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~生まれた町で夢見てきた...~
"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
International Students, Institutional Prestige? 
2nd-Sep-2010 07:32 am
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I'm a cash cow. Didn't you know that? In the United States where full funding is the norm, PhD students are an expense. If they're UK/EU citizens studying in the UK, where full funding is rare, they are an expense there as well; even at full sticker price, they are not paying anywhere near the full cost of their education. But international PhD students are a different story entirely. For example, as an overseas student in the University of Cambridge, my fee liability is roughly three times that of a domestic student. This makes me, questions of "merit" and "research fit" aside, roughly three times more exploitable desirable than a domestic student from the perspective of my cash-poor department and university.

"But Casey," you ask, "didn't you say that you're fully funded?" Yes, I am. However, I am funded by my college, not my department or university, and due to an Oxbridge quirk, Trinity College's money is not the same as the University of Cambridge's money. From a departmental and university perspective, I might as well be self-funded, so as long as the money keeps rolling in, everything else pales by comparison. As a consequence, there is far less investment in my long-term professional development and much more interest in just making sure I do not become a liability by not graduating on time.

Therefore, I was not impressed by the new THE World Rankings, which will be ranking universities, at least in small part, upon the internationalization of their student body. Using international students as cash cows is a burgeoning problem at public universities in the US, but due to public divestment of higher education in the UK the chickens have already come home to roost. The way international students are treated in UK universities can be appalling, and the low standards bring everybody down, staff and students, citizens and non-citizens alike. How is it possible that anyone in the UK--let alone a UK-based higher education periodical!--believes that this particular metric points to anything other than an institution's skill at taking advantage of rich families in foreign countries?

It sounds cliché, but it's true: International students are people too and should not be treated like your personal money tree. In an ideal world internationalization would be a sign of merit, for it shows global commitment to human betterment. But as things stand now, no, you ain't foolin' anyone.
Comments 
2nd-Sep-2010 02:07 pm (UTC)
Wow, I had no idea about any of that. Makes me wonder if something like this system is affecting standards in unis over here or in Japan. How did you find those data? I kind of want to poke around now, but I've never seen anything like that PDF floating around in my uni.
2nd-Sep-2010 02:24 pm (UTC)
Umm... ^^;;; You make it sound like this is some kind of secret conspiracy. One could only wish--the truth of the matter is that they are blatantly open about it. Everyone is always talking about how UK universities depend on international students to balance their budgets.

The link to the .pdf was freely available on the Cambridge graduate admissions website. Applicants need to know how much they're going to be paying, right?

2nd-Sep-2010 02:47 pm (UTC)
Everything I don't know about is a conspiracy! Nah, I didn't mean to make it sound like that, I was just rather amazed because it had never occurred to me to think about such differences in cost before. Maybe because Belgium isn't as flooded with international students as the UK or the US.
2nd-Sep-2010 02:56 pm (UTC)
Everything I don't know about is a conspiracy!

*dies laughing* Love it! That sort of attitude will get you far in life! XD XD XD

Maybe because Belgium isn't as flooded with international students as the UK or the US.

Wonder if they're working to change that? I occasionally hear rumblings about trying to attract more international students in Scandinavia and Germany.
2nd-Sep-2010 06:40 pm (UTC)
You think I could get a TV show making conspiracies out of everything I don't understand? Belgium isn't making much noise about attracting foreign students, but there's a lot going about international student exchange on a European level. I don't know how much you've heard about this already, but there's the not extremely riveting higher education harmonisation drive called the Bologna Process (I'm a fan of the EU but they are so, so bad at making things sound interesting), and the much cooler Erasmus Project, which focuses on student exchange within the EU and is quite popular (students can complete one year of study at a foreign university).

A movie got made a couple of years ago about a group of Erasmus students in Spain, called "L'Auberge Espagnole". I don't remember how much they actually talked about the European education system, but I recommend it anyway, it was a great deal of fun.
2nd-Sep-2010 06:50 pm (UTC)
I've heard about the Bologna Process; the UK is in on it, of course, though I must say that my impression, at times, is that participation is half-hearted. US universities, for the most part, think it makes for entertaining spectator sport. *sighs* Haven't heard of the Erasmus Project, though, probably because it appears to be only for undergraduates.

You think I could get a TV show making conspiracies out of everything I don't understand?

Could be the basis of a great satirical cartoon, at least. XD XD

2nd-Sep-2010 07:33 pm (UTC)
Bologna seems well-intended but is too complicated for most of the advantages to be immediately obvious (as is the case with Erasmus), and I suspect a lot of the lackluster reception comes from the fact that Bologna creates a significant additional administrative load for pretty much every staff member on every level of any university. Nobody wants more paperwork.

The most entertaining thing I've seen out of it so far was a big Bologna meeting that took place right next to our building last year. The whole city got locked down and there were helicopters passing by the (seventh floor) window. They weren't black helicopters, but I'm sure we can make Bologna into a conspiracy somehow. Harmonizing EU education to create an army of EU drones who will... dunno. Stand around while the EU countries bicker about a purpose for them.
2nd-Sep-2010 08:20 pm (UTC)
Harmonizing EU education to create an army of EU drones who will... dunno. Stand around while the EU countries bicker about a purpose for them.

No, no, no...stand around and bicker about whether or not the EU should have been created in the first place! XD

But, yeah, seriously. Even the official documentation on Bologna is reams and reams of tedious legalese. At one point I think I was reading the UK's official response about how to operationalize Bologna or something...and OMG was it a miserable read.
2nd-Sep-2010 09:37 pm (UTC)
No, no, no...stand around and bicker about whether or not the EU should have been created in the first place! XD

Gah no, don't teach the drones that! RL Europeans who go on and on about how much better off they'd have been if the EU had never been created annoy the hell out of me. Looking at European history, it seems we deal with our political disagreements either by creating slightly disfunctional but benevolent mega-bureaucracies or by gathering up a few million nineteen-year-olds and letting them shoot each other. I'll take the bureaucracy over twenty different wars per century any time, and in my experience, most anti-EU nationalists know zilch about the history, purpose or actual functioning of the EU. *rant in the making, abort abort*

But yes. The documents and pretty much any EU PR are unfortunate indeed. The national media really don't help, though -EU coverage is nonexistent in most countries, it's little wonder most people are ignorant about it. The UK media seem to have actual EU bashing, which is unhelpful in a different way.
3rd-Sep-2010 04:06 am (UTC)
most anti-EU nationalists know zilch about the history, purpose or actual functioning of the EU

Funny thing about that. A lot of the American ultra-right is the same way; doesn't understand the government it's criticizing.

The UK media seem to have actual EU bashing, which is unhelpful in a different way.

Yeah, well, I think there is a significant portion of the British population that believes the UK is not in Europe. I sometimes get the impression that English people feel more comfortable around Americans than they do around Europeans. (And prejudice/discrimination against Eastern Europeans is a whole 'nother can of worms...)
3rd-Sep-2010 10:09 am (UTC)
Yeah, well, I think there is a significant portion of the British population that believes the UK is not in Europe. I sometimes get the impression that English people feel more comfortable around Americans than they do around Europeans. (And prejudice/discrimination against Eastern Europeans is a whole 'nother can of worms...)

A lot of EU countries have groups that seem afraid the EU is going to destroy their national culture somehow, and the UK seems to have a particularly bad case of that paranoia. Discrimination of Eastern Europeans is bad on the continent as well. Lots of rhetoric about "they" swarming to Western Europe to take "our" jobs, etc. It really hasn't sunk in among a lot of Western Europeans that most of the other half is actually not poor in any sense of the word. Not that it matters much how much financial support goes to Eastern Europe in reality. People are always afraid that someone else getting more (EU money/attention/solidarity) means that they will get less. I suspect some of the anti-government sentiment from the US far-right is born from the same idea -people not wanting to be "forced" to take others into account because they're not clear on how solidarity functions in practice.
3rd-Sep-2010 06:39 pm (UTC)
Lots of rhetoric about "they" swarming to Western Europe to take "our" jobs, etc.

That drives me nuts, and I would swear the rhetoric's worse in the UK than it is even in the US. I don't think it's just that people don't understand how solidarity works, they also don't get that immigrants don't just "take jobs"--they also consume goods and services...which *drumrolls* creates more jobs! *shakes head ruefully*
2nd-Sep-2010 03:28 pm (UTC)
The blame lies with the way UK gov't funding (or, more to the point, lack of it) works, so universities are forced to raise money any way they can. This is only going to get worse given swingeing cuts about to hit all areas of public funding including higher education.
2nd-Sep-2010 03:35 pm (UTC)
*nod nod* Oh, I know all too well why they do it; what I don't like is the way it's being painted as a virtue.

(P.S. If you're an alum of a university, expect to start getting American-style begathon phone calls asking for charitable donations. I hear that's next. :P )
3rd-Sep-2010 12:56 am (UTC)
In the United States where full funding is the norm, PhD students are an expense.

Random point: American state universities sometimes look at out of state students this way. It became a bit of an issue in Illinois because admissions officers appeared to be favoring out of state students as they paid more to attend.

I don't know if Australia is as bad as the UK. The difference between my fees and an Australian student is $3,000 a year for a Masters. The fees are about $1,000 a year cheaper for international students than for domestic students for the PhD. (I don't get that last bit. Wait. I do. They charge the same for the Masters and Doctorate for domestic students but not for international students.)

They recruit a bit heavily overseas and I know there is a fair amount of angst and annoyance amongst some people. They feel it devalues the quality of education in some instances. The big concern about that though is really for the undergraduate, rather than the graduate student.
3rd-Sep-2010 04:10 am (UTC)
American state universities sometimes look at out of state students this way.

*points to paragraph #3* I know.

Actually, international students are Big Business in Australia as well. On top of that, the country has a really interesting set of problems all its own:
http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=413130&c=1
5th-Sep-2010 07:23 pm (UTC)
This isn't just bad if you're a foreign student having to pay through the nose to get to University here. To get even a slim little chance to get to Cambridge or Oxford as a UK citizen, you will need straight A* and A grades at GCSE and A-level respectively, so to have never got anything below the highest grades from age 16-18, and even then, it's a lottery. If you perform well in an interview and happen to be a national-level sportsperson it may help, but for most, it's a literal lottery.
Now it emerges with this news that not only do you need insane grades just to have your name put into a hat and perhaps drawn out if you're lucky, but that they will actually give preference to foreign students because they can milk more money out of them!
So really, whatever kind of student you are, you're getting screwed over. It's infuriating!
5th-Sep-2010 10:03 pm (UTC)
Actually, the UK government fines universities for enrolling more UK undergraduates than their "allotment" because the gov't is subsidizing their education--but the university still loses something like 4 grand on every student. Because the university is hurting for money, they're squeezing foreign undergraduates and especially postgraduates--whose enrollment numbers are not limited by the gov't. So if you prefer, think of it this way: Foreign students at the undergraduate level aren't getting preference over domestic students; they're paying for their UK citizen classmates too.
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