Reflections on Arab Students Enrollments in the US

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International Students Sources of Funding Open Doors 2015By Haidar M. Harmanani | Professor of Computer Science, Lebanese American University, Byblos, Lebanon

974,926 international students studied at US colleges and universities according to the annual Open Doors figures conducted by the Institute of International Education (IIE).  The figures include 89,599 Arab students, an increase of 12% over the previous year.

The Association of International Educators (NAFSA) also presented the latest growth numbers: 373,381 jobs and 30.5 billion dollars resulted to the US economy from the presence of international students.

Saudi Arabia came in the fourth place of origin for international students studying in the United States, and is by a wide margin the first among Arab and Middle Eastern countries with 59,945 students.

Saudi Arabia was followed by Kuwait who claimed the sixteenth overall place with 9,034 students.  All other Arab countries had 20,620 students studying in the US in 2015.

What do these figures tell?

First, 30% of the Arab students are studying in the US at the graduate level, surpassing 20%, the target set by the Bologna Ministers of Education.  Furthermore, 48% of the Arab students were at the undergraduate level in addition to 20% who enrolled in non-degree activities and 4% enrolled in professional training.

Second, Arab students contributed $25.5 billion to the US economy in 2015.  Saudi Arabia’s share alone was $1.7 billion.

Third, Saudi Arabia saw a double-digit growth for the 8th year in a row, but most of the Saudi students are funded with government scholarships such as as the King Abdullah Scholarship Program (KASP).  The trend may not continue, however, as the new Saudi government is placing restrictions and conditions that will limit future access to scholarships.  For example, KASP is now only supporting students who would be pursuing their education at the world's 200 best universities.

Fourth, the majority of Arab students in the US are enrolled in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields.  For example, 44.9% of the Kuwaiti students and 23.9% of the Saudi students are enrolled in US engineering programs.

Fifth, the study reveals that 304,467 US students studied abroad in 2015 for academic credits. While 53.3% of these students went to Europe, only 1.13% opted to study abroad in the Arab region.  Morocco and Jordan led the Arab countries with 1,255 and 1,085 students, respectively.  The United Arab Emirates came in third with 735 US students.  Within this category, one can not but notice how Egypt's turmoil has affected its study abroad programs which have declined by 92%.

Finally, although the security realities in Syria would imply an increase in the number of Syrian students studying in the US, there were only 800 Syrians in 2015 studying in the US.

Table 1: Arab Students Studying in the US

Table 2: US Students Studying in the Arab Region

Table 3: Academic Levels of Arab Students in the US

Is ‘conference fatigue’ harming academia?

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sleeping toriesBy Chris Havergal

Awkward small talk, awkward disco dancing, and even more awkward sex: if generations of researchers are to be believed, these are key features of many academic conferences.

But a scholar has warned that the comic denigration of conferences as dull and exhausting events has become so pervasive that it is now “almost impossible” to imagine them as places of productive thinking or intellectual engagement.

Emily Henderson, assistant professor at the University of Warwick’s Centre for Education Studies, said that there was a risk of a vicious circle: that because academics have been instilled with the idea that conferences will be boring and embarrassing, this was how they actually experienced them.

In a paper – given at a conference – Dr Henderson detailed representations of what has been termed “conference fatigue”: the feeling of discontent and weariness that comes from visiting too many conferences and from attending too many presentations during the same event.

Drawing on sources such as online postings, articles in Times Higher Education and interviews, Dr Henderson said that mocking depictions of social events often came to the fore: terrible food, dodgy hotels and the inevitable disco.

But the academic side of conferences also came under fire, with presentations being described as “rather rushed…show-and-tell” affairs, tales of audio-visual equipment failing to work, and researchers signing up to events simply because they were in holiday destinations.

These depictions were combined with physical constraints such as jet lag, hunger and hangovers, and temptations such as meeting friends, all of which were portrayed as resulting in non-attendance of sessions or lack of concentration during them.

Speaking at the conference of the Society for Research into Higher Education, Dr Henderson suggested that academics gained “a certain amount of social leverage or purchase” from engaging in this discourse, helping to assuage the real feelings of exhaustion and awkwardness that could occur.

But, she added, it meant that there was “a certain amount of shame that comes from having found conferences extremely inspiring and interesting”.

“All of these things make it almost impossible to imagine that a conference could be a site of productive thinking or intellectual engagement,” Dr Henderson said.

Dr Henderson asked whether academics’ representations of conferences were the result of their experience of them, or whether their experience of conferences was shaped, in part at least, by predominant representations of the events.

“Some of my participants talk about going as a peer group and being ‘too cool’ for the conference,” she said. “Where does that legacy come from? Are they picking it up from peers who say, ‘Don’t worry about attending the conference, you won’t get anything out of it anyway’?”

Dr Henderson contrasted conference fatigue with what she described as the other dominant representation of conferences: that idea that they can form a “defining moment” in the development of a discipline or the foundation of a research area.

Such representations, however, were often accompanied by a lack of any detail about the event, Dr Henderson said.

She argued that conferences were an “important site” for academic mobility, knowledge production and the development of academic practice; and that there was a need to develop new representations of these events that challenged the fatigue narrative.

Conferences were a worthwhile topic of higher education research in themselves, Dr Henderson said, something that was largely lacking at the moment.

Article Source: Times Higher Education

‘No evidence’ that Success at University is Linked to Achievement in Professional Assessments, Accountancy Ernst and Young Says

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EYoungBy Chris Havergal

One of the UK’s biggest graduate recruiters is to remove degree classification from the entry criteria for its hiring programmes, having found “no evidence” that success at university was correlated with achievement in professional qualifications.

Accountancy firm Ernst and Young, known as EY, will no longer require students to have a 2:1 degree and the equivalent of three B grades at A level to be considered for its graduate programmes.

Instead, the company will use numerical tests and online “strength” assessments to assess the potential of applicants.

Maggie Stilwell, EY’s managing partner for talent, said the changes would “open up opportunities for talented individuals regardless of their background and provide greater access to the profession”.

“Academic qualifications will still be taken into account and indeed remain an important consideration when assessing candidates as a whole, but will no longer act as a barrier to getting a foot in the door, she said. “Our own internal research of over 400 graduates found that screening students based on academic performance alone was too blunt an approach to recruitment.

“It found no evidence to conclude that previous success in higher education correlated with future success in subsequent professional qualifications undertaken.”

Instead, the research found a positive correlation between certain strengths which could be assessed and success in professional qualifications.

“Transforming our recruitment policy is intended to create a more even and fair playing field for all candidates, giving every applicant the opportunity to prove their abilities,” Ms Stilwell added.

The changes come after a study published by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission in June found that bright working-class applicants were “systematically locked out” of jobs at leading accountancy firms.

Such companies tended to recruit mainly from research-intensive Russell Group universities, where students were “on average more likely to have enjoyed educational and economic advantages compared to many students educated elsewhere”.

Dan Richards, EY’s recruiting leader for the UK, said the company wanted to attract “the brightest and most talented individuals”.

“The changes we have made to our recruitment process will help us to access the widest and deepest possible talent pools,” he said. “We want to give every candidate the opportunity to demonstrate their strengths and their potential in our selection process.”

The changes will come into force for EY’s 2016 recruitment programmes, which opened for applications on 3 August.

The company has 200 graduate-level posts to fill each year, making it the fifth-biggest recruiter of university leavers in the UK, according to the Complete University Guide.

Source: Time Higher Education

Without data, education process can't get better in Arab region

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DataAndEducation"The most important indicator for education is innovation, and that can only be boosted through responsible freedom of thinking and speech."

Lack of data and statistics is a major challenge that hampers the production of indicators for education in the Arab region. It also affects the development and sustainability of the whole process, experts said.

However, education indicators produced as part of the Arab Knowledge Index - unveiled in the second edition of the Knowledge Summit 2015 - are better, and more thorough and pertinent to the region than the globally accredited ones.

Professor Mohammed Ismail, head of statistics department, College of Economics and Political Science, Cairo University, said data and figures are "indispensable" for consistent measurement and results. "Otherwise, the indicators upon which development is based will be misleading."

Nahoa Al Ghriss, a professor at the Higher Institute of Education and Continuous Training, Tunisia, said proper education is key to empowering individuals. "Life skills, right environments and lifetime or continuous learning are indispensable for empowering individuals to lead the development process in the Arab region in a better way."

Unlike international indicators, which focus only on quantitative results or attainment, the education indicators presented in the Arab Knowledge Index 2015 carefully consider values, trends, culture and qualitative sides.

"The education indicators of the Unesco and International Bank focus more on the number of students, teachers, school, and so forth, but ignore students' values, trends, and culture, and also give no solution to the problems diagnosed."

It is imperative that families be given the "right educational sources" to help their children prepare for what they will be learning in school, she underlined. "As such, financial resources or expenditure on education, as well as cultural dimension or attainment, political climate and social dimension represented by social justice are inevitable for a successful education process."

Prof Essam Heggy, Egyptian NASA scientist and lecturer, said the key mission of international universities is to dig for new ideas. Arab universities, however, are actually more concerned about developing awareness, promoting tolerance and considering man as the basis for real development.

"This is much better for Arab universities, even if ranked below other universities according to other education indicators, but as per our indicators here, our universities have a vital role in society."

The young Arab people are open to the world and this is very promising, he said. "The most important indicator for education is innovation, and that can only be boosted through responsible freedom of thinking and speech."

Early Muslims were champions of fighting slavery and defending equality of men and women. "We are only conservative with values, but open with innovation."

Source : Khaleej Times

Our obsession with metrics turns academics into data drones

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metricsAnonymous academic

I’m an academic with more than 15 years experience in higher education; my partner works in a state-run nursery school. The age gap between our students is, at the very least, 14 years. Nevertheless, there is one word that unites us: metrics. The desire to measure attainment, progress and calculate “added value” is becoming increasingly pervasive in both of our sectors.

My partner has to track pupils’ progress within the endemic reporting culture of primary schools – to find the baseline, then monitor the gap between target and attainment on a half-termly basis. Pre-schoolers are no longer allowed to develop at their own pace; they are on an educational metric track for the rest of their school lives. Less creative little human beings; more lines on a spreadsheet.

We, in universities, are a bit behind when it comes to continuously monitoring progress, but we are undoubtedly on the way. “Learning gain” is the new buzz term, meaning that students (and their future employers) will be able to chart the leaps made during the university years. Studying for a degree is not enough; young people need transferable skills, evidence of extracurricular activity and graduate “attributes”. Whether this is because these are good things in and of themselves, or because they improve our employability data, has never been quite clear to me.

I’ve also yet to determine whether learning gain is confined to the curriculum or can include extracurricular activity. If so, what to include and what to omit? How to measure the skill of being netball club secretary, or a barman at the students’ union? If learning gain is limited to programme-level outcomes (which are at least quantifiable), then what? Will this tell us anything that we don’t already know? Or is it it just another way to review the same data through a slightly different lens?

More significantly, do the students actually care? Let me be clear; I’m not suggesting that students are passive in their learning, or should not be at the core of what we do. Nor am I suggesting that we shouldn’t be concerned with helping them to develop a wide skill set before they leave our institutions. But will endless measuring turn them into better, more engaged, students, or simply more cynical ones?

In universities, as in primary schools, metrics have less to do with individual attainment and more to do with capturing data for management, invariably to be aggregated and standardised beyond what is meaningful for most academics to use or rely upon.

Of course, the ultimate debate on metrics is around the Teaching Excellence Framework (Tef), but this seems about as far removed from individual student attainment and achievement as one is likely to find. 

There will be much hand-wringing from vice-chancellors over what the various data tables show, of course. What they won’t reveal – and are not intended to show – is the satisfaction of individual students. Why not? Are we only interested in averages? The National Student Survey (NSS) contains qualitative data, but this is generally regarded as secondary to the numbers. You can’t make a league table out of qualitative data.

It seems that the Tef is taking us to a new level of abstraction, combining various elements of the NSS to provide a state-sanctioned view of teaching “excellence”. Alice is through the metric looking glass.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Metrics are not about the individual student, or teacher. They are about making educators accountable. Supporters say that only with metrics can poor practice be identified and rooted out. And who wants to be associated with poor teaching? 

But there is the rub. The risk is that so much time will be given over to metrics that we will lose sight of what we are here to do; those ephemeral – yet life-changing – moments when students acquire the spark of self-learning. Creativity, love of knowledge and thirst for discovery are things we should teach, incentivise and promulgate. But they are not easily measured.

Source: The Guardian


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