positions are on the rise as colleges realize they need to improve completion to stay competitive.

Chronicle of Higher Education: Governor Had ‘Undue Influence’ Over U. of South Carolina Presidential Search, Accreditor Finds

Charges of partisan influence have tainted several presidential searches in recent years. In South Carolina, an elected official may have gone too far.

Chronicle of Higher Education: The Real Problem With Grade Inflation

It’s not that colleges are catering to students, one expert says. It’s that students’ fixation on grades makes them too risk averse.

Aus: Victoria celebrates top int’l students

The PIE News - ven, 01/17/2020 - 08:29

A human rights activist and cancer researcher, an entrepreneur helping connect international students with reliable service providers, and a diversity researcher, were among the winners of the 2019 Victorian International Education Awards.

Recognising international students who have excelled in their studies and in contributing to the broader community, the seventh awards saw winners from the Philippines, Colombia, India, China and Singapore.

“This year’s award winners have made a tremendous contribution to the community”

“Victoria’s international education sector is flourishing its more than 227,000 students from 170 countries choosing to study here,” said minister for jobs, innovation and trade Martin Pakula.

“This year’s award winners have made a tremendous contribution to the community beyond their own study and research efforts, and it’s great that they are getting the recognition they deserve.”

Malaysian Belle Lim, currently undertaking a PhD in breast cancer research at Monash University, received both the research award and overall premier’s award for her work at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and activism for human rights.

Lim was also the inaugural Women’s Office for the Council of International Students Australia and founder of ChangemakHER, which conducts research on genetic predispositions for breast cancer.

“Moving to Australia for my higher education is the most life-changing decision I have ever made,” she said.

“I feel extremely fortunate to spend my most transformative years here in Victoria. While adjusting to a new environment, and experiencing cultural transition are challenging at times, they brought me fresh perspectives that resulted in some tremendous self-growth.”

Other winners included alumnus winner Singaporean Heng Hao Teo also from Monash, who was recognised for his online platform, iDibs, to help international students connect with reliable services such as migration, cleaning and removalists.

University of Melbourne PhD student Ravini Abeywickrama, who grew up in both Sri Lanka and Australia, received the internationalisation award for her research into people from diverse backgrounds and extensive volunteering.

“Victoria is a hub for multiculturalism – there is no other diverse city like Melbourne,” she said.

International education is Victoria’s largest services expert, generating $11.8 billion.

2019 winners:

  • Premier’s Award – Belle Lim, Malaysia
  • English Language Training – Ana Llorente, Colombia
  • Vocational Education and Training – Christian Laban, Philippines
  • Higher Education – Susan Saldana, India
  • Research – Belle Lim, Malaysia
  • Regional – Luocheng (Rod) Zhang, China
  • Internationalisation – Ravini Abeywickrama, Australia
  • Alumnus – Heng Hao Teo, Singapore

The post Aus: Victoria celebrates top int’l students appeared first on The PIE News.

UK: growth in int’l student numbers, jump in new enrolments from India

The PIE News - ven, 01/17/2020 - 04:09

There is good news for the UK sector with HESA’s first release of data for the 2018/19 academic year: international student numbers are up by 5.9% on the previous period – with a notable 42% hike in new student enrolments from India.

According to HESA statistics, a total of 485,645 international students were studying in at higher education institutions in the UK in 2018/19, up from 458,490 in 2017/18.

“We will continue to work with key that our HE sector can benefit from 600,000 international students by 2030″

And while China sent more students to the UK than any other country, it was Indian students which made the most significant change to the statistics concerning new starts.

This is for the entry year during which the UK government announced that it would be offering post-study work rights – widely anticipated by education agencies in southeast Asia to herald a further regional shift to the UK for higher education.

Non-EU first-year student numbers grew by 18,475 to reach a total of 342,620, with the majority of the increase occurring at postgraduate taught level.

And despite concerns over the impact of Brexit, the number of first-year students from other EU countries also increased on 2017/18 figures, up from 139,150 to 143,025 in the most recent cycle.

More than a third (35%) of all non-EU students came from China in 2018/19, with numbers having increased from 89,540 to 120,385 in the five years since 2014.

India was the second top sending country, with numbers up from 18,325 in 2014/15 to 26,685 in 2018/19. This included 17,760 new student enrolments, marking an impressive jump of 42% on 2017/18 figures for new starts.

The US (20,120), Hong Kong (16,135) and Malaysia (13,835) rounded out the top five sending countries to the UK in 2018/19.

Nigeria, in ninth position, was the only other non-EU sending country to have made the top 10 with 10,645 students – but overall this marked a 41% decline in numbers over the five year period.

In terms of EU numbers, Italy, Germany and France each had more than 13,000 students studying in the UK in 2018/19, with Greece rounding out the top 10 sending countries with just shy of 10,000 (9,920) students.

We will continue to work with other key partners such as @UUKIntl and @BritishCouncil to deliver our International Education Strategy so that our HE sector can benefit from 600,000 international students by 2030

— Chris Skidmore (@CSkidmoreUK) January 16, 2020

Posting on social media, UK Universities minister Chris Skidmore said he welcomed the figures, describing it as a sign that the country competing well in the global race for international students as the UK targets 600,000 by the end of the decade.

“We will continue to work with other key partners… to deliver our International Education Strategy so that our HE sector can benefit from 600,000 international students by 2030.”

Director of Universities UK International, Vivienne Stern was also pleased to see that international student numbers are continuing to grow in the UK.

She pointed to a recent UUKi study that showed how international students are highly satisfied with their experiences at UK universities, as well as enjoying significant career benefits after graduating.

“The growth in the number of international students studying in the UK is testament to this world-class offer,” Stern continued, adding, “the 42% growth in the number of new Indian student enrolments in 2018/19 is particularly notable.

“Visa application numbers indicate that this growth will continue”

“Visa application numbers indicate that this growth will continue, suggesting that Indian student numbers are set to reach numbers not seen since 2011 in the coming years.”

The number of Indian students studying in the UK has been increasing rapidly since 2017 after a period of decline in 2012 following the closure of the post-study work visa.

However, in 2019, the UK government announced plans to reintroduce the two-year post-study work visa, heralded as a catalyst for the increase in UK Tier 4 sponsored study visas granted last year.

“We know that students in India, and around the world, will be encouraged by the announcement of the new two-year graduate visa route and we are working with the government to ensure that this is implemented as quickly and smoothly as possible,” Stern concluded.

Top 10 sending countries to the UK in 2018/19:
  1. China 120,385 (+13% since 17/18)
  2. India 26,685 (+35%)
  3. United States 20,120 (+7%)
  4. Hong Kong 16,135 (-1%)
  5. Malaysia  13,835 (-8%)
  6. Italy 13,965 (level with 17/18)
  7. France 13,675 (level with 17/18)
  8. Germany 13,475 (-1%)
  9. Nigeria 10,645 (+1%)
  10. Greece 9,920 (-2%)

The post UK: growth in int’l student numbers, jump in new enrolments from India appeared first on The PIE News.

LSBF re-imagines distance learning through VR

The PIE News - ven, 01/17/2020 - 03:00

London School of Business and Finance has announced it is offering all of its online postgraduate students a new way to gain public speaking skills via virtual reality headsets. So far, hundreds of headsets have been sent to students all around the world, including Germany, Nigeria, India and the United Arab Emirates.

Education is expected to become the fourth biggest sector for VR investments, predicted to be worth US$700 million by 2025.

But while the technology is frequently used in the classroom environment to make teaching more engaging and interactive, its utilisation in distance learning is yet to be widely applied.

“Combining VR with distance learning will help students use the technology to its full potential”

Postgraduate students who enrolled on LSBF’s online programs in October 2019 received the zero-cost VR equipment this month.

The headset was offered to students enrolling on the Global MBA online, master in Finance and Investments online, dual master & MSc in Finance and Investments online, and the dual master & MSc in Strategic Marketing online.

The headset is part of the public speaking module, an optional assessment for students to refine their skills when it comes to delivering presentations or speeches through a fully immersive VR experience, as demonstrated in an introductory video.

LSBF said it is confident this offering will enhance the learning outcomes for students and will be extending the initiative to all future intakes for its online programs.

Academic lead at LSBF Christopher Jasko said that with this initiative, LSBF is giving its students the opportunity to be part of the technological revolution.

“Combining VR with distance learning will help students use the technology to its full potential, whilst encouraging self-learning in an even more flexible and independent environment,” he added.

The VR module re-creates high-pressured scenarios and then measures speaking speed, intonation, volume, and audience engagement, providing feedback on how to perfect the overall performance.

By successfully completing the optional module, students will receive an LSBF Certificate in Public Speaking and Presentation Skills.

“This is only the beginning for VR in e-learning for LSBF,” Jakso continued.

“A small, yet very significant step towards bringing the full potential of VR and augmented reality into the distance-learning classroom, and we will be announcing further initiatives in the very near future.”

The post LSBF re-imagines distance learning through VR appeared first on The PIE News.

Calbright College: Give it time, or doomed from the start?

Inside Higher Ed - ven, 01/17/2020 - 01:00

Some observers are raising red flags after the unexpected departure of the president and CEO of California’s new online-only community college. But others chalk it up to the normal growing pains associated with a start-up and say it’s too soon to judge whether the college will be successful.

Calbright College, an initiative started by Jerry Brown, California's former governor, opened its programs to students in October. It’s aimed at adult learners who don’t have degrees and are underemployed. Calbright is completely online, statewide and competency-based. It doesn’t offer degrees but instead features certificates based on skills that could lead to middle-income jobs.

Its first leader, Heather Hiles, announced this week that she will step down in March after a year on the job. A statement from Hiles said she plans to return to previous ventures now that Calbright is operational.

The news has raised some eyebrows and reignited the discussion of whether the college can be successful.

"Our legislative mandate remains that we have to serve these students, and that’s what brings everyone to work every day," said Taylor Huckaby, a spokesman for Calbright. "We’ll roll with the punches."

‘I Don’t Think We Can Wait’

So far, 464 students are enrolled in what Calbright calls its “beta cohort,” which includes three programs. In each track, students enroll in college skills courses first before moving on to a “core curriculum” designed for the specific program. So far, 22 students have enrolled in the core curriculum portion, which the college’s three deans are teaching as it works toward hiring faculty members.

Huckaby said they are “comfortable” with the number of enrolled students because Calbright is still hiring faculty and establishing partnerships with businesses.

The college was pushed to open before getting these pieces in place because of legislative deadlines, Huckaby said. The state required it to start programs by the fourth quarter of 2019.

Right now is “very much a research and development phase,” Huckaby said. After the beta phase, he said, the college will work under its intended model. Programs would start with an employer agreement. The college would create a curriculum based on the workforce demands for that employer, which would then offer a set number of jobs and apprenticeships to the students who graduate.

The college has had more than 100 meetings with potential employers since last summer, Huckaby said, but it’s not ready to announce any partnerships.

Before the programs even opened, critics have argued that the new college is unnecessary.

“We have existing colleges that do all these same programs,” said Evan Hawkins, executive director of the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges.

Hawkins also finds the college’s inherent model “flawed.” Calbright plans to work with employers to train people in relevant skills. It would charge employers to train employees, reducing its reliance on taxpayer money, which Hawkins said is “incredibly problematic” for a public institution.

“From the very beginning, you have the idea of a start-up as opposed to a college,” he said.

Hawkins and the faculty union believe the state’s community colleges should be fully funded, as they are now the lowest funded of all institution types in the state. With more state support, the colleges could focus on similar programs he believes would be more effective locally than statewide.

“I think faculty are pretty frustrated,” he said. “This is one thing that all faculty are in agreement on -- that this is really a waste of resources.”

Sally Johnstone disagrees.

“What everyone’s saying -- that’s what they want to happen,” said Johnstone, president of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems and one of the consultants who helped design the Calbright model.

Despite losing Hiles, she said, the college has strong leaders on the ground who are “keeping things rolling.” She believes Calbright is likely to succeed.

Johnstone said designers considered several models for the project, including asking existing colleges to use this model, but ultimately decided something new was needed.

“The colleges have not radically rethought what it is that the workplace needs and how could they work with employers in ways that are meaningful for adult learners,” she said, adding that it doesn’t make sense to wait "around to try and get the colleges that now exist to change a whole bunch of what they’re doing within structures and systems that are not conducive to change."

She added that the "governor didn’t want to wait, because I don’t think we can wait."

Johnstone also said Calbright is a “threatening model” for traditional academic institutions.

“If it succeeds, it may well challenge the basic tenets of how you do things,” she said, adding that those in higher education now may have their “hearts in the right places,” but they’re operating within a structure that might not be as relevant as it was in the past.

“And that’s scary,” she said.

Still, without substantive changes, Johnstone said, higher education won't be able to serve the population of people that Calbright is trying to help.

Start-Ups Take Time

As for how the college is doing so far, “it is a start-up,” Johnstone said.

She compared it to Western Governors University, a nonprofit, private online university founded in 1997 that now enrolls nearly 120,000 students and has 170,000 alumni.

“People in higher education in the western states thought it was the worst idea in the world,” Johnstone said of WGU. “So I’m not surprised to be hearing what I’m hearing about Calbright right now.”

When looking at a history of WGU, some of the similarities are clear. It worked with employers, many in technology, to get funding; few students signed up in the beginning; it took a few years to find a leader who was more permanent; and much of the early news media coverage described it as a doomed venture.

As an outsider looking at Calbright, Scott Pulsipher, WGU's president, said it’s too early to judge the college's success.

In WGU’s case, it took five years to reach 1,000 students.

“That early phase of any new endeavor like this, that’s not some quick turnaround,” Pulsipher said.

With any start-up, Pulsipher said, there are two questions to answer: Is the product needed and valuable, and is the entity able to execute the product?

Calbright is offering something different in the form of nondegree credentials that focus on workforce needs and provide more flexibility to students.

Now, he said, the college must prove the demand and that it can scale the idea, which will take time.

And, while WGU serves thousands of Californians and has articulation agreements with the state’s community colleges, Pulsipher doesn’t see Calbright as competition.

“There are far more individuals that need to be served than there is capacity to serve them,” he said. “It’s bad to see this as a zero-sum game.”

An ‘Early Experiment’

Some experts have doubts about whether the idea itself can work.

“I’m not sure that only nondegree credentials on their own could sustain a business model for most institutions,” said Sean Gallagher, executive director of the Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy at Northeastern University. “You’d have to be operating at a very large scale.”

Because the state of California is large, it does provide that opportunity. But Gallagher said Calbright may struggle to convince enough students to buy in to the idea.

Calbright’s intended targets are less likely to enroll in online programs, Gallagher said. Adults without degrees tend not to try online higher education as often as do those who hold degrees.

“The comfort with online learning and the means and time to pursue it has been historically greater at higher levels of the job market,” he said. “That means there’s a special challenge, at times, in enrolling students at this level of a program and in certain fields in the online education market.”

Calbright also must grapple with establishing a new brand, which will take time.

But there are advantages to starting anew.

“My sense is that there are aspects of the structure of higher education in California that have, at times, made it difficult to scale online,” Gallagher said.

All of these issues make Calbright an “early experiment” in this field, Gallagher said, though he expects to see more ventures like it.

David Schejbal, vice president and chief of digital learning at Marquette University, also has doubts about the model, particularly its focus on nondegree credentials.

“Degrees are still the coin of the realm,” Schejbal said. “The reality is that we don’t have any kind of common medium the way we do with credit hours and degrees” that allows for easy credit transfer or understanding from employers.

While he thinks these new kinds of models are needed for the nation as a whole, getting the public and employers to latch on to the idea is difficult.

To change these perceptions, he said federal Title IV regulations that regulate financial aid funds need to change, too.

Because of the broader shifts needed to make real change, Schejbal said, new ventures should follow the current structure. The experiment won’t change the broader culture, he said. And without that change, the ventures are likely to fail.

“We, as a nation, are not good at education strategy,” he said. “It would be great if we got this one right. The future of the country depends on more educated citizens.”

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Universities ignore growing concern over Sci-Hub cyber risk

Inside Higher Ed - ven, 01/17/2020 - 01:00

Alexandra Elbakyan, founder of the scholarly piracy website Sci-Hub, is suspected of working with Russian intelligence officials to steal confidential research and military secrets from American universities.

According to The Washington Post, Elbakyan, nicknamed the Robin Hood of science, is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for suspected criminal acts and espionage.

Elbakyan denies any wrongdoing, but scholarly publishers such as Elsevier have used news of her investigation to call on academic institutions to block access to Sci-Hub -- not because the site is illegal, but because it poses a security threat. Several large publishers, including Elsevier, have successfully sued Sci-Hub for mass copyright infringement in recent years. The Sci-Hub repository contains more than 80 million research articles, including a large proportion of Elsevier's catalog.

Attempts to block the site completely through legal measures have not been successful. New links to the site (some listed on Wikipedia) keep being created. Now it seems that publishers such as Elsevier are taking a new approach -- asking users to boycott the site because of security concerns.

“The Washington Post story confirms that Sci-Hub is a malicious site being used for nefarious purposes,” said an Elsevier blog post published in late December. The publisher advised universities to block all websites associated with Sci-Hub.

PSI, a company based in Britain that offers tools and services to protect scholarly copyright, maintains a list of web addresses associated with Sci-Hub, which institutions can download and use to block access to the site on campus.

Andrew Pitts, CEO and co-founder of PSI, said that so far, few U.S. institutions have downloaded the block list. Pitts, who has been writing about Sci-Hub’s links to Russian military intelligence for several years, said he struggled to understand why universities are not taking more immediate steps to protect their networks. “This is a matter of urgency,” he said.

PSI’s research suggests that Sci-Hub has stolen log-in credentials from 373 universities in 39 countries, including more than 150 institutions in the U.S., said Pitts. The credentials were likely stolen through phishing attacks, he said. Sci-Hub browser extensions could also be used to track user activity and steal personal information, he said.

Brandon Butler, director of information policy at the University of Virginia Library, said, “Clearly Sci-Hub is not a legitimate organization. Their activity is sketchy, and we know they are based in Russia.” But he added that the “investigation is still an investigation; nothing has been proven yet.”

If the investigation found concrete evidence that Sci-Hub is linked to the theft of U.S. military secrets, Butler said, he would “give the matter more serious attention.”

Right now, the University of Virginia is not specifically discouraging academics from using Sci-Hub, said Butler. “We have two-factor authentication on everything. If someone attempted to log in using my credentials, my phone would ping,” he said.

“Philosophically, I feel Sci-Hub is a foreseeable side effect of the publisher business model. There’s always going to be a black market for paywalled content,” said Butler. He added that the opportunity for Sci-Hub to steal university credentials wouldn’t exist if academics didn’t have to provide credentials to access paywalled content. “That’s a risk that wouldn’t exist in a full open-access world,” he said.

Jim O’Donnell, university librarian at the Arizona State University Library, said that news of the investigation of Elbakyan had not changed his views on Sci-Hub.

“We are very aware of Sci-Hub. They make assertions about their business practices that cannot be verified -- they’re very untransparent,” he said. But the ASU Library does not tell academics and students to specifically avoid Sci-Hub, nor has it blocked the site. “Our advice to users is that they should abide by the law and follow our university policies,” he said.

The investigation into Elbakyan has “created more smoke, metaphorically speaking. But all we’re doing is a little more coughing,” said O’Donnell. He added, “We observe, we watch, we wait.”

Joe Esposito, a scholarly publishing consultant, said some librarians have been “dismissive” of PSI’s claims because the company is looking to promote its services. “I have no reason to think that they’re lying. But the amount of chatter seems to be way out ahead of the facts,” he said. “I think it’s true that an investigation is taking place, but we don’t yet know the outcome.”

Elbakyan has previously stated that the university credentials Sci-Hub uses to access paywalled content and download millions of research papers were volunteered by academics -- a statement that is disputed by PSI and some publishers.

Even if Sci-Hub is not obtaining credentials illegally, Esposito noted that one organization “hoarding credentials” has “dangerous implications.”

“Sci-Hub could easily be a target for hackers,” said Esposito. “People talk about Sci-Hub hacking universities, but what happens if Sci-Hub gets attacked?”

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Proposed rule focuses on faith-based colleges, religious liberty and free speech

Inside Higher Ed - ven, 01/17/2020 - 01:00

The U.S. Department of Education has proposed a new rule clarifying that faith-based colleges are eligible for department grants on the same terms as other private organizations and prohibiting colleges from denying faith-based student groups “any of the rights, benefits, or privileges" allowed for non-faith-based student organizations as a condition of receiving grant funding.

The proposed rule, which was published Thursday in the Federal Register, would also amend regulations to add a “non-exhaustive list of criteria” that would offer colleges “different methods” to demonstrate their eligibility for a religious exemption to Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex. Currently, institutions “controlled by” religious organizations are eligible for exemptions from Title IX, but the department said in a press release that neither Title IX nor the regulations implementing it define what it means for a college to be controlled by a religious group.

“Our actions today will protect the constitutional rights of students, teachers, and faith-based institutions," Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a press release. "The Department's efforts will level the playing field between religious and non-religious organizations competing for federal grants, as well as protect First Amendment freedoms on campus and the religious liberty of faith-based institutions.”

The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities praised the intent of the new rule.

“While we cannot yet comment on the entirety of the specific proposed rule, we applaud any effort on the part of the Department of Education to put policies in place that protect religious liberty and ensure that faith-based institutions are treated fairly by the federal government,” said Shirley V. Hoogstra, the group’s president.

But Michael A. Olivas, an expert on higher education law and a retired professor at the University of Houston, disputed the premise behind the proposed rule that religious institutions are being unfairly treated.

“I don’t believe that religious institutions are treated unequally in the law,” he said. “In fact, there’s any number of exemptions that religious institutions and organizations get, all of which allow them to operate in ways that public or governmental organizations don’t. There are all kinds of religious hiring exemptions: you can let someone go or not hire them because you assert a religious protection that exempts you from normal [employment] laws or nondiscrimination laws” including laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or pregnancy.

“I think it’s just flat wrong to suggest that what we need to do is to restore a balance,” Olivas said. “If we’re out of balance, it is in the other direction.”

The proposed rule was released on National Religious Freedom Day in concert with new guidance from the Education Department regarding prayer in public K-12 schools and as part of a package of proposed rules from various agencies relating to equal treatment of faith-based groups.

Daniel Mach, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, described the proposed regulations as "yet another effort by the Trump administration to encourage discrimination in the name of religion."

The proposed Education Department rule applies to a variety of grant programs administered directly by the department and indirectly through the states, but it does not apply to direct student aid programs.

Provisions of the proposed rule would:

  • “Remove requirements on faith-based organizations that receive [Education Department grants] to provide assurances or notices where similar requirements are not imposed on non-faith-based organizations.”
  • "Ensure that faith-based and non-faith-based organizations shall, on equal terms, be eligible to obtain, use, and keep grant funds."
  • Remove restrictions for certain grant programs that prohibit the use of funds "for otherwise allowable activities if they merely relate to 'religious worship' and 'theological subjects.'"

The proposed regulation would also require public institutions to comply with the First Amendment, which guarantees free speech, as a condition of receiving grant funding. Private institutions receiving funding would have to comply with their stated institutional policies on speech. The proposed rule states that the Education Department would find an institution to be out of compliance in regards to these speech-related requirements only if there is a final, nondefault state or federal court judgment to this effect.

"To the extent that this rule requires universities to follow the First Amendment and follow their already existing requirements, it should be uncontroversial," said Robert Shibley, executive director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which advocates for speech rights on campus.

Shibley said he is concerned about the potential that this proposed rule could create incentives for colleges to fight or settle speech-related cases to avoid Education Department sanctions.

"But over all, I’d say it’s a welcome effort to make sure that the government, when it is giving out taxpayer money, is ensuring that the institutions are following their rules and certainly following the Constitution, which they’re already obliged to do," he said.

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Educators in Denmark fear closure of language programs

Inside Higher Ed - ven, 01/17/2020 - 01:00

Danish academics have warned of “language death” in the country after the closure of scores of foreign language programs, blaming the trend on a lack of regard for the humanities and the perceived importance of English.

The Danish National Centre for Foreign Languages (NCFF) estimates that 32 language degree programs in Denmark have closed over the past five years.

Mette Skovgaard Andersen, director of the NCFF’s unit at the University of Copenhagen, said she was “not certain that we have seen the last programs to close.”

Denmark “used to be a highly competent country with regard to foreign languages,” she continued, but for many years there has been “a discourse about ‘useless humanities’ and, at the same time, a very explicit national focus on the STEM competences.”

In addition, Danish politicians have been “very focused on promoting English,” which has led to a misconception among young people that other foreign languages were unimportant, Andersen said.

The decline of foreign language study in Denmark is part of a broader European trend. A report published this month by the U.K.’s Higher Education Policy Institute called for universities to consider offering credit-bearing language modules to all students to tackle the decline of languages in the sector.

Hanne Tange, associate professor in English and global studies at Aalborg University, which announced the closure of three language programs in November, said that “with a few exceptions, modern languages except English have disappeared from all universities except Aarhus and Copenhagen. We speak now of ‘language death’ in Denmark.”

She added that the number of students enrolled in the English and business international communication program at Aalborg dropped from 171 in 2014 to 53 in 2018, after the Danish government introduced a policy capping the number of study places available in each discipline based on labor market need.

Two smaller programs in German and Spanish international communication had previously been “cushioned by the big English program,” but the drop in enrollment in English “meant that it became difficult to provide this kind of support,” she said.

Anne Holmen, director of the Center for Internationalization and Parallel Language Use at the University of Copenhagen, said “a general trend of bashing humanities” because of their perceived low social impact was a factor for the decline of languages, as was a 15-year-old reform of upper secondary school education, which has left “very little room in students’ schedules for second and third foreign languages.”

“Finally, there is a very strong ideology in Denmark that English is enough [for a person] to be a global player,” Holmen added.

Roskilde University is among the institutions that no longer offer any language programs following a gradual closure of courses over the past 10 years because of declining enrollments.

But Rector Hanne Leth Andersen, who chaired a working group on national language strategies under the Ministry of Education in 2016, said all humanities and social sciences students were given the option of integrating the use of French, German or Spanish in their degree program.

“We need to establish a broader approach to languages and language studies. We need language teachers, we need experts on languages and we need to tell students how important it is for them to study languages. And then we need others who get a good competence in English and another foreign language integrated into their discipline,” she said.

“We have some students who choose to come to Roskilde because they know that they can use languages without studying languages.”

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Colleges start new academic programs

Inside Higher Ed - ven, 01/17/2020 - 01:00
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Chronicle of Higher Education: A Brown U. Professor Took On Big Pharma. His University Pulled Him From the Classroom.

The case highlights the conflicts for colleges that employ researchers who study — and engage in advocacy against — powerful corporations.

Come Together: Australia’s regional study consortia

The PIE News - jeu, 01/16/2020 - 12:37

Australia is a vast country – geographically speaking, at least. Whereas in the United Kingdom, a person could feasibly drive from tip to tail within a day or so, travelling the same distance in Australia would often see them remain in the same state.

Given the immense space, it’s little wonder study consortia have taken hold. Each of the eight states and territories has a cluster working to promote their region under one banner, and increasingly, smaller cities are joining larger metropolises in forming their own as well.

“You really have to work together to get your message out”

What could have resulted in hostile competition between regions has instead become a collegial approach under a burgeoning national brand. Clusters are aware of each other’s activities but are more focused on working together to grow the size of Australia’s international education pie, over increasing their slice.

Meanwhile, at a political level, as national policy focuses change, the role of each consortium is changing with it, and their role for providers, the local community, international students and Australia’s national interests is growing.

Let’s form a consortium

“It’s such a huge industry now and such a huge field in international education, that you really have to work together to get your message out,” explains director of Study Canberra Oliver Harrap on why consortia are so prominent in Australia.

“Otherwise, it’s quite easy to get lost in all the noise. That’s the way that we’re all leveraging these consortiums to get the best impact.”

There is a long history of study clusters in Australia, dating back at least two decades.

By region, the involvement of local and state government varies, with some, such as Study New South Wales and Study Tasmania, contained within state government. Others, like StudyPerth, which looks after Western Australia, receive state government funding as well as member contributions.

Regardless of how they came into being, a consortium’s goals generally fall under brand management, attracting international students, building the student experience, employability and connecting with industry.

“One of our biggest challenges here in Adelaide is awareness”

Where the differences between consortiums become apparent, however, is in addressing the challenges of a particular region.

“One of our biggest challenges here in Adelaide is awareness. We don’t enjoy the same natural awareness of other cities in Australia that have a bigger profile,” says StudyAdelaide chief executive Karryn Kent.

“But then, we don’t have some of the other challenges that perhaps some of the larger cities have. For example, the cost of living in the larger cities in Australia often gets referenced.”

Study NSW

Meanwhile, in New South Wales, where capital Sydney has such a high level of student awareness that it’s often confused for Australia’s capital, activities are more focused on the student experience.

“We know a lot of people want to come here, but it’s about trying to match the experience with the brochure,” says Peter Mackey, director of trade, international education and small business operations at the NSW Department of Industry.

“There’s no point getting people to come to a place if they’re leaving dissatisfied or they’re feeling that they’ve been ripped off and no one’s doing anything about it.”

As well as being a big country, Australia is by no means homogenous, and a one-size-fits-all approach would be next to impossible to implement.

“We can tailor our strategies aligned to [our] opportunities and challenges,” Kent concludes.

Hands on the wheel

A consortium’s involvement in creating strategies to meet a region’s opportunities and challenges is dependent on whether it’s embedded within government.

Study Queensland, for example, played a substantial role in the development and ongoing implementation of the state’s 2016-2026 international education strategy. StudyPerth, meanwhile, uses Western Australia’s 2018-2025 strategy as the launching point for its action plan.

Regardless of their position relative to government, however, each consortium plays some role in guiding the policy focus of their region.

Matagarup Bridge, Perth

“We make our views very clear about policy settings which we think are damaging the prospects of Western Australia, and we do see it as our role to advise government and other stakeholders,” says StudyPerth executive director Phil Payne.

As an entity outside of government, however, Payne adds he does feel there is a difference in the weight of his organisation’s voice in state policy compared with those in other states which are part of government.

At a national level, Australia’s consortia are also playing a role, looking to address common problems as well as providing and receiving guidance from the federal government.

“We participate in a number of federal working groups,” Study Canberra’s Harrap says.

“We participate in the Department of Education and Training’s Commonwealth, States and Territories International Education Forum and Austrade also has an international education marketing forum.”

“We know a lot of people want to come here, but it’s about trying to match the experience with the brochure”

But it’s not only government that consortia seek to guide. Study Tasmania global education marketing officer Harpreet Gill says relationship building and market intelligence are key elements.

“We work as a conduit between the education providers and industry,” she says.

“Not only just to attract international students, but make sure when they’re here they’re supported, and then once they graduate, we facilitate programs to make sure they’re more employable.”

Furthermore, Gill adds that research and market intelligence are powerful tools for providers to ensure they’re offering programs that meet international students’ demands as well as the needs of a region.

“It is an ongoing consultation process where we feed [institutions] with data that we have, and they then look at how they can develop that into their courses,” she says.

Go West (and a bit further south)

Australia’s study consortia are beginning to shift and expand outside of their specific region, playing a larger role in the implementation of national strategies, too. The most prominent example of this is the Australian government’s refocus towards encouraging overseas students to choose a regional location instead of popular study metropolises.

Citing congestion in eastern mainland Sydney, Melbourne and south-east Queensland – which includes its capital, Brisbane, and tourism hotspot, the Gold Coast – prime minister Scott Morrison signalled in September 2018 a need to better spread out Australia’s international student cohort.

After a rocky start, the federal government opted for regional incentives over deterrents in March 2019’s Planning for Australia’s Future Population document.

Taking a broad view of population growth, the document includes a new set of scholarships for regional study and an additional year of post-study work rights for those who study and remain in regional areas.

“We don’t have some of the other challenges that perhaps some of the larger cities have”

“We are classified as regional for migration purposes, and the federal government is pushing regional study destinations,” explains Gill.

“All of the policies indicate a regional push, so we are more beneficial that way.”

The resulting strategy, released in late 2019, upped the incentives for remote areas to two additional years of post-study work rights, with one additional year for regional.

But it was the work of both StudyPerth and Study Gold Coast, that shone through after their campaigning helped reclassify both cities as regional after previously been mooted as metropolitan.

“It’s a game-changer; its news we’ve been waiting [to hear] for two years,” says Perth’s Payne.

“It puts us on a level playing field with other cities within Australia and creates another reason for international students to use Western Australia to live, study and further their careers.”

Stepping into tomorrow

In the long-term, it seems Australia’s study consortia are here to stay. While all acknowledge that their role will evolve due to market forces, their importance in acting as a representative between government, providers, international students, businesses and the local community is deeply embedded.

To achieve their goals, however, that friendly competition needs to remain in place, says StudyPerth’s Payne.

“The opportunities for Australian international education are still fairly significant”

“I think the opportunities for all of us to grow the pie and to actually work as Team Australia dwarf the opportunities that may present themselves as individuals to compete with each other,” he notes.

“The opportunities for Australian international education are still fairly significant. Notwithstanding the record-breaking growth we’ve had, I still think we could be better and bigger; probably in that order.”

This is an abridged version of an article that originally appeared in The PIE Review, our quarterly print publication.

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