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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