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Articles of Interest

Students Opt to Study Abroad to Wait Out Recession
2 December 2008 - Times of India

The global economic slowdown appears to be feeding the demand for a British or Australian tertiary education in at least one region of India.

According to L Dhanasekaran, Education U.K.’s head for south India, the number of visas issued from south India for students applying to study in Britain in 2008 was 11,126, which is 163 per cent higher than last year’s total of 6,846. An increase in inquiries about studying in Britain next year has Mr. Dhanasekaran estimating that the number of applicants from across India will be 20 per cent higher next year than this year.

One key likely reason, he said, is the tendency for young people to study rather than look for work at times when work is hard to find. Making the U.K. in particular more attractive is a recent rule allowing foreign students to work there for up to two years.

Australia also appears to be attracting dramatically more Indian students. The number of Indian students admitted to Australian tertiary institutions is reported to have increased by roughly 25 per cent in the first half of 2008 compared to the same period a year earlier.

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Australia Wins the Student Vote
2 December 2008 - The National, p10 -

More than a third of Emiratis studying overseas now opt for the country, with Victoria and Queensland states the most popular choices.

Six times more Emiratis are studying in Australia now than in 2002, the Australian government has revealed.

A total of 1,262 Emiratis enrolled at universities, vocational training institutions, language schools and other institutions in Australia in the first six months of this year, compared with 204 six years ago.

Officials say Australia is seen as more welcoming to Muslims than some other countries in the post-September 11 world. It does not hurt that the country is famed for its sunny climate and scenic beaches.

The figures, released by Australian Education International, cover the vast majority of this year’s enrolments since the Australian academic year begins in January.

The most popular state for Emiratis is Victoria, which attracted 41 per cent of students, followed by Queensland, which has a 38 per cent share.

Gabrielle Troon, UAE education services manager for the state government of Victoria, said "increasing awareness" of Australia was helping the numbers to grow.

"As more students go, word spreads and there are recommendations from students who have been there."

Mrs Troon said Emiratis felt "comfortable" in Australia because it was "a multicultural environment". Also, she said the fact many Emiratis visited Australia on holiday encouraged students to apply to study there.

Australia’s leading research universities were "among the top universities in the world", Mrs Troon said, and so graduates had good career prospects.

Fees are generally lower than in rival countries such as the US and the UK, although most Emiratis studying overseas travel on scholarships from the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research or major employers.

The overall numbers of Emiratis travelling abroad to study has increased significantly in recent years. In 2001, there were 273 travelling overseas on Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research scholarships, a figure that reached 742 last year. However, Australia has increased its share among these students over the same period from 16.1 per cent to 36.5 per cent. The UK’s share has dropped from 11.7 per cent to 9.8 per cent, while the American share has fallen from 46.9 per cent to 33.2 per cent.

Jane Osborn, UAE education manager for the government of South Australia, said Emiratis were returning to the Emirates with "really strong qualifications that make them very employable".

"Australians are welcoming. There’s an interest in people from abroad that may not be as much in other parts of the world," she said, adding that an International Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding had been set up at the University of South Australia in Adelaide.

Among the Emiratis to have studied in Australia is Waleed al Marzooqi, 23, who obtained a bachelor’s degree in quantity surveying at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane. He now works in the engineering contracts section at Dubai Municipality.

"It was a new experience for me, a new culture. I found Australia to be very respectful of all religions including Islam," he said. Mr Marzooqi said some Emiratis suffered from culture shock when they arrived in Australia and some even abandoned their studies.

To aid such students, he helped to create the Emirates Student Club – Australia in 2004.

"Some of them are not prepared to study in a different culture. They didn’t do pre-departure work properly so when they went they were shocked by many things."

However, he said students who completed their courses and returned to the UAE with Australian qualifications were often promoted rapidly. "If you graduate from overseas, especially from Australia, you have a better chance," he said. "We can take ideas from the West to our country and we can implement these ideas."

Essa Abdul Rahman, 25, studied telecommunications and electronic engineering at La Trobe University, Victoria, and said the environment in Australia was "really marvellous". He works in Abu Dhabi as a telecommunications engineer.

"The people were very friendly and welcoming. They like foreigners coming from outside to their country. I never had any bad experiences," he said.

However, he said it took several weeks to become accustomed to the "more open" culture in Australia. He added that there was still a lack of awareness in the UAE about the value of Australian qualifications.

"People don’t really know about the Australian background because not a lot of students have graduated," he said. "It needs three or four years to be recognised in the region." 

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What Crisis? International Education on the Up
26 November 2008 -

And Australia is in the box seat, as the middle classes in the world’s most populous countries go hunting for a quality education bargain.

That’s the finding of a snap survey conducted early this month by the UK-based research company, the International Graduate Insight Group (i-graduate), to test the waters in international education in the wake of the financial meltdown and the election of Barack Obama.

The report, ‘Uncertain Times: Currencies, Markets and the Obama Effect’, suggests global optimism about international education. Over half of the 2400 respondents – academics, agents and international students from 100 countries – believed more students around the world would be heading overseas in 2009. Just 18 per cent said the international student market would shrink.

The most optimistic responses came from big developing nations, with 89 per cent of Bangladeshis, 74 per cent of Indonesians, 72 per cent of Chinese, 67 per cent of Nigerians and about 63 per cent of Pakistanis forecasting global growth. This suggests big potential from five of the world’s 10 biggest countries – most of them on Australia’s doorstep. China is the world’s most populous nation, Indonesia is 4, Pakistan 6 and Bangladesh 7.

Respondents from two other big neighbours, India and Malaysia, were less positive about the global prospects for international education next year – but 55 per cent from India and 61 per cent from Malaysia predicted Australian enrolments would increase. Overall, Australia was one of three countries considered likely to experience international enrolment growth in 2009. And while the US and UK topped the list, Australia was regarded as the least likely to experience enrolment decline.

Most respondents cited traditional reasons for heading overseas – better education, reputable qualifications and work opportunities. But a significant number also cited financial incentives, with around a quarter suggesting the costs of living and studying would decrease.

Ironically, financial factors were also seen as the main deterrents by those who thought global enrolments would decline. I-graduate client services director Kevin Brett said the contrasting views reflected the complexity of the economic situation. “An overriding theme is the sophistication and financial literacy of the prospective student market,” he told Campus Review.

“Some would be looking at the exchange rate and saying it’s a good time to travel overseas. A smaller group are saying there is so much risk over the next couple of years that I’m not prepared to invest in education. It probably reflects the appetite for risk.”

Brett said people had to look critically at the financial aspects of international education, just like any other investment. “But you can delay a decision to invest in a new car or make significant changes to your stock portfolio,” he added.

“If your children need educating, they need educating. It’s one of those things that’s less negotiable. And if you don’t have a job for a while, provided you’ve got some funding, education is a good way to spend the downtime. It is the middle classes or upper middle classes investing in this kind of education. The demand for an international education experience in English language is still there.”

The survey also found a mood change stemming from Obama’s election. While just over half of the respondents predicted the election would make no difference to global enrolments, 43 per cent said it would have a positive impact. They included the bulk of respondents from Iran, France, Nigeria and Bangladesh, and more than half from Indonesia, the Philippines, Germany and Sri Lanka.

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Australia, Britain and Denmark Top Tables
22 November 2008 - (South China Morning Post)

Britain, Australia and Demark have the most effective higher education systems in the world, a global ranking of how tertiary education contributes to a country's economic and social progress and international competitiveness, has found.

In its survey of higher education in 17 advanced countries, the Lisbon Council, a Brussels based think tank found "the strongest systems are those which not only do the best job of educating the broadest number of their own citizens for the economic and social challenges we will face, but that themselves become magnets for the world's talent."

Britain, Australia and Denmark scored highest, followed by Finland, the US and Sweden.

Germany, Austria and Spain performed worst of the 17 countries. Although Germany is attractive for foreign students (ranking third on that scale) it only provides higher education for a small number of people, pushing it to near bottom of the overall scale.

A number of organisations are attempting to draw up university ranking criteria which better reflect the way universities "add value" to a country's economy.

Most university rankings look at the way individual institutions produce excellence, however, the authors of the Lisbon Council study said "counting the umber of Nobel Prize winners may say something about a country's ability to produce excellent research, but it says little about the overall education of its population." It was not enough to believe "that individual pockets of excellence will somehow make up for overall mediocrity underneath", they said.

The study compared the inclusiveness of the higher education system, or the proportion of the population who are graduates; access, which looks at how elitist universities are; effectiveness in terms of producing graduates with skills relevant for the country's labour market, as shown by the wage-premium enjoyed by graduates; the ability to attract overseas students from a range of countries, not just neighbouring countries; the age spread of students and the ability of the system to offer lifelong learning; and the ability of the system to reform and change, to assess how effective universities are in contributing socially and economically to a country.

"Put simply the best university systems are the ones that offer the most chances to the largest number of people," the authors said.

The Lisbon Council, which contributes significantly to EU policy in this area, felt higher education in Europe was "too elitist and exclusive".

Tertiary education systems "do not offer enough educational opportunity to enough people throughout their lifetime," said Dr Peer Ederer, principal author of the study.

The study also found the best systems produced graduates who succeeded in the labour market. The highest salary premium for graduates is found in the US, Portugal and France.

Peer Ederer, Phillipp Schuller and Stephan Willms:  University Systems Ranking:  Citizens and Society in the Age of Knowledge (Lisbon Council Policy Brief, Brussels, 2008) available on