Trends, insights and research to inform growth and innovation strategies in international higher education.

February 25, 2012

AIEA Conference 2012

More than 800 professionals attended 2012 AIEA annual conference in Washington, DC. AIEA primarily serves senior international officers (SIOs) who are mostly at the level of dean, director or provost.

I presented two sessions at AIEA--
1) Institutional collaborations with India: What works, what doesn’t? with
Dr. Nicole Ranganath, University of California
Dr. Bhushan Patwardhan, Symbiosis International University
Dr. Molly Maguire Teas, Department of State

2) Current Research in International Education with AIEA Editorial Board members (I serve on the Editorial Board):
Dr. Harvey Charles, Northern Arizona University
Dr. Elizabeth Brewer, Beloit College
Dr. Alice Gail Bier, Brooklyn College

I also attended an interesting session "The Agent Debate: Where the Discussion Over Using International Recruiters Stands, and Where It’s Going" moderated by Karin Fischer of the Chronicle of Higher Education. Other co-presenters were:
Dr. Fanta Aw, American University
Dr. Norm Peterson, Montana State University
Mr. David Hawkins, National Association for College Admission (NACAC)
Mr. Ron Cushing, University of Cincinnati

The session had an experienced and balanced perspective on the topic with arguments presented from both sides. Fanta Aw said that US institutions are getting more students, but we are ignoring how these students are qualitatively different? David highlighted the importance of "process" of understanding this issue through a commission which will make its recommendations towards the end of 2013.

Norm Peterson presented his argument in support of engaging agents and using AIRC as a proxy to certify and identify good agents. He said that use of agents is not very different from use of professionals like investment advisers or dentists. He urged that train has already left the station and we can not ignore agents anymore. Ron Cushing shared University of Cincinnati's successful experiences of using agents in last few years.

I made a comment at the session and called for taking an approach of enforceable code of practice while working with agents. I clarified that I am not making any ethical argument or questioning the applicability of Title-IV for international student recruitment, instead, I am arguing for establishing "enforceable code of practice." With commission-based agency model, institutions may be assuming an unmeasurable risk without having appropriate measure of managing that risk. The biggest risk of misrepresentation and frauds stems from inherent conflict of interests due to commission-based incentive mechanism--no admission, no commission. I countered, Peterson's analogy of dentists, by stating that dentists (professionals) pass a rigorous process of entry into the profession and they can be barred from profession for malpractice. However, in the case of international agents, there are no barriers to entry and no powers to monitor or enforce good practices. I concluded by saying "I agree with Norm that train has left the station, unfortunately, driver has given the driving rights to any passenger."

More on this topic will be discussed at the NACAC Commission on International Student Recruitment  meeting on March 5th. I will be attending the meeting.

Another interesting session was on Brazil's Science without Borders scholarship program which will fund 100,000 students for one-year non-degree study abroad program in STEM fields. I was quite impressed with the program at at least four levels:
1) Commitment from corporate for funding nearly 25,000 fellowships
2) Focused effort on improving research in science related fields (unlike Saudi scholarships)
3) High degree of coordination between various stakeholders

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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February 11, 2012

Are Student Recruitment Agents Creating More Dickinson Universities?

Dickinson State University is now the poster child of how some unscrupulous agents can bring down a University and threaten the reputation of a country's reputation. DSU awarded nearly 400 degrees to unqualified Chinese students as the University was found to be "seriously lacking controls and oversight", mostly due to use to agents which in turn led to misrepresentations and use of unofficial transcripts.

According to an internal review report by North Dakota University System a major issue was lack of requirement of using official academic documents. Students in collusion with agents were submitting their own versions of transcripts. The report notes "Transcripts are a basic excel spreadsheet where the student can enter any class or grade they desire. Some students have submitted transcripts from two different universities as either they just used the template and forgot to change the name or they simply copied another student’s transcript. These transcripts also have the official stamp from the university which can easily be a “cut and paste” which has been proven by a DSU professor. Additionally, these university stamps are sold in the markets in China and on the internet, thus anyone can buy one. DSU accepts these as official." (p.20)

Apart from issue of official transcripts, agents were misrepresenting and overpromising to students themselves. "From 2008 onward there is a noticeably rapid decline in the level of documentation in the student’s files....Through interviews with current Chinese students, the recruiters told them and several other students, they work for DSU and not a recruiting agency....The recruiters promised the potential students they will get their DSU degree before they finish their required classes at their home university" (p.14). The report asserts that agents in China were not performing according to their contracts. "They [Agents] admittedly are driven by quantity of student and not quality as was communicated in an email from one of the agents in China." (p.19)
 Recommended solutions in the report:
  • "Terminate all agreements with the agents. Use DSU recruiters to do your recruiting at the approved partner schools." (p. 19) 
  •  "Require all international students to send official, sealed transcripts directly from their institution to World Education Services (WES) for authentication and a course by course evaluation within their first term of enrollment. 
  • Require a bank statement in the form of a letter directly from the bank. 
  • Require all students from non-English speaking countries to take and pass only the TOEFL or IELTS test prior to admission." (p. 20)

In such an unfortunate situation, I hate to say "I told you so" but here are my earlier posts on the warning signs:

Agents for international student recruitment: Have we not learned anything from Australia and the UK?

The Changing Profession of Admissions: From Counselling to Selling?

International recruitment agents: Playing with fire?

Recruitment Agent Debate: Are Institutions Ready for Disclosures?


Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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February 04, 2012

Global Engineering Enrollment Trends

Science and engineering education and research has been at the core of economic development and innovation. Recent report by National Science Foundation offers comprehensive and comparative information of international science and engineering education. Here are five interesting data points from the report:

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February 01, 2012

Internationalization of public universities: Gaining momentum, overcoming challenges

State funding as a share of public universities’ budgets declined from 28 percent in 2001 to 19 percent in 2009, according to a recent NSF report. Another report noted that public funding for higher education in California was cut by $1.5 billion, or nearly 12% in 2011-12, to $9.7 billion from $11.2 billion.

Budget cuts at public institutions of higher education is not a news any more. However, the recession of 2008 accelerated the extent of cuts and created a state of urgency among many public institutions to find alternative sources of revenue.

This urgency is prompting many institutions to become more aggressive in recruiting international students. A recent article entitled Lure of Chinese Tuition Pushes Out Asian-Americans noted example of University of California, San Diego which saw 12-fold increase in Chinese freshmen in two years from 12 in 2009 to 200 in 2011.

In my recent article How does the rise of Asia influence international student mobility? published in University World News, I argue that institutions need to develop a comprehensive strategy that should involve deep understanding of countries and student decision-making processes to ensure that recruitment efforts and opportunities are maximized.

Going forward, public higher education in the US will continue to become aggressive in recruiting international students, while grappling with quality and campus diversity issues. A thoughtful and strategic approach to internationalization is required to balance quality with quantity.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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