Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Lure of the foreign degree: there is need for caution, says China

The Times of India reports on the plight on Indian students who travelled to British Columbia, Canada to study at Lansbridge University. Lansbridge, a private university, will close on May 1, and the Province will assist students by appointing a liaison to help them transfer to other schools to complete their education. According to the TOI story, the cost of an MBA is 10-15,000 Canadian dollars at Lansbridge. From the British Columbia Faculty Association website I learnt that Lansbridge University, Kingston College and other educational businesses are owned by Michael Lo and his wife Queenie Tin through the Kingston Education Group and a web of interlocking companies. One of the more bizarre revelations in the inspector's report was that student transcripts were printed on the back of previously used paper. Apparently, one transcript was printed "on the back of a copy of an e-mail message regarding the extension of the Lo's Visa credit limit"!

Lo was on BC premier Gordon Campbell's Chinese Advisory Committee but stepped down when the investigations began. In his response to the Ministry of Education's directive, CEO and President of Lansbridge argues that the closure would undermine the history that was made at Lansbridge as the first Canadian university to be owned by the Chinese-Canadian community. McLeans reports that Lo’s group also operates Lansbridge University in Fredericton, Kingston College in Toronto, Kingston High School in Vancouver, and two B.C.-certified high schools in China.

Very understandably, the Chinese government has issued a directive advising students not to apply to private Canadian universities "blindly". As a professor in Canada's third largest public university , I routinely get questions about these new private universities where Indian students seek admission. More often than not, family savings are at stake. Caution must indeed be exercised. Private universities are a relatively new emergence in Canada, and not viewed highly favourably by the academic community. You can see why. Canada has a very healthy and respectable tradition of public universities, which are fully government regulated (such as York, the university where I teach). Private universities in Canada are not going to be at par with public universities for a while, in my opinion.

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