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PETRONAS TWIN TOWER NATIONAL FLAG

Inside Educity Iskandr: a multi-national university partnership in Malaysia. Photograph: Andy Wong/AP

Transnational education is booming and the forms in which it is delivered are proliferating all the time. Ever increasing numbers of UK universities are setting up franchising arrangements, 2+1 models, or even full-blown overseas campuses.

The 350-acre campus at Educity Iskandar will be shared by no fewer than eight international universities, including three from the UK.NewcastleSouthampton and Reading universities will take their place alongside the Netherlands Maritime Institute of Technology and the Singaporean private university Raffles. Australia’s Monash and a Californian cinematic art school associated with Pinewood Studios are in talks with Iskandar’s management, leaving just one spot left for another, as yet unknown, international institution.

Students from all of the universities will live together in one giant international student village and will share sports and leisure facilities far beyond those any single university could afford, including a 14,000-seater stadium and an Olympic-length swimming pool.

In the 1990s Malaysia singled out higher education as one of its strategic investments. Historically Malaysia has sent its students abroad for their education, now it is preparing to reverse that position, it wants to become the hub of its region drawing thousands students from across south-east Asia to its universities in huge numbers. Attracting foreign universities to set up overseas campuses is part of the that plan.

The Iskandar special economic region in Johor lies at the southern-most tip of Malaysia, just 5km from the border with Singapore. For Reg Jordan, CEO and provost of Newcastle’s Medical School in Malaysia both of these things – the location and the financial incentives associated with the special economic region – were major factors.

Newcastle University got the call in 2004. It was invited to bring medicine and biomedical sciences to the project. Jordan said it represented a “golden opportunity” for Newcastle to develop its internationalisation strategy.

“Like many civic universities in the UK we have little flags all over the world which have normally grown up through research collaborations and all the rest of it. But our vice-chancellor felt it was time to pick a few strategic areas and plant one or two large flags. The international campus here – a fully owned branch of Newcastle University – is a golden opportunity to do that in south-east Asia, and brings us to the new markets. The World Bank will tell you that there’s going to be an increasingly exponential demand for higher education but it’s largely going to come from Asia and south-east Asia,” Jordan said.

Newcastle has existing partnerships with higher education providers in the centre of Singapore, which is just 35 minutes away from the new campus in Iskandar, so the chance to build on these was not to be missed, Jordan explained. “The growth triangle of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia is a very big market. We already had a presence here so when the operation came to put our own full international branch campus, our building, our staff, right next door to where we have other interests that became a quite interesting proposition.”

Planting a large operation in the centre of south-east Asia will also help Newcastle maximise the value of its intellectual property. “For the university at large it also gives us a base through which the value added business can be added through the research endeavours back in the UK,” Jordan said.

Jordan also sees the occupants of his south-east Asian outpost as playing “ambassadorial roles” for the north-east of England. “A colleague of mine said that one of the best things that Newcastle University could do for the north east of England is to be globally linked. We have a lot of ambassadorial roles, in a sense.”

Southampton, which will open the doors of its new engineering faculty in Malaysia in October this year, is similarly excited by the location. Professor Mark Spearing, pro vice-chancellor, international, said the location was a “very natural fit for us” given the number of important engineering companies which operate in the region. “Malaysia is the hub of hi-tech industry … Dyson, Rolls Royce, Lloyds Register and BAE Systems are all interested in working with us and employing our students.”

Of the host country’s motives he said: “Malaysia recognises that it is a small country in a region of giants so it wants to move into higher value added activities, not manufacturing but design and engineering, and it needs a very strong education system to do this.”

But what of the practicalities?

Rob Robson is CEO and provost of the University of Reading in Malaysia, which is currently offering english language and business courses in temporary accomodation in Johor Bahru. When the full campus opens in 2015, it will be delivering, chemistry, finance, real estate, pharmacy, law and construction.

He says that all of the partner universities must do well for the project to thrive. “If one institution does badly, and gets a poor reputation, that will be harmful for all of us.”

The management of a large-scale project where organisations’ fortunes are interrelated is “a layer above what we do in a regular university.”

“We all have our own brands out here but what more can we do to be greater than the sum of our parts … working together is going to be terribly important.”

For Spearing, the key to smoothing the process of opening the school was “getting our people on the ground quickly”, rather than trying to arrange things remotely, and “having a lot of native language speakers involved. We had a target of 50% locally employed academics and that was not difficult at all.” All of Southampton’s administrative staff in Malaysia are local, although they are supported and guided through the processes by UK staff at the moment, he said.

“Procurement and purchasing all went smoothly because our staff speak the language,” he said.

But what about student discipline? Or student health and welfare in the student village?

Robson foresees that problems on site “will need to be solved by committee”, He says initial talks have taken place about setting up some kind of “parliament type system, or council to settle disputes”.

This council will also “act as a pressure group on commercial aspects,” since the international student village and leisure facilities will be operated by private companies.

There are a myriad of other practical issues to be dealt with – such as getting the balance of staff. The Malaysia government has warned overseas universities against poaching too many academic staff from indigenous universities so the Iskandar project will recruit globally. Robson said “obviously we’re very keen to use Reading’s UK staff to begin with but we will want to switch to local staff on lower wages when possible.”

At the moment, because it was first to open, Newcastle is operating its medicine faculty like a university in miniature, paying for everything – IT, library, student welfare – itself. So all three of the UK universities are looking forward to merging what they can of these services to share costs in the future. Spearing said “one of the huge attractions of EduCity is the opportunity to share resources and spread risk.” This frees the universities up “to concentrate on academic delivery”.

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A lot of students and their families are justifiably concerned about the cost and quality of education in the United States.

A hundred US colleges now have a cost of attendance (COA) exceeding $50,000; two years ago, only five did. Worse still, the price tag continues to escalate at around 4% per year.

 Add to this state of affairs the revelations contained in the book, “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses,” which asserts:  that 36% of students “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” after four years of college.

You have every reason in the world to look elsewhere for alternative educational opportunities. The world, however, might very well be on your doorstep in the form of our Canadian neighbors to the north. Canadian universities have a high standard of educational rigor, their COA (depending on province) is usually much lower, and most award degrees in three years, not the six years it seems to take students at many US schools nowadays.

 Most Canadian universities have big, safe, and in many instances, beautiful campuses

Be aware that Canadian universities are different from their US counterparts. In the US, the federal government has various programs such as FAFSA and Title IX that ensure some consistency within the university system. The Canadian universities, on the other hand, are funded and regulated by their provinces or territories. Consequently, there isn’t a lot of uniformity among Canadian universities. If you apply to the University of Toronto in Ontario, and McGill, in Quebec, you will use different applications, and confront different admission’s requirements (though most of the schools do take SAT I, SAT II, ACT, and FAFSA forms) and have varying costs depending on your intended major.

Another minor note, educational terms and degrees are different in Canada than in the US. In Canada: “college” means a two-year school, while “university” refers to the four-year schools. Additionally, many Canadian universities award a bachelor’s degree after completing three years of university. A student then needs another year to gain an honors degree, which is essential for getting into graduate school.

There are 90 universities to choose among in Canada. Some are the most competitive and eminent in the world. McGill University in Montreal is ranked regularly among the top 20 universities in the world. University of Toronto, with a number of Nobel Prize winners among its faculty, has many elite departments.

Additionally, professional studies in medicine, dentistry, and engineering, for example, start at the undergraduate level and lead to graduate school. Coursework is challenging and expectations are high.

The cost of university education, though certainly below that of comparable US universities, depends on where you choose to attend. It also depends upon what it is you’re majoring in. At the University of British Columbia, which is ranked 36th (ARWU) in the world, for international students, the annual tuition is around $23,000 (again, it depends on major—and international students are not allowed to study dentistry or medicine). At McGill, the annual tuition for international students in a standard BA program is just more than $17,000 annually. Tuition, however, will vary by major, and fees will vary by meal plan, or even by dormitory selected. Be aware that the provincial government has announced that tuition rates will be rising annually by 7-11% for, at least, the next seven years. Still, even with these expected escalations, the costs are still well under comparable American universities.

Another concern. If a large campus intimidates you, Canadian schools are enormous. University of British Columbia has 20,000 undergraduates (about the size of Boston University); the University of Toronto, with its three campuses, enrolls just under 50,000 undergraduates.

by Ralph Becker, a resident of Long Beach, has been counseling students for seven years. A former Yale Alumni interviewer, he holds a certificate in college counseling from UCLA Extension, and has published SAT* Vocab 800 Books A, B, C, & D.

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Education Go Abroad would like to congratulate all the 68 candidates that have enjoyed our promotion that would end on 10th, this weekend.

We are glad the you have trusted in our service to help your Education Abroad’s dream realized.

As for the 68 candidates, we would like to gently remind you that the application process takes between 8 to10 weeks.We will surely notify you as soon as your application approval issued out from the Ministry of Education in Romania.

Please note that all successful applicant must report to their respective universities on 20 of September 2012 and register at the University latest on by 01 October 2012. A departure briefing will be organize at different country start from 13th September 2012.

Please check your email frequently for latest update.

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Promotion start from 7th May till 4th June 2012.

Valid for application to study at Canada ONLY.

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